We have an ever-growing population of youths who would broadcast to the world through the social media what a useless country we are in. They spend all their productive hours on the keyboard complaining and abusing Nigeria. They tell you there are no jobs in Nigeria. Unknown to them, the foreigners are seeing things differently. Few days back, I returned from a trip and noticed that at the immigration point in Port Harcourt International Airport, the foreigners out-numbered the Nigerians. While we are busy abusing Nigeria, these ones are trooping in to tap from the huge opportunities that abound. We know of the Asian company that manufactures the popular noodles, they came into Nigeria years back and today make billions in profit. We know of a mobile phone company with just over 10 years in operation yet has over 100 million active lines – it makes billions on monthly basis. Which other country in the world can boast of such opportunity? We have designers (you can call them tailors if you like) who started small, but today their products grace prestigious runways across the globe. The other day I saw, on AIT, a businessman who started by importing biscuits, today he has a large biscuit factory with lots of staff. We all know of a certain businessman who grew his business in this country and today he’s the richest African alive. We have a consuming population. Rather than look at how to key into the thriving market, we waste our time bemoaning our misfortune. Get off that keyboard and put on your thinking cap! You need a dose of shock therapy!
We live in an era where activism has been redefined. I grew up knowing the late Gani Fawehinmi as the non-compromising activist in Nigeria. Sadly, years after his death, none in this generation can measure up to his solid legacy. While I admit that there are genuine activists out there who truly mean well for this country, most of the boisterous and vociferous ones are mainly politicians fallen from grace or cyber activists that maintain separate lives in the digital world and in the real world. They have laboured to beatify the past regimes they served in and demonise the current regime which didn’t find a space for them. They forget that we are not all suffering from amnesia – wilful, selective or otherwise. They forget that Nigerians know that whatever corruption that is today had its foundation in that regime and the ones before it. Accidental public servants now accidental activists! We must not be deceived. These ones need an ultra-high dose of this shock therapy!
We live in a world where some folks pride themselves as public commentators and social critics. They have no other career than this. They dwell on the QWERTY keyboard punching keys, lamenting and criticising. When it’s reported in the news that inflation dropped to 9 percent, as it did recently, they’ll tell you not to believe the “voodoo” economics of the NBS. When same body will report a double-digit inflation, they’ll happily quote them and use it to attack government. They are the evangelists of doom.
Make no mistake: you cannot undermine the importance of the opposition in any thriving democracy. I believe that for us to reap the full benefits of our democracy, we must have a strong and vibrant opposition. However, ordinary citizens must be careful not to be used by opposition politicians for their sinister gains. Even in America, there are citizens who are out of job but do not vent their anger on the Obama administration by joining forces with the Republicans to attack just about everything. We must be able to draw a line between private citizens and politicians in our “activism”. We must separate opposition politics from private citizens demanding better leadership. Be not deceived, look in the direction of the opposition politicians and you’ll see that lots of them were under the umbrella few years ago. They left the umbrella not because of differences in principles or ideology, but simply because they failed to clinch the ticket in the primaries, or because they failed to get an appointment or “get carried along”. Today, they are parading themselves as the “latter day saints”. I hear there is a certain merger. Sounds interesting, except that when I look at the composition, I see folks who had checked in and out of more than two parties; I see folks who failed their party primaries; I see folks who held the umbrella and were at the centre of previous regimes; I see a cocktail of giant egos that might never blend beyond the superficial; I see bodies not known for any specific ideology; I see a group of people whose only common goal is to unseat the incumbent – nothing more. No development agenda, no ideology. This is not to discourage them, it is only an important pointer to the truth.
In all of this, my only joy is that we are gradually recognising the potency of people power. We are fast realising the power of tools such as the internet. We are fast realising the importance of freedom of speech and of association. My only fear is that we might mismanage this newfound freedom and power – something I believe we are already guilty of. We all need a dose of shock therapy!
ROBINSON TOMBARI SIBE