“Know the son of whom you are” is a relatable phrase many of us grew up with. Personally, I never travelled to school without an accompanying hand-luggage of that phrase in diverse translations supplied by my doting mother, stern father, cautious aunt, concerned grandmother and every other adult around who felt they were responsible for my safety. Strengthened by ethno-religious mores, that advice more than often seeks to remind you to be civil, to suppress your expression and be docile even in the face of oppression. We have learnt to live on crumbs from our own bakery rather than confront the
oppressor stopping the supply of loaves, at the risk of inconvenience or potential danger.
Out of concern for our safety, it has become every parent’s assignment to keep us away from protesting social injustice, corruption and bad
governance; more religious leaders teach us to be compliant even subservient if need be; school managements wield suspension cards the moment we complain about dry taps and dilapidating classrooms; even entertainers will rather have us booze and boogie down than be conscious. In bits, the indoctrination of almost every Nigerian into conformist passivity is done with the help of fellow sufferers of the society’s gruesome imbalance. We join the cycle, doing nothing to break the hold of poverty and unemployment, slipping casually into the toga of corruption and deceit. Without any viable action plan, we tell others to “chill”, and that it will get better.
The privileged amongst us have invented safely cool ways to ‘chill’ in pretentious bothering about a better Nigeria. We form cliques with mild revolutionary labels seeking to engage the media-friendly elders in government at circus shows where we throw around big words through a cocktail of unidentifiable accents, pose for cool snaps with
thieving-but-generous politicians and un-cerebral celebrities, needful faces of our campaigns. The party continues on Twitter and Instagram with cool hashtags, subliminal insults and more narcissistic rants, shaming those who disagree with our methods as bigots and idiots.
In essence, our leaders have us where they want us: a middle class crushed by hardship, sinking under the weight of official corruption by which it gets by and hardly able to stand up to its more corrupt masters; poorly educated youths rationalizing embezzlement of ethnic heroes so long they get a pack of noodles every other month or year.
The unenviable task of challenging government’s oppressive policies, lackluster performances and diabolical looting of the treasury has been left to a few hundreds of people, a very microscopic percentage of the over 170million population. Everyone else is taking “a chill-pill” expecting the fight for a sane society to be prosecuted and delivered by the few conscious citizens who often lured with huge sums, and an absent support structure, walk off the tracks. It’s high time all Nigerians got involved in the process of demanding accountability from the managers of our commonwealth, kinsman or not, and irrespective of religious leaning. The enlightened corps must reach to the unenlightened who are farngreater in number, in forging out lasting imprints for our social and economic prosperity as a people.
Irrespective of our rebased Gross Domestic Product that has placed us as Africa’s biggest economy and the world’s 26th, there are un-rebased realities that make the ‘chill-pill’ of the GDP rebasing impossible to swallow. South Africa, the nation we have just displaced by rebasing GDP was generating 40,000 megawatts of electricity for its 50million population while Nigeria with 160million people had 3, 800
megawatts. Four years later, power generation in Nigeria has dropped to 3000 megawatts. The unemployment rate in South Africa is 24% representing about 12million people while Nigeria’s conservative figure of 23% unemployment ratio according to a 2011 National Bureau of Statistics index translates to over 40million Nigerians. At the recent IMF/World Bank Spring meetings, Nigeria was announced to have 7% of the world’s poorest people, with over 110million Nigerians living below poverty line and surviving on less than 2 US Dollars (N300) a day.
Just as poverty and unemployment has been on the increase, so has corruption. Just this year, 20billion dollars have been reported missing from the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation accounts, yet unresolved despite rebuttals from the Finance Minister and NNPC officials even though the whistle-blowing Governor of the Central Bank has been sacked. In similar manner, every sane Nigerian dissatisfied with the impunity of government officials is open to threats of arrest like in Japheth Omojuwa and Uche Briggs’ case, or even forced “disappearance” as in Yusuf ‘Ciaxon’ Onimisin’s case. Curiously, Ciaxon merely shared live updates on the efforts of securitynagents repelling an attack on March 30th, and until a vigorous social media campaign for the release of Ciaxon, the Department of State Security never admitted to holding him in custody for twelve days. The arrest of Omojuwa, Azeenarh, Uche Briggs, and Ciaxon as well as their subsequent release after loud condemnations of the security agencies paint at once a picture of the dangers attached to our silence, and a sign of our latent energy. We must put that energy to work a lot more in the days and months ahead. We must risk our comfort to demand
probity in governance even as we build intellectual capacity to contribute towards transformational government policies. There is a greater need than ever for honest and responsive engagement of our
leaders across different levels, not for personal gains but for collective good. Protest actions have become inevitable if we must stem the tide of impunity and a culture of waste.
Courage, competence and character must move beyond the relics in our resume to virtues we live out. It is time to participate in elections as candidates and not just spend hours sharing policy advice on Twitter in bits. It’s high time we strategized and mobilized for honest and capable leaders from amongst us. Individuals and organizations devoted to leadership and nation-building must reach out to the greater mass of Nigerians without access to formal education technology and social media. Feeling cool with patterned pocket-squares in air-conditioned halls just doesn’t cut it anymore. We need roll our sleeves and go to the creeks, the farms, market, motor parks and other places to enlighten people about the potentials of an active citizen.
If we think enough is enough in respect of a failing nation, then we must do enough to reach all Nigerians to stop being cool with oppression, poverty, disease, bad roads, unemployment and all other ills we suffer yet sheepishly smile. We must prepare and we must act!
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @tobisammyjay
First published on http://www.thescoopng.com