HAPPY BIRTHDAY NIGERIA!

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In 2002 I wrote my second JAMB exam. You know, the one you must pass if you ever hope to breathe the air of a Nigerian university. So my cousin dropped me off that morning, and in my usual observer fashion, I sat my ass on a slab of cement, and began to stare. I drank it all in, from candidates whose heads were buried in their books, in a last attempt at assimilation, to small clusters of people discussing the prospects and modalities of combined work, to other loners like me, doing the same thing I was doing, but with less zeal. Yes, I am the best, even at annoying little hobbies.

Just then, I noticed a young lady who just arrived. She seemed to be in her late twenties, and she kept looking left and right, very anxiously I might add, as she walked in. Her body seemed to relax as she saw a man walking towards her. He grabbed her arm and brought her to my sanctuary of cement, and asked that I move over to make sitting room for the lady. Once she was seated, he brought out the huge brown envelope that is home to the JAMB form, and this woman began to fill the form, right there! On exam day! Actually, exam would start in less than an hour! My jaw dropped. Literally. Let me tell you why. When you purchased a JAMB form, you were required to submit the form two weeks after you purchased it. Even then, there was a deadline, about 3 weeks before the exam, by which time all forms were to be submitted, unless of course you had changed your mind about sitting for JAMB. But here was a lady filing the form at her exam Centre. I really couldn’t care less about her and her ‘long legs’, but something else happened that day. I gave up all hope on my country.

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Later on, I would come to witness first hand, journalists taking bribe and selling their objectivity, and you haven’t really lived in Nigeria if you’ve never witnessed the police at work. But by this time it was all okay, I was already dead to it all. I mean, I had probably heard all my life how Nigeria was riddled with corrupt leaders, a corrupt police force, a decadent educational system, and everything else. And for the same amount of time I’d also heard how things were going to get better, and soon too. Leaders would promise it, musicians would sing it, even preachers would preach the same message of hope. But witnessing this incident first hand, at eighteen, killed my national consciousness. And I didn’t hesitate to tell anyone who cared to listen. I also refused to participate in any election. Fine, let corrupt leaders be elected, but I would have nothing to do with it. Kind of like how Pontius Pilate washed his hands and by so doing, said “Fine. Crucify this Jesus character if you want, but I will have no part in it.” Hehehe.

Fast forward a few years later, and I don’t know what happened or at what time the thing happened, but something changed. Actually I think I may be getting old, and you know it comes with the territory. The point is, I don’t feel that way anymore. Right now I do care enough to have an opinion, and here’s what I believe. I believe things can be better. I do believe that change can be felt in Nigeria. I think it’s a long shot, but it is possible to have good leadership, and do away with people whose only reason for getting elected is to loot the country’s coffers. It is also possible to have university graduates who can actually spell their names and are capable of meaningful conversations. Nigeria is capable of quality healthcare, stable electricity and all the things that a developed nation provides for its people, which in Nigeria seems like wild dreams induced by the scorching sun.

If they will happen is another story altogether, because a vast majority of the people who should make it happen are the ones who are dead to it all, like I was. But we can’t afford to be indifferent, or be closet critics. It’s simply not enough. That’s why I’m writing this, with my body shot full of pain relievers that don’t seem to know what their job is, because my head is still throbbing at an alarming rate. My point is, there’s a lot to be done, and I’m not talking about carrying placards or anything that drastic. I’m saying let’s ditch the passive stance. I don’t know why, but Dr. Adadevoh comes to mind right now. The woman was simply doing her job, but she was committed to doing it well, and by that singular act, became a national hero, whether the National assembly agrees to name a building in her honor or not. Somebody would argue that she lost her life in the process. But honestly, what good is living to see a hundred years if you will not do one good deed in service to humanity? The answer is no good, a waste of a hundred years if you ask me, and I’m sorry to sound so sinister. It’s not so much of a surprise how well Cina is doing internationally, in such a short time. It is the result of taking a stand, and sticking to it come hell or high water.

Bottom line is, whatever you are, be a good one. Don’t conform to the mediocre system we have running. Nigerians now think it’s normal to give bribe. No! It is all sorts of abnormal, and if everyone stopped it, then the police would stop expecting it. I still don’t vote, and that won’t change, until there are credible contestants and concise manifestos, whenever that is. It is also a long shot, but if no Nigerian came out to vote on Election Day, what’s the worst that could happen? Simply put, to borrow the words of Lanre Olusola, “We must come to terms with the fact that we are Nigeria, and there is no Nigeria without us, so let’s take ACTION!” Let’s just be doing something, no matter how small, and from wherever we are, to move this country forward. This is my two kobo.

Happy Independence Day! Here’s to another 54 years, of true greatness this time!

One Love

Urigi.

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Written by Urigi