What Future?

by E. Terfa Ula-Lisa Esq

Sometimes parents sit and watch their children in play and interaction and from instinct can tell what manner of children they gaze upon. Some by exhibition of leadership qualities, they surmise, may be leaders. Some, by exhibition of care and concern for others, may turn out to be humanitarian servants. Some because of their aggression, the parents can tell that unless corrected, they may turn out to be bullies. Parenting then, steps in with corrective measures. Others, yet have too passive a demeanor and as such are likely to be taken advantage of if they do not assert themselves well enough.

I had the chance to play the parent this past weekend. I was at a Nigerian Party at Odenton. The party was going on in the basement as I sat in the living room torn between the book I was reading and the TV commentary of Basketball and Obama/Hillary contest on CNN. The Party took an interesting turn as most of the husbands made their ways to the kitchen with some bottles of scotch or whatever they were drinking. The young married men mostly aged between twenty-five and thirty-five got my attention when in their usual loud voices, they turned to politics and the economy of Nigeria . Everybody had an important opinion and loudly insisted that you hear him out. I wonder what the neighbors would have thought. The ladies for some reason, just stayed out of the conversation and although some displayed a very serious interest, all kept away from the fray. Maybe the volume was too loud for them and the passion unhealthy for their delicate frames. But I could tell from their looks that the ladies were kind of bemused by grown men arguing like children, each utilizing the highest decibel of his vocal chords. The men were so engaged that when, the cake was brought in, we had to beg for a truce to make the lady who brought the cake happy by making believe it was a ‘National cake’ and each should grab before it was all gone.

The discussion turned on what it took to succeed in Nigeria . It was almost to the man, a given that bribery was involved; if you knew someone in authority, it was a bonus. Some were really mad at the crop of leaders who all, they opined, had stolen their patrimony. But almost all seemed agreed on the premise that it was alright to use influence, bribery, or any means to be ‘successful’ or to ‘make it’. It reminded me of another setting and another crowd of professionals I had experienced at a friend’s house party in Los Angeles ; there as in this event, they all were waiting for ‘their turn’ to do anything possible to make it super rich. When I appealed to their consciences, they all but shut me up and admonished me not to bring my morality into it.

The state of the nation

All at the weekend party agreed that the country was in a mess, that the infrastructure was in shambles and that the people were not secure in their lives and property not as a result of inherent poverty but as a result of misappropriation and bad governance. But all were oblivious to doing anything to solve the puzzle. I tried gently to steer the conversation to point to what can be done, but all resisted the need for solutions and would rather dwell on how to get ahead, how to amass as much wealth for themselves, after-all, all others have been doing it, it was their turn. I then asked if any of them planned to go back to Nigeria some day. Some asked what the use was or why it was important.

This is why it is important: Most of the group of Nigerians I have had the pleasure of meeting in the Diaspora, have a minimum of a first Degree, and do not have student loans to repay for the rest of their lives; they are enabled entry into the American economy, for instance, as a part of the middle class – paid by the Nigerian government. With their initial educational start, they are able to be upward-mobile with an advantage other immigrants do not have. The Next Generation Nigerians are already here. If their mores, aspirations and development goals are as enumerated by the persons I have met in the Diaspora, then Nigeria is about to have the Next Wasted Generation. This is because, whereas, Capitalism is good and brings out the best in human endeavor, what has been in practice in Nigeria is looting of the state by the elite to build private empires to the neglect of state infrastructure and a destruction of normal political systems that work elsewhere.

Why should anyone care?

The question is why should you care if you are doing well and your family is well taken care of? Because if you have the latest Hummers, and best Mercedes Benz cars, you still would need good roads to enjoy the ride. If you generate your own electricity and are the only shining light on your hill, it would attract the more attention to you, some negative. If your children get to escape to Swiss Finishing Schools and ride and play around because their father ‘made it’ they still will miss a sense of belonging when some day they are called the ‘N-Word’ and told they are not good enough because they come from your corner of Africa. Because almost all of the attendees were from one part of Nigeria, almost all erroneously conceded without debate that once you are from the north, you are ‘made’. I pursued the thought to find out why and was asked if I was not a Nigerian, that all northerners make it if they ever go to school. When I told them I was from the so-called north, they asked what state I was from. A caveat was then entered, that the middle-belt was different. Why should the place of origin be important to your success in life is another question begging to be answered.

