As I sit down to write this piece from my hotel room in Teddington, London, I gazed from my 17th floor room through my window into the rare glorious evening sunshine that descended upon London. And as I looked on, I saw a little boy assist an elderly woman at the ATM point across the road. I saw the woman give him a tip at the end and I observed that he rejected it with a smile. I also noticed that all the cars on the road at that point were on a standstill, including a police van. Why? An ambulance was on the prowl. As I reflected on these negligible but fundamental scenes, I remembered home. I reckon that you will find more swindlers and con men at the ATM points than you will meet genuine helpers. My thoughts raced back to an incident in Sokoto state where even an ambulance with an emergency case had to give way for some minutes because a commissioner was cruising by the road. At 55, this aptly sums up our experience. And for those that are quick to jump into the bandwagon that it is wrong to compare us to the United Kingdom, look no further than the tales of Singapore.
It is also sad that we are a country that is quick to celebrate things and events. That is why I was particularly thrilled by the decision of the Presidency to spend a mere 70 Million naira on this year’s Independence national celebration. While that money is still a significant chunk in today’s crippling economy, it was a great cut from the over 1 billion naira fanfare previous governments has allocated in marking this event. Make no mistakes about it; there is surely a great value in celebrating our independence anniversary. However, the problem is that hitherto this time, the government attached so much razzmatazz and glitz to the events that its saliency is eroded and stripped at the end. We are apt to make merry in this part of the world. We console ourselves that the elasticity of our endurance knows no limit. And while our national resistance as a people is not in doubt, we have to wonder at ourselves on why we still remain in Fela’s words ‘The suffering and smiling nation.’
In many ways, the nation is at a crossroads, a transition of some sort. With the government of Muhammadu Buhari still finding its feet, and a people obsessed for a swift change, this independence is a time to step back and do some reflection in hindsight. So much of us gaining traction as a nation depend on leadership. Leadership as alluded to by Chinua Achebe remains the core issue with our nation. While the place of followership in achieving the new Nigeria is paramount, the leadership direction remains fundamental. If we decide to strip ourselves of our political party affiliations for a moment, we will realize that some living conditions have improved since the new government came into place. The point to note is that some of these improvements did not happen because Buhari brought out the magic wand of change. Interestingly, it is that people have just sat up to their responsibilities. If the records are anything to go by, power situation has improved relative to what it used to be in a vast majority of places. Some agencies such as the NDDC and FRSC have been in the news of recent for more of the right reasons of doing their job. The NNPC and virtually all the staff you talk to from there, have a renewed sense of duty and awakening. This just goes to show what leadership can wrought. And while this is not a eulogy to celebrate the 120 days or so of the Buhari administration, it is important that we outline the facts as they are. It is still too premature to pass a judgment on this administration, and while it has received some knocks so far (justified and unjustified), the jury will still be out for a while on this one. For now, the conclusion we can reach is that people make a system work, and for all the errors we like to point at that is wrong with Nigeria, a lot depends on people not just doing their jobs. Perhaps, that is why the overwhelming criticism of the government under Goodluck Jonathan was not that he was evil; rather, it was that under his watch, impunity, negligence, and untold corruption were on rampage.
At 55, we the people must step back and realize that in this journey, we are all co-travelers and equal stakeholders. Judging by the pulse, we are a more politically aware people than we were a year ago. However, this is not enough in this massive work of reconstruction. We must continue to demand and display the ethics of hard work, the virtue of responsible citizens and the conscience of the nation. It is a cliché, but it is so true that if we all as Nigerians at all levels handle our little responsibilities at work and home with diligence and honesty, we will ultimately form the nucleus for a better Nigeria to thrive. If we all try to banish our lens of ethnicity, tribe and religious dichotomy, we will be laying the foundation for our prosperity.
We are still a work in progress, but this is a time to reemphasize the message that we are all in this together and there is so much we the people can do to bring the desired change. However, the government of Muhammadu Buhari must realize that the clock is ticking against it. The national expectation remains huge and while he is not the messiah, he must realize that he is pivotal to the change we seek. It is worth saying that same goes for the National Assembly and other government officials at different levels. The man in an IDP camp somewhere in Adamawa state is less interested in the politicking of Bukola Saraki and the ‘powers that be.’ His concern is for a change to happen in his life, welfare and that of his immediate and unborn children. His hope is that he can return home someday, feeling more secure and finding a society to help him rebuild his life again. Our politicians must realize this always.