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“Oga Settle Us First!” Are we the Architects of Our Own Misfortune?



set•tle /ˈsetl/
Verb (Normal dictionary): Resolve or reach an agreement about (an argument or problem)
Verb (Nigerian dictionary): Resolve or reach an agreement about a certain amount of money that must be paid before you can proceed.

Well, the Nigerian definition of ‘settle’ is not far from what the normal dictionary defines it as. The ‘settle us first’ mindset cuts across different aspects and sectors of our lives and economy that I start to think, Do we gain more than we lose? I am not even referring to the usual antics done by some uniformed people who position themselves at different points on the way and insist you drop something after dawdling your hours away. Rather I am referring to ‘we’, the people that constitute this country/state/nation we live in.

When oil explorers came here first, explored and degraded our land without adding value to the community whose water they polluted; or the people whose farms they destroyed, we brought up the “settle us first before you can come in’ plan, and it felt good, -still feels good – because it gave them a sense of responsibility that anything damaged had to be fixed. It made them realize it would be inappropriate to come, make lots money from our lands and not care about the after-effects of their activities on the inhabitants of the community. But this seems to be the only instance in which I can assume that the ‘settle’ mentality actually means good. Although ‘we’ get far too greedy and start destroying safely implanted pipelines and other oil producing equipments in the name of getting their own share of the ‘settlement’ and become the ones causing harm themselves and the environment.

A colleague of mine, who presently is involved in the ongoing LMDGP borehole drilling and repair project in Badia-Ijora area of Lagos state, tells me daily how the inhabitants of the area are ‘enemies of their own progress’.
From the first day when the drilling equipments were brought into the area, they had demanded the supervisors and drillers ‘settle’ them before anything could be allowed into the area. The negotiation about exactly how much this ‘settlement’ was to cost took a number of days, and even as it has been paid and the drilling has commenced, these people still harass them occasionally to ‘settle’ else that day’s work wouldn’t proceed.

When I think about this, it seems funny because the project is intended to provide potable good water for these people, yet here they are frustrating the efforts of those employed to carry out the job. This ‘settle’ mentality isn’t just in the heads of the able-bodied youths, even a 70+ yr old woman was heard saying ‘Won bi won daá’ – meaning in pidgin, ‘Them no born them well’, in reference to the people not settling before doing their work.

I was conversing with a Co-Hub member about the provision of efficient fibre optics WiFi internet for almost every house in Nigeria, as is obtainable in advanced countries in the world. At the end of the discussion, we came to a conclusion that the only way that was going to happen, would be to send all Nigerians to either Benin Republic or Cameroon for a week, and the cables be buried in everyone’s absence. then we could all come back and start enjoying good internet services. Because that way, the providers would have avoided all the ‘Settle first before bringing anything to bury in our street’ wahala which could get really crazy. Even after settlement you could find ‘these people’ digging and cutting all cables in the name of wanting ‘more settlement’ as the previously paid ones have been exhausted. So till then we manage the miserable overhead masts these service providers see as the best that can be done for us.

So what do you think about this our ‘settle us first’ attitude and how it has helped or hindered our advancement as a nation?

Amarachi Alisiobi is a geologist by profession, a writer by interest and a co-deejay by association.

geologist cum engineer. i want to write a lot, but i hardly seem to get the inspiration. I love sleeping. I wish i could get paid for sleeping. Sleeping and watching GOT! I read all seven Harry Potter books and cried a lot while reading the last. Maybe i'm so emotional!


  1. shola ariyo

    August 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

    first hand feeling.. this is very good

  2. kavinchy

    August 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I do not condone the settle first attitude that some of these people have but I’d want to believe that it is because of the belief that this so called contractors inflate the budget meant for the contract and sometimes deliver/execute sub par projects. There’s a culture in Nigeria that once a person or company is awarded a contract..(dem don hammer be that) u see people going from broke to rich overnight. I believe it’s simply because of these that a lot of people demand for their own settlement before work commences in their communities. Until that mindset is changed, I’m afraid these attitude of settlement might not be stopped.

