Note: this is a long one:
I enjoy visiting areas where Nigerians gather to watch soccer matches: International football, especially the European Leagues. The sight of people from all walks of life in various modes of suspense and eagerness, analyzing every move, pass, header and dribble of soccer players usually makes me laugh. I usually ask myself, if these same ordinary people are put on the football pitch with the other players they are criticizing, with their talking-skills, could they do any better? Won’t they do worse? Why? Just like a football match in progress, the best sports analysts are those watching from afar.
It is very good to be patriotic, to see the good and positive side of everything, however, we often deceive ourselves because we never tell ourselves the truth. Its so easy to point fingers at the ‘politicians’ which we elected into office and those who elected themselves. Its easy to voice out opinions, criticize leaders, analyze their speeches, smiles and silence and interpret their actions – 24-hours of their every-day life.Their misdeeds become extra-obvious especially when they are in office. The question is: if we were in their shoes, can we do better? If there has to be a change, it has to start with me. If there has to be a change, it has to start with you. If there has to be a change, it has to start with us. The government is the people. The people are the government.
Is there a guiltless political system in the whole world? No, not one. Each country’s politicians have their own set of problems. The degrees of guilt just differs. They are all human. Ours is no better: 1, 2. Nigeria is presently at a point where once a politician sneezes, he gets flown to Europe or America for nasal checkup. How do they get their visas? they are politicians. Who pays for their flights? they are politicians. How about the Medical bill incurred overseas(payable in dollars/Euros)? they are politicians. When they come back from their medical checkups/recovery, they will definitely start their speeches with a line like this:
“I thank God that I am back and alive today. My people, I now know that health is wealth. Thank you for all your support and prayers for me etc etc etc”
These speeches are usually given at the VIP lounge of the MMIA. They also use the opportunity to remind us of how they are working with the Present Administration to build more hospitals in hooks and corners of Nigeria. Meanwhile, the existing handful of hospitals and Federal Medical Centers(FMC) of various degrees of delinquency are full to overflowing to a point where some patients have no beds and have to bring their own mattresses from home just to avoid sleeping on hard cement. While they are treated for one illness, they contact another as a result of poor ventilation, jam-packed wards and perhaps, a little carelessness from one Medical doctor to another. Can you blame the Medical Doctor who is thinking of his son’s school fees, and salary arrears from the Federal Government while performing an operation? When he makes a mistake, we call him incompetent. No wonder many of such are more concerned with referring patients to private medical outfits. One evil plus one evil equals two evils.
These politicians start off with huge promises: 1, 2, 3 and 4, but so soon are they in power that everything changes. The promises they made are forgotten. Suddenly their bank accounts become fatter and fatter, until the MD of their bank begins to report at their houses for ‘private discussions’. While our politicians travel around the globe, wasting money, foreign embassies are filled with Nigerians on a daily basis seeking to go abroad for various reasons: from students to business men – of genuine motives. Yet the possibility of getting visas is less than zero. No wonder these politicians kill and maim just to get into the political post of their choice, because they know the opportunities that awaits them. They don’t commit these atrocities with their own hands – their cronies in every layer do it for them. These cronies and their evil-contractors are the real enemies of the nation. Definitely some people voted for and influenced these politicians into positions of power. Those people are the real enemies of the nation. And what of those who are in a position to expose some wrong and yet they don’t, they are part of the enemies of the nation. From the presidency to the local government, to the officers of the law and the common man – who choose to do wrong when they are supposed to do right, they are part of the problem. This is where you and I come in.
A friend once told me: “all the leaders Nigeria has ever had have failed Nigeria”. So much of a truth. For those of them still alive, I wonder if they have an inner longing to undo a “mistake” they made while in office? do these ‘kind of leaders’ even make mistakes? the opportunity to go back is past and nothing can be changed. Time and space are not available to recount all their misdeeds one by one.
The question is: are we going to continue hanging on to the past? the past that they created for us? can we glue together the pieces of our broken bottles? are we going to continue lamenting the fact that one-Nigerian has stolen Nigerian money, stashed them up in some banks in Europe and America, and as a result 149-million Nigerians cannot make progress? Are all those in Nigeria’s political jungle(from the lion to the ant) not our neighbors, friends, relatives(near or far), acquaintances, and are they not the ones described as ‘legs’ here and there?. You might not be related to anybody living in Asokoro, but you might have or know one or two other people in a position of influence: no matter how small(politics or not). You yourself might be in some position of authority. Now the question: could you stand up against and would you speak against such a person/s(no matter how close) if you knew he/she did, doing/about to do something not for the common good of Nigeria? In your own small area, do you contribute to Nigeria’s progress or downfall?
Leave the politicians alone for a minute. How many are they anyway, compared to the rest of us? 1-million politicians against the remaining 149million? No. In fact, is there a common good in Nigeria as far as man to man is concerned? How is it defined from me to you? The general tendency, from my observation is that Nigerians get curled up into the: “if things go well with you, sit back, keep quiet and enjoy tendency, you chop and I chop, God no go vex”, even if what we did was wrong, if we both keep our mouths shut and pay tithes on Sunday, such notion permeates every hook and corner.
In this position: eyes that could have ‘frowned-at’ usually turn away when they see injustice; mouths that could have ‘spoken against’ keep quiet if and when they benefit from fraudulent proceedings; hands that could have ‘prevented violence’ become folded; and very soon, ‘wrong’ becomes ‘it doesn’t concern me’ and their conscience seals it up as right. And yet we are not in the government. What will happen if we get there? We might even do worse. At the end of the day, we point back to the government, as the reason for every-wrong thing in Nigeria.
I wonder if all Nigerians in and out of Nigeria, engaged in 419 professionalism were once children who dropped into earth right from the skies. Don’t they have parents, friends and relatives? Don’t their friends and relatives know about their wrong doing? Are those yahoo-boys not sending money home? What have their parents, siblings and friends done so far to curb such activities? Why don’t they go to the police to report a brother that is an armed robber? Well, because if things go well with him, they share in the loot. Abi, is it not all about money? And if they indeed report to the police, are there any ‘egunje-less’ officers of the law?
I remember, as a young boy(late 80s) living in Abuja, when sent on an errand, I dare not branch anywhere and get caught up with something else because I knew that neighbors were watching. Even if my parents didn’t see me, neighbors watching will make a report that they saw me here and there, even on a football field. The same attitude was from my parents to our neighbors and their children. Then, I resented their attitude and used to think “what concerns them anyway”. Now I appreciate the attitude and ask “why are my people today just concerned about themselves”. This sense of general-concern is no more. Its all about me, myself and I. People just don’t care, and yet we want to progress ‘together’?
Perhaps, we have forgotten that the words “me” and “our” have different meanings. They don’t go together. Its either one or the other. No wonder our well-fed politicians and leaders in government capitalize on the fact that Nigerians cannot agree and continue to make rules suitable only for animals, and just like the phrase nothing for nothing, nothing will happen, each one is on his own.
Nigeria, to me is like a once hungry child, who has been fed and fed and fed. Now its in mode-overfed, and since there is nothing to do with the food anymore, the only option is to use it as a ‘stone’ to destroy itself and others.
The country is so rich in natural/material resources we don’t know what to do with it anymore. Talk of the North, South, East and West, natures blessings have become a curse and all we can do is to kill ourselves just to get our own share of the national cake. Talk of people resources, we have too many. Inside and outside Nigeria, you find Nigerians everywhere in every area of endeavor. I’ve observed that Nigerians outside Nigerian shores have a little/better sense of unity – ‘one-another/ness’ – than the Nigerians in Nigeria. It seems some knife of division cuts us apart in the airport once we set foot back home. Abroad, we are all Nigerians. At home, we are Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa and what have you. Nigerians are everywhere, contributing other economies, and once we find them, we begin to beg them to come back home and “contribute. If they return home, will they be allowed to ‘contribute’? won’t ‘what I will eat, what I will drink’ come into view?
Talk of mental resources, Nigerians are good at application of knowledge. Talk of fashion, sports, technology, medicine, research, etc, just name it. Nigerians have been and are still there. The natural over-curiousity we have is being misapplied. The oyinbo man had to confess that 419 is one of the greatest existing ideas of this century. Now, its not only Nigerians that are cashing it on it. I haven’t seen something that cannot be repaired in Nigeria, yet these ‘engineers’ never went to ‘engineering school’. A Lebanese I once came across in Kano-state, told me that the reason he likes Nigeria is that “Nigerians will find a way around anything”. It would be nice if such skill could be used positively. The Yorubas will continue getting their PhDs, the Ibos will continue doing ‘business’ and when we are looking for an Alhaji as Chairman for the board, call the Hausa man and the equation becomes complete. There is something peculiar to every hook and corner. Even in Spiritual matters, we are abreast of signs and wonders.
