Ever since the controversial launch of Hubert Ogunde’s production, “Yoruba Ronu”, which was banned in the western region at the time (1964), Yorubas have continually engaged or yearned for reassessment and realignment, and so, “Yoruba Ronu” has become variously, an exhortation or an indictment of self; a voice that comes and goes, but cannot be completely put down, or comfortably ignored. Reading through a rather lengthy 2012 report of the Bill Gates foundation though, I feel compelled to say that the challenge is apt for Nigeria as well.
The report states that “There are now just three countries that have never eliminated polio: Nigeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan“. Many years ago in Unilag, the first semester results came out and in one of my courses, I think it was African Government and Politics, I scored 8 out of a possible 20 marks. Now for someone who was aiming for a 2:1, that was not good, especially as we had almighty June in those days, in which I would need to score about 60 out of 80 to keep on course, and that, in the faculty of social sciences, was a rarity. Never mind who else scored less than 10/20, discount the fact that I had somehow overslept and only made it to the exam hall for less than half the alloted time; what was clear to me was that I was in bad company. For my aspirations, I had no business being in the cohort of the scored-less-than-50%. I knew I had to change, and work hard to somehow make up the deficit, even against all odds. I thank God, that I did succeed in making up the lost ground.
Today, our country finds itself in very bad company. We are counted amongst the last three countries that cannot, or have not, overcome a simple disease, and in spite of considerable assistance from outsiders. We find ourselves numbered with Pakistan, a country under the grip of powerful religious extremists, and at constant war-by-proxy; in the tribal areas, in Afghanistan, and in Kashmir. Nigeria is numbered with Afghanistan, a quasi-nation; a loose assembly of tribal, ethnic, religious and political affiliates, dispersed over a thousand hills in the deserts of mid-Asia. How indeed are the mighty fallen; how are the weapons of our nationality and identity so easily and shamelessly stripped off of our being?
Some years ago, I warned of a death of our nation; not so much in its disintegration as in the loss of her identity and soul, so much so, that those who recognise the country would say to themselves: “Is this that Nigeria? The one that we heard so much of, whose renown straddled the African continent like a colossus; the one whose peoples strutted the earth like peacocks!”. The same would shake their heads, and the wise would make a mark of it, that where they have been, others should not follow. Are those days not now upon us? We rank amongst the weakest and the worst on most global development indices, and the most frightening part is that the leadership of the country believes that we are making progress even as all standards are sliding.
Nigeria think! Nigerians think! Let us all think now, let us start the process of reassessment and realignment, let us pull out our fingers from our pockets and our bossoms and put it to the plough. For the generation of our parents, time is past, many or most of them will die without seeing that New Nigeria; for our generation, time flies. We need to act now if we are to avoid the pain of ending our lives still pondering “The problem that is Nigeria”. As 2015 approaches, I urge one and all to respond to that exhortation first put out by John F. Kennedy, let us not think of what Nigeria can do for us today, but let us think of what we together can do for Nigeria. The reality is that there is no government in Nigeria today, what we have is a cabal of robbers and violent extortionists who have hijacked the instruments of government, but that does not excuse us from responsibility. Our falure to act and to participate in government opened up a vacum that they have stepped into; it is time to make amends and set a course for an acceptable future.
Let each person set time apart to think of what they can do, together with other like-minded citizens, to reclaim Nigeria for her people. No effort is too great, no contribution/input is too small, and now is a great time to start repairing Nigeria and making her great again.
God bless Nigeria; amen.