Nigeria, Negative Vibes And Empowering The Youth.

The Nigeria we need is within reach.

The Nigeria we need is within reach. Pic courtesy

The Nigeria that is required is achievable and getting it is elementary.

I have been in deep thought for the past couple of days. Yes! I’ve had Nigeria on my mind. As is  the norm these days, it’s not been particularly positive news, positive vibes or positive movement.

Let me share a secret with you, every Nigerian in diaspora or at least anybody in the world with a link to Nigeria either through parentage, other forms of heritage or ancestry have somehow grown a thick skin to the negativity that have emanated from the country over the years. However, it must be said that every negative news that emanates from the motherland still manages to destroy the soul.

In the past few weeks, three things have weighed on my mind and have tortured my being tremendously.  They have all been things that have made the news or at least trended on social media and at the same time things that will astonish the toughest, most cynical of any of us.

Firstly, I cannot but mention the release as well as the subsequent ‘Hero’s Welcome’ for James Ibori. Most people I know have spoken about this and I feel it runs the risk of getting boring now. A convicted Nigerian Governor, who served time in the UK because the Nigerian Legislature lacked the balls to convict him themselves. To rub salt to the wounds, after serving time and was released, he was lauded and praised by many of his ‘friends’, led by an elected Nigerian senator who in his welcome speech praised Ibori for having the power (or audacity) to influence Nigerian elections from behind bars. Have you ever heard of that before in a civilised world?

In anything I do, I try to put myself in the shoes of both the Antagonist as well as the Protagonist and I wonder if (this is a big IF here) I end up in prison for whatever crime, I am absolutely certain there will be a welcome party waiting for me in my home upon my release. There might even be a welcome speech by one or two of my friends. Therefore, in this regard, I can certainly understand the video showing Ibori’s friends jubilating with him in his home, on his release.

What I can’t and WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO UNDERSTAND is the multitude that came out to welcome him when he eventually returned to his hometown. There were banners, market women, students, associations, professionals and lawmakers. It was a homecoming the sort that I have not witnessed since the return of the Gold winning Atlanta 96 football team. His people welcomed him home. These are the same people he stole millions of dollars from. Monies meant for roads, hospitals, security and infrastructure. And they welcomed him home.

The second thing that burdened me greatly this week is the discovery of $9.8 million (in cash) by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC in an inconsequential house that belonged to former group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC – Dr Andrew Yakubu. In the hierarchy of power holders in Nigeria, Andrew Yakubu can only be considered to be a medium wheel and for him to have in his possession that sum of money says a lot about what can be expected in houses of bigger wheels. Andrew Yakubu has now come out to say the seized money is a gift and as such would want it returned. This news trended and is possibly still trending today.

The fact that the looted money could have been used to help some poor innocent person (or people) in dire straits simply shows the callousness associated with this particular case. You wonder why people do a double take when they hear you are from Nigeria? Or you are linked to that country in any way? I heard a snide remark the other day from a European who said “we know what goes on in Nigeria.” Whether he meant it as an insult or not is not even the question, it is the fact that those words cut like a knife.

Thirdly, and still actively trending is the extended leave of President Buhari. To say his handlers have made a complete faux pas of his medical situation is simply an understatement. The President left Nigeria on a supposed holiday and suddenly, word filtered through that he was either very ill, in a coma or dead. Trusting Nigerians, they soon very quickly gathered on all social media platforms and even Nigeria High Commission in London, demanding to see their President or at least know his state of health. Personally, I believe anybody, President or not is entitled to an uninterrupted break. And barring a national emergency, he (or she) must be given the time and respect to see out his stated time of leave. Running the country in the absence of a President is why we have a Vice President isn’t it?

However, in the midst of all this confusion, rather than the president come out and address his people, President Buhari decided to extend his vacation on the account that he is awaiting test results from his UK doctors. Meanwhile his spin-doctors back home in Nigeria swear blind that he is not ill. The President was meant to return to Nigeria between the 6th and 10th of February, it is the 24th today and Nigerians are yet to see their President. Of course they have seen him in one or two pictures showing various people visiting him in his London residence but even that is disputed. ‘PHOTOSHOP’ is the word coming out of the mouth of the most cynical Nigerian (which is basically 90% of the population).

Then there is that phone call between him and President Trump. This was supposed to be the trump card to be played by President Buhari’s media handlers. “You see, he’s not ill, he just had a conversation with Donald Trump.”

It backfired quicker than the conversation between the two Presidents ended. Nigerians wondered how it is possible for their President to hold a phone conversation with his foreign counterpart, and not have 5 mins to wave at them from the window of his London apartment or do a Skype video call with the various Nigerian media houses. How he is able to take pictures from his central London living room to disprove the notion that he is gravely ill but cannot be bothered to open his front door to the people demanding to see him. Something is surely not right.

Let me just say right here, right now, I am certain every 73 year old man would have health challenges, that is a given. It’ll be very unfair to expect President Buhari not to break down once in a while. But why the shroud of secrecy?

With all three things on my mind, I have to ask, as citizens of this great country, are we happy with the status quo? Do we really, truly want change? Then I start to wonder, is there something wrong with us genetically as Nigerians?

For me it is quite clear-cut, for a nation with a lot of grammar blowers, Professors and literal minds, it contains in equal measure a majority of illiterates and blind followers. For it is only illiterates that will turn out in huge numbers to welcome home a convicted state executive into their midst after he has stolen from them. The solution is to secure the future of school age Nigerians by educating them thoroughly. They need to know that Nigeria belongs to everybody, not just a few. They need to be schooled with the knowledge that corruption, on all levels is dangerous to the survival of even generations unborn.

And on the issue of the ill President, I must say this, I as well as millions of Nigerians demanded change and unapologetically supported his candidacy. I still support him fully as my president but is there anything wrong with having a younger man in the helm of affairs in my country?

Why, oh why are the youth sidelined from every single aspect of nation building or governance? Do you not think that if President Buhari’s media handlers were younger (meaning more tech/ SM savvy) this health situation would have been better managed? We really need to start thinking deeply about our future, and if we are going to have one, it will have to start with the youth.

I more convinced than ever that the one who will be successful in creating and sustaining a Nigeria that is fit and healthy for all is the one who engages with the youth, the one who knows the significance of young Nigerians and the one who is not only young, but also youthful at heart. If that happens, it wouldn’t matter to me what part of Nigeria he is from.

Kole Obasa

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