Moral Fiber

The moral fiber of the nation gives to it a sense of right and wrong. Persons are outraged at a given behavior because from instruction and use, they have come to see such as objectionable. Such moral suasion comes from nurture, religion, mass-media and the laws and mores of the society. What are the laws of Nigeria is certain, but what are the mores when most of the leaders rig themselves into power positions? Where is the outrage when this happens? Some are of the opinion that because Nigerians are so poor, they cannot strive for a change. I beg to differ. I have met very many poor persons with dignity who would not even steal when hungry, much as I have met persons who have enough but still steal. Being a very religious community, the fault must be ascribed to the manipulators of the flocks, whether they be the Islamic mullahs who after the Friday Mosque incite their followers to riot and wanton killings or the ‘Prosperity Preachers’ who fill the heads of their followers the lie that Jesus came to give them material wealth, not character. Within the ‘Christian flock’ are also those who believe that if you are not doing everything to ‘make it’ you are not in obedience to God or that you are living ‘below your covenant rights’. As unharmful as that might seem, it is open sesame for all kinds of covetousness within the ranks of the evangelical church in Nigeria. The same persons, therefore, who should be the standard for decorum, have become the lightning rod for every get-rich quick scheme.

Change Within

Change begins within. Anyone who pines after the status quo, would when accorded the opportunity to serve, serve just like the status quo. If however, persons have a changed outlook, a different perspective, when an opportunity comes, they are less likely to behave like the others before them. That is why persons are following Obama. A person who has thoughts of adultery is an adulterer waiting to happen; all he needs is an opportunity. That indeed is the explanation for the saying from the good book, that ‘as a man thinks, so is he’. What are the young Nigerians thinking? What opportunities are they waiting for? Opportunities to change from the ignoble past or opportunities to join the rank of the rich and famous no matter how? Nuhu Ribadu, for instance had his character formed as a person before he got his position. If he was wont to compromise, we would not be talking of his so-called selectivity in prosecution today. Persons who have harangued Ribadu for what he did or failed to do, would do well to seek to ask what would be their approach if they are given the job for a day. Persons who are waiting for their turn at the ‘National cake’ should not complain that Ribadu did not do a good job because the lack the moral fiber to do so. But these persons expect Ribadu to imprison the ‘bad men’ while they plot to have their turn at the trough.

Looking Forward

Wole Soyinka called his generation a “Wasted Generation”, It is time before we hit the mid-life mark to ask of our generation what they stand for, what they are willing to die for, what quality of life they are willing to live for. How much is too much, when it will be time to say “Enough Already”. Are the current leaders the best foot we can put forward? Is any willing to get off the fence and out of their comfort zones? Are we satisfied because we have lied that we were persecuted by Abacha and have asylum, we were married to our sisters and have the green-card or we won the lottery and are now ensconced in a country built by others sweat tears and blood? Can this generation make changes to Nigerian political schematics? There is a saying, a people will have the leadership they deserve. Is this the best leadership that Nigerians deserve? Before one accuses me that I live in the Diaspora, please note that the Jews while living in the Diaspora with a major control of the economies of their host countries, with control of the media, with some of the best doctors, lawyers and scientists in these economies advocated and built for themselves a new state of Israel to become a world power while living in the Diaspora. And now, all Jews are leaving their comfort zones in droves and going back to the homeland. Where are the visionaries for Nigeria? Most escape artist say ‘They should” do such and such. None dare use the phrase “Let us”. Nigeria should be built on the efforts of others, it behooves others to do the work, none take responsibility, all are victims seeking asylum from them, welcome the Next Wasted Generation. What do you think?

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1 comment

Bubbles March 6, 2008 - 2:53 pm

I agree! The question now is what mass galvanizing force do we need to alter the mindset of the average Nigerian? How does one go about trying to change the way people think?

During my NYSC I was elected as the financial secretary in the corpers welfare association (CWA) in the local govenment I was posted to. After a few weeks my eyes opened up to the reality that most of my contemporaries wanted to be elected not because they wanted to serve or make a difference, but so they could loot the treasury. I was disgusted! And disagreed with most of the policies they tried to implement just so they could ‘get something out of it’.

I hated them and hated the ‘system’ they emerged out of. I didn’t school in Nigeria, but I tell you the rot isn’t something that can be cured overnight. I realized most corpers had spend the last four to five years trying to stay ahead of the system. Feeling defeated they rationalized if you can’t beat them, join them. At the end of our service year, despite threats from cultists, our administration was able to make a difference. We were able to account for all monies that were collected and actually left a considerable amount for the next administration.

From personal experience it takes a great deal of integrity for one not to collapse into the system; to not give in and to stand firm in the face of opposition. We need more of such individuals, sprinklings of Ribadu’s and Akunyili’s here and there won’t get us far.


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