Yes Nigeria needs change, but not that Barack Obama type “yes we can change” not that JFK “what can you do for your country” type change and definitely not that MLK “I have a dream…do you have a dream?” type change. It is a much simpler type of change…
You enter Chicken Republic or Mr.Biggs…you buy 1 large chicken and 1 sausage roll and pure water. You are told that the total cost of your purchase is N950 naira (hypothetical cost o!). You reach for your wallet to grab your N1000 note…but before you pull the note out of your wallet you hear the words “Ah! Oga abeg we no get change o!”
9 out of 10 times, said Oga or Madam leaves their N50 change behind. Then another Oga comes in and does the same and then another.
By the time the day is over, potentially 1000 or so customers would have left some fraction of their change behind. Assuming on average N50 is left by each customer, the store would have made like N50000 extra and in just one day! Multiply that by 30 and that is a cool N1,500,000 in change left behind in a single month!
To me this is robbery of the highest degree…I call it micro-stealing, where seemingly insignificant sums of money are withheld from multiple people, which when combined become a significant amount.
Sadly, this happens every day in Nigeria, and not just in Mr. Biggs or Chicken Republic, but in our government. It is that LASTMA officer that takes N100 here and N200 there and before you know it, he is running a lucrative side business all from the comfort of the road.
There are several scenarios as to why this happens in the government from extortion to bribery to blackmailing to others. But when it comes to collecting change I feel we the people (you and I) are particularly mute. A total contradiction to the west…
When I worked at my Uncle’s beauty supply store in Houston in 2001, I would see people who spend over $200 (I kid you not) on hair products, their change at the end of the day would be like 2 cents, and they will stare at you and wait for you to count those 2 cents and place it in their hand before they leave. For the record 2 cents is like 3-5 Naira in Nigeria. 3-5 Naira! Let that sink in.
Every (bolded, underlined and italicized for emphasis) morning at about 6:30 am before we went to the shop, we would head over to a particular street in Houston called Harwin.
Harwin was and is still the wholesale capital of beauty supply shops in Houston, they sold everything from relaxers to human hair. It was like a black woman’s heaven.
We would stop by the weave stores, then the hair accessories stores and then the hair cream stores. But before we finally headed to the store, we always stopped at the bank and the reason was so we could collect change. We would exchange cash for rolls of coins…cents, nickels, dimes, quarters and one dollar bills for the strip club. This seemingly insignificant step was an integral part of running the shop for the day.
Because we knew the importance of having change in America.
The American economy is much stronger than the Nigerian one, the standard of living much higher, but every American that I met while working the cash register, requested their change. It was an expectation.
Which is why I have never gone to a store in America that did not have change (fact check please: if you have ever gone to an American store without change let me know below).
So you ask, what’s love change got to do with it, go to do with it?” especially 2 cents (aka 3-5 Naira), well it is a culture of expectation. If you expect that a store has to give you something as trivial as 3-5 Naira because it is your hard earned money, then you will grow with this expectation day in day out. And soon it will become a part of your subconscious thinking. So when a government official steals 100,000 naira of your tax payer money…then you will expect…if not demand an explanation talkless of 100,000,000 naira!
Sometimes America…aka Europe seems like magic when we see the final product. But when you study their fundamental foundations and see what drives them and see why my Uncle had to ensure change was at his store every single day then you see the difference.
And that difference is that the little things matter, that if citizens (you and me) demand their change every single day at the cash register, then overtime they would evolve to collectively demand their tax payers be accounted for at the National Assembly level. But it starts with the little things!
Written and Drawn By Okechukwu Ofili of ofilispeaks.com
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