In the first part of the series which was published last week, my conversation circled around the arts and culture. This week, I will continue my conversation with my fellow Nigerians on different matters that affect us as a people including our neglect of the environment and determination to choose poor leaders. I have given a lot of my life and resources to the arts and the environment because without the survival of both, life as we know it would cease to exist. Risking my life and crossing the Sahara alone a few times as well as becoming part of the great green wall project were statements, I was making on the need to urgently pay attention to our environment. Still, in all these years and despite all the support from revered leaders, particularly the Emir of Kanu Ado Bayero and some of the Governors of the north, for over a period of 35 years; the economic displacement, the ethnic and communal conflicts and the near anarchy situation we find ourselves in that were predicted then, unfortunately, have come home to roost.
With very little progress made over the last few decades particularly in the areas of awareness and sensitisation, I am compelled to continue with my conversation and the activism hoping that the support will continue from those that will take over the torch from me but for how much longer I do not know especially with the road travels becoming almost impossible. Asides from the security challenges, age is no longer my closest companion so where my feet can no longer reach, I can only hope that my pen and words can still filter through. Therefore, I will continue to write this column waiting for a clearer mandate so that I can continue with the few projects that were started in a bid to green all over the country as much as possible thereby regaining some lost forest covers so as to create a seamless handing over of the torch. The environment is just one of the many areas we failed to make giant strides in despite the opportunities and future consequences.
Nigeria is a country of many nations. The reason for our backwardness and for almost becoming a failed state (some may argue that we are one already) is due to our inability to seek leaders with integrity, leaders that are capable of managing our diversity – diversity in our religion, in our culture, in our tradition – and also, leaders willing to understand and embrace the history of our major nationalities without burying the truth no matter how ugly. So many parts of our country have a few thousand years of very interesting history that is not known to many Nigerians and that we have chosen not to acknowledge for political reasons, but the history can be found in our arts and in some books written by patrons such as Professor Saburi Biobaku, Doctor Ekpo Eyo and Professor Ade Ajayi. Our children and grandchildren must know our unfiltered pasts if we must come out of underdevelopment.
A few years ago, I wrote an article in this column with the title ‘’Nigeria: A Fractured Nation.’’ In the article, I had pulled out an excerpt from an opinion piece of a daily newspaper that struck me and stayed with me for a long time. The extract read; ‘’Love for one’s country is a primordial affection that does not hinge basically on anything substantial, simply an intangible essence with no physical substance, yet vicariously glorious.’’ In the same article, I wrote in the following paragraph that these monumental and grave challenges that Nigeria is faced with have been with us for decades. And unless the leaders and those that are led can demonstrate some love for the nation, Nigeria will continue in crisis. And this crisis brings with it disjointed development, massive corruption, civil war everywhere and anywhere, deficiency in educational and health development, infrastructural decay, and everybody to himself or herself position. There is no more love for the nation anywhere, which is known as patriotism. So let me begin by trying to explain what patriotism is and what it means to a nation like Nigeria.
Nigerians no longer belong to Nigeria and we must find a way of giving Nigerians some sense of belonging, something to fight for like HOPE, but not false hope. Security, not amnesty, Opportunity to quality education, not contracts or appointments, Justice not politics without defined ideologies. Nigerians know how to go from poverty to wealth despite the huge disadvantages in our economy. Nigerians also know how to handle ill health to good health without having to travel abroad for medical. My son would like to be able to work in every part of Nigeria the way I did without fear of harm or prejudice. I wish this for him and many other Nigerians.
I ended that particular article with the following; I can only imagine that those who fought and died to put this country together are now spitting at us from their graves for making a mockery of their gallantry, and as such it appears that nobody is prepared to die again for Nigeria. And it boils down to everybody for themselves, everybody sharing and eating the national cake together until it is finished. Will the cake finish before the sharing or will the sharing finish before the cake? I highly doubt the latter and seriously fear the former.
In a democracy, the government is for the people, and by the people. Hence, it is responsible to the people and the responsibility of the people. All over 200 million or so of us. Therefore, we must all engage in matters that affect us. Our politicians, bureaucrats, and technocrats must be held accountable. We have to form the attitude of holding our representatives to account. They are our representatives! Holding them accountable is not disobedience, but telling them how we feel about their work. We hired them to work for us; we should never forget that. Above all, we are all partners in nation-building. So, for the one million or so subscribers of the SUN Newspaper who read my column weekly, please talk to your representatives, legislatures, governors, and president, if you find some sense and truth in my writings. Let’s continue the stories, or should I say conversations.