  3. Ngozi

    August 22, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I love this piece! One of the principles of environmental law is the precautionary principle mandating taking measures to the chances of environmental damage. To an extent this may men perceived as ‘settling’ but only the right government agencies should be receive what ever form of settlement which I presume would be a fee in orde rot be granted a license to operate.

    That being said, poverty and ignorance remains prevelant and as such, this “survival by fire by force” mentality is becoming more of a norm amongst some. Poverty seems to now be a justification for the criminal acts perpetuated by some. It shocks me that people actually justify vile acts such as pipeline vandalism which comes back to bite the local people in the buttocks given that a) sincerely, the Nigerian government are complacent on pollution issues b) the Nigerian framework governing oil pollution is archaic and in sure dire need of reform and c) the oil companies are provided excessive chances to avoid liability when pollution emanates from their facilities.

    Like I always say, the problem with Nigeria is the Nigerian. The Nigerian is too greedy, the Nigerian is yet to embrace the full meaning of community, only focussing on how to enrich his home, the Nigerian complains too much but does little to improve the situation when the opportunity arises. The Nigerian occupies government and this is why the country is the way it is.

    Until we are ready to change our way of reasoning as a people, I’m afraid things would remain the same. If a woman over the age of 70 follows the compulsory “Una go settle first” line of thinking then it shows you just how inherently corrupt SOME of us can be sometimes 🙁

    Your fibre optic illustration made me laugh 😀

  4. Bhee

    August 22, 2013 at 10:42 am

    A lot of Nigerians want to be rich and they want it now! even if it means impeding the development of the nation. ‘settle me first’ they want a share of the money going into a project. As people say “a piece of the national cake”. I tink we should all have love for our country and be concerned of its progress rather than putting our own selfish interest first.

  5. batiatus

    August 22, 2013 at 11:05 am

    This is flawless! Absolutely brilliant

  6. parisclub

    August 22, 2013 at 11:11 am

    you have said,the settle for less aactaully hampers progress. once a street close to my area was really in a terrible state like really terrible .Then a popular,rich and influential guy acquired a property in the area,and in less than a week of moving in had brought workers to tar the road rom the beginning to end to adjoining streets.we were happy but to our greatest surprise the youths on the streets said that the machines would not move an inch unless the guy paid 2m naira to start work(like he slept on the streets).He called the chairman and they refused.the following week a truck load of mopol came to the area and reported everyday till the job was finished .He ONLY TARRED FROM HIS HOUSE TO THE JUNCTION that connects it to the other streets that’s very good and it was made in a way that the tarred part doesn’t hold water everything just goes to the untarred part.its only in Nigeria u hear such crap and the most painful thing is the settle me money goes into weed,booze,women. We need a change in our mentality.

    • Tess

      August 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm

      I like the fact that he brought Mopol men. I think sometimes Nigerians, especially the ignorant and greedy type, who cannot be reasonable, need that kind of treatment. This country sometimes na wa, you rarely know where to begin!

  7. TheAgnostic1

    August 22, 2013 at 11:18 am

    Besides that, yes, the “settle us first” mentality is ridiculous. The worst one occurs when say person A imports some stuff and the container brings it to his/her house. The way the agberos appear from nowhere is shocking. The first time I saw this was in a Funke Akindele movie “Omo Ghetto” and I thought such could only happen in maybe ajegunle or mushin etc, only for it to happen some months after on my street in Surulere, which I know isn’t the poshest place but is still quite decent, I believe. Teju Cole also described that scenario in his book Everyday is for the Thief. I have never understood how random, jobless people will demand money from you for your own goods and threaten you on top of that. The owner of the car had to part with almost 200k just to get the container unloaded.

  8. chocolate

    August 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

    loooool @ the already planned vacation but i want to go to Canada instead

    • Amarachi Alisiobi

      August 22, 2013 at 11:44 am

      lol. yeye. why canada? u don’t want to go to brazil too? lool

  9. aleesha

    August 22, 2013 at 11:23 am

    the ‘settle me’ mentality is disgusting! about two years ago, my parent’s home needed some renovation. You would not believe that the ‘omo-oniles’ seized the workers’ tools and equipment, demanding that they be paid before work commences. even worse, they kept on stopping by, demanding additional money from time to time, throughout the duration of the project.

