On the 1st of October 2010, I made a few calls to my Nigerian friends across the globe wishing them a happy 50th independent celebration of the most populous nation in Africa. I wasn’t too surprised that most of them were not in a celebratory mood. Although they were all full of hope like myself that despite the state of the nation, Nigeria can be great again. Later that day, I was saddened to learn about the blast which killed about 8 people. My heart bled for my beloved country.
News reaching Nigerians in diaspora – via the internet, newspapers and people returning from Nigeria do not paint a picture of a nation that is reaping the dividends of its immense natural wealth nor the democracy that the move to civilian government was supposed to have ushered in. It is therefore not surprising that many Nigerians are ambivalent about their own country. After 5 decades, can it truly be said that Nigeria is living up to her potentials? However, there are green shoots. I was glad to know that the first indigenous vehicle manufacturing company was recently opened in Nigeria by the President, Dr Jonathan Goodluck. I was happy to share this with as many people that cared to listen. Manufacturing is key to any economy. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and it’s a manufacturing economy.
I found some of the quotes ascribed to the President during the opening ceremony of the motor company striking, He was quoted as saying;
“Today is a day of happiness. It is an indication of the drive we expect as we enter another 50 years …… At 1960, the countries that we featured at the same level of economic and industrial development have left us behind…. The present Nigerian generation agreed that we must retrace our history and move forward”
Reading these words from Mr President made me proud again to be a Nigerian. We want leadership that recognises the challenges and take steps to move forward.
My little exposure outside the shores of Nigeria and as a community leader in a small South East London community made me see again the true nature of Nigerians. As much as we read from time to time of the shameful things some Nigerians get up to, I have met and worked with several resourceful and intelligent Nigerians who have made me proud. These individuals have shown that given a better system, they can exhibit the Nigerian character. Nigerians have strong mental attitude, they are creative, adaptive and strong willed. They have the passion to take steps which would make the society they live in better, they have the hunger and ability to expand their knowledge, just to mention a few.
The Nigeria of my dream is the Nigeria of equal opportunities. Where there is social justice where no one, great or small, schooled or unschooled, is deprived of his or her fundamental human rights. A society where corruption is a taboo and accountability and honesty are held at the highest esteem. A country where there is uninterrupted power supply and where people feel secure in their homes and when they go about their businesses. A country where people peacefully co-exist not minding their political, cultural or religious differences. A nation where every individual has the right to a fair and just judicial system. Where there is absolute respect for human life. A nation that glorifies hard work, discipline and integrity and upholds the rule of law. A nation that breeds compassionate leaders who see national service as pride and rare opportunity to serve our fatherland. A nation where corporate firms are concerned about the well being and growth of the society in which they operate. A country with affordable health care and a welfare state. A nation where the youth don’t feel disenfranchised and can live to their full potentials. A country where education forms an integral part of the political agenda of the government. A nation with an electoral system that gives victory to the voice of the people.
Some will say talk is cheap, Nigeria is a complex nation confronted with obstinate challenges. I say we can start by getting the simple things right first – good transportation system, clean drinking water, reliable power supply and a secured society. I am aware that there is a lot of work to be done to get us there, but we can if there is the will power to do so. To get there, a lot of sacrifices will have to be made, in a nutshell, national interests must come before personal or group interests.
This is the Nigeria I dream of. Will you dream with me? I believe what we can conceive, we can achieve.
Gabriel Olugbenga Brown