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Nigeria at 49: Reflections of a 49-yr old Nigerian in the diaspora

As a 49-year old I have three children (all boys) that I care for and work hard every day to leave a legacy of honesty, hard work and prosperity behind for them based on the “Golden Rule” of do unto others as you would want them do unto you.

I am also working hard to ensure that in spite of the difficulties of living far away from home (you sometimes wonder why you are here) that my wife and I as their parents are making a living honestly and decently hoping to leave inheritance for them so that they do not have to build from the scratch.

Unfortunately the legacies I am working very hard to leave behind for my children are not true for Nigerian leaders and their aspirations for our people back home in Nigeria. Some of our leaders are leaving millions of destitutes behind. …taking more from what was left behind by their predecessors than they could build, maintain or replace.

They are leaving more people poor, hopeless and helpless, the same people that were few years maintaining average standard of living have fallen below poverty line. When Nigeria’s middle class look back, their back would not believe how poor they have become.

Whether accepted or not, a country that cares for its people has begun making progress. In the U.S. the congress just passed a bill to extend “Unemployment benefits to 14 months or thereabouts.” This is after the first employment benefit has expired in 12 months. Members of the Transparency Leadership Forum (an Atlanta-based Think-Tank  of Nigerian professionals across the world) could tell you how many months or years a person could stay on a stretch on unemployment benefit in the United States.

The story of health care and welfare, we all know too well now; the poor in the United States are the ones that walk with full loads of foods in their carts from grocery stores. Where do they get the money to buy food more than the rich?

They get their meal tickets in the name of food stamps (now turned into a form of credit card) and welfare checks supplied by government (every month or bi-weekly) depending on the state and operating laws. The list of government programmes to help the poor is endless. Yet there are complaints from some quarters that the government is not doing enough for the poor in view of the economic downturn in the United States.

Compare this with a typical case of Nigerian government, Nigerian politicians and the poor. The wealthy – mainly government officials or their stooges shove their wealth in the faces of the poor. They create status quo that makes the poor genuflect to get his or her basic needs.

When they do not genuflect, they turn into sycophants, just to get what they want. Nigerian politicians send their children overseas for studies, including Ghana of all places – (no derogatory insinuations to my Ghanaian friends and their beloved country).

It is very painful that a shift in paradigm has occurred here, as Nigeria degenerates every day under poor leadership. Nigeria has become a naked prince dancing on the stage of the world. Ghana-must-go has now turned around to become Nigeria-must-go. Politicians do not care that Nigerian students are at home, and teachers are not paid ….and students are roamed the streets for months, forgetting that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop.

These are people (students) that any society that wants to lift people and nation up from poverty must take care of, and pay attention to their needs and welfare. However, in Nigeria, the reverse is the case. The students are turned into prisoners of themselves and the society.

They are forced to learn on the streets of Nigeria what first time offenders in the United States say they learned while in prison. These are crimes such as carjacking, armed robbery, drugs, and prostitution that these first time offenders were rookies when they first got into prison, but perfected well by the time they are out of prisons.

Regrettably,  a government that allows students stay this long at home (about four months from classrooms) ought to know better that in the age of the internet, Facebook and You-Tube, Nigerian students – most of them smarter than some of their counterparts in the world, do not need prisons to learn prevailing crimes across the globe. Perfecting these crimes in Nigeria where there is lawlessness and lack of security becomes easy. Some of our leaders do not know better because nobody cares.

It is very unfortunate that some of our leaders are so ignorant that they do not know that this is a global village that the people they rode on their backs and drained their wealth in the name of corruption will someday ask questions. They do not reflect on the fact that the world is a global village and there is a limitation to where you can run and hide especially when the society that a person robs his poor goes after the person in the name of justice.

* Primus Chuks Igboaka, a doctoral candidate at Bowling Green State University in the US, was a former correspondent of the defunct National Concord, Lagos.


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