My dream commonwealth
We left our hotel in Lagos last month back to my project site, and he asked the gentleman driving us to pull over because he needed to get more phone cards.
I didn’t understand. So I said, “dad, you know the reception told us there were cards in the hotel shop, and also, they sold cards via the bank.
Why are we stopping in all this traffic?” He was quiet, as he took the cards from the lady under the small umbrella with the phone logos.
He simply said to the gentleman driving, “Lets go!” Then he turned to me and simply said, “I have to buy the phone card from her, because she is not part of the Commonwealth.”
I yelled in my head. It didn’t make any sense at all but I needed to focus on my project that was 30 minutes away.
I have always known about the Commonwealth from magazines and sometimes on the news, to mean the 53 countries who were once colonized by the United Kingdom, and the Queen is the head of it, at least for now because I know she said in April that she now wants her son Prince Charles to be the next head.
Okay, I also know that in the US, there are four states that have the title – Commonwealth, in their names: Virginia, Massachusetts, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania.
They call themselves, “The Commonwealth State of …” because everyone’s voice is meant to count. They share in the states’ commonwealth also.
As we drove around Lagos the next day, I looked outside the window of the car, and I began to group people into those whom I thought were part of the commonwealth, and those I thought were not part of the commonwealth.
It was a small mind game, but it was on a serious subject you know.
So, I saw the man driving the yellow bus with two black stripes on the side, and the man hanging out the door yelling and holding some money in his hands, and there were passengers in the same bus, not smiling at all. They didn’t look too happy.
I saw many people on the street in traffic, selling things, some begging for money, petrol attendants, traffic wardens; I saw a man pushing a two-wheeled cart, with yams piled high in it; I saw two men standing security outside the gate of a bank and holding a black baton.
They all had one thing in common with the lady selling the phone card – they were not smiling, and didn’t look too happy.
Then I thought to myself, maybe they too were not part of the Commonwealth.
As we returned to the hotel about two hours later, I saw three very nice cars ahead. I know one was a Mercedes.
Then I thought, “I bet those who own those cars, are definitely enjoying The Commonwealth.”
But if the Commonwealth is for everyone, how come many people I saw on the street didn’t seem to have a say or enjoy it.
I spoke in Paris a few months ago for the Printemps conference at the Place De La Concorde, about the role the EU can play in supporting developing economies.
And now as I write this, it doesn’t look like a complete picture, because presently, many of the people in those developing countries are not enjoying the commonwealth, so if the EU gives them 0.7% of their GDP, the wealth would still not be common to them.
So, here is my idea: What if everyone today who has a little more give 20 per cent of their month’s income into a ‘big pot’.
In addition, what if the President, Vice President, governors, legislators, bank managers, and CEOs of all companies in Nigeria, and their Deputies, and all Managers, stock traders, and all the Nigerians playing football in Europe and the US, and also anyone who just wants to give.
Guess how much that would be? What if all that money is given to us the youth, to fund any project we like?
Hey, we might do silly things like buy an I-Pad for every child in the country under 16 and make sure they have free internet for a month too.
Can you imagine what would happen in houses and schools across Nigeria for that one month?
I have always heard that if you have a light, you don’t put it under the table, but on the table, for others to see in the dark.
So, if one bright lamp of ideas is put on the table in each house, on each street, in each neighborhood, in each town, by each city, in each of the 36 states and each light is seen, how bright would the country be, in every aspect? Think about it.
And with the power of youth today added, it all could be the beginning of a new Commonwealth, for Nigeria.