Standing with Nigeria
At the turn of this century, scientists affirmed that: “We know where we have come from and why, but don’t have a clear plan of where to go now… We are at a turning point.” Sadly, this aptly describes the current situation of the Nigeria nation.
By the day, our nation walks into deeper absurdities. Things are falling apart. Dogs are no more eating dogs. The cheetahs are now food for dogs.
Our societal problems have become deepen and no longer bend to our efforts: wanton killings and destruction of people’s properties used to be a visitor in the past, now it has become an integral part of the country. The cost of governance is rising, yet there is a huge infrastructural deficit.
Kidnapping was an uncommon crime in the past, today, it is a commercial venture with its own structure. Corruption used to be seen as the prime problem of Nigeria, but today many are chorusing: bring back our corruption.
The truth is that most Nigerians are dissatisfied with the past, disappointed with the present and skeptical of the future. At present, the thinking, the debates, the testing and formulations of policy mostly take place within the government or political party and are performed by people in their employ. It is a ‘closed shop’ affair that does not augur well for creative ideas.
Today, it is quite evident the major issues revolve round our disheveled structure, weak institutions and values, and not in fault lines of one political party being clueless while the other has the magical solution to turn our fortune around overnight. This period is one when everyone has to pull his/her weight behind the real revolution our nation needs, one that should start in the minds of the people to make things change for better.
It needs to be stressed that putting geo-political zone, language and religion before our ‘Nigerianess’ will always be counterproductive.
Therefore, killing of fellow Nigerians or destruction of the national economy must be seen as act of criminality and perpetrators as criminals and common enemies. Having a true sense of national identity will make us to see the danger inherent in celebrating looters and political fraudsters.
It has now become imperative for us to have renewed education to overcome pervasive culture of powerlessness in our psyche. We have been turned into perpetual blamers. We blame government, them ‘up there,’ over us ‘below.’ No matter how much less power we feel we have, we are not utterly without power. There is always room for creativity, room for our action to change the nature of any given situation.
The question is how do we realise our power and join the league of people who discover their own power, thereby transcending the culture of hopelessness? How do we convince those who choose criminality as an option out of economic downturn that the most vibrant sector of the Nigerian economy is hardly the organised public/private businesses but the unsung, ordinary trading by mostly illiterates in Isale Eko and similar places? How do we educate ourselves that democracy is not just about election but what we do every day?
It is not about what is done for us, or done to us, but what we do daily.
It is not what we prepare for when we become adults; it is how we interact with members of our family, neighbours, friends, colleagues etc. We need to discard all dangerous tendencies of mutual distrust and total lack of confidence in our nation and seemingly inbuilt attitude by many to hate the country. It is dismaying seeing fellow citizens putting up disposition and utterances that show absolute hatred for the country in the guise of fighting those in government. One is not saying that identifying with one’s nation is synonymous with blind followership, but that we must embrace routine patriotic inclinations.
Twenty sixth President of United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt once explained that: “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country. It is patriotic to support him insofar as he efficiently serves the country. It is unpatriotic not to oppose him to the exact extent that by inefficiency or otherwise he fails in his duty to stand by the country.”
The solution to Nigeria’s problem is neither in sabotaging its economy under any guise, nor in blind loyalty to kinsmen or brethren in faith at the helm of public administration. These are unpatriotic acts. It is however important for one to admit that it is not possible to ignite fire of commitment from citizens whose welfare has become nobody’s business.
This is why Nigerians should always insist on good governance while also putting on creative cap of self-empowerment. The family unit, social organisations, schools and colleges and the media must help people to overcome the shackles of helplessness in the face of our daunting problems.
Our media should start projecting models of real powerful people in their news reporting. Here, one is not referring to celebrities, or politicians and CEOs of the corporate world, but real entrepreneurs who started small and grow progressively. These are what will ignite power of, if he can, I can rather than sustaining culture of powerlessness arising from celebration of looters, political and social impostors.
As widely portrayed in Australia’s literature, citizens are reminded of the importance of a “fair go”; the principle that hard work and talent should always count for more than wealth or connections. America asks people to memorise the deadline for filling of income-tax returns while Britain emphasises the importance of being a good neighbour. The lesson here is that we should copy the positive ways other clime are using to transform their societies.
Finally, the following words of a Chinese poet should be instructive to us: ‘Hope cannot be said to exist, nor can it be said not to exist, for it is like the roads that cross the earth. In the beginning, there were no roads, but when many people pass one way, a road is made.’ In our case, when many are ready to let the change begin with them, we shall see the change. We should all be the man that will be proud of this country, and the man that this country will be proud of. This is how to stand with Nigeria.
Musbau is in the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy.