Nigeria @ 50: No More Excuses For Failure!
“Nigeria is fifty, electricity is a mystery, corruption is a priority, crime is prime, water never, security not a priority. What are we celebrating? Please tell me!” – This was the Facebook status of my baby sister, she is 15. Nigeria’s malaise affects all regardless of age.
Nigeria is an eventful lady that much we cannot deny. And so, in celebrating her Golden Jubilee, it would have been a shame if there were no dramas. I have read every status you can imagine on Facebook; from the powerful realities of this embattled African lady to the ridiculous and of course, the God factor status, which I do not disrespect. But sweetheart, faith without action is dead works. We have prayed and prayed, let’s start applying the principles of faith and take action to make life a little bearable for us all.
It is hard to swallow the harsh reality of Nigeria’s current existence when you know for a fact that she has the potential to be a world leader; economically, politically, socially and culturally, yet she has squandered so many chances and consoles herself with the rhetoric that she is still a young babe. In whose eyes, I ask? It took President Lula of Brazil about 8 years to get his country out of a dire economic situation. Today, Brazil can proudly say it belongs to the BRIC Nations (Brazil, Russia, China and India) emerging world economies, getting respect at the UN, they even have the clout to fight/contend for membership in the UN Security Council. Go figure!
There is an analogy I love, which simply says, for every human being with a strong desire to accomplish a tangible vision, from the day you are born to your 30th, you are learning, growing and developing muscles and maybe still having breast milk of some kind. However, as soon as you hit 30, you are in the morning of your life, 40, the afternoon of your life and 50, oh well, good evening honey! At this point, you have no excuses for not doing anything with your life because you have had 49 solid years to prepare. At this stage, you should not be on milk of any kind. You should be chewing meat, and I mean the kind that will make the world stand up and say, what an achievement! However, that is not the case for Nigeria. Yes, she is still a young nation with a marred history of coups, corruption, oil bunkering and did I mention kidnapping is now a way of life. Leading up to today, October 1st, 15 children were were kidnapped and ransom demanded for their return. They have been through an ordeal many of us will and may never go through in our lifetime. If these are not desperate and perilous times, then I wonder what it is? As dramatic as ever, a bomb blast went off 10mins away from the venue of celebrations. How ironic, it was in front of the Ministry of Justice. It is reported MEND has taken responsibility for this heinous act of terrorism, which claimed over seven lives, saying there was nothing to celebrate. There may be nothing worth celebrating as far as these hooligans are concerned but for others, there is/was a reason to celebrate and these hoodlums had no right, absolutely, positively, no right to claim the number of innocent lives lost. I don’t care what the frigging hell you are fighting for or the point you are trying to make, you had no right. While some sections of MEND have denied any involvement, I still don’t care who did it…MEND, BENT OR NAMELESS, I am inclined to write, may your end be worse than that of those who lost their lives today and may no one cry tears of mourning for you. Okay, I’m done being angry.
Let’s get back to Lady Nigeria. I have sometimes likened her to a prostitute who gives herself to the highest bidder or a teenage girl, who giggles so much at the attention of a love interest; she forgets the moment she opens shop and allows him to penetrate. All has been said that needs to be said, from those who are angry that the money set aside for celebrations was a waste. Truth be told, I also think it was a waste. It is money that could have been put to better use and a small celebration without the grandness and aspiration of making the Guinness book of records, simply for baking the biggest cake in the world. How noble to aspire for baking the biggest cake. Why not aspire to become an economic powerhouse? Let’s be real the national cake many did not get a piece of. How ironic that has been the disease of the nation for years, so, why should it be different on this day of grand celebrations? Did I mention the price tab for the cake is in the millions? I shall say no more…
It is always fair to give honour to whom honour is due. There is something to celebrate, after all, Nigeria has given the world some great literary giants, from Achebe to Soyinka to Okri and many others. The art and culture scene is experiencing a renaissance and what can I say about the music and television industry? When you go to Ridley Road market, based in Dalston, Hackney, London, all you hear is D’banj, Wande Coal, Timaya…the list goes on. By the way, did I mention these artists are being played by Indian meat sellers, who want to attract Nigerian customers and it is working because they do go to these shops like bees and sometimes, take the time to interact with the meat sellers and in Yoruba too.
Personally, I think there are producing great content but it is sad the price many pay for the fame they want to achieve overnight, especially women and I mean young women, who are devalued in ways unimaginable in order to get ahead. In addition, we are embracing a culture that is not original to us and so we feel the need to copy the good, the bad and the ugly but really dwell on the nasty too! How sad and pathetic.
We cannot forget the fact that we are witnessing a generation of young entrepreneurs, activists who want to be heard and refuse to be silenced, and a generation of intellectual minds that are challenging the norm and refuse to hide behind a mask. We are still the most populous African nation though I question that slogan, the giant of Africa because South Africa is doing great things though it also has its own internal problems. In the diaspora, we also have Nigerians doing incredible things regardless of the fact that our image has been tarnished by yahoo,yahoo boys.
It would be shame to leave Nollywod out of the roll call of achievements. From the stalls of Brooklyn’s Odyssey African market in New York to its European headquarters in Peckham, London to the streets of Accra, Ghana, Nollywood’s dominance and growth beyond the shores of Nigeria has no boundaries. Nollywood is no longer relegated to shores of Africa, they are travelling far and wide with premieres in London, Canada, US and did I mention, Nollywood films are sold in Jamaica. The one I find fascinating is the Turkish guy, who happens to be the biggest seller of Nollywood movies at Ridley Road market, he knows the titles off heart, in fact better than I can boast off and I claim to be Nigerian! I admit, I am not proud and keen on all the films made but it is good to know we are telling our own stories. No more should our image be dictated to us by outsiders. If that was not enough, Nollywood is now the second largest film industry in the world. Something to smile about though I cannot promise I will be watching one anytime soon.
The media attention/coverage has been of a herculean nature like no other; from CNN to the BBC. It was as if a new country was being born. The only time you realise she is as old as your grandmother is when they start dissecting her and tell you all about her troubles, from the Biafra war to the military coups to the curse of oil to the great indiscipline which percolates through different arms of the nation and the trouble of tribalism and that which has been termed, the ‘curse of oil.’ This is where I say, oil is a blessing and continues to be a source of blessing. However, in the hands of a few vagabonds, it has become a curse.
Come second October, it’s a brand new day, what then? Clear up the square where the celebrations took place and back to reality. The reality of perpetual lack, lack of electricity, security, well equipped hospitals, rampant corruption, and the list goes on and on. But look on the bright side, at least, we have a President, dubbed the Facebook president. Gotta love the dude!
This takes me back to the senseless bombing and deaths of the day, it cannot be overlooked for the fact that it says a lot about the current state of the nation and what is ahead of her. She is at a crucial junction, to continuously self destruct by imploding or she could well explode into a nation at war all over or stay stagnant or grow up and take the reins of her destiny in her own hands. The choice is ours to make but we have a great opportunity to decide because when we hit 100, we will no longer have the excuse that we are a young nation. By then, it will truly be good evening though she won’t be physically dead. I hope she is in a state to reinvent herself when she turns 100.
I recently read Chinua Achebe’s ‘The Trouble With Nigeria,’ which was written in the 80s but it is a shame things have not changed so much since Achebe gave his diagnosis in this small but timeless book. “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal examples which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” My, my, my, what a diagnosis, an ailment that has lasted for decades. As to whether or not Goodluck Jonathan is the man to turn this around and help the nation heal? We have to wait and see.
Nevertheless I do want to wish her a happy birthday, no matter how late and as I do so, I would like to make a wish. That you Nigeria, would stop making excuses for your calamitous existence and start living! You are worth so much more than you give yourself credit for. Stop berating and devaluing yourself, rise up and be counted. No more excuses for failure, No more drama!