At the town hall meeting in Ibadan where presidential aspirant in the 2019 elections, Omoyele Sowore, presented himself and his intentions to Ibadan, the question above was asked by Edmund Obilo while the audience screamed in agreement with Sowore that it was time to take Nigeria back from the political class that has perpetuated itself for decades without no positive achievement in bettering the lot of Nigerians. Edmund Obilo pointed the microphone to a young man beside him and asked if he also felt there was something stolen from him that he wants to take back, the young man answered yes, then Edmund asked what it was that was stolen, but at that point, the young man could not find the words, he was obviously not prepared for Edmund and his questions. Now this is a question many have never thought of or do not have answers to. It is sad that fifty eight years after independence and several governments, Nigeria is still all that it should not be. How Nigeria came to be referred to as the giant of Africa is beyond understanding, when you examine how the country has been so destroyed by successive governments. There is absolutely no area of the Nigeria life that works, health-care, education, infrastructure, security, even nationhood has eluded us. Yes, Nigeria is a country, we have yet to accept that we belong together and that brings us to the first thing that was stolen from us and which we must take back, hopefully with our choices in 2019, the Nigerian identity.
The Nigerian identity is one thing we cannot continue to let elude us. From the coups that removed Tafawa Balewa and Aguiyi Ironsi, the civil war, the annulled june 12, 1993 elections, to the negative ethnic politics that has been played since the beginning of the fourth and current republic in 1999, the Nigeria identity has been unattractive to the ruling class and sadly to their own selfish personal interests and at the expense of the general good. The north has never trusted the south, the south does not accept the north as sibling from the same mother. This is not the thinking of an ordinary Nigerian, but over time the political class has created this distrust and suspicion between and among the various tribes in the country. The only man that has been close to uniting the country, but who was denied the chance to recreate Nigeria, was the winner of the famous june 12 presidential election in 1993, MKO Abiola. On Abiola, the hausa forgot 1966, the igbo man did not think of the civil war, it did not matter what language he spoke, for once Nigeria was populated by Nigerians, but unfortunately that beautiful moment did not last. We have yet to get another MKO since. When one considers the history of Rwanda and what Rwanda has become, one will appreciate the power of love, forgiveness and unity. The absence of this Nigerian identity is the reason we have to deal with several violent groups like boko-haram and the killer herdsmen. It is also the reason the niger-delta hardly experiences peace, and why we have secessionist groups like MASSOB and IPOB.
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Another thing the unfortunate political class has stolen from the Nigerian is dream. Life would be meaningless and uninteresting without dreams. Individuals, organizations, and even countries have dreams (which become plans) of the future, and they work towards achieving such dreams. Over time, the ability to dream has been taken from the Nigerian, through deliberate actions/inactions of the selfish politicians. Now what most ordinary Nigerians do is wish, not dream. That is why religion too has become a negative in our country, according to bishop Matthew Kukah religion in Nigeria has lost its redemptive capacity. We now go to church and mosque seeking miracle instead of worshiping. That is why tithing and offering have become the most important sermons our acclaimed men of god give their congregations, one was even recently reported to have told his congregation that they would not make heaven if they do not pay their tithe. According to the bible (to which this man professes faith) though, no man shall see God or enter His kingdom unless s/he accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, but even Jesus in all his preaching never mentioned tithe as a prerequisite to entering heaven. Our Lord Jesus Christ was even more particular about giving than he was about taking(not even the ultimate of gifts, his life, was spared), he probably is not the role model of today’s men of god who only know about taking from both the rich and the poor in their midst. Now it is not that wishing is bad in itself, but it becomes bad when we use wish in the place of dreams, aspirations, and conscious efforts aimed at achieving such dreams. America, China, Japan, and the European countries were certainly not built on wishes, but on dreams that were pursued by humans and achieved through sweat.
The environment to flourish is another thing that the political class has stolen from Nigerians. Everything in the country seems to have been programmed to frustrate the efforts of Nigerians in their pursuit of life’s various goals. Right from birth to adulthood, it is a difficult journey for many, the risk of childbirth in the absence of proper healthcare facilities, malnutrition, schooling under terrible conditions (we have seen cases where students sit on worn-out vehicle tyres and bricks, under trees and unroofed classrooms), denial of admission into higher institutions despite scoring above the average of 200 in UTME just because the schools do not have the necessary space, then admission becomes connection-based. For those who make it into the schools, they are never sure of when and even whether they would graduate as they it is usually strike after strike, those who ask questions are victimized and expelled, thousands who graduate are never sure of securing gainful jobs. The slogan now is to forget your certificate and look for some trade/business you can do. Can we all be business owners? We are also told to go back to the farm, but can we all be farmers? Those who try to start businesses are choked by the failed system, ours is a country where banks prefer to give loans to politicians for elections rather than to aspiring business men/women. Infrastructure is not there, no roads, no water, no power, no access to credit from banks, nothing. For those who are able to start something, they have to deal with crazy operating costs form phony power bills, too many levies/taxes for government, and then relatively uninspiring patronage because of the weak purchasing power of customers which is a result of the continuous decline in our currency value, refusal of governments to pay workers and other factors.
We can go on and on with the list of the things that have made the environment to flourish unavailable to Nigerians, but we do not have to keep talking about it and not do anything to change the story. It is high time we (especially the serious young men/women among us) stood up and stop being used against ourselves by these selfish old men who only want to keep plundering our land. We must also rid ourselves of the lies that certain offices, like the presidency, are beyond us. And like Charlie Chaplin said in 1940, we must fight for a new Nigeria, a decent one that will give men a chance to work-that will give youth a future and old age a security. The general elections of 2019 present us with an opportunity to try save Nigeria from the termites and start the rewriting of our history, whether we would use that opportunity well and take back our country remains to be seen.
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