Letter to the president-elect
I bring you greetings from the multitude of citizens who would soon be under your watch. Those in the private sector, public sector, students, the aged, the young, women, the physically challenged, the mentally challenged, fair persons, dark persons, tall persons, not so tall persons and children.
These are the myriad of different persons with different ethnic nationalities, cultures and behavioural tendencies that you would be inheriting from President Muhammadu Buhari. Both those who voted for you and those who did not would belong to you.
Citizens with equal rights under the law would look up to you as their leader. So, congratulations are in order as you step into the saddle in the coming week to rule Africa’s most populous nation with some of the brightest and most talented persons.
Nigeria is a beautiful country with so many amazing things about it. Some of us have been believers for so long. So, my missive to you as you make your way to Aso Rock is to draw your attention to some things that you may not get too many people talking to you about or maybe talking to you about but from a different perspective. So Your Excellency, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, here are some things that should interest you.
1) For reasons I cannot explain we have descended to that point where a number of Nigerians spend their every breathing second abusing their country. No nation rises when it is being undone by her own citizens. Yes, we have challenges like other countries but I have difficulty in watching my compatriots who do nothing to fix Nigeria, may even be part of the problem, go off on their country in the presence of total strangers in such dastardly ways.
How can this be stopped? You may leave if you want. It’s a choice but so many migrants describe themselves as Indian Americans, Italian Americans and hold on so hard to their roots back home. But Nigerians are happy no matter where they are to destroy their country with their own mouths.
Your Excellency, there has to be a way in which we can rebrand our nation which has offered us our birth, the earth, our food, the culture, our fashion and all this beautiful Nigerian music.
2) Stories emanating from many countries show that some scam regimes especially in certificate racketeering in nursing has some Nigerians in it. How did we get here? 419 has also almost become our middle name and Yahoo- Yahoo seems normalized.
Your Excellency, I have difficulty walking tall in many places including at home where most hotels are crawling with some persons who you cannot decipher what they do. Perchance you run into them in their hotel rooms, ten young men are bent over several computers pressing away. Something is wrong. This definitely needs looking into. It is creeping slowly into our national lexicon and our national life.
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3) I often drive from my home to work which is a fifteen minutes’ drive at the most. Between a particular friend of mine who is an expat married to a Nigerian and myself, we literally make the same journey of fifteen minutes from office to work and back every day.
Your Excellency, it is all good until we get unto our roads. Something has happened to Nigerians. The road rage, impatience and insults on the road is totally insane and uncalled for. While it stresses me out routinely, the sheer mean spiritedness of my compatriots on the road, the growing number of young people on the wheel not ready for the mental work of driving, 16, 17 year olds not of age jay driving, taxis carrying rods twice as big as their car which can cause grievous bodily harm, verbal attacks and the meandering driver who does not obey traffic lights, my friend is certain that someone is out to kill him before he gets home.
I am at my wits end, your Excellency, our driving manners have simply gone to the dogs. Something is wrong and we are just unkind to each other in simple places that require courtesy, like driving. We need to take a look. What is driving us to be foul mouthed, insane and inconsiderate in a space where a slight error or too much rage can have someone dead? It would seem like we are past caring.
4) The Ghanian Kente is nice but it’s not any better than our Aso-Oke, our Ach’Okene or our woven clothes from across Nigeria. How did Kente get ahead of our fabrics? How did it become a world class brand? What did they do? What must we do? It’s not enough for us to wear it to weddings and be seen in pictures. There has to be some intentionality to brand our fabrics.
5) How can we get our youth to be more Pan-Nigerian? How can we escalate and celebrate Tales by Moonlight? How can we have a cultural conversation, listen to them, have them listen to us?
6) How do we manage our growing youth population? Jobs, enabling environment, technology?
7) How can we have the wisdom conversation? That which is what is the foundation of every society. The core…how do we translate what we have learnt from our forebears into our daily living? How can we translate universal values of kindness, hard work, charity, mutual respect? Where can we start from?
8) Statistics shows that Nigeria has the highest number of older people in the African continent and the 19th highest across the globe. Those statistics also show that the population of Nigerians aged 65 and older are projected to triple in 2050.
What can we do with these numbers? How many geriatric Doctors do we have to our ageing population? How many Nigerians are studying Gerontology? Who is looking out for the ageing population? Their Health, their socials, their welfare?
I was told that as a senior citizen, there are certain discounts for me in France and in other countries, there are social networks in health and activities. In Malta, you can attend the University of life. Free short courses for older people in designated universities to keep them nimble and give them a better quality of life.
We do not have a culture of old people’s homes here but what social activities are in place where you can take your grandmother? Should there be no private/public investment in this area? Or what can we do better?
9) Diversity in governance is critical. Youth, women. Inclusiveness shows a government willing to use all its human resources to run ahead.
10) Then there is making the civil service work. It is the bedrock of any society. Today it seems …hmmm well. A closer look might bring some answers.
11) There is the issue of tourism and several interests must go into diversifying our economy.
12) We must look at our children who are in the throes of drug abuse and rescue them.
13) There are a number of Nigerians with mental health issues and this must be critically examined. Research shows that the figures for psychiatrists to citizens is terrible. It is 300 psychiatrists to treat about 3 million Nigerians. Reports also indicate that there are over 50 million Nigerians who are mentally ill. Clearly we are in dire straits.
14) Then there is the issue of our citizen’s health, particularly maternal and infant morbidity. According to UNICEF, 576 maternal mortality per 100,000 live births. One of the worst figures in the world. We cannot look away. It is tragic.
15) Banditry, Terrorism, Kidnapping. Words that are now on every Nigerians lips. General insecurity unnerves us all.
16) Last but certainly not the least is the number of out of school children in Nigeria (10 million and counting) and the poor state of Education.
Your Excellency, this is not an exhaustive list but they are pointers for policy concretization in some, new and creative ways to address some and implementation drives to ensure we are a nation that keeps the laws. Nigeria of course needs a team that hits the ground running.
As you move into the challenging task of ruling Nigeria, I hope you would find time to ponder over these issues among several competing ones. I wish you well.