By Denrele Animasaun

‘Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself’-Leo Tolstoy

I was talking to my folks and the topic of our conversation was always the state of the nation and in particular, the general inertia amongst young people.

I work with a lot of troubled young people in my day job and I strongly believe that no matter the start, many have got the potential to succeed if given adequate guidance and aspirations. We have a young and teeming population and more than 5 out of 10 young people are not in employment and in education or training. It is even higher in some places!

The youth unemployment rate in Nigeria has increased to 33.10 percent in the third quarter of 2017 from 29.50 percent in the second quarter of 2017. The youth unemployment rate in Nigeria averaged 21.73 percent from 2014 until 2017, reaching an all-time high of 33.10 percent in the third quarter of 2017 and a record low of 11.70 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014. And another statistics indicate that Nigeria is top of the board for highest number of poverty in the world. We have headed for a perfect storm, the problems are collectively everyone and the blame game has got to stop.

Understandably, we all feel overwhelmed by what is happening around us that we can no longer see the woods for the trees. Similarly, over time, we have lost the resilience -our survival and spiritual instincts  that act as the buffer to cushion disappointment, pain and emotional turmoil. It gives up hope and faith that no matter, what, that this too, will pass.

Over time that resilience in many of us has eroded due to the living conditions and worsening standards of living. In its place it has given way to hopelessness and helplessness. Gone is our usual Nigerian sunny disposition and good faith.We have reached saturation point. We have become emotionally hardened and our society has mostly lost its moral compass and our compassion for one another.   Our young people have become untethered by traditional values and collective responsibilities that moulded us as people because the ones before them also were not.

So, where do we go from here? We can either give up or make those changes individually and collectively in order to make our country thrive again. Each of us will have to make the difference; we are what Nigeria is waiting for. First of all, we have to ensure we know who we really are. I mean, ask yourself: who are you, what are your values; how do other people see you, what do you want from life and what are we contributing to make our country?

There is a saying; “If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going, How Will You Know When You’ve Got There?”   For so long, many of us, have created the egos because they feel that what is outside matters more than the content of their soul. The unrealistic expectations from ourselves and the society is beyond the reach of so many Nigerians and yet, we aspire without working hard towards any discernible goals, that is the recipe for disaster and it is not attainable or sustainable. It is important to have long term goals as individuals and as a collective, a society and as a country. Short term goal just won’t cut it.

Mediocrity will not do, we have to commit to entering ourselves, no matter where we are in life, and we have to start from somewhere. And when we do, we must help other people with no preconditions; and they too will help other people. That is how we can play it forward.

From my archives-Imagine Nigeria-2013

“Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have were once among the things you only hoped for.”—Epicurus

The Obamas made a trip to sub Saharan Africa with all the fanfare that one would expect from a consummate head of state, diplomat and an enigma. Barak and his family made the best use of the opportunity that the position of the first family bestowed; visiting prestigious people, iconic places and making appearances and  speeches to inspire the   young and show the old guards how it is done with ease and charisma filled with the Obama aplomb.

President Barack Obama focused on Nelson Mandela’s legacy and democratic progress in an address aimed at South Africa’s youth.

Obama in his rousing speech said: “The reason I came to Africa is because Africa is rising, and it is in the United States’ interests – not simply in Africa’s interests – that the United States doesn’t miss the opportunity to deepen and broaden the partnerships and potential here” and he asked South African youths “to seize a moment of great promise” whilst pointing to the legacy of Mandela and the ailing anti-apartheid leader’s long-held vision of equality and opportunity. Obama was in no illusion that progress in Africa is fragile and he stressed that Africa needs to focus on expanding opportunity, promoting democracy and supporting peace.

He was in his usual astute and au-fait manner and got the attention of those that matter- the youths.   For he knows with them lies the future of Africa. He also told his attentive audience of the new US initiative to help improve access to electricity, that’s a start.

By the look on the young people listening to every single word  of the speech, it must have resonated with the young that someone that important said that they matter and that in their hands is the future.

So, some Nigerians grumbled and felt slighted that the Obama Caravan missed Nigeria.   I hear some said it was a snub how could he snub the ‘Giant of  Africa’ really? What has the giant done of late to warrant his status? Why do we always cling to our potential and not striving to ensure that we are indeed who we say we are? We need to rise above mediocrity and move towards excellence and 100% commitment.

Why should he?   After all, the malingering state of our   nation is there for all to see, except for those who remain deluded and out of touch with reality; the systematic corruption, forgotten generation, rise in unemployment, lack or nonexistence basic health and social care, human rights violations, broken down judicial and greedy legislators, and not to mention, grand scale nationwide insecurity

I do wonder at times about why we, as Nigerians, like to show-off to the rest of the world about hosting leaders such as President Obama rather than for us, to focus on the main issues of solving our problems at home, protecting and looking after our citizens abroad, let us mend our extensive   break-down of law and orders, the   over inflated egos of our leaders and   loss of humanity towards one another. So what makes us  think that every head of state of note should kowtow and  pay us a visit? Should we for one moment of appearance that   he had not mentioned that Nigeria is   failing its   citizens, that corruption is rife and our leaders flout the rule of law?

Whatever the reason for Obama’s omission, so if we call ourselves Giant of Africa when all we can muster is feeble purr? Whatever it is, we should ask ourselves; if it is really important in the full scheme of things, that Obama’s one day hub-knobbing with our politicians, who would have argued and justified spending more money to grandstand the short stop over?

Will the lives of ordinary Nigerians change? So, in my opinion, it is not what people call you that counts, it is what you answer to! I really don’t think anyone refers to Nigeria as the ‘Giant of Africa’.   If this is the case, are we truly that?   What is the point of believing we are Giant of Africa and have no presence of  mind or grace to better our people? Nigeria is not worthy of a visit and pandering to our leaders does not serve the needs of ordinary Nigerians.





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