I remember the Nigeria in which I grew up. I remember growing up to behold a lovely, vibrant, peaceful, hopeful country. I remember the hope and the joy. I remember the sanity and the orderliness of society. I remember walking to school early mornings with passion and enthusiasm. Our school, the All Saints Primary School, was about three kilometres from home but that was not considered far, then unlike now.
Even the walk home in the sweltering afternoon heat was a breeze for most of us kids. Practically all pupils walked to and from school except kids from one or two families whose dads had cars. In the whole school only very few such pupils existed who were chauffeur driven to school. For most of us, it was normal to walk. Nobody thought about it and nobody complained about the distance. Frankly, we didn’t even know it was far. We were just happy to be going to school. After all, we walked farther to watch inter school football matches or to visit friends.
School was good and life was good. Then, you were sure of getting a job even after only secondary school! There were plenty of opportunities for employment in both the private and public sector. Who would believe today that at 15 years of age, I was already a clerk at GBO? Or that when I decided to leave that job and go to Lagos, I was immediately employed by Federal Ministry of Information, also as a clerk!
Those days, you could walk in and out of jobs. You could leave a job on a Tuesday and be working another job on a Thursday. Life was good and the money had value. There was a lot of hope in a better future because the governments then were actively investing in both education and public infrastructure. Fast forward to today and the picture is the opposite.
The country and the circumstances of Nigerians are so bleak that many citizens are becoming despondent and suicidal. There are just no jobs because there is little or no manufacturing going on. We are now completely import dependent, so kids come out of school with no jobs in sight. It is not uncommon to find university graduates still searching for jobs five years post-graduation! Indeed, not getting a job is now the norm. Kids now have to buy jobs but when I was a kid, we were paid to take jobs!
You were paid to attend interviews by the interviewing company in the sense that the company bore the transport cost of your trip for their interviews. Most times, they also provided accommodation and meals while the interview lasted. I recall that the very first time I lodged in a hotel was when I was booked into one by PZ. It was during the occasion of our interviews as Management Trainees!
Many young people reading this will be forgiven if they think I am writing about another country! No, dear friend, I am writing about the Nigeria in which I grew up! Today, young people are suicidal! Is going to Libya not a suicidal behaviour? Consuming vast quantity of drugs, is that not suicidal? Are armed robbery and kidnapping not suicidal activities? Suicidal behaviour is prevalent in circumstances where people have little or no hope whatsoever! Nigeria has now become a hopeless country which citizens are doing their utmost to escape from! They escape into all the nooks and crannies of this world. They even migrate to decidedly less endowed nations just to escape from the mess our country has turned into.
Yet, the ruling elite seems not to take notice that this Nigeria cannot be the one of our dreams. We didn’t dream of a country in which our young graduates will turn to old men before they can get jobs. We did not dream of a Nigeria in which life is so worthless that it is now considered normal when news reports appear of drivers killed by policemen because of N50.
Our founding fathers and our parents dreamt of a noble country, a country that would lead Africa, a country that would be respected worldwide. They did not dream of a pariah nation whose youth would risk death just to escape from. They dreamt of a country with opportunities for all. They imagined a safe country, not a country in which men and women are slaughtered whilst they sleep. They never foresaw a country that will be a stain in the collective process of humanity. They never foresaw a country that will even rank worse than war-torn countries in human development ratings!
Yet, our country would be easy to reset. We have everything going for us as a nation. We are acclaimed for our ingenuity, worldwide! Nigerians are everywhere in the world doing great things. There are Nigerian nuclear scientists in America, there are Nigerian transplant surgeons there too. Chiefs of Transplant Surgery in many universities in Europe are Nigerians. So capacity is not our problem. We have the size, we have the highly entrepreneurial and energetic people, we have the natural resources, but alas, we lack the moral and inspired leadership that would put spark to the Nigerian take off! We lack the politically savvy organizers and visionaries that can bring the Nigerian potential into actuality!
The sum total of Nigerian debacle is summarized by a lack of patriotism and a lack of political education.
We seem to glorify selfishness to the detriment of nationhood and in this singular fault is our undoing as a people and as a nation situated! How can we justify the fact that we import rice? How can we explain the fact that 30 years ago, there were several car assembly plants in Nigeria, but today? Are we not ashamed that countries like South Korea used to borrow money from us in the past? Today, can we even undo their shoelaces?
Hopefully, someday, we will get it right. For now, this is not the Nigeria of our dreams. This is not the land of wealth and goodness that our parents bequeathed. What we have now is not a dream, rather, it is a rude nightmare that many of us are struggling to wake up from!