I’ve always had deep respect for CEOs, Executive Secretaries, Governors, Presidents… In general, I’ve always respected bosses; the “ogas at the top”. I’m sure it’s same for everyone. We all want to be the boss, we all want fancy titles with large pay cheques. Not a bad thing, not a bad thing at all.
There is however a different class of people I have a deeper level of respect for. They are easily the most important people we can find in any society. Unfortunately, a lot of us do not know that and even they themselves are clueless. Trust me when I say that there would be no balance to life without them and so today I will be celebrating them.
I respect the traffic wardens. They serve you under the sun and in the rain. I know some people will say “not all the time o! They aren’t always there.” But I will tell you that countless times when I’ve had to be on the road for whatever reason under the rain, I have seen traffic wardens at different locations defying the rain, attempting to make passage easier for vehicles. I have seen several under the scorching sun wiping heavy beads of sweat off their shiny foreheads and conducting the traffic while reckless drivers ignore their commands and further piss them off. I truly respect traffic wardens.
I respect hawkers. And I’m not talking about under aged children that should be in school. What I actually feel for such kids is pity. But I respect hawkers that are the Usain Bolts and Ben Johnsons of Nigerian roads. They make traffic more bearable actually. If you’re not buying gala and lacasera to quench your hunger and thirst, then you’re being amused by the ones who attempt to help you furnish your home just by shopping in the traffic. These ones sell any and everything from center tables to stools, flower vases, towels, plastic parrots, cups and even ironing boards. Yes. Someone once spotted an ironing board in a Lagos traffic. I found that utterly hilarious.
I respect security men. Old, young, terrible English, fair English, I respect them. Because you can go to sleep at night knowing that they are there. They aren’t all efficient, they aren’t all loyal but somehow, they are there. They open the gate when you’re driving out or in. They endure each time you yell at them for disappearing from their duty post (like you can easily sit in one place for 24 hours and stare into space), they deliver messages to you from visitors who came in your absence. They run little errands for you that you could actually do yourself, but you would rather just be lazy and maximize utility gotten from them. They make you laugh with some of their antics and you just shake your head when you do not know what to say to them. Many a security man has been shot dead by robbers while trying to protect their “oga” or “madam.” Believe me when I say it is not anyone’s first choice of a job.
I respect the helps. Madam as a madam that she is will hardly be found in the house. The helps raise the kids, change their nappies, sing them lullabies,help with their homework… They cook clean, wash, iron, shop and essentially run the home. Ok maybe your help doesn’t do all that, but she does most. And then you yell when there’s no sufficient salt in the soup, you flip when she takes a piece of meat from the pot and you don’t even treat her like she’s a part of the family. She can’t eat at the dining table, she can’t watch TV in the living room… I remember the young lady who assisted my mum in the house in Abuja. She would refuse to eat at the dining or watch TV with us in the living room when we invited her. We thought it was really weird and my mum could not fathom why she was so frightened and timid. It was much later that she opened up to us about her previous job where she would cook before madam left for work but would not be permitted to eat till madam returned late at night. She was not permitted to sit in the living room and could not even decide what she wanted to eat for herself. There were several sad stories but eventually, she was able to relax and feel like a human being again. I truly respect helps and all domestic stewards. Without a doubt, they make your life very easy.
I respect the drivers. And I mean the personal drivers to the “Ogas.” You get transferred to a new town and they immediately begin to navigate their way around, finding all the important places you need. My mum’s current driver amazes me. He has followed her to three major cities on transfer at different times and before my mum has time to settle fully into her new house, the driver already knows his wayariund town. It’s incredible. I respect drivers, a lot. They contend with other reckless and insane drivers on the road and most times manage to not bash your car. They drop you off at meetings in time and pick you up when you’re ready to leave. They make your life easy. They drive you to the airport and are waiting to pick you on your return. They do same for your kids and several others. They aren’t always efficient, that’s for sure. They probably get on your nerves a lot. But hey! That’s real life for you. No one is perfect. But they are mostly loyal and they make your life easy just by being on call.
I respect gardeners. I don’t just respect them, I love them! And my reason is simple. I know how much of hoeing and sweeping of the compound I had to do as a kid and it was not fun! Well, I could manage the sweeping, but the hoeing? Naah. That was not for me at all. So I was glad when we got a gardener that took care of the compound and the garden we had behind. Gardeners are amazing. They mow your lawns, trim your flower beds and water them. They keep the compound in shape for everyone to come and admire. I’d like to see you leave your 9-5 job and come tend to your compound.
I respect cleaners anywhere and everywhere. In the offices, in the hostels and dorms in schools and colleges… These people see a lot. Especially cleaners in female hostels. People can be so dirty, you become almost certain that the only difference between a pig and themselves is how they are shaped. The pigs are small and stout, humans are much taller. We mess up toilets so bad and abandon them for the cleaners, knowing well enough that no amount of money paid to us would ever convince us to go and clean up such places. But the cleaners would go in and work their magic and the place would look presentable again. Maybe they aren’t cleaning toilets. Maybe they are sweeping the roads. We eat everything groundnut, gala, biscuits, everything and then we fling them out of our glasses as we speed along the road and someone has to come clean it up. Always the cleaners pick our trash. Maybe sometimes they complain, maybe sometimes they don’t. But they still clean up after you. Something you most certainly will not want to do after other people.
Now what I find interesting is the fact that we mostly look down on these people. They are seemingly “classless” but I bet you, life will become unbearable if all these people were to mysteriously disappear. So when next you come across any of them. Give them a warm smile, pay them a compliment and let them know you appreciate them. They are human beings afterall. And I tell you the truth. The difference between you and the average hawker on the street is opportunity. I am certain that if they were opportuned to attend school and find a good job like yourself, they most certainly would not be hawking on the streets.
I respect this crop of people and I expect you to do same. Thou shalt not be condescending towards them for any reason. And if anyone should ask you why, tell them I said so. 🙂