Who do we believe; what do we say?
Do we like what our country has become? Do we desire for it to remain this way? Or do we crave the only kind of change that can make our great nation great indeed?
Nigeria, my home. Africa's most populous nation and 7th on the planet - a 180+ million strong force of human potential; leading economy on the continent; 20th leading economy in the world; 8th largest (or strongest) exporter of petroleum in the world (depending on how you state it)... and disturbingly one of the most impoverished.
Nigerians the world over are achievers - it's hard to deny. Yet back home, so many people live in abject conditions that are hard to forgive. Yes, I use the word 'forgive', because Nigeria's condition is an attrition, brought about undoubtedly by terrible leadership which has plagued the nation for the greater part of it's nearly 60 years of Independence from British rule. I would love to spend hour after hour, line after line trying to prove my last statements, but I feel as though that would be redundant - is there anybody that does not know it?
Perhaps the most troubling thing, however, about this 'would-be' great nation is the fact that so many of us have gotten so used to living in these terrible conditions that we simply accept it as the status quo and go about our daily lives as though nothing matters. A second portion of the populace does agree that Nigeria is a faint shadow of what she really should be, but their response is to seek 'asylum' of sorts in other nations - the UK, the US, Canada, Australia... even Ghana. Many of these brothers and sisters of ours take off and return only when they are ready to retire, the unfortunate truth being that while they may have bettered themselves and lived in comfort and/or affluence in other parts of the world, while they have contributed to the growth and GDP of these other nations, they have done little or nothing to improve their own country - the one that they decried and ran away from, only to return to because those other countries... no matter how long we stay there and adopt their ways... they aren't really home, are they?
And so we have all this news and developments now, since the inauguration of the new administration, led by retired general and reformed dictator Muhamadu Buhari, a severe man in almost every sense, and all of a sudden a lot of hidden information(s) - if I'm allowed to use the term - begin to come to light. We hear of raids on senator's homes and farms, many of them unconfirmed; we hear of former ministers and governors being arrested, detained, and questioned; we hear of billions in dollars and trillions in naira having been carted away and only a trickle of them being recovered... I don't do news too much myself, but I once heard someone say that Prime Minister David Cameron of the United Kingdom once said that if such sums of money were taken out of the UK economy, it would completely crash!
It certainly says something about how strong the Nigerian economy and capacity really is, if these 'mind-boggling' amounts really were taken out of the system and the system did not crash. It certainly says something about the Nigerian spirit if this much oppression has rocked the people for so long and we are still here. Empires have been toppled for less; revolutions have taken down kings and lords through the ages: the French Revolution; the Russian Revolution at the turn of the last century; the English wars that birthed the Magna Carta; and even the Independence of the United States of America some 200+ years ago - or am I mistaken?
My point is, we have been through much. Yet what irks me the most is folks talking and acting as though this was new... as though we never knew that the country was being robbed blind... that she was being financially and economically raped silly! How can we take such a stance? How could we ever? I once had an uncle who has lived in the United States for close to 20 years attempt to relocate back into the country. After settling in VGC - that's Victoria Garden City, for the uninitiated - for a couple of years and bringing his boy over to start schooling in Nigeria, he went right back to the US declaring that it is impossible to live in such conditions without being a thief! He was referring to the monies he had to pay for school, for rent, and just even for breathing air; he was talking about how no honest earner or business man could keep up with such rates in a normal system.
That's the point isn't it? Nigeria isn't a normal system - it hasn't been for years... decades. It's hard to name names, but there is hardly any need to. Is there a single politician or businessman in the country who's hands aren't dirty some ways or another? As a businessman myself - even as a common citizen - I have found it extremely difficult since I graduated university to get by honestly without having to bribe someone for something. We say that's just the way it is and we keep on living on - everybody is a part of the system: pastors, preachers, imams, and not least of all the very leaders who are meant to preserve AND IMPROVE our way of life.
We laud them these days, don't we? We praise their achievements when they build new houses and buy new cars, when they run us off the road with their motorcades and throw wads of cash around at insanely expensive parties that we are not invited to. 'He's the next big boy', we say; or 'She has arrived'! We NEVER stop to ask where all that money is coming from, how it is virtually impossible to climb that fast up the financial and social ladder without dirtying your hands also. We know it, but we don't want to ask the questions for fear of what we will find when we get the answers; we don't want to ask because we want the same things ourselves - we want to be that guy in the big brand new car that even Americans may not get until the next year; we want to be the ones living in the brand new area with the most expensive houses for rent... and we are willing to do anything for it... Almost.
That is why it isn't everyone who loves the new president for doing things the way he is doing it. We applaud him in public but we go right back and complain about how slow and methodical he is, how impossible and impractical to attempt ridding the country of the decadence that has plagued it for so long. We want the country to get better, but we don't want to pay the price for it... at least not before we have gotten our own share of the national cake. Like a belligerent wife who wants a brand new car even though her husband has just mortgaged everything he has on the house he is trying to build...
That's how we are, Nigeria; and it is what we need to grow up from being: a county on the brink.
We need to climb out of the mess we all have built for ourselves - yes, we built it ourselves, because these past leaders, THEY ARE US; they are a reflection of the people they represented. They got into power because we voted them in or we allowed them to stay; they stayed because nobody wanted to pay the personal sacrifice required to turn the nation around!
Today we have a man on the seat who has paid that price - 30-some years of it. Our own personal Mandela who wants to turn the nation around. While we praise him in public we condemn him in private (or is it the other way round), and we are so in a hurry to have things change that we seem unwilling to give him the time of day. But do we have to be told that if that family wants a baby they need to allow the woman to stay pregnant for 9 months and go through the travails of labour? Do we need to be taught that yam needs to take a year to grow and mature before we can harvest and eat it regardless of how much in a hurry we are?
Good things take time, and nearly 60 years of indiscriminate rape will take time to heal. We need to quit the whining and jump on the bandwagon of helping to heal the nation. We need to clean our dirtied hands and then get down and dirty to plant the seeds today that will become trees in 20 years. The benefits will come, but today, with our country on the brink, we need to pay the price that will help her heal - for ourselves. For our children. For posterity.
Nigeria will heal, but it is a long trek and we need to gear up for it.