January 10th, 2011
Nigeria, the land of our fathers. In these trying times, one cannot but wonder if Nigeria is also the land of our youths or was Nigeria meant for our fathers alone? Today, four out of five young Nigerians hope to travel abroad. Are the Americas such heavenly places or is the United Kingdom such a wonderful place? Maybe not, but to a large extent things work in those countries. In such countries, basic amenities such as light and water are taken for granted, as well they should be. Let us look a little closer. Let us take our tiny neighbor Ghana for instance. The idea of going over to Ghana in search of greener pastures is becoming an increasingly attractive proposition for many Nigerians. With the current influx of Nigerians into Ghana, is it any wonder that the Ghanaians seem to be proclaiming “Nigeria must go” as we once did in a similar manner years ago.
The Ghanaians are not the only ones who seem just a bit disenchanted with their Nigerian visitors. Nigerians, and indeed Africans all over the world, complain about racism and prejudice. For instance, a Nigerian in the United Kingdom for has to prove day in day out that his black skin makes him no less human, that the darkness of his skin does not him make him a primal Neanderthal. I choose not to blame the Americans, the English, the Spanish etc for their not overly pleasant feelings towards Nigerian Immigrants. I say this not because I support racism, but because I believe that to a large extent the fault is ours.
How is that? You might ask. Well, it is a foregone conclusion that Nigeria has quite a few problems. We cannot run away from these problems. The great philosopher, Aristotle once said, “To run away from trouble is nothing but a form of cowardice”. An uncle of mine once told me about a Japanese man he worked with at a university in the U.S. While his American colleagues pronounced his name as best they could and left it at that, they never stopped trying to ensure that they could pronounce his Japanese colleague’s name as a Japanese indigene would. They cared about the pronunciation of a Japanese name because they respect Japan. They respect Japan because the Japanese economy is not to be trifled with. Because they respect Japan, they respect a Japanese national.
One thing I find very interesting is the fact that almost every Nigerian seems to agree or believe that the country isn’t being governed well, and her resources are not being managed properly. A very popular Nigerian statement is the three worded phrase: “These our leaders”. That short phrase sums up the frustration of the average Nigerian in our 50 year old democracy. So if we all agree that the greatest issue our country faces today is a one of leadership then why is the solution to that problem so elusive? Is it because many of us have adopted an “I don’t care as long as you cut me or I cut myself a piece of the national cake attitude”? Is it because many of us a have a seemingly silly lust for the divine, with many expecting God to literarily descend from heaven and smite the corrupt leaders that we are supposedly different from? Another popular Nigerian phrase is “It is well”. I believe that phrase is very beautiful because it signifies hope. For when a man loses hope, he loses the desire to live. But for how long shall we keep hoping for a change? How long shall we proclaim “It is well” when it so obviously isn’t? If we feel the leadership of the country isn’t what it should be, is there no worthy man or woman in this great nation country who can rise up and lead the nation aright? Do we also have to import a Mandela, like we import almost everything we use these days? I think not. I strongly believe that a Mandela, an Ajasin, an Azikwe lives in each and every one of us. We only have to look deep inside ourselves and find the love, care and integrity that give rise to such heroes. For the onus lies on you and I, the youth of Nigeria. The onus lies on us to rise up as compatriots and ensure that our children do not say our generation failed. It is time for us to ensure that our children do not ask, what were mummy and daddy doing while Nigeria became a sinking ship, a sinking ship that needs be abandoned? It is time for you and I to rise up and get ready, get ready to lead our country out of stormy waters, get ready to lead her to the harbor.
Damilare D. Fagbemi