ON Valentine’s day—the ultimate celebration of love—couples profess love for each other. This time and as it should be, our love will go beyond individual considerations and relationships, to spur thoughts of the greatest love of all, love of country. I dream of Nigerians waving our flag like Americans wave theirs at the drop of a hat. Outside most American homes one is sure to see the national flag and reference to the state’s official seal.
In Britain the Union Jack appears on everything from t-shirts, to pencil cases, mugs etc. I often ask myself who will make the love of Nigeria part of our popular culture? We have businessmen in Nigeria, politicians, actors and what have you but very few patriots, that is, people who love this country enough to live their lives in pursuit of its greatness and the happiness of the majority.
On the 14th of February we have the opportunity to redeem ourselves: it is time to show our resolve, to do our civic duty and finally love this country by casting our votes. It sickens me when I hear that some are indifferent. It kills me that they believe the choices are made by others more important than them. It frustrates me that they believe they can carry on to pillage the land (yes, it is no short of pillaging when all you do is take and give nothing back) and yet not care about this country’s future.
The rich make their money here, not in the UK or the US, even if they are passport holders of these nations; their primary source of income remains a business located in Nigeria, where one can provide average services but still reap huge benefits. Insecurity, like a hangman’s noose looms closer, ready to condemn us all. Change will not come down from heaven: it is our duty and responsibility to work for it.
My conscience demands this article. Whatever result is announced on the 14th, I believe I will have done what is right as a conscientious citizen and as a human being. I spent Saturday at a charity drive organised to gather food, clothes, household items etc. for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the Northeast. I haven’t felt so alive in a long time: I am alive and receptive to the suffering of others, open to their pain and I will do my best in whatever little capacity I can with whatever forces I can muster, to help alleviate it. That is what it means to be a human being. Not money, not status, not acquiring handbags and powerful men, unlike what is practised in today’s Nigeria. I am alive. I want to talk about our national ethos. Remember when I mentioned the Union Jack, the relationship other countries have to their flags etc.?
Well, the one thing that brings us all together in Nigeria today is corruption or materialism and the desire to acquire stupendous wealth by any and all means. How then can any of us, the silent majority, hope to succeed when the loudmouths around us, frustrate our projects, our efforts and ideas by relentlessly talking about fast money and quick this and that? Nobody in Nigeria today wants to support a project that yields fruit in five years. Nobody is in anything for the long haul. I am in pain on a daily basis because of this: how does one live, converse and thrive in a nation where all that matters is now and not tomorrow? How does one build anything to last? The immediacy of money and the ease with which some get it determines every facet of our existences: even with ordinary expectations of a decent life, one cannot afford to live comfortably.
Those who have so much do nothing with it and those who have so little need to stretch beyond what is humanly possible to manage what they have. I have heard stories of Nigerian women giving birth with midwives holding only flashlights, a dim light to welcome the child to suffering and the distinct impression that he will never matter. Like slaves on plantations, we outnumber our masters, those who hold us back, yet we are so broken, we dare not hope, talk less of overthrow them. Which is why although one man promises us change and another holds on to transformation,doubting Thomases refuse that there might be the slightest possibility of this being our moment of greatness, a time to have the courage of our convictions.
Nigerians, our heads are bowed. We sit in darkness (both literally and figuratively) but I want to believe in the power of our unconquered souls. We are not defined by circumstance (of birth or otherwise), I think of the painful daily grind, of people striving for better lives and futures, whose cries are met by neither warmth nor succour from those in power.
Every time we go out there and try again, apply for another job, begin another hustle, sell produce, fix cars, enter that office and be berated by the inhumane or the talentless, every time you have to beg for a favour and yet another “big man” tells you no, I’d like those reading this column today to wipe off defeat and momentary failure for the energy it takes for gladness, the thrill of a new fight, the exultation of a promised and prophesized victory. Change is coming.
Beyond the horrors of the day and the menace of poverty and insecurity, our bountiful Nigeria will carry us all to freedom. I am not afraid; perhaps it’s the privilege of youth. I welcome the struggle for my prospects; I will not be punished forever. Nigerians who want to work hard and reap the benefits will not be penalised for their beliefs. My fate is about to change, I have remained honest, I have nothing to fear. So I welcome change, to protect everything I hold dear. We think we don’t have the energy for one last fight: Nigerians you deserve better. Vote your conscience, vote for Nigeria, the night is longest before the day.
From the pits of our despair, we will rise to awe the world: we are all soldiers, fighting a war for this country’s soul. We may be bloody, but we are proud. Our tears, the threats of the greedy, deter us not. In our numbers, we come to take this country back.
It matters not what they say: let them call us foolish for our beliefs. We are on the right side of history, alive to our potential. God bless Nigeria. Our time is here. I salute unconquered souls, no matter the result. Unconquered by rot and selfishness, may we see more rise. Nigeria!