By Okechukwu Onwuka
Gud aftunun, Okechwa owuke, Iâ€™m calling from Limo, my name is Doris, to inform you a car has been arranged to pick you tomorrow, yesterday, at, emm, 10:40, which means at 22.40 from the hotel marina, any time for the pick-up. You may call our office…!.
I took my time to play back, severally, the above voicemail on my hotel room telephone that was delivered two days prior to my departure. It was from the company that was to take me to the airport. The interesting thing is that in all of the two weeks spent in Singapore, from the hotel staff through guides, Iâ€™ve heard the very poor diction and grasp of English language but I never really took notice.
But maybe because I was about to return to Nigeria, I had to notice the significance. Nigeria and Singapore were both colonized by the British, so English naturally became the official language. Singapore was to later encourage the use of Mandarin which was favoured by the Chinese in Singapore.
While the average Nigerian communicates in fluent English, the same cannot be said for Singaporeans. But I donâ€™t think anybody thinks lowly of the Singaporeans because of the poor use of English or accent.
The physical display of extraordinary development appears to have made up for any poor showing in other areas. What that says to me is that real development is deeper than use of language per se. It doesnâ€™t even matter if our national language is Yoruba, Ibo, Housa, Efik, Ibira, Uvwie, Okpe, Urhobo, Ijaw or okirika. It doesnâ€™t even matter if it is French, German or Russian.
As long as we can understand ourselves and achieve effective communication. Sustainable growth in business and as a nation requires a much deeper foundation than sophistry or use of language. Of course, this is not in any way suggesting that poor command of English language is a pre-requisite for development nor does it imply that effective use of language is not important. My point is that measurable and sustainable development requires a lot more.
Last week, I re-iterated my conviction that Nigeria will develop in my life time. That I will not give up because I have no other country. And I plan to have no other country. The US, Canada and Singapore have a number of offers to foreign nationals who will be granted citizenship privileges or other similar â€˜benefitsâ€™ for those who invest certain sums of money in their country. For me, this is utter nonsense. Why should I want to become an American Citizen? Why should I want my children to be American Citizens? Why should I want to become a Singaporean?
For what purpose? So that I can live in a country that I did not build! What gain is there to enjoy the quality of life that foreigners have created while knowing that the majority in my country are suffering and dying of poverty? With the colour of my skin, I will always be a stranger in a foreign land. I will never relocate from Nigeria to live overseas. This is the land of my birth, a land flowing with milk and honey. A sleeping giant. A country that is destined for greatness.
This is my country, Nigeria.Â After only one day outside, I usually feel home sick. I miss pounded yam and Ukazi Soup. I miss Amala with Ewedu and Gbegiri. I miss starch and Banga soup. I miss the feeling of home. So I know I cannot run away from the land of my birth.
Although Nigerian food is plentiful in the US and most parts of Europe, South Korea and some other Asian countries are not Nigerian food friendly at all. But it goes beyond food. Home is home, simple.
And improve we must. My children and grandchildren will be more proud of me, if I help create a beautiful country for them. A country where thereâ€™ll be dignity of labour, employment, rule of law, affordable cost of living, portable water, infrastructure, security and pride in our Nigerian passport. I refuse to however accept in faith only that Nigeria will improve.
This because I know too well that no matter how much I believe or confess that Nigeria will improve, NOTHING will happen by chance, if I do nothing. Success or development is beyond wishes and hope.
Effective hope and faith MUST be backed by deliberate action founded on sound philosophy and value system. Anybody who wants to contribute his quota to the growth of our country must personally commit to do something. At a minimum, the following seven principles could provide guidance. First, decide to personally do all you can to make a difference at whatever level you have influence or control on.
Do not waste too much energy criticizing non-performers or the corrupt as we will always have them in our midst. Secondly, take all necessary steps through continuous reading, learning, interaction and education to learn and know what is important in any situation, task or project. Then develop a repeatable process to achieve set objectives.
The third will be to establish a minimum benchmark for personal and group accomplishment. In other words, if it were to be an exam or test, set your minimum scores expectation to 95%, regardless of regular pass mark. If it is in design, planning or construction, use international best standards as your minimum.
The minimum pass mark you set for yourself will always be proportional to the effort you will allocate to the task. The fourth will be a commitment to NEVER to allow hurry or haste make you compromise on your minimum standard of quality delivery. Fifth, accept the truth that sustainable success can never occur by chance but by conscious and deliberate application of self. Efficiency must not be confused with short-cuts.
The sixth will be to recognize that group success, as a Nation or body will always be far superior in benefits than any individual or tribal benefits. Individual prosperity in the midst of poverty breeds insecurity and fear while collective growth and success breeds comradeship, love and pride. Isolated individual success will never enjoy full rewards amidst widespread discontent, deprivation and lack. The seventh is to recognize that even though the beginning may not look like the end result, using the right processes and tools in a determined manner will always give you results that exceed even your own expectations.
As for me and my group, we are certain of this one thing: by the time we are called home out of this world, we would have given all that God deposited in us for our country, children and grandchildren. Wherever we stop, our children will have seen enough foundation to continue.
I donâ€™t know exactly how the country will be in 5, 10 or 20 years time but this I know: It will be better than today. May God help us.