It was 1960. The world waited with bated breath as Nigeria shook off the shackles of colonialism and walked tall into her independence. The Federal Republic of Nigeria was born after much ado. Her future beamed bright and fair, and her leaders proudly stepped forward, ready to steer the rudder of this great vessel aright. The good citizens of Nigeria waited anxiously for her greatness to unfold like a flower eagerly reaching out for the first rays of the morning sun. They waited; we waited, and waited and waited. We waited for the Nigeria that our forebears envisioned when they made merry that auspicious day.
Why does our wait seem interminable as we struggle with death trap roads, interminable blackouts, corruption in high and low places, inept security agencies, and most infamous of them all, the great god of embezzlement? Everybody wants to get rich quick; we all want and deserve the good life, but unfortunately, in our Nigeria, the good life has a very steep price tag attached to it.
Why? You ask? Because the good life seems to be on sale to the highest bidder. You want electricity? Keep your generator fuelled. You want water? Install a borehole. You want good roads? Visit the airport more often, or buy a jeep. You want a swift judicial system? Wrong country!!! You want the police to be your friend? Do we really want to tread that path?
Dear maligned, despised nation of ours, what words do you have for the creatures that dwell in you and perpetuate all manner of folly under your seeming aegis? How long will you stand to have your name dragged in the mud by ignorant fanatics who terminate lives they did not give in split seconds? Do not turn a blind eye to the treacherous denizens who occupy your lofty places and loot your treasuries without so much as the blink of an eye. When will you, giant of Africa arise and stamp out with a mighty roar, the unthinking felons who rule our highways? The career politicians who hold court and decree injustice? Or the inert leaders, who are surrounded by unending caucuses of the ended?
Dear Nigeria, bumbling you may be, but your might is potent and insuppressible. We lay this query at your feet as a supplicant before a ruler; when will you arise?
I waited, and lo she rallied and gave me an answer. We are Nigeria; you are Nigeria; I am Nigeria. The way forward lies with you. Open your palm and gaze into it; as you stare, ask; how have I used this palm in the furtherance of a greater Nigeria today? Have I collected or given bribes? Corruption has always existed in the low places, but the amounts involved have never made the headlines. The truth is 5 out of every 10 Nigerian citizen has received or given a bribe, embezzled some money or done something they would not want in their public record within the past week.
That is one way forward Nigerians. Nigeria says it starts with you. Wail and whine about the Government all you want, but do remember that the “Government” are our fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, aunties and uncles. I have colleagues and friends who cannot wait to “get in there and grab a piece” of the national cake, so the collective mind set has to change before our giant can take a step in the right direction. What do you say to your children, mentees, and protégés about Nigeria? They are moulded by what you do and say, even the words that remain unspoken. They can see the lust for wealth in your eyes; the debilitating ambition that drives you beyond borders you should never have crossed.
Our giant will move the other feet when you and I in our little niches, cubicles, PHCN offices, Police Barracks, LGA desks, Cyber cafes, Banks, lecturer’s offices, schools, courtrooms, Post offices, Customs office, and pastoral pulpits, do the right thing! I do not promise that our giant will do a 100m dash immediately, but I know that the armoured cables from out transformers will no longer disappear mysteriously. I know that “roger me” will cease to be part of the Nigerian Police vocabulary. I know that my job application will be given the same consideration as the MD’s sisters, niece’s daughter. I know that contractors will undertake their contracts in good faith and with the right materials. I know that our young people will read hard and pass their exams because their aint no other way. I know that I can send a package via post and expect it to arrive undefiled. I know that I will get good value for my money. I know that clerks and registrars will do the jobs they were employed to do without expecting a tip. I know that almost imperceptibly, we will move forward. It is simple really; love your neighbour as yourself, do unto others what you want them to do unto you. I am not a great economist like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, so I cannot crunch out the numbers and tell you how our GDP is not what it should be or whether the 6-3-3-4 or 9-3-4 system is suitable for our educational system like Obiageli Ezekwesili, but I can tell you this, one-step at a time, change Nigeria; it is possible, and it begins even now.
May our hard-earned democracy truly come alive and live on for all time. Proudly Naija!!!