BusinessDay

October 1 and the day after

In metaphorical terms, it is the day after. We have just celebrated Nigeria’s birth at 61. It was clearly an occasion to look back and examine how far we have gone as a Nation. It does not take much to appreciate that the challenges of development continue to loom large. Invariably, the costs of underdevelopment are huge. Perhaps the most formidable is the poverty in the land. This is an affliction which majority of our people continue to contend with. Viewed in abstract terms, one is not touched. But in concrete and human terms, the situation can be very moving. And if you think hard enough and place yourself in the poor man’s shoes, chances are that, you will mutter along the following lines: ‘But for the grace of God there goes I’.

For if the truth must be told, this major and inclement condition can be anyone’s lot-If you reside in this country. Various manifestations and responses to this scourge abound. No one is safe. Even if you think that you are comfortable. This is nothing but a grand delusion. You are in your car, and as often happen these days, you are forever alert. Looking left and right. You really do not know when the denizens of the street will strike at you. As it often happens in Lagos and other urban centres, the dispossessed are on the prowl. This also explains why many of us live in gated communities. We are seemingly secure. But deep down, we are still afraid, if only because, we share the same space with these unfortunate compatriots of ours.

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But as you and I know, things do not have to be this way. This is because, and at least in the potential sense, Nigeria is a rich country. But the opulence is still waiting to be harnessed. Even this will certainly not be enough. For accumulation is only one stage of the process. There is also the critical issue of distribution and social justice. But even with the little at our disposal now, these two variables are lacking as regards fair distribution. For a lot of young people, the reactions have varied. Those who can, and are well heeled, have decided to vote with their feet. And for those who know, and a lot of people do, Canada is the new frontier.

But even then, Canada, at least for the discerning is not an Eldorado. Dollars cannot be picked on the streets of Toronto. You have to work for it by mainstreaming yourself into the Canadian society. This is a tough task. This is because the system has been designed to privilege in the main, those who have Canadian qualifications and experience. Some have called it some form of racism or discrimination. But then, that is the name of the game. Another hidden dimension is that in applying for Permanent Residency, popularly known as PR, you must have in your bank account, a princely sum of ten thousand Canadian dollars. The money must remain there until the process is completed, which could take a year or even two.

What this means is that, at any point in time, the Canadian financial system has a huge sum which the state can utilize for developmental purposes. No wonder it is possible to say that Canada is a rich country. Such status as can be seen is owed to a lot of creativity. But even then, this Canadian and other similar options are only available to the comfortable in our society who are understandably afraid of the looming anarchy. Therefore, for those who are not so lucky, and still seek to want out, the Sahara desert is the way out. This is a desperate route for the desperate. The narratives of the journey are as gory as they are dangerous. The Sahara is peopled with bandits and robbers who lie in wait for the helpless and hapless travellers. And that is just round one. Round two obtains in a hostile climate like Libya, where there is no welcoming mat.

Canada, at least for the discerning is not an Eldorado. Dollars cannot be picked on the streets of Toronto. You have to work for it

The police are waiting for you, to harass and possibly kill you. Such indeed is the worth or better still the non-worth of the Nigerian. If however, one manages to survive round 2, there is also round three. This is the hazardous crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. More often than not, the rickety and ferrying boat will capsize. And if you are lucky, rescue will come in the form of the patrolling boats that are meant for such rescue missions. Now and then, pictures of such salvage missions can be seen on television. As the newscaster, will usually recount, Nigerian nationals along with others like: Gambians and Ghanaians are likely to be among the rescued.

At this point in time, and possibly for the umpteenth time, the mind usually goes back to the conditions at home here. The push factors in the form of poverty and material lack are such that our youths are ready to venture out, and take their chances even in the face of absolute consequences. Yet no one is talking in the policy arena. In a way, it is possible to understand this silence and passive mode. There are so many distractions to contend with. For one, there is the insurgency in the north. There are also the separatist agitations currently embodied in Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu. These manifestations are not only fatal, they are also distractive.

The distractions are such that the main issues on the table remain largely unaddressed. These issues if I may reiterate are the lack of development and the consequent poverty which has been spawned. Needless to say, we must break this vicious cycle. For this is the only way in which we can acknowledge the Creator, who has given us so much resources; and yet we have very little to show for it, courtesy of our minimal imagination and exertions. This twin spirit of creative imagination and exertion should be our mantra as the Nation enters into its 62 years of existence. And one can only add here that the labours of our heroes and heroines past should not be in vain.

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