By Charles Novia
Obaifeiye Shem, the Lagos Commandant of the Nigerian Security and Defence Corps, would never have imagined in his life that he would start off a viral and new-Naija lexicon with his famous phrase, ‘my Oga at the top‘. I caught the bug just a day back when I started receiving blackberry broadcasts with whimsical coinages about it and I had to go on youtube to see the interview for myself. Briefly, Commandant Shem was asked to give the correct web address of the NSDC and he made the now-famous phrase..’my oga at the top will not allow me..’ or something close to that.
As hilarious as this may be to millions of people, it is also a sad reminder of our societal genuflection as a people. The whole apparatus of the Nigerian administrative organogram is strangleheld by so many ‘Ogas on top’. An effective ‘checks-and-balances’ system which works seamlessly in other climes is made impotent here in Nigeria by a wicked system of administrative despotism. Nothing gets done except the top guns approves, even your visiting the restroom!
It’s more shameful in the political landscape where there are so many ‘Ogas on top’ that no one ever knows who the buck stops with unless it comes to sharing money looted from the national till.
‘The Oga on top’ syndrome is really not new in Nigeria. It has always been there. It was just given a new colouration by Commandant Shem and found a new acceptance by the vibrant and active social media crowd who are always looking out for catch-phrases. Within a few hours of the short clip being posted on youtube, a hurriedly produced song had been streamed with the phrase as its chorus and now T-shirts with the emblazoned phrase are being sold! It is good to see how Nigerians in mirth have accepted the phrase, which is a stark portrayal of the drudgery of our social and political aspirations.
Someone told me this morning that the phrase seems to have caught on among the market women. His wife went to the market to buy Catfish and the seller in trying to catch her attention screamed; ‘Costomer, come buy my fish for your Oga on top’!
Another fellow sent me a mail this morning in which he narrated that while driving along Sanusi Fafunwa Street in Lagos last night after closing from work, he could have sworn the call girls standing along the road called out. ‘ Honey, stop naa! My oga on top, come naaa’! God help us.
Perhaps soon, in wedding ceremonies in Churches and registries, the marriage vows would be rephrased to ‘ Do you promise to marry your ‘oga on top..’ and to love and cherish, till death …’ Perhaps, we just might have another phrase for a ‘Madam on top’ and I don’t think the meaning of that would be far removed from the bedroom, if the missionaries stop making their positions known on this matter. All pun intended.
So, who really is this nebulous ‘Oga on top’ we joke about? It is that innate fellow in you who believes the world must stand still if you are not a factor in getting things done. Everyone is just an ‘oga on top’ that you really wonder who then is the person below. No one wants to accept full responsibility for either personal or collective failings. Everyone is just an Oga, down to the clerk in the office.
How about this poem I just wrote: and if any you are going to lift this poem, kindly credit it to the original author; me.
‘My Oga on top,
Make you chop so me sef fit chop
Nor finish the water for my cup
Or wetin I go drink if you nor stop?
My oga on top,
nor drive pass my bus stop
becos you dey Aso Rock.
Nor forget say me sef wan chop
from dat national sower sop.
My oga on top,
Nor chop cake come give me lollipop
Or else your show go flop.
I don warn you, my oga on top.’