Thursday, October 7, 2010

फॉर थे लव ऑफ़ काउंट्री

On a sweltering Tuesday afternoon in March 2010, over four hundred young Nigerians embarked on a rally in the nation’s capital Abuja which saw us march from the Eagles square to the National assembly, in what seemed to be a historic effort on the path of us youths to reclaim Nigeria. It was a call for change, a bold statement that we have come of age and apathy is not going to be part of our repertoire. At one point during the procession, a rainbow-like streak suddenly appeared in the sky. “See rainbow!” yelled Chude, the rally coordinator, as he threw both arms in the air. The crowd responded with a cauldron of emotions as the symbolic gesture made by the good heavens reaffirmed our efforts to engage in the Enough-is-Enough youth rally. With renewed zest, we raised our placards displaying several disgruntled messages like “Stop the killing in Jos”, “Give us light” among others which in plain language encapsulated the pent up frustrations and demands of a generation of young Nigerians.

Not even the presence of armed police men who were perched like vultures in waiting could dissuade us, for the course we chose to fight was as much theirs as it was ours. We shrugged our shoulders, and couldn’t care that we were putting ourselves in harm’s way. How can we come this far and allow our courage to waver? I had thought to myself that most of us arrived the night before from Lagos to Abuja and retreating now was not an option. I couldn’t forget the voice of my mother’s sage warning, “I know I can’t get you not to go, but please sandwich yourself in the middle.” When we tore through the human barricade of gun totting policemen that was set up to deny our entry into the national assembly, a girl close by used me as her human shield.


If any young person had to tell the Nigerian story of the last five decades to an untrained ear, what could it possibly be? Maybe, eight military coups, 30 months of civil war, endless political turmoil, religious, geo-political and tribal divides, a streak of missed opportunities due to that hydra headed monster called corruption? All of these grim and disturbing realities are only a part of the story, but not the complete story. This story is a badly written script by those who got here before us, a script we must not accept, and an end we must not allow. The significance of this year’s independence celebration is for us as the next generation which the nation’s hopes are riding on to take stock and determine what we want the next 50 years to be, and write that script. I believe there is a new bright Nigeria emerging in the midst of this chaos. Blessed are they who believe that there is a new Nigeria, but more blessed are those who are committed to bring about this change. Blessed are those solitary light bulbs in the midst of a cynical dark world.
But I would be failing to do justice to this piece if I pretend that there is so much to look forward to for our generation, anyway. A generation whose major offense was being born in a geographical entity called Nigeria, where dreams are deferred, and creativity is stifled; a country where many battle the indignities of having to leave for pastures so green in order to fulfill their dreams. A generation set up to inherit a nation from a greedy, corrupt and recycled political class that has ridden roughshod over its present and its future. A generation that is educated in empty classrooms, treated in caverns called hospitals, made insipid by the harsh economic realities where a good education is a luxury and not a necessity that every child is entitled to, where being a graduate is no longer a passport to a comfortable job. A generation that is being raised in an era where values are skewed and the press headlines find it attractive to parade graduates caught in armed-robbery, forgetting that such idle minds have become the devil’s factory in the monstrous creation of a careless society. My question is, can we survive the macabre beats of this tragic orchestra? How can we cope with all these and how will these challenges affect us in the future? Can we create a better world than we inherited?

All of these stories that have characterized the last 50 years can be doubly disempowering. However, we must be a generation who thrives despite a failing government. We must take responsibility for the state of our lives and nation. Sure, there is plenty of blame to go around, but blame no matter how justified is a luxury we cannot afford. The lives of many young people seem broken, but so is our nation; the breaking may not be our fault, but the duty to fix it lies squarely on our shoulders.

Victor Hugo said it best when he once remarked that ‘there is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has come. I believe there is nothing as powerful as a generation whose time has come. History has shown that every society responds to the demands of their youth, their exuberance, and that solemn ideal that change can happen. The onus of this change falls on young people. We cannot afford to sit on the fence because doing so makes it possible for the system to change us rather than us changing the system. We must rise to the challenge, discover who we are and what we are about to do.

In re-writing the script of our nation, we would need that sense of ire that Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala once described when she said, “It is a sense of anger that drives me. Anger, that this country and the Nigerians that I know are being maligned by a small percentage of people. You have to do something to clean things up, you always look up to other people to do it, the fight begins with you.” Such passion will help us confront all the virulent display of impunity that is diametrically opposed to what true democracy stands for. In order to write our script we will need to ask the hard questions; How come we have more pot-holes than roads; and our elected officials cruise around in sirens unfeelingly? Don’t we have a government whose responsibility is to fix the road? Why are we not seeing the dividends of good governance? And yet we seem not to bother? Shouldn’t there be an expectation from the government of the day for those who they govern?

There is never a perfect script without an active imagination. We must dream out of limitation. While circumstances can limit our dreams and imagination, when allowed to thrive our imagination can shatter any limiting circumstance. This is why I dream with my eyes wide open, and my mind bubbles with streams of possibilities. I dream of a Nigeria that is radically different from what we have now, where everything works, where the Nigerian child goes to school and sits on a decent desk, with a classroom far from being over-populated; where libraries are updated and equipped laboratories are necessities provided, not luxuries. I dream of a Nigeria were graduates of our higher institutions can compete favorably with graduates from any other part of the world, and hold their forte; and those graduates would have jobs waiting for them before they graduate. I dream of a Nigeria where youths are not only gainfully employed but are business owners that generate thousands of jobs.

I dream of a Nigeria with a responsive and responsible leadership that condemns fights, reduces, and eliminates corruption. I dream of a Nigeria where electricity is taken for granted; a Nigeria that produces her own cars, refines her own fuel and exports millions of cash crops and locally manufactured goods; a Nigeria that will become the giant of manufacturing in Africa; a technologically superior country. I dream of a Nigeria were the youths are HIV free; where maternal mortality is non-existent, and drugs are genuine and therapeutic, not fake and lethal. I dream of a Nigeria where the youths are patriotic and its leaders selfless and honest; a nation whose policies are people-centered and transparent and its public servants are committed and follow due process; a country where militants are the defenders of our unity, the rule of law is upheld and democracy is allowed to thrive. This is a script you and I have to endorse and produce. It is not just a dream; it is the blueprint of our future.
For the Love of Country

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