THE CONVERSATION AND THOUGHT
In a discussion with a friend I asked if he was a proud Nigerian. He answered affirmative. I continued, “Mention 10 things that makes you a proud of being Nigerian”. He was able to mumble four, after which he hurriedly threw the question back at me. We were on the subject of Nigeria for three hours. The conclusion of our discussion was the question “Where is my country?”.
Shortly before his demise, the great literary icon, Chinua Achebe, published “There was a Country”. I guess he coined the title after a soul search on the past, present and future of Nigeria. I pictured Zik, Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, Herbert Macaulay and other great nationalists imagining what has become of their country – Where is my country?
A CHANGE OF SUBJECT
While teaching a colleague how to use layers in AutoCAD (like I said, a change of subject), another talk about the state of things in Nigeria surfaced. I put it to him that as a nation we had no collective achievements. That what we count as “our” achievements are feats attained by individuals. Famzing on a national scale. The most recent example is Saheela Ibraheem, the 16 year old Nigerian-American girl who was accepted into Harvard University. I maintained that Saheela’s admission should not be seen as a national achievement. He reminded me that her story can be a motivation to other Nigerians. I concurred.
Naturally our gist drifted to our views about the ugly and sorry state of things in Nigeria. It became clear that many Nigerians know what the problems of Nigeria are– even primary school pupils- therefore there was no need regurgitating the problems. More effort should be focused on working out solutions.
Elected government officials (“leaders”) who have been entrusted to manage our common resources have become possessed by the resources put under their care. As a result, many of our “leaders” have turned looters. But, that aside, as followers what can we do for our nation? I think we should not wait for government to do certain things for us.
WHAT GOVERNMENT WILL NOT DO
Government will not clean up your surroundings for you. Waste management is first and foremost a personal responsibility. When you build your house, ensure there is provision for sewage disposal. The effect of indiscriminate refuse disposal is visible in our society.
Government will not help you plan your family. It is sad to know that some couples turn deaf ears to the wisdom of family planning. Times have changed; it is true that child bearing used to be the hallmark of the African culture. Back then, labour intensive farming used to be the major livelihood. More children translated to more hands on the farm.
Government will not stop your daughter getting pregnant. Many offspring of underage pregnancy are unkempt because their young mothers have neither the material resources nor experience to take proper care of them. Parents taking on the responsibility of sex education is a potential solution to this scourge.
It is not news that some parents aid their children financially to cheat during examinations. Government will not help you discipline your child. It is the duty of parents to see that their children are morally upright.
THOUGHTS ON LEADERS AND FOLLOWERS
There is no doubt that accountable, responsive, selfless and responsible leadership is the catalyst for the kind of development we yearn for as citizens. But the reality that stares us in the face is a dearth of credible leaders.
Now that many of our so-called leaders have failed us, shall we now fail ourselves? As I have pointed out earlier, the shortest route to development is one championed by sincere and focused leadership. Now that it eludes us, we must tread the followership route to development.
My theory of followership route is formed on the thought that followers (you and I) are leaders in our own right, and that the “weight of the leadership” of the current crop of leaders should be relegated to the background.
As a leader in the home, workplace, church etc we must begin to contribute our quota to the development of Nigeria. Civil servants should see that they are productive at work and not constitute another drain channel for our collective resources.
While we contribute our individual quota to the development of Nigeria, we must not fold our arms and watch elected leaders steer the ship of our nation to the rocks. We must first of all continue to demand good leadership from all our leaders at all levels of government.
Secondly, and equally important, in future elections we must exercise our civic duties as voters responsibly. It is common to hear that elections do not count in Nigeria but electoral fraud is not carried out by ghosts. Citizens allow themselves to be used by self-seeking politicians.
I strongly believe that votes will count in future elections, because this is founded on the faith that we will yield to the gimmicks of greedy politicians no more.
THERE IS HOPE- YOU AND I
Timi Dakolo in his song, “GREAT NATION” sang, “we are all we have…”. These words carry a lot of depth. In describing the greatness of Nigeria, he made no mention of our natural resources. No mention of crude oil, tin, lime stone, saying, without actually saying it, that the greatest resource at our disposal is our human resource.
When all is said and done, our nation is a reflection of our beliefs and attitude. That is why a country like ours with so many natural resources suffer under development, have citizens who are wallowing in abject poverty. We have to take responsibility.
We must make a collective resolve to move our nation forward. I therefore urge all Nigerians to take a stand in the Nigerian Project of creating a great nation. A land that upholds justice and equality among her people. A land where peace, unity and liberty reigns. A land where there is no Boko Haram. A land where there are no militants, kidnappers, rapists or baby factories. A land where ethnic or religious affiliations carry little weight when issues of national interest are discussed. A land where citizens take pride in their identity as Nigerians across bounds of tribe and religion.
The reality of one progressive Nigeria is not beyond us. Let us make it a REALITY.