We don’t have the natural disasters suffered by many countries in the world. No earthquakes, no volcanoes, landslides. The few bridges that we have are full of potholes, so its better to keep your feet on the ground. There are no bullet trains that can derail and run into condominiums. No underground tunnels that can collapse, houses are even built over the railway lines. The land we have is not even fully occupied. Should we fear Tsunami? At least the whole of Nigeria cannot be wiped out by one Tsunami. Ours is not a natural Tsunami, its what I call People Tsunami.
People Tsunami, because ‘helping one another’ is a factor of ‘your state of origin’. Meet a Nigerian abroad and after the hi and hello, the next question is “what state are you from”. For the fact that you are all strangers in a foreign land, ‘friends’ is the word, but at home, ‘you are on your own’. The number of Nigerians from the different-states and villages in Nigeria is not up to the total number of Nigerians put together. It would have been better if people from a particular state could put heads together for the benefit of their state – at least. No, they would rather break up into ‘villages’. Then associations start springing up here and there. Then we start talking ‘compound’s’ and ‘streets’. At the end of the day, there is still a difference between ‘me’ and ‘you’. How can we progress.
People Tsunami, because we would rather ‘sit down and look as long as it doesn’t concern me’, but when something happens, we all have something to say. Even our officers of the law are no better. It took a policeman to inform me about 2-years ago that Nigerian policemen know the whereabouts of criminals in the country, as well as those who use thugs to incite violence, but they(police) usually wait for them(robbers) to do something big before arresting them. I asked “what do you mean – big”, and he answers: “ehn, you know, like kill somebody”. I was totally dumbfounded.
People Tsunami, because ten out of ten Nigerians know the definition of every facet of problems this country ever had, in fact, everybody knows what should be done, including the politicians in office but what should be done has not been done. Don’t you wonder why Nigerians are always law-abiding once outside Nigeria, but bring them back home and they begin law-breaking acrobatics.
People Tsunami, because some parts of the National cake which everybody is after are cared for while others are neglected, and those in the neglected areas have resorted to violence until they are listened to. Yet, we all want this National cake, and we forget that we, the Nigerian people are the National cake. The love and search for money has eaten into too many hearts such that people would go to any extent to get money.
People Tsunami, because we would rather vote into office ‘the politician’ from our state, rather than someone who has a heart for the people. Imagine two people from the same state going to vote for ‘the politician’ from their state. At the end of the day, one reminds the other that the politician is from his own village.
- To the students who cheat in exams, who forge certificates and their parents who use long-arms and legs to get a criminal-child into an institution of higher learning, rather than into a detention cell;
- the business men who defraud one-another to feed their families from such proceeds, who make 500% profit on government contracts and those who award such contracts and get their own ‘cuts’;
- the market men and women who defraud buyers and sell fake goods with sweet lips;
- professionals who wear suits and change great and small figures over and under the table;
- officers of the law who take bribes and the common men and women who gives it;
- religious leaders who lead into error, the host of ‘Christians’ and ‘Muslims’ who worship God and are dishonest in the smallest of matters;
- big-mommies and their circle of contractors who buy and sell innocent children as prostitutes and slaves, and those who know about such activities but keep quiet because it doesn’t concern them;
- Nigerians living home and abroad who tarnish the national image and are the first to point fingers;
- the common man like you and me, from the presidency to our individual residencies, who choose to do wrong when we are supposed to do the right,
please help me continue this list and see if those living in Aso-Rock are the only politicians.
We cannot all be saints, but definitely there can be a change for the better. I believe in change and I believe that good is more potent than evil. In fact, good is more contagious if sustained.
I believe that Nigeria has hope, but I also believe the hope is not in some politician who will change his suit after he gets into office. The hope that Nigeria has is its people, that one day they’ll begin to choose right over wrong, and put together a collective effort for the nation. It’s the hope that its children, rather than being mischievously smart, will be prudent and honest. It’s the hope that the Nigerian image will change outside its shores.
Perhaps we could take a leaf or two from the soccer matches we love to watch: an element like teamwork where each one does what he has to do when he has to do it; substitution where another takes over when one is injured or found wanting.
If there has to be a change, it has to start with me and you. There must be an orientation change.If those in power know that the people are united, they can’t just decide to do and undo. The change must include a willingness to obey the law regardless of the multitudes that might disobey it. The urge to ‘join in’ and do as everyone is doing, because they are ‘doing it’ and ‘no one is catching them’ must be buried and laid to rest.
Lets talk Nigeria, about how we can change as individuals and influence others towards a “common good”. Those that have gone before us had been talking. We have also started talking. I think its time to start doing. It starts with the right attitude, a personal integrity level. Very soon, “me” becomes “us” and that is where progress begins.