Nigeria @54: Beyond the rhetorics

Nigeria has been independent for fifty-four years! Worth celebrating? Most definitely, although some people will not agree with me. As a people we seem to have convinced ourselves that celebrating our Nation is a disservice to humanity, but that’s okay, everyone is entitled to their way of thinking, no matter how misguided.
As I reflect on my country at 54, several thoughts course through my head:
The things we say about our country
The things we hear, and keep quiet about
The way we treat ourselves
The way we treat public property
Our refusal to take ownership of our land
But even more more than all these is our refusal to stand up and be counted. We are great at criticizing and spotting what is wrong, we sit in our homes and offices and complain about how things are not working but then we refuse to take responsibility for anything. We refuse to play our part, forgetting that we all have a role to play in making Nigeria great.

A few years ago, I went to the home of an old schoolmate’s father in the company of his niece who is a close friend. In the course of exchanging pleasantries we asked after his daughter who had been my schoolmate and his reply was shocking to me. He said that his daughter was abroad as Nigeria was not fit for the well-brought up! I felt very offended because, as a well-brought up person, I was living in Nigeria. When I got over my upset, I realized that he was only verbalizing the attitude of far too many Nigerians. The elite feel that Nigeria is not good enough for their children and so they do everything within and without their power to send their children abroad. The poor who cannot find a way to do the same, complain about their lot and scheme to outdo one another in a bid to climb up a non-existent social ladder. The religious spend hours and hours praying and wailing and going from prayer house to prayer house commanding God to do their bidding. The civil servants strive to cut their share of the proverbial National cake without thinking of the ingredients needed to bake the cake, and on and on ad infinitum!

But can we all just pause for a moment and think of how we as individuals can make this Nigeria great and viable? Let’s not talk of how wonderful countries such as the UK, USA, Canada and even South Africa and the UAE have become.Let’s not even look back and reflect with nostalgia how good things were in the good old days; rather let us think of how we can build out children’s future by doing right today. The truth is, the Nigeria we have today is the one our parents’ seeds produced and if we want to see our children live in a better tomorrow, we must cultivate good seeds today. Let us start by:
Thinking right
Speaking right
Judging right
Behaving right
In practical terms, let us pay our taxes, all of us, not just a few. Let the pepper seller as well as the plumber pay taxes. Let the hairdresser and the supermarket owner pay taxes, the taxi driver, mechanic, industrialist, self-employed lawyer, Doctor, everyone, let us pay taxes. The nations we envy and run to pay taxes to build and develop their societies. And let’s not complain yet about the corruption in the tax system; first let us pay and then we will have the right to demand accountability.
Secondly, let us engage in the politics of our Nation. Let’s join political parties and vote on the day of election. Let’s campaign for the candidates we believe in. We should not complain of election rigging when we refuse to go out on election day. Let those who think they are clean get involved in washing the dirt off of our dirty politics. As I write this, I think of a cooking vessel badly stained with palm oil; when you pick it up to wash, your hands will get dirty, it will transfer its grease and dirt to your hands and the sponge you are using, but as you continue to apply soap and rinse off with water, you gradually overpower the dirt until the pot is thoroughly clean and fit for use. It is the same process that we need to use in cleaning our politics. The more we pour the clean water of our personal values and determination to do right, the cleaner the whole process will become. Eventually we will see the results we desire and Nigeria will become fit for our children

I end this piece by saluting the courage of the few who get into the fray and take on the system, choosing to bring about a change rather than complain about what is not right. Kudos to Dr. Ruky Ugwumba who is working to see a change in healthcare delivery in Delta State. I salute also the courage of my friend and brother Ike Okwuobi, who has packed up his cushioned life in Canada to run for the Local Government chairmanship in his home. Such people are making attempts to bring about the change they want to see. What are you doing to make a difference?

Happy birthday Nigeria!

Ike Okwuobi


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