By Usman O. Abdullahi
As I move across the length and breadth of Nigeria, I see things that we possess as a people, some visible, others invisible to the common eyes.
Then I came to the conclusion that, indeed, Nigeria is incomparable and inimitable, from the arable land in the north, to the market hub in the east, to the notable industries in the west, and our own treasured oil in the south.
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This is what I call the “real news” (North, East, West, and South). Indeed, we are the real news of the world, but we seem to always be in the news for the wrong reasons. In spite of all the resources we have in Nigeria, it doesn’t reflect on the way we live.
At this juncture, I am forced to ask, “Where did we get it wrong?”
I remembered watching the celebration of the United Arab Emirates’ golden jubilee. I was slack-jawed at how the Emirates had transformed to be the cynosure of all eyes in 50 years.
On that day, a Dubai resident was interviewed and said, “Dubai doesn’t boast in its resources, it only boasts in its leadership.” This struck me differently.
While I am not trying to compare Nigeria with other countries, but I must say that we have seen gargantuan glory in the annals of this great nation. There was a time when the naira was far stronger than the dollars, there was a time when Nigeria served as a tourist attraction to the world, there was a time when foreigners left their countries to pitch their tents in Nigeria, there was a time where we had visitors such as the Saudi royal family, Hugo Weaving of the popular “Matrix” and other notable personalities accessing our healthcare at University College Hospital, Ibadan. But today, things have gone south, the earlier we fix Nigeria, the better for Nigerians.
In spite of all of the quandaries and quagmires buffeting us as a people, I am one of those who still believes in the vision called Nigeria. We have seen immense glory in the past as a nation. We have witnessed lasting peace and economic prosperity, so this gives me hope that we can do it again, even much better. We can still rise like that proverbial phoenix from the ashes and raise our heads high in the comity of nations, but there are things we must know and do as a people.
Firstly, we must take full responsibility as individuals for where we are as a nation. The Japanese do have an old saw, “Fix the problem, not the blame”. All of these blame games we have undertaken thus far cannot help us as a people; rather, they will be some clogs in the wheel of our nation’s progress. I know some still feel the leaders are solely responsible for where we are currently, but I must state emphatically that the leaders of today were once followers yesterday and are all citizens of Nigeria, which shows we need to work on our morals, values, ethics, and etiquette as a people.
We must strive for unity of purpose collectively. I know we are more divided across many lines today, but division only kills vision, aborts mission, impedes provision, and deflects our collective direction. The politics of region and religion have done us no good. We have stayed on this page for a while and have nothing to show for it. Irrespective of our ethnoreligious affiliations, let us stop these politicians from playing these cards against us and remember, we were first Nigerians before any other affiliation or nomenclature. Just like that African gnome says, “The strength of the broom lies not in the power of a single frond but in the resilience of its united fronds.”
In his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, John F. Kennedy said, “Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”When we begin to think of how we can contribute to the development of our nation, first as individuals and then as a people, only then can we achieve an important milestone.
I am happy with so many pressure groups lending their voices especially those mounting pressure on the presidency to sign the electoral amendment bill and the national assembly to override the president’s veto if need be, but there is still more that needs to be done.
We must all strive to make sure the right thing is done in this nation. If we get our elections right, we’ll get leadership right, which will in turn translate to good governance.
The era where the highest bidders and money-bags take it all should be completely annihilated. We have played money politics, yet it hasn’t solved our problems. I think it’s time to play people-oriented politics. Let’s not be swayed nor enticed by some Greek gifts, because when we do that, we are depriving ourselves and posterity of the dividends of democracy.
Our forebears championed the path for independence, what path are we championing as a people?
The best time to make any decision was yesterday. The next best time is now. Gripe, bickering, and infighting will not benefit us as a people; instead, we need positive action guided by law and morals.The best time to get it right in Nigeria is indeed now.
Usman O. Abdullahi is a writer and a public affairs analyst based in Lagos and can be reached via [email protected].