I guess that, if you are like me, engaged and challenged by the maddening crowd that Nigeria presents of itself at different times of life’s daily grind, you are wont to, sometimes, go far, far away to one corner of this vast world, a world of oceans of possibilities, and hide; far removed from the turbulence that Nigeria is. And by the way, this turbulence that I speak of does not necessarily have anything to do with Boko Haram, that infamous act of kidnapping that has now become a profession for some people, nor does it have anything to do with the now nearly rested Niger Delta militancy (and I dare say nearly rested because, after pockets have been heavily lined by way of contracts and pay-offs, they now do militancy by threats through words, not bombs).
But there is something beautiful about being able to hide yourself away from it all – I mean the ‘it all’ that is our dear country Nigeria. That beautiful something is your new found clarity of thought and sight. You are able to see clearly, I tell you. And if you are not very careful about the seriousness of your decision to just hide yourself away, you could find yourself singing the Jimmy Cliff song: “I can see clearly now the rain is gone,” a stanza of which actually goes like this:
I can see clearly now the rain is gone.
I can see all obstacles in my way.
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshine’ day.
It’s gonna be a bright (bright) bright (bright) sunshine’ day
In truth, everybody in this country needs a reality check. True, we all do. But the need for this huge reality check, again I dare say, is very much so for those who find themselves lucky to have an opportunity to make a difference, and are wasting it and not doing anything to bring about the necessary ‘difference’ that this country and its people so badly need. And Jimmy Cliff is right. He might be long dead, but his words remain in the present as never dying qualifications of human experiences and action. If you stay far, far away from Nigeria, the dark clouds that have kept us blind suddenly go away. In that little corner, somewhere far, far away from Nigeria, you can see the obstacles that are in our way of progress; we can see how much we are held down by different forces, especially the forces of greed, kleptomania, wickedness – exhibited in the form of man’s inhumanity to man, which is like a huge project in this country, and the latest of this is the story doing the round that the Nigeria Labour Congress officials (deceptively?) took money from workers for the purpose of providing them with houses. Two or three years after collecting money, the workers are still waiting! One woman said she got her own deposit from her husband, who has since died and she suspects it’s the agony of waiting for the NLC promise that killed him. That’s one of the broadsides of this country that we get; and it runs across the strata of the Nigerian society.
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So, it’s the very reason why when you go far, far away to hide from Nigeria, you can see clearly. It’s not only the injustice that citizens get dished by the political leadership, but it’s that which is dished by everyone else to everyone else! But while hiding away in that far away land and you see the ugliness that is our country, in terms of leadership and discharge of responsibility, you can also see the inherent and outward beauty of the country. What is most fascinating, especially in the cleansing of spirit and the clarity of thought and sight that you are able to derive from looking at Nigeria’s reality from such far-away places, are the endless possibilities that you also see. In these possibilities are the opportunities that exist for government, for institutions, for officials – elected, selected or appointed – and ordinary individuals, to do better by this country.
Here’s a little secret that I have learnt from engaging in the exercise of looking in from afar. Nigerians would like a descent country; a country where things work. You should see how we behave when we are outside these shores (not the rogues that spoil our collective name), including those who shout at everybody: “Who the hell do you think you are? Do you know who I am?” You need to see us when we are confronted by the practicality of the word civilization.
To top it off though, the biggest secret you get to learn is the fact that the needs of ordinary men and women, ordinary Nigerian citizens, are not as big as political and business elite make them out to be. For while in reality it is the responsibility of political elite to create enabling environments, and the responsibility of business elite to create prosperity, the needs of their fellow ordinary citizens are enshrined in three regular, equally ordinary words – equity, justice and fairness. Give citizens equity, give them justice, and be fair to them, and we are on our way to paradise on earth in Nigeria. Or haven’t you heard the denial of all this in the atrocity that is committed in a vulnerable place as in a camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDP), where it is said that there are officials who are stealing from them? But, indeed, equity, justice and fairness are at the heart of the needs of every citizen in a civilized world from political and business elites.
And if you want to hang on the ‘paradise on earth’ theme, you will see that when you are in that far away corner of the world, looking back at Nigeria, smiling, but at the same time gnashing your teeth, you are likely to see the endless possibilities. Why does a country like Nigeria not plan for tomorrow, or when it plans for tomorrow, why does it not carry through with its plans? What makes her different and what makes her people different from people in other parts of the world where things happen and things are made to work? And why is it that its citizens cannot be made to partake in the pleasures of living in a world where things have been put at our disposal to make life comfortable? So, you can see what your eyes begin to see more clearly and what begins to engage your mind and your thinking as you stay far, far away looking inside from outside.
Nigeria is a rich and blessed country. She can afford to make her citizens happy. This country can be better served if more of the citizens were genuinely happy than the few that cream off things for themselves and their families to the detriment of a majority. With her riches and blessings this country can do the impossible for her people. Our leaders can make our citizens dream dreams of possibilities. And here lies another secret – to make citizens sufficiently happy they need basic necessities of life – food, shelter, clothing. They don’t want to eat five star food (they want to feed); they don’t want to live in luxury homes (they want a roof over their heads); they don’t want expensive clothing meant for statesmen, stateswomen and stars (they want to cover their bodies from the elements).
But Nigeria’s riches can be used to galvanize her citizens so that once those basic necessities are provided, they can think about the possibilities that exist in Nigeria for speed trains, for giant passenger ferries to move people instead of canoes used to cross the Bonny oceans; and luxury holiday resorts, parks and gardens can be created in this country so that citizens can holiday at home instead of going to Dubai, Europe and America for what can be easily had at home! There are possibilities for jobs if only the avenues waiting to be opened can be unlocked. And Nigeria can then have genuinely happy people. Vote wisely!