  10. Seun Phillips

    August 22, 2013 at 11:41 am

    I once argued that all Nigerians are corrupt. This ‘settle’ attitude is not restricted to one corner of Nigeria but all over as it has become part of our cultural fabric.
    Credit must be given to the author, the appellations are quite interesting-geologist, deejay and writer; talk about scientifically artistic tendencies.

  11. Stan

    August 22, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Sadly, this “settle us 1st mentality” has really hindered Nigeria’s development. People want to be tipped before doing their job and even the “miscreants” want to be “settled” before you can do your own job. Nice article!

  12. Mr Perkinson

    August 22, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    I Love this exposition because it forces us to think about our goverment and future.

    When you get into a man’s house or compound to effect some changes, whatever changes might be, it is only reasonable to sit down with him and discuss the matter to be changed and the best way to go about it and it is necessary for the man in question to mobilise and educate his family members on the changes to be effected.
    The Nigerian govt has over the years taken advantage of ignorance of it’s masses to dupe them times and times again such that the populace don’t trust it’s leaders again and I’m sure you know that when trust is lost, it takes time to build it back. This is very obvious like in the case of the gwari people of abuja who were chased away from their houses for the present FCT to be built without any form of compensation or relocation for the land owners. This has also repeated itself over and over again in the oil rich south south region of Nigeria where the companies came, messed up the environment of the place they found oil, paid some huge compensation to the government and the masses were f**’ed up by both the Government and the companies, hence the emergence of ‘millitants’ thugs trying to make the government give them a piece of their rightful dues.
    Taking great care not to support evil, but looking at the source of the problem from ONLY where it can corrected, what we see today, my dear amara, is what the bible was talking about when it says ‘what u sow you will reap’. We are merely reaping the evils that our fathers have sown. The solution to this can only begin when we as a generation, are transformed to start sowing the right seeds for our children to harvest the right seeds. It is very unfortunate for us, But God will deliver us.

  13. Ok o

    August 22, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    The “settle us first’ mentality does not only apply to the touts,it also applys to the Nigerian governments. They are the reason why so many things are expensive and the reason why we get treated like trash when travelling by air. If you have ever tried buying ticket to the US from Nigeria,you will be surprised how big the difference is in buying a ticket from US to Naija as if you are not going through the same route.The amount is ridiculously much and the planes they make available are horrible.After complaining to the airlines,they tell you they have to settle your government big time. One of my friends ‘ flight was delayed while travelling home for 3 nights and only solution was to make a waiting list and started fixing those people in any available seats on subsequent flights.If it were to be a flight going to Europe or other countries,they would have gotten another plane immediately for everybody. Shame on our governments .They are the reason why Nigerians are being treated awfully

  14. Sir Farouk

    August 22, 2013 at 1:35 pm

    It is definitely not helpful but you cant blame people because its as if the whole population is cynical due to years of corruption, neglect and poor governance. When a contract is given, the people are inclined to believe you probably wont complete it or do a shoddy job so they are inclined to seek ye first the kingdom of settlement because if they wait for you to not do the contract or do a shoddy job and complain to the government most times nothing will be done about it and the contract will stay forgotten for many years. Also in the land of teeming poverty and thirst for easy money, everybody is looking for a way to make some quick and easy money especially since most contracts are seen as hyperinflated. So you see even though settlement is hampering progress, it is a reaction to the Nigerian condition

  15. Abosede

    August 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm

    Hmh,sometimes I think Nigerians themselves are the reason why Nigerians are being treated awfully.Only God can save us from this settling first mentality. Once a friend that works in one of the companies in Abeokuta told me of how they intended to make electricity available to the town around them because the voltage on the plant they were using was just too much for the company alone,they refused till they settle them first.Of course they ended up stucked with their conditional and paralyzed NEPA. And the company is planning on moving to Ghana because they spend way too much money bribing the government in order for them to bring in their equipment s from abroad.

  16. maya

    August 22, 2013 at 2:40 pm

    Nigeria’s problem is Nigerians!!!!!!! i have always said it and until we realise it we will never move from where we are to where we ought to be. we always cry for change and when it’s brought to use we reject it and still complain that change isn’t forth coming. i remember when i was much younger how a train crushed a pregnant woman on the train tracks in yaba before my eyes. the government had been to chase these people away about a week to the incident, told them that the train tracks was not for buying and selling and that they were going to be testing engines in the coming weeks, my people didn’t listen, the 1st couple of days was clear by the third day business had resumed as usual!
    on the day the engines were being tested, the 1st train came to drive dem off the tracks, rather they moved from the track the train was coming from to the next one the other train was coming with fulllllll speed, i mean if its safe to say 2000mph omo it was dt! ppl started running, unfortunately dis woman ran back to go collect her tray of nail polish, she got trapped in the middle of both trains, the speed from the other train pushed her underneath the 1st one that arrived and that was it. God bless her soul but in this case the lagos government was not to blame, the people were warned and were told what to do. it was a very sad day. i couldn’t move from the spot i was in horror!
    we want change, please when the government bring the change to us let us not refuse it. let us help them make their work easier and also for our own safety!

  17. dee.K

    August 22, 2013 at 2:52 pm

    Well said. It has hindered our advancement. A lot of those ‘people’ are more interested in the chicken change they will receive rather than the growth of their environment. In fact, they would prefer that place doesn’t develop at all.*smh*

  18. bussie

    August 22, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    its a sad, sad reality that isnt going anywhere anytime soon! We were discussing it @a dev meeting today and someone gave an example of what happened in Zaria just before Ramadan. The local govt chairman went on an inspection of some dev projects. Just before he came out of the car, some young men on bikes bocked his car two in front and two behind and refused to budge until he dropped, His mopol went to confront them and they replied ‘oga nka beyi yisa ba’ (even ur boss cannot dislodge us). He came down and spoke with them and point fingers into his eyes they repeated their claim. He had to settle them. Afterwards he stated that he had come out of home with 200,000 that day and only had 5,000 left due to the ‘settle us’ mentality. Biko, how on earth can he carry out any projects with these sort of demands daily? Replicate this in every local govt in Nigeria and realise we are in trouble!

    the ‘omo onile’ ish has not come to northern nigeria yet so u can still build in peace but only just. the drug consuming political/street urchins/thugs are definitely on the rise, God help us!!!

  19. Adesanya Adebowale

    August 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm

    Beautiful piece.

  20. Concerned_Boyfriend

    August 22, 2013 at 6:15 pm

    Where is security when you need them ?. This is appalling…I can’t phantom this is really the norm in Nigeria. Is the government going to continue to watch this with no impunity ? . These and many more nuances like this are the reason why I don’t want to move back to that country.

  21. Concerned_Boyfriend

    August 22, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    *with impunity…

  22. Fathers_Joy

    August 22, 2013 at 10:20 pm

    It is indeed sorrowful how we are the mountains and stumbling blocks to our own progress. How we are willing to sell our better and greater tomorrow for pennies today, sacrificing lasting solutions for fleeting satisfaction. The cumulative cost of the services we have and will continue to pay for is greater than that of the implementation of these amenities. It’s not all that have eyes that can see and it’s not all that have heads that can reason. God help us.

  23. Bimbo

    August 23, 2013 at 10:31 am

    We allow our selfish interests impede the development of our country. As people say ‘we want a piece of the national cake’. lets all see the bigger picture and allow our country grow!

  24. tutsie

    August 23, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Plenty talk-talk on here but then are we any different in our own little corners of the world?

  25. Shuga

    September 1, 2013 at 12:00 am

    Hello Amarachi, do you have an email address to share? would love to reach out about guest blogging since you are a writer by interest 🙂

  26. Emcee

    September 1, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    Our problem; Corruption. An obvious underlying cause; Poverty. However, as disheartening as it is, it would be hypocritical of one as a Nigerian to be sanctimonious on this, because i don’t think any Nigerian has a clean slate on the ‘settlement’ act. And big ups to you for subtly pointing that out.
    @topic…I wouldn’t expect less in a country where about 70% of its population live below the poverty line. Nowadays, you cannot erect structures/residential buildings in some parts of Lagos without paying your duties to the “Omo Onile” of the area.
    I believe unless some very daring measures are taken and the whole system is changed, we will continue to be our own worst enemies.

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