(By Osagie Amusa-Eke)
“He needs to actively fight this corruption menace. Even if he can’t arrest the big men of today, he needs to put in place policies that will start to fight this menace from our homes, our schools. Change the psychology and culture of our young people. Stop this glorification of ill-gotten wealth and instead encourage and reward hard work and ideas.“
THE year 2013 begins and nothing has changed in my beloved country. Hanging out a few days ago with a couple of friends of my generation, we couldn’t help analyzing (like most Nigerians do) that since we were been born (about 40 years ago) and have lived in this amazing country very little has changed. Apart from the fact that we now have a democratic style of government, all the problems of the country we have always known, are now firmly entrenched as a way of life: No electricity, no proper transportation system, bad roads, corruption, no rule of law, poor educational system, insecurity, poor health services etc. The list and complaints are endless.
What really went wrong with this Nigeria Dream? How did this decay called corruption and ostentation become a Nigerian culture? We’ve heard numerous arguments that it was the Amalgamation of 1914, it was the first coup of 1966, it was the long years of military rule, our fathers’ generation were too greedy and so on and so forth.
I remember studying Government in secondary school and reading and learning about the fight for independence by Herbert Macaulay and the likes of Zik, Awolowo, and Ahmadu Bello. I wonder if these great men could have seen 50 years into the future what their reaction would have been.
I always wonder why the government with so much wealth at its disposal doesn’t conduct regular quantitative or qualitative research that measures the mood of the population at every given time. I wonder in some way if this might help them be more proactive and innovative in the execution of governmental policies. Measuring the mood and spirit of a nation I believe would constantly give our leaders an idea of what policies will basically put people in a better mood and give them hope for the future (that is if the government is really sincere).
At the moment I would say the mood seems to be one of hopelessness. Be it the unbelievable acts of kidnapping, the dreaded bombings of Boko Haram, the poverty in the country, the corruption level, transportation related deaths, the future just seems bleak.
I come from a generation of Nigerians that grew up knowing nothing but military rule and the fear and envy of the green khaki uniform. The coming of democracy at a time we were reasonably enlightened was almost surreal because it just felt like ruling was the right of the military and they would never leave. Then came Obasanjo, a former general, a former military ruler straight out of prison and then handed the presidency. Surprisingly, those years even with all said and done about Obasanjo, were years in which there was a general mood of hope. You just felt anything was possible and you could become anything you put your mind to. Even though that government could have done much more, for many of us we got things that before then seemed unreachable in our lives (mobile phones, banking credit, fantastic paying jobs, a local entertainment industry etc) the mood was, no need to escape from Nigeria, I have a good future here. Countless Nigerians returned home to the country after many years abroad.
Many Nigerians had hoped and believed (and are still believing) that the continuation and the safeguarding of democracy and its institutions would bring even more good tidings to the people. But the mood these days is not a good sign. People are becoming more and more frustrated and desperate. Citizens don’t seem to know or understand what the plans by government are, how long will these plans take and how will they affect them. There is a disconnect between the government and the populace.
We keep on getting more bad news than good news. I personally am rooting for President Jonathan (at this point what choice is there, we voted him in). He needs to do something that will touch and affect every home in Nigeria in a positive way and he needs to do it quickly (presidential think-tank where are you?).
The national mood needs to be lifted. We need to see light at the end of the tunnel, so all these years of suffering won’t be for nothing. We need to strengthen our belief that this land is ours and only on this land will we have life’s fulfilment, only on this land will our life’s hopes be achieved. Most Nigerians believe in Nigeria and want it to work. We just don’t understand why it’s so hard for our leaders to make it work. I hope the slow movement of this government is so because authentic plans are being put in place to make things work and we are not just going through another sham. It would be a disaster if at the end of this four-year term (and possibly eight years) nothing significant has changed. And yes, one man (with executive powers) can make a change.
This government as a very first step needs to use all the mass communication platforms at its disposal in a strategic manner to create an atmosphere of urgency towards the solving of our problems to give the people hope, because hope in itself is a sign of progress.
We need to encourage original ideas that are unique to us. This is the only way we will move forward, not by always trying to copy what worked in other societies.
We need to diversify from this oil economy. With our fertile lands, we need to make agriculture our lifeline. The number of youths nationwide this industry alone will employ is unimaginable.
Where are our thinkers and philosophers? Are we saying we can’t come up with a system where the government and the private sector create in the next 10 years an agricultural industry that employs thousands, cultivates numerous products and has a huge international and local market?
We need to start a war on public education, because without this we will just keep going round in circles. The ideas that will make us the greatest nation on earth, reside in those three year-olds in villages and towns across the country.
We are now into 14 years of a PDP-led national government, and I tell our President that he has the opportunity to be the one to start our transformation, and it starts with us knowing his vision, understanding it and believing in it. He needs to sell this vision and carry everyone along (enemies inclusive).
He needs to actively fight this corruption menace. Even if he can’t arrest the big men of today, he needs to put in place policies that will start to fight this menace from our homes, our schools. Change the psychology and culture of our young people. Stop this glorification of ill-gotten wealth and instead encourage and reward hard work and ideas.
It is all so simple. Lead by example and the people will follow. Let not our children, 40 years from now be in the same predicament as or even worse than we are.
I remember arguing strongly 20 years ago that Nigeria will be great in 20 years time. If only I too could have seen into the future.
I fear the coming years as more youths enter the labour market in this age of enlightenment and are faced with the prospect of a desperate future. We have witnessed how poverty and unemployment has brought us ethnic and religious violence, fraud, kidnapping etc.
As more youths become unemployed in 2013 and start searching for their various ideas of the Nigerian Dream, we wait and see what the future brings.
• Amusa-Eke is a media consultant based in Lagos.
“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”