In his almost rhetorical rant about Nigeria’s woes, The Trouble With Nigeria, Chinua Achebe highlights critical aspects to the Nigerian problem. Listening to his should-be aged critiques almost makes Buhari’s reference of West Germany in 2015 less comical and more contemporary, as his pointed remarks not only reflect the Nigeria of the 80s, but also the common parlance of today.
Whenever two Nigerians meet, their conversations will sooner or later slide into a litany of our national deficiencies. The trouble with Nigeria has become the subject of our small talk in much the same way as the weather is for the English.
— Chinua Achebe, “The Trouble With Nigeria” (1983).
Frankly, Achebe’s statement sounds almost like something from an NTA interview on last night’s Newsline. Whether e be like bicycle or “Buhari”, the truth be say for 9ja wahala no dey finish. In fact, every square in our checkered political past — from the joy of independence, to the sorrow of the Civil War, to the tussles between military and democratic governments in our first four decades, to the present democratic era — have been critical attempts by the individual actors to address the Nigerian problem after judging previous actors to have failed at doing the same. But what exactly is the problem? Is it a singular issue or a host of problems? Where does the blame lie? A failed leadership or a disengaged electorate?
Nigeria’s troubles live on the lips of her citizens, however, the moment we begin to do more than blame everything on Desmond Elliot, we find ourselves deeply burrowed within the proverbial rabbithole, constantly digging up roots that go back almost a century. Hence, as Achebe commented, we usually settle for just talk.
… [And] there is a great danger in consigning a life-and-death issue to the daily routine of small talk… we resign ourselves to them at our [own] peril”.
— Chinua Achebe, “The Trouble With Nigeria” (1983).
So here are five tips you can use if you are a citizen trying to save your country before yourself.
1. Carry it on your head
There’s a peculiar kind of irresponsibility that comes with just talking. It is convenient, laid-back, and totally devoid of responsibility, and when it comes to the Nigerian problem that is simply not the case. From traffic disobedience, to the systemic corruption that fuels our public and private sectors, Nigerians are daily in the habit of self-destructing the very nation they gripe about. Simply put, we can’t blame everything on the government. Buhari cannot be the reason your compound gate fell down. Haba!! It’s time we do our part by taking responsibility and demanding the same from those around us.
2. Ask Questions (AKA Goan disturb your reps in their house)
It is not uncommon to hear Nigerians accuse the government of being dictatorial while bearing a civilian face. That facial semblance, however, is more than enough to begin demanding change. Nigeria’s governmental structure is largely representative, which simply means there’s someone you can genuinely hold responsible for that seemingly never ending 20-year old road project in your village. Don’t allow them to do silver jubilee on your head. Ask questions. Who is your local representative? Wh ere is his/her house? How can you contact him/her? They say democracy is dead without political freedom represented in voting. However, it is twice dead without political engagement that can only be demonstrated by demanding accountability.
3. Don’t expect a miracle
There’s no question; faith is a fundamental component of Nigerian life. In fact, a study by Gallup revealed Nigerians are joint-4th among countries who think religion is important with a majority of the nations above in the ranking being religious states. And, a testimony to this was the rise in the number of churches in Nigeria between 1990 and the 2000s, peaking between ’94 and ’96 — probably Nigeria’s darkest times under Abacha’s military rule. Some might claim our prayers were answered citing Abacha’s mysterious passing. However, that “miracle” was clearly short-lived as our nation has been in dire straits ever since. And instead of fixing our problems by becoming better citizens who make better political choices and hold our leaders to account, we have developed what can be termed, “a Politico-Messianic Complex”, where amidst a cesspool of political options, at the turn of an election year, we suddenly beatify one of the demons knighting him a political saviour with the expectation of a national “about-turn” in a meager 4-year tenure. But let’s be real. If “Rome was not built in a day”, abeg, who we be for the film? Nigeria’s problems did not begin in a day. Thus, they most likely would not end in one.
4. Don’t lose hope
One problem can end in a day though. Or even less, one problem can begin to end in a day. A victory a day is enough. Don’t lose hope. Don’t expect a miracle. If you do, you’d get disappointed fast. But have enough hope to battle Nigeria a problem a day. If you do, you would save just enough mental fortitude to battle another trouble tomorrow. And trust me, you’re going to need a lot of mental strength.
Finally, this tip is for those of us wey no send. If you’ve been hearing “we are leaders of tomorrow” since kindergarten. If you sang NTA’s “in the new millennium”. If you heard of Abacha’s Vision 2010. If you heard of Jonathan’s Vision 2020. If you shouted for “Change!!”. And most importantly, if you don’t have power for the above four steps. There’s nothing wrong with you really. You’ve been scarred enough. JAKPA! Please for your own good. Leave all we Nigeria crazies who whether by faith or folly are dumb enough to try. US Visa has been $150 since before Jesus died. Goan try your luck.
In conclusion, attempting to solve Nigeria’s troubles individually makes one feel like a child trying to prevent a divorce between his/her parents. There’s nothing the child can do really but make him/herself better despite the troubles that come with a broken home. Whether you’re for team “stay-and-fix”, or you’re for team japa, ensure you’re doing whatever you think makes you a better person; that makes you that child that defies his/her parents’ bitter past. In all Nigeria and life throws at you, ensure you remain truly Nigerian by saying “We waaat?! We meeuuve!!!”