Old age is not something I worry about a lot. Not because I have a pot of gold squirrelled away somewhere. My pot of gold is at the end of the rainbow. I know it’s there. All I have to do is beat everyone to the rainbow and dispossess the leprechaun guarding the pot.
Hang on a second! I’ve just had an epiphany!
In Nigeria, the leprechauns are politicians!
Leprechauns sit pretty over what is not theirs. That’s what many Nigerian politicians do, isn’t it?
Leprechauns. Pot of gold. Nigerian politicians. Whoever thought an old Irish myth could be relevant to Nigeria?
But I digress.
I was going to talk about why I don’t worry about old age.
Recently, I came across a BBC report that essayed crimes in Japan by people over 60 years have seen a steady rise in the last twenty years. That, in fact, more than one in five sentences is to a Japanese over 60 years.
I found the report intriguing. Aren’t Japanese supposed to be remarkably law-abiding? And don’t people lose the tendency to steal the older they become? (You can wipe that derisive smirk off your face. I’m not talking about Nigeria here!)
Well, yes, Japanese folks are pretty much law-abiding and hard-working people. The problem is, a lot of Japanese pensioners are going broke and becoming lonely.
See, the pension in Japan is poor and many pensioners struggle to meet expenses. So they steal and go to prison to have free food and accommodation.
My first thought on reading that was “Jeez, the food in the slammer must be pretty good. Maybe they give them Bluefin tuna and Sauvignon Blanc.”
But picture this: 65-year-old Takiyama-san wakes up one morning, strolls to his local supermarket, purloins a tin of baked beans and then goes to the police to report himself.
If you did that in Nigeriana, the police will beat the bejesus out of you for stupidity.
The elderly crimes are, of course, petty. It is mostly shoplifting from local stores and involves food items no more than $20. But Japanese courts treat petty theft seriously. You could be cooling your heels in the clink for one year for nicking a bottle of sake.
And Japanese pensioners are capitalising on that.
By the way, just so you know, I’m one of those people who doesn’t struggle to meet expenses. I find them everywhere I go.
That was supposed to be funny.
This increase in elderly crime in Japan is even more heart-rending due to the Japanese society becoming more isolated and insular. Dudes and dudettes no longer check in with or support elderly family members. Sons and daughters go away and forget about mom and dad. So mom or grandma, or dad and grandpa, break the law to go to prison where they’ll have company and food.
This will never happen in Africa.
In Africa, ‘old peoples’ homes’ are our homes and we bear the burden of our parents for as long as they live.
Just as many parents bear the burdens of their children all their lives.
These get as e be. But in a society without an institutional welfare system, this is our safety net. This is how we survive.
I am because you are.
No matter how ‘westernized’ we become, we must never lose this.
It’s also why I’m never going to Winnipeg. -30 degrees? Say who die? I’ve got a homeboy there. When we speak on the phone, his words are frozen. I have to put them in a microwave to thaw them.
OK, that’s nonsense. But you get the idea.
Isi-Ewu is much sweeter with company. You eat one eye, I eat one eye. You eat one ear, I eat one ear. Then we fight over the tongue.
Sorry, I digress again.
But isn’t it incredulous? In Japan, people are willingly going to prison for meals and company?
I’ve gone to prisons in Lagos – not at Her Majesty’s Pleasure I’ll have you know! Kirikiri. Ikoyi. Badagry. I’ve been there as a missioner. I’ll tell you this: stop whining about your wife’s bad cooking. It is haute cuisine compared to the fare those fellas get.
And if you think a Nigerian prison is where you can go to escape paying rent, perish the thought right now. For your free spot, you’ll still pay in blood. The bed bugs are as big as cats. They suck three pints of blood in three seconds; in one second if your blood is fresh.
Please don’t commit a crime and go to a Nigerian jail.
Right. This is the part where I annoy you. So when last did you check up on your pop or ma? Waiting to pay for the hearse?