Someone once said that the favourite pastime of Nigerians is self condemnation but that it would take you as a foreigner joining them in it to realise that in spite of all negativity, Nigerians care for their country and still hope strongly that one day it will realize its potentials.
I am a Nigerian, I care about my country deeply and on this dawn of our 50th Independence anniversary I am not indulging in the said favourite pastime. As a blogger I have done quite a great deal of whining in my time. But then, aren’t these things; the unemployment, the bad roads that are death traps, the bulbs that would not stay on, the hospitals where we go to die, the schools that are more often closed down than in session, the corruption and wasted years of military rule, already too obvious? Do we really add anything to them by going on and on about them?
Some people have argued and with good reason I must admit, that the nation is a complete failure at 50 and that there is absolutely nothing worthy of celebration. I don’t disagree. Indeed as I type, I see my laptop battery draining. Power is out and my neighbours’ generator is buzzing like a million vuvuzela’s just outside my window. But today I don’t hear the sound. I refuse to subscribe to the notion that that’s the best my country can offer. I refuse to be infected with the belief that nothing can work in this country. I reject the talk that my generation is a wasted generation and by all measure I refuse to confine the next fifty years to the realms of a ‘tragedy in waiting’ as many are wont to. I refuse.
From where do I draw my optimism?
Today like never before we have a chance to take a real good shot at greatness as a people. I see it in the anger in the youths and their voiced yearning for change. I see it in the increased level of political awareness and commentary by young Nigerians both online and offline. I see it in the facebook profiles and tweets on twitter. Recently I joined other young Nigerians to form the youth powered-non partisan pro-democracy and good governance group, Enough is Enough Nigeria and the guys I have met and worked with here have left me with a stubborn optimism that this country is far from written off. I see it in that ability of the Nigerian to smile even when the going is tough….in our resilience, in our strength, in our ingenuity, in the quantum of talents in arts, science and sports, in our faith. I see it engraved in democracy.
I am currently partaking in an online course on Democracy and Free Market Economy organized by the US based Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE). If nothing else, this course has served to reaffirm my confidence in Democracy as the surest route to economic development and prosperity. Democracy brings political freedom and political freedom comes along with free market and the development of capitalist institutions. It also comes with the increased opportunity of the people to assert themselves and take better decisions about their lives.
Now like never before, democracy is taking root in Nigeria after many false starts. The situation is far from what it should be especially with elections currently a mere means by which the citizens legitimize their disenfranchisement. But there are reasons to hope that it wouldn’t remain so. Young Nigerians are now more conscious thanks especially to social media and are set to make their votes count in the next elections in 2011. The current leadership has shown some political will to organize free and fair election. The President Goodluck Jonathan has not hesitated to reiterate at every opportunity, the last being in his address to the UN general Assembly few days ago that he would ensure that all votes count. For now he seems set to do that and the electoral Body (INEC) under a new leadership has repeatedly promised to deliver.
Free and fair elections will ensure the emergence of better leaders. And with better leaders we would be able to better harness our abundant resources towards making this country great. Leadership has a way of inspiring and propelling a people to action. With good leaders we would be able to live above our ethnic and tribal differences and forge a stronger virile and vibrant Nation. With good leaders we shall be able to steer this Ship from troubled waters to a habour of prosperity.
And who shall be the vanguards of this? Young Nigerians.
As part of my reflections on Nigeria @50 I have had course to read the speech of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa the first Prime Minister of Nigeria delivered at Tafawa Balewa Square Lagos on 1st October 1960. That speech oozes of the enthusiasm and nationalist zeal to build a new nation. Something went awfully wrong along the line but today we have another chance to get it right, to re-write the scripts. And we must.
Happy Independence Day, Nigeria.