(By Atiku Abubakar)
“Change does not happen in a vacuum full of individuals acting independently of one another, but takes the conscientious, collective effort of an entire community. Together Nigerians must recognise the underlying problems that have ushered in Nigeria’s current problems, and develop sustainable solutions to reverse the downward trends of apathy, insecurity, unemployment and intolerance.“
Nigeria is at a crossroads, entombed within a growing quagmire shaped by chronic apathy and an institutionalised disregard for human welfare. A once promising nation, Nigeria was a beacon of hope for African development, education, security and economic prosperity. Today, however, we find ourselves the victims of extreme insecurity resultant of lackadaisical policy implementation and enforcement, coupled with the persistent neglect of the needs of the Nigerian people.
Due to insecurity, a broken economy and increasing environmental misfortunes, Nigeria has become a collection of fragmented pieces, loosely held together by a common history and identity. Roughly six million Nigerians have found themselves homeless after relocating to unfamiliar lands after violence and insecurity, insufficient economic opportunities or uninhabitable environments took away their livelihoods, homes and loved ones. 3.3 million Nigerians are internally displaced within Nigeria, while the remaining 2.7 million have found themselves scattered across the globe. Often times, the improvement brought by the move is minimal at best as combinations of prejudice, poor economic conditions and insecurity provide for widespread instability across Nigeria.
In a recent report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) and the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), it was discovered that “the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Nigeria is approximately a third of the IDPs in Africa and 10 per cent of IDPs in the world.” According to the report, approximately “470,500 persons were displaced in Nigeria in 2013 alone placing it as the country with the third highest number of displaced persons in the world. Nigeria is only ranked behind Syria with 6.5 million IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) and Colombia with 5.7 million IDPs.”
I find this news devastating and unacceptable. For decades, earnest Nigerians at all levels of society have made efforts to change the wave of negligence and dishonesty that have fuelled the rash of insecurity, violence, instability and economic misfortune, but their efforts have been disjointed, tenuous and in vain.
Change does not happen in a vacuum full of individuals acting independently of one another, but takes the conscientious, collective effort of an entire community. Together Nigerians must recognise the underlying problems that have ushered in Nigeria’s current problems, and develop sustainable solutions to reverse the downward trends of apathy, insecurity, unemployment and intolerance. In order to resolve these mounting issues, it is necessary for Nigerians to implement a multi-level, unified effort, incorporating a steadfast government policy and enforcement programme coupled with grassroots attention to local conditions and needs.
Nigeria’s journey towards recovery will require unprecedented focus and perseverance. Violence, insecurity, and the multitude of maladies that have caused millions of Nigerians to relocate will take time and the dedication of our leadership and our people to resolve, but there are a number of proactive steps that can be undertaken to alleviate some of the pain of relocation in the interim. There are two primary tiers of action involved in addressing internal displacement of Nigerians.
The first tier addresses the immediate concerns of displaced Nigerians, by appointing a government body in charge of guaranteeing the safety, protection and economic vitality of displaced persons. A former Minister of the Niger Delta, Dr. Sam Ode, recently called for a constitutional provision that would ensure the security and resettlement of displaced persons while providing shelter, clothing, and food. In tandem with a federal body tasked with overseeing and protecting displaced persons, local agencies will need to be established to develop localised solutions to the needs of the displaced persons, while serving as the main distributors and monitors of the identified goods and services. Key areas of services will include vocational education and job training, health assistance, access to clean water and cooking fuel, and more.
The second tier addresses pervasive and damaging apathy of governing bodies while simultaneously confronting the current instability, insecurity, intolerance and insurgency in Nigeria that have arisen from deep-seated avarice. Together, Nigeria can make kidnappings, bombings, disenfranchisement and intolerance a thing of the past.
I see a future Nigeria free of oppression, insurgency and widespread indifference – a Nigeria where its people are unified in an effort to bring criminals to justice and pave a safe path upon which Nigerians can return to the comfort, safety and familiarity of their homes.
Change is constant and unpredictable, but even uninvited change can be transformed to represent a new beginning with new opportunities for Nigeria’s future. Nigeria has been presented with an opportunity to cleanse itself from its bleak past, and to unite once and for all as a Nigerian people who will no longer withstand the intolerance, violence, apathy and economic volatility of yesterday, but join together with a single goal of creating a better tomorrow.
“Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
• Abubakar, a former vice-president of Nigeria, wrote from Abuja
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