Heart of Arts

No Gree for Anybody!

Toyin Falola


I am writing this piece from Lagos. “No Gree” is what you now hear at every moment, every corner. I first heard it from our security folks here, then Mr. Mike, our talented gardener. I took a walk on Isaac John, “I know gree,” sounded by those walking on the streets. I, too, began to use it. If you don’t read this, “I know gree!”

In the previous years, the sociolinguistic colloquialism in Nigeria evolved with temporal progression; the New Year peeked with another set of slang, and at the cross-over services and New Year rituals in churches and mosques, it was as if the whole of Nigerians came into unison to declare that 2024’s motto would be “No Gree for anybody.” No Gree for Anybody seems to be a personal avowal to not compromise or concede and to maintain unwavering determination against factors and people that could impede one’s aspirations or thwart the pursuit of one’s desires. So, I join the sociolinguistic affirmation for the year to increase the willingness of the people to not compromise on their fundamentals.

Nigerians have faced different touches of problems transmitted from temporal intervals and systemic frameworks; the general predisposition is an expectation of institutional hindrance forming bulwarks to actualizations. They are social hurdles that an average person must face, and the proliferation of corruption and nepotism in the country has made it a tradition. Many believe that ideas are bound to be futile in attempts to enforce desires because anticipation suggests more failures than successes. Professor Gbemisola Adeoti describes these social problems properly in his poem “The Ambush.” He stated,

The land is a giant whale,

That swallows the sinker, with hook, line, and bait

Aborting dreams of a good catch,

Fishers turn home at dusk,

Blue Peter on empty ships,

All Peters with petered out desires.”

The repercussion of this social situation is the spawning and proliferation of desperate resolves of citizens and the occasioning of a sense of competition, even where they are not necessary. It is believed that nothing comes freely, and things must be taken with heightened reaches and struggles. Hence, Nigerians are always on the move, and with almost everyone trying to outsmart others, you cannot afford to gree for anyone.

When you wake up every morning in a “face me, I face you” apartment; you probably must compete for the small single bathroom that serves like 20 others. You don’t have to believe me, but I still visit and stay overnight in such places once in a while. You cannot feel hardship if you don’t experience one. You will then join another long queue for available buses, run at your best, and struggle through the crowd to get a seat in a Danfo or to stand in a BRT Bus. My friends who know that I do this have warned me several times to stop. I have ridden on Okada and held tight to the waist of the young driver so that we both die together. When you pay, and the driver or his conductor refuses to give you your change, you shout at them, shine your eyes, and insist profusely, no dulling. I can’t even wait to collect my change! Loads of similar events continue till night. When you think you will finally get to rest, you then realize that there is no power supply, and you must still struggle with giant mosquitos that hawk over your head while you sweat profusely in the heat and dark. How can a professor endure this? I do, which is why this essay is possible.

So, this push and pull and the hustle and bustle tradition have grown to be in different dimensions. You probably would not want a No for an answer and must find a way to get things done by “fire and by force.” Well, no matter how this has spawned out, it could be a positive muse that could be built upon.

However, one thing is to retort the slang affirmatively, and another thing is to cultivate the culture thereof. To grow, one must maintain a decision and give it all to achieve set goals. It is a way to look overbearing challenges and limitations in the eye with settled convictions about aspirations. It is certain that people who have achieved different feats would have something to say about the slang and how they have lived it. The growth of my career as a teacher has showcased severally strong resolutions, and I was able to live every bit of it. One probably would expect that an average lawyer or other professionals at the time our dreams back then were germinating had made the right decision about career path. Although the prestige given to lecturers in those days and the remunerations that followed were better than what they are today, the financial projection of a teacher was still not the best compared to some other available professions. But despite these possibilities, I no gree for anybody, and that resolution has constantly defined my path and taken me to the echelons of the profession.

However, the slang could just be mere social euphoric expressions and displays of vibing with the sociolinguistic trends of the day without appropriate will and actions to substantiate them. It must mean to match every resisting energy with similar energy. In the case of denial of personal rights or extortion, it simply implies not compromising on those rights and legally protecting oneself against those opportunists. It goes into resisting corruption in the chains of command and not giving that 200 Naira note to that police officer who pulled you over for egunje. But one cannot resist infringement on fundamental human rights or extortion without arming oneself with the necessary information and compliance with all necessary due diligence.

The right perspective of No Gree for anybody speaks to Nkechi, who sells daily supplies to not just give in to her competitors that threaten her patronage. It, instead, points out that you probably need to rebrand for the year and not gree to be zeroed out by outlets that have stretched beyond your reach. It says that many thousands sell water in traffic jams but that you can beat the competition by adding a little extra. We have heard the story of Michael Iloduma, “Micheal the Corporate Pure Water Seller,” who sells water in suits and corporate outfits to draw attention and those that advertise with British English. No Gree for Anybody is giving your oppositions or alternatives a run by thinking outside the box.

The slang is to not get tired of the delay in promotions at work and career growth but restrategize to not fall into the same traps any longer. It is no surprise that an average successful man in Africa who has either grown from nothing or built on something would not have grown without an extraordinary push. Toyin Falola, the original idan man who clubs at night and writes in the morning, had climbed through the slippery slope to achieve what he has. The many popular names that have been at the apex of professional imaginations of growth have not done that with mere affirmative statements; they have pushed the ordinary.

As Nigerians decide to show some levels of individual Choko, to achieve their desires, we must not forget that there is a need for collective choko, to reform the nation to put an end to the endless ambush in the Land that the talented Gbemisola Adeoti refers to as the “saber-toothed tiger.” The history of Nigerian democracy and contemporary political issues have shown that the Nigerian populace has been interpreted to give in easily to political disrespect by the leaders. Corrupt practices and accusations against consecutive ministers of the same Humanitarian Affairs and Poverty Alleviation are evidence of some assumed gullibility. The same scenario happened to the past two Accountant Generals of the Federation, with each allegedly embezzling billions they could take. The circle of corruption keeps widening and needs the no gree for anybody’s mentality to top it.

It is high time the Nigerian population started asking questions and sustaining them with actions that bring the governments at all levels to account and their toes. This year and the years to come should be the start of non-compromising convictions to not gree for a failing state. The nation must not concede to manipulative politicking, disregard, and constant abuse and misappropriation of the nation’s resources. This cannot also be achieved without strategic resistance, vehement and steadfast demands for change, and commitment to cut the chain of corruption short from the populace.

Whether individually or collectively, it seems quite impossible to achieve much without backing the resolution with convincing will and pragmatic actions. It is then that the affirmation would not just end on social media platforms but transform into the reality of all of us.

While one resists, wisdom is also profitable to direct. At some point, one must move ground for constructive oppositions and reasonable objections. Bullheaded disposition could sometimes be the inception of stupidity as well as the heralding of failure. One must know when to fight and when not to, and, most importantly, one must know how to fight and what to fight for. It does not mean one should rudely and unreasonably confront those who feed or pay for one’s services or goods.

Gree for your boss! Falola Baba Idan has no company to give you another job o!!

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