By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
The event that Christians all over the world are marking today is a re-birth. That is, the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which signifies hope for eternal life for His followers.
Coincidentally perhaps, Easter is always marked during Spring, which in itself, is a re-birth; a time when nature comes alive with budding plants and flowers – rising from the dreariness/misery of autumn and winter.
In the northern hemisphere where winter is severe and movement is restricted due to the intense cold and snow, Spring is very welcome as it heralds more outdoor activities, and it gradually leads to summer.
Easter this year has fallen around general elections in our country; activities we hope will lead to getting more credible and Nigeria-friendly people to direct the affairs of this country.
This is not the first general elections that we are having in a democratic set-up, but it is the first in my opinion in which Nigerians, thanks to sensitisation by human rights activists, the media and some NGOs, are very conscious of their rights to use their votes to get things working in their favour. Hitherto, many people cast their votes somewhat sheepishly as directed by their traditional rulers, religious leaders, elders, clan heads, buyers of votes, etc. In some cases, they didn’t even know who they were voting for and why. People were just tele-guided. This time round, many young people want performers, and, therefore, were keen to use their votes to bring into power, those they feel will give them a better life.
They are exposed enough to know what the government is supposed to provide for them, and they are quite vocal about their demands. They know that the government should provide jobs for them. They are not happy that several years after graduation from the university, they are still unemployed. Believing that a higher education would fetch their wards good jobs from which the family will benefit, there are families who pool their resources so that they can send their wards to the university.
Later, they can’t understand why a university graduate cannot get a job and come help out financially in the family, but rather, is still being catered for, from the family’s lean purse. We have read of some young people in such a situation, getting depressed to the point of taking their own lives.
Getting employed takes precedence over anything else in the lives of most young people here, going by the responses I got when I went round to ask for their expectations during these elections.
“Ma, I just want a leader who can give us jobs,”said one young lady. “Look at me, ma. I graduated from a good university with a 2:1 three years ago, and till date, I’m still searching for a job. You won’t believe this ma, but I have to go help out in the restaurant that my eldest sister runs for an organisation. It’s a bit embarrassing, but that’s the only way I can make some pocket money for my needs.
I’m hoping that those who are elected this time will make the provision of jobs for us, young people, a priority. I don’t belong to any political party, but I will vote for anyone who has a good track record in governance or management, and who I know will serve the country well. I don’t care about tribe, language or religion either. Ma, I just want a job and a decent life.”
“Madam, my business is suffering because of bad roads from Lagos right down to my state, Anambra,” said one young man. “I come to Lagos to buy goods to sell in Onitsha. When I was learning this business some years ago, the road was really very good – express. I could make it a day return trip. But now, the roads are so bad that it takes a whole day to get to Lagos. I then shop and it takes another whole day to return to Onitsha. That means I may spend two nights in a hotel in Lagos.
That’s added expenses which reduces the profit I make. Our rulers should fix these roads fast so that our business can survive. If I try to pass these added expenses to the consumers, they will resist and refuse to buy my goods. I’m hoping that those we elect will repair our roads as soon as possible.”
Others wanted free education to be a reality, not ‘the more you look the less you see’ that it is in the states which claim they offer it, at present.
“Madam, Nigeria can afford free education for its citizens from the primary to university level,” said another young person. “My dad said Obasanjo did this in the 70s. You didn’t need to pay for tuition, and the quality of education was good. Look at how much parents have to pay as tuition fees these days, even in government schools! Many poor people withdraw their children from even primary schools because they can’t cope.”
Yet, another young person wanted our rulers this time round to be more serious in delivering good health care to Nigerians.
“Madam, I want these politicians to give us better health care,” he said. “What are they doing for people living with the HIV virus? Nothing. In other African countries like South Africa, and in East Africa, etc., the governments ensure that the drugs they need are given them, either free or at very affordable costs.
In Nigeria, the poor who contract this virus are left to die pre-maturely because they can’t afford the drugs. We’re told that more people die from malaria than from AIDS, so, if victims get the relevant drugs, they can manage their condition until their God-appointed time.
Look also at the high rate of maternal deaths in this country. My parents said the rate was down before independence when hospitals and maternity homes were few, but the quality of healthcare is much better than now. Why should things become worse for Nigerians when we’re ruling ourselves? These politicians should sit up and take care of our needs. Those who don’t, will suffer humiliating defeats at the polls. Their honeymoon era of taking the citizens for a ride is over for good. We’re wide awake to their antics. ‘
This is very true. Nigerians are more conscious of what the government and those elected into power should do for them than ever before. This is because more and more Nigerians have become world travellers and they are aware of how politics are played in other countries, particularly the developed ones, and also the obligations of those governments to their citizens.
Those who haven’t yet travelled out, follow the news on cable television/newspapers and are able to compare what they hear and read with what is happening here.
The days of stark ignorance is fast disappearing in many parts of the country.
It is the dawn of a new era, and as we celebrate Easter, we should all join hands to move the nation forward with all we are worth.
HAPPY AND PEACEFUL EASTER TO ALL READERS OF THIS COLUMN.