50 Years and a Look at the Future
Today Nigeria turns 50 and like most Nigerians around the world and at home I have thoroughly mixed feelings. Elation borne out of a sense of patriotism that my country has something to celebrate, and disappointment that my beloved country which could be so much more than it currently is continues to cripple itself and stab itself in the back. There are many of us who feel that there is nothing worth celebrating about this milestone, and in many ways, they are right – Our government has failed us. Fifty years on, our power supply is still erratic at best, there is widespread unemployment, far too many in our country are still in the crushing grip of poverty, mass ignorance thrives side by side with desperate, hopeless, fanatical religiousity, only a select minority within the country has access to truly high quality education, our rich, diverse, and ancient cultures are giving way to sheepish mass emulation of American and European culture fueled particularly by the importation of European and American television due to our own inability to provide quality programming for our citizens, our government is overdependent on its crude oil exports and rather than being of service to Nigerian businesses, the Nigerian government often impedes the economic efforts of Nigerians and is a hindrance to progress. In other words, we're in a shambles, and if our international reputation is anything to go by, everyone knows it.
That being said, the Nigeria I have seen unfold before me over the past ten years is more full of hope, and passion, and more driven to survive and succeed in spite of its circumstances than ever. Say what you may about those who purport to lead our country but Nigerians are a resilient, brave, hardworking, inspired people, and in the last ten years, with the rise of mobile telecommunications over GSM networks in the country, I have seen youth entrepreneurship and productivity explode. Most Nigerians are involved in some form of small or medium enterprise all of which have huge potential for growth, and whether our government likes it or not, we are driving our country forward, with or without them. These enterprises can allow for a continuously growing workforce which can bring more people into employment. This potential growth can come with added pressure to aspects of a business such as the payroll and scheduling employee shifts. Something similar to this Zenefits HR software can be incorporated into these small and medium-sized enterprises to help them keep on top of the day to day running of the business. As a result, less pressure will be on the employees and they may not have to rely on the help of the Government. Of course, not every business is going to have the skills and know-how within the team to keep their IT systems running as they should, or knowing how to scale them up, should they need to. In these cases, they may take help from someone like this IT service provider in Lincoln so they can focus on where their strengths lie, while still being confident that their infrastructure is solid and reliable. I also think more and more companies are going to rely on feedback from their employees when it comes to helping their business grow. Correspondingly, thanks to developments in HR technology, getting feedback from employees is as simple as putting out an employee pulse check survey and analyzing the responses to discover what is working and whether there are areas for improvement from within the structure of a company. Furthermore, there is a lot of talk in the political sphere about how Nigeria needs to diversify its interests and cut its dependency on oil before the ever looming doomsday when our oil wells dry up but the reality is that Nigerian business is already diversified and it's just the government that needs to catch up. Many Nigerians today (but especially the young) are taking their destinies boldly into their own hands and doing what they can to forge a future for themselves even in the absence of the social support structures that citizens of other countries take for granted, whether it's making blood meal chicken feed to sell to farmers from the waste products of livestock slaughter, or protecting children from delusional fanatics incited by crazed religious leaders, or social entrepreneurship or even just something as simple as giving the world an alternative window on Nigeria by writing a blog, we are all doing our little bit and it is my sincere and intense hope that we continue to do more.
There are still numerous industry gaps in Nigeria and among Nigerians where needs and wants go unmet and it is up to young unemployed Nigerians to be proactive and step up with creative solutions to fulfill these needs in ways that will generate revenue for them and create jobs to secure the future. Nigerians must stop looking to others (the government, the World Bank, Jesus, etc) to solve our problems. Granted our situation is far from ideal but it is far from terrible, and we must look inward to come up with viable, profitable, and sustainable means to provide for ourselves and move forward as a people and a country. This is the job of private enterprise, whether big or small or tiny. We must also stop complaining about corruption. Corruption exists everywhere and is a fact of life so moaning about it cannot help us get anywhere. Many countries (such as the United States) are probably much more corrupt than Nigeria but they never talk about their own corruption, not even when it is glaringly obvious. They zip it and instead Get. Things. Done. Nigerians on the other hand, use corruption as a universal scapegoat on which to pin the blame for everything thus avoiding actually having to do anything to deal with their problems.
This does not mean that we should not hold our government accountable. We must select our leaders with all the care and seriousness of a sushi chef preparing Fugu*. Individuals wishing to lead must be evaluated based on where they stand on the pressing issues affecting Nigerians. Politicians must be asked the tough questions – How they intend to improve education, how they plan to support small businesses and agriculture, how they intend to provide and guarantee constant power supply, etc. To use the language of the Internet, if you want my precious Nigerian vote, have and implement a solid, actionable plan that solves at least ten serious issues affecting Nigerians today or STFU and GTFO. As a Nigerian, I have no patience for anyone who plans to use their position in government to rob my country and my people blind while crushing the masses underfoot and dragging us ever backwards (side eye to Babangida, and 90% of the people currently running for President including the incumbent). I have no patience for any of these people and neither should you. Do NOT give your vote to anyone who is not ready to roll up their shokoto and buckle down and get to work repairing our country. Our country is not cheap, neither are we and our power as a people is precious and must be wielded with care and concern for our collective future.
Finally, Nigerians really need to pray less and do more. If ever the statement "Religion is the Opium of the masses" were true, its very manifestation would be in Nigeria. Religion is simply ONE facet of our lives and must have its proper place. Allowing religion or one's religious views to override proper civil/legal procedure, or worse, basing legislation on religious ideology or even allowing whole legal systems to be religiously based (Sharia Law) is setting our feet firmly on the path to ruin. The insertion of religion into all aspects of Nigerian life whether it is appropriate for it to be a factor there or not has not improved our fortunes one bit. Rather, I can point easily to many instances in which our irrational hyper-religiousity is damaging our society more than doing good – how many pastors and megachurches are responsible for the financial ruin, sexual harassment, and other suffering of their congregants? How many children have been murdered or had their arms and legs amputated in the name of religion? How many people have died because issues that should have been purely political were made religious with one misplaced word or deed? How many Nigerians rather than demanding good governance and decent service instead turn to their Bibles, Qurans, Churches, Mosques, Shrines, etc in an attempt to harass God(s) into making others give them what they want? Ultimately it cannot be denied that the fight against gender-based discrimination has not been won just yet. I do have hope though. More and more victims of sexual harassment are speaking out and deciding to work with a sexual harassment attorney to ensure that the perpetrators of sexual crimes are punished. Progress has been slow, but I am confident that big legal changes are afoot where sexual harassment laws are concerned.
Wake up people! God is not going to make PHCN do its job and give us electricity. God is not going to stop our representatives from screwing us over and sending money that should be going to the development of infrastructure and social services for our country to Swiss Banks or their girlfriends' credit lines for spending sprees abroad. God is not going to stand over government officials with a bulala and force them to do their jobs properly. Why? Because God has better things to do than police our businesses, agencies, institutions, schools, and government, especially when we are unwilling to do it ourselves. Stop pestering God(s) with irrelevant prayers for electricity and policemen that don't demand bribes, and spend your pious energies on requests for serenity, kindheartedness, and other fruits of the soul. Stop drowning everything in religion and focus instead on getting tangible and measurable results.
There is so much hope for our future. There is hope because there are Nigerians who live and breathe and walk the Earth. There is hope because Nigerians don't give up. It's just not what we do. We fight through things and we find a way, and it's already more than obvious that we are already finding the way, if writers like Chris Abani, channels like HiTV, galleries like Terra Kulture, publishing houses like Cassava Republic, market sellers, farmers, area boys, truck pushers, lorry drivers, students, artists, and bloggers like us are anything to go by.
I think we'll do okay.
Happy Independence everyone!
*Fugu is sushi made from blowfish or pufferfish. The fish is extremely poisonous and preparation of fugu must be done with extreme care by a highly skilled highly experienced master chef. Preparation of the edible parts of the fish is highly delicate - one wrong move and the person consuming the dish will die a nasty death as there is no known antidote.