At 57, any individual is considered as aging, approaching the sexagenarian years, an elder of sorts, with a mature outlook on life. At that age, any organization, project or business cannot be considered a startup. In fact, the financials of such organization must consist of major investments, be precise and speak of economic progress. Essentially, 57 is 7 years into the second half of the century of anyone’s existence and should be taken seriously.
Nigeria has marked another year, adding up to 57 years since the British granted us independence. The obvious question becomes, what we have done with it since it was given to us? As opposed to mainstream banter, the purpose of my spiel is not to launch baseless attacks on the British, naming and shaming, throwing darts of vilification at the colonial shipwreck they made of us, or vituperating about how they plundered and squandered and left us out on a limb to dry, because, like the proverbial four fingers pointing backwards, if one replaces the British in the accusations with extant ‘rulership’, we will realise how the description fits so well, and how we moved from white privileged colonialism to black entitled colonialism. I am also not here brandishing the whip of confrontation for a nation that has aged without growing, or recounting rancid tales and dismal accounts of national failings and shortcomings; that has been done a lot I assume. I am here to talk about the future and the role we all have in it. I am unapologetic then in saying that this nation at 57 is what we have made of it- all of us. We are the pieces of this puzzle.
Perhaps, due to our long history of a nation that incessantly slaps us in the face, we have developed a culture of casting blames all over, except on ourselves, a lack of introspectiveness, an absurd dissociation of our existence from the nation, what it is and whatever it will be. There is an uncanny inclination to blame what Nigeria is under the colonial regime, the delayed independence or for some, rushed independence that we were not ready for, the diverse ethnicity, the excessive population, the amalgamation, the corruption in State coffers, everything but the individual casting blames. The same individual that has used power supply for the last six months without paying a single bill because as an electrician, he figured out a way to steal power supply from the transformer or the black and blue draped gun-toting policeman who earns his salary in one day on the highway from unsuspecting motorists, an unashamed extortionist scurrying away at the slightest sound of a rival gunshot.
There is no doubt Nigeria is at the crossroads of a major leadership crisis, one we have not solved since independence, one that is indubitably hinged on us, citizens. It is appalling that at 57, playing big brother of Africa, and proud black nation to the world, we do not count among the top developed African Nations or even among the countries with top or medium level Human Development Index (HDI) and that instead when the roll call for corruption is called, we stand at the head of the table with our name sculpted into the seat, uncontested. Fantastically corrupt, it reads an Emeritus of venality. It is distressing too, that countries like Rwanda and Botswana that gained independence after Nigeria, countries that look up to the strength of this black nation with a teeming population, are listed as more desirable places to live than Nigeria, in terms of security, economy and life expectancy. So can I ask why we have continued to take the deleterious path for 56 long years, without considering that maybe somewhere in the machinery of our nationhood, there is a round peg in a square hole?
I do not believe our problem is our multi-ethnicity, a topic I must broach in the discussion of our nationhood. I also do not believe that breaking up into tiny bits of quasi-Nigeria or whatever name it is deemed fit to be called, is the solution to our problems. Perhaps a look at the governance structures of the states seeking emancipation will make a poignant argument that we have not learned governance or leadership, just an immature and self-indulgent sense of entitlement to power and an illusory national cake- and that it is the crux of our problem. I believe our problem is one of sheer apathy, and head-spinning confusion engendered by circular stagnancy- like a game of musical chairs that leaves you dancing confused without a seat. And frankly, it is hard to blame the average Nigerian for how much they have lost faith in the country, because for a country immersed in abundant resources, and 64 percent of its population living in poverty, anyone would lose faith. A country that has so knitted its identity into the fabric of endemic corruption, organized crime, and fraud that the Green passport traveling Nigerian is whisked like a criminal at the airports and suspected at the boarding gates, Undoubtedly, it takes a little more than patriotism to be Nigerian, it takes faith. So allow me to propose a more progressive way for Nigeria in coming years.
This solution involves each of us, acting for Nigeria, understanding this country belongs to us and not any crop of people at Aso Rock; that being born a Nigerian entitles you to own this country, to decide for its future, and to determine its leadership. What I am asking of Nigerians at this 57th birthday is to make the 58th a big step forward. I ask that we take this country in our hands and make it what we want to be. I ask that you understand that our leadership has failed us because the religious institutions, the nonprofits, the businesses have focused on religion, on securing grants and on making money, because the institutions of society meant to checkmate the government and governance have played right into the hands of corrupt leaders and supped at their table.
I want you to understand that the country has failed because we all have failed her, because we have decided to accept that corruption is not our business to solve, because we have taught our children that Nigeria is a place of hustle and survival by any means; hook or crook, because we have told our girls that all they were good for was to cook and clean and make themselves good for a rich politician who will marry them off and funnel money into the family to lift them from poverty, because we have decided to add our dirt to the dirt pile in the gutter since we were not the first to throw dirt there. This is a personal and an institutional failure. For a country that prides itself as one of the most religious in the world, that boasts of cognizable inventors, a booming entertainment industry, and achievers spread across the globe, how do we still struggle to achieve a 5, 000 megawatts goal? Maybe I should point out that the ‘government’ we blame is only a handful of people; a minute demographic compared to the millions that are not ‘the government’. We should give it some thought that we actually put this person in power, every four years, passively or actively, by participating in the election process or by refusing to.
We need a new crop of Nigerians for there to be a new crop of leaders. Breaking up the country for some hapless independence of certain factions is not the solution. We gained independence as a country 57 years ago when we thought that was our solution. Look how that worked out. What we need at this point is to have conversations; businesses, non-profits, individuals. Talk to each other, act and force the hand of the government. Set up leadership programmes for young people. Support ongoing leadership initiatives, stop waiting for aid and donors who will aid you and raid you, taking away your brains and inventors and innovators, developing already developed economies and leaving you developing half a century down the line. I have no iota of doubt that Nigerians are a rare breed of creative, innovative and persevering people. Yet, we need to turn these solutions towards fighting for our nation, fighting for her peace and security, fighting for her unity, fighting for her leadership, and this means taking the reins, intentionally and strategically preparing for the next election with credible candidates, tested and trusted, supported by well-meaning individuals and businesses to turn the course of the nation around. And all of this I say too, to the 15 million Nigerians in the diaspora.
Understand that it starts with you, with the family, with the child. Understand that families make communities, which make cities, states and the nation. So let the religious institutions preach morals and values and stop making wealth and money the attraction for piety and religious service, let the academic institutions include leadership, civic responsibility, and anti-corruption as core subjects, taught by passionate individuals who live what they teach, let each individual with the crack of dawn of each day, mutter few but sincere words of prayer for the country and commit to do something good for her. Let us determine to change Nigeria for good, one person at a time. It always takes one committed individual, to influence others to act. If we take ownership, rise from apathy and lead ourselves to make the country better, then bit by bit, person by person, we solve our leadership problem. If not for you, do it for your children.
I am not just asking you to make the revolution happen, I am asking you to be the revolution.