Tuesday, January 20, 2009

As I sit and ponder

Ambition, like death, is a cold, cold thing. Yet like the air we breathe, we keep falling into its seductive embrace. Poor, wretched beings that we are, what else can we do?

I’ve always known that I would venture into politics, and although I sought different ways to express my then-budding desire to help in alleviating the plight of the common man (I wanted to study law – and even went as far as buying a book on criminal law), I had never really sat down to think through the lofty goal I had set for myself – or perhaps life had set for me.

Not until now.

Slowly, but surely, my aspiration to help the ordinary folks, had shrewdly – and with a perfected art of deception – morphed into a burning ambition. That is not, in itself, a bad thing. But when it starts to make demands on you that question the real reasons why you make every single move, the time has come to search yourself and come to terms that at this crossroad, you will either make it or lose yourself to this dream.

So you ask yourself – the one hundred and fiftieth time – if this dream is worth the effort. Is it worth the life you’ll be trading in for probabilities? Is it worth the constant misunderstandings and misrepresentation? Is it worth the deadening of a warm heart and the adaptation to the cold reality of a life full of greys? Is it worth trading in my humanity for my victory?

I don’t know. Not yet. Maybe never.

As I sit and ponder on these questions, my mind travels through the maze that is my life. And at each point, I notice with alarm and (probably) disbelief the pattern that has somehow become the portrait called me: a little pushing here; a masked grabbing there; a fluidity of thoughts and commitments; an ever-restless spirit, never satisfied, and always reaching out for more.

And it all makes sense. I was born for this. I will live for this. But I pray I will never have to trade this in.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why should the youth be interested in Nigeria?

WARNING: Long post ahead! (I have however, broken it down to two parts. This is the first).

There are not a lot of things in this Country of ours today that makes the average Nigerian youth want to invest his or herself here. The costs of goods and services rise almost on a quarterly basis, while there is a corresponding decrease in the availability of jobs, and retaining already secured ones.

It is not a new thing to hear that so and so has traveled out of the country in search of the proverbial greener pastures. The shocking thing is that most of these young people travel to the western world to peddle drugs in order to make ends meet. Others become commercial sex workers, willingly giving up their dignity for a taste of some better porridge. Why blame them? They are only trying to survive. The grand hustle.

That doesn’t sound right.

If you watch the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA), which is also the government’s main instrument of propaganda, you will hear messages about human trafficking, and the punishments awaiting traffickers if caught. What the government does not say however, is that many times these “slaves” (as the government calls them,) are trafficked of their own accord, most times, seeking out the trafficker in order to make a deal. What is common among these “slaves” is that they all are young people, all of them.

What is wrong with Nigerian then? Why would her cream seek less-them-noble lives outside her borders? Are we so valueless in this generation that anything goes? I refuse to believe that. Our young people are not all without values. We have morals, we are responsible, and we want a chance. We want to be able to write our own names now that we’ve learnt how to. Stop treating us like we don’t matter and we will not be rebellious.

If I may ask, still, why are we the way we are? Is it simply because our parents have refused to see how much we’ve grown? I think not. If that were to be the case, then we’d not have to travel outside Nigeria, disgracing ourselves, just to prove a point. No, not at all. We do what we do because we have no choice. The government, our parents, has failed. It has refused to see that the ideals it holds on to tenaciously are presently insignificant – a part of history which should be kept on the dusty shelves where they belong. It has refused to feel our pulse before prescribing to us medication. The government of today is tired, and if we do nothing to help, we ourselves will be used up before we have our chance to practice the dreams of our youth.

Sadly, our parents refuse to believe that we’ve grown. In applying policies which are no more relevant, our parents have forced us into a mindset of nonchalance about our family, Nigeria. I do not blame us. If our parents refuse to see that their policies do not make sense to us, that we cannot just toe their line, that they have used the old tricks and lines a hundred times too many, why should we bother? The “friends of the family” have remained the same right from the first republic, and nothing is new. There’s no food on our table, no regular power supply, no security, no hope, no prospects. Still, we are told we must have to tighten our belts. “E go better”, they sing to us. And if we don’t agree, you are termed a lunatic, unpatriotic, and a hater of Nigeria. Go back to sleep children, for father knows best. Yeah, right.

We know the values of the new technological revolution, but our parents wish to remain in the dark ages. What can we do? We can’t force their hands. After all, it’s their country. Or is it not? You see, the problem with these folks is that almost all of them, in one way or the other participated immensely in the liberation of Nigeria. They therefore see Nigeria as their own baby which must be nurtured solely by them. That, however, is a topic for another day.

Let us go to the question before us instead: why should the youth be interested in Nigeria? The answer is straight forward: She is ours, and we are hers. If we do not get ourselves interested in her affairs, she will continually go down the drain, and take us along.

...to be continued.

Monday, December 1, 2008

we shall overcome

This is Nigeria. Home to over 140 million people (never mind the government’s position) and replete with enough dialects to make Babel envious (as at last count, Nigerians spoke about 250 dialects – meaning, of course, about 250 ethnic groupings, but we don’t like talking about that, do we now?), Nigeria is the largest black nation on earth. And as is usual, our ever-sycophantic politicians have coined various names for the nation they pretend to defend her interest by day, and actually do plunder by night. To this effect, Nigeria has come to be known as the “Giant of Africa”, “The Big Brother of Africa”, and my personal favourite, “The Heart of Africa” among others names.

Don’t be fooled. Most of the time, it’s just semantics.

But I love Nigeria.

I’m fiercely Nigerian, and no matter what happens – be it Abacha, Obasanjo, violence in the North (with reprisal attacks in the East)or the average sleazy politician – I was, am, and will always be Nigerian. I know no other home. I know no other love.

I shall be buried in no other soil.

You see, despite being Igbo, I have never been interested in the ever-boisterous clamour by some of my brothers for the balkanization of Nigeria (and in the effect, create a sovereign state of Biafra). For me, the unity of Nigeria as one, indivisible (albeit federal) entity is a non-issue, ergo, deserves no debate. However, every now and then some crazy, delusional, perpetually short-sighted politician incites some hungry, out-of-work and (don’t take this the wrong way) hopeless youths to rise up against their brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers and children. And for what? A promise at least, and a few thousand Naira at most.

At such times I am greatly tempted to consider the parochial “elixir” of a divided Nigeria. But my faith is not shaken. Still, I believe in Nigeria.

Today, I leave this message for those who think the spirit of the Nigerian people will be broken by a few pockets of violence orchestrated by greedy, self-serving, depraved and utterly clueless “leaders”: Nigeria was, is, and will remain one indivisible entity. We shall overcome.

So help us God.