By Francis Ewherido
Mrs. Florence Okah-Avae, host of the radio programme, Mending Minds with Flo, on Unilag Radio FM 103.1 and wife of my former Oga, Architect Justus Okah-Avae, invited me to her radio programme last Tuesday
The topic: The Proposed Cancellation of US Citizenship by Birth, its Social Implications for Nigerians. The US President, Donald Trump, has expressed his intention to cancel this constitutional provision under the 14th Amendment, which guarantees automatic US citizenship to children born on American soil, be they children of American citizens, illegal immigrants or visitors to America with non-immigrant visas.
What are the social implications for us? Personally, whatever America decides to do is not of interest to me. The question is why are Nigerians acquiring dual citizenship for themselves and/or their children? It is because they have lost faith in Nigeria. They have lost faith in the government.
It is natural for parents to want the best for their children, but in looking for the best, many of us have manifested another trait: giving up without a fight. Nigerians are generally acclaimed to be resilient, which is good. But we are also a very docile and complacent people.
When our standard of education started declining, instead of collectively confronting the people/reasons for the decline, those who could afford it started sending their children abroad, including Benin Republic and Ghana, to acquire “better” education.Our health sector collapsed and instead of fighting back, we embraced medical tourism in droves. In India, many big medical establishments have about three or four clocks on the walls of their receptions showing different time zones.
One of the clocks shows Nigerian time! When our roads deteriorated, instead of holding government accountable, we resorted to buying SUVs. You could count the number of SUVs on Lagos roads in the 80s. These days there are as many SUVs as there are saloon cars and bad roads are partly responsible for the upsurge. We erect high fences and street gates around us to combat insecurity instead of holding government accountable. Our electricity remains epileptic 58 years after independence.
To rub salt on injury, we are billed by electricity Distribution Companies (DISCOs) for electricity we did not consume. How many Nigerians are in court to fight for their rights? And if we get to the court, will the judges/magistrates take us seriously? Are we going to get justice promptly or we are going to spend our meagre resources on prolonged court cases until we get frustrated and resign to fate.
There is a ministry in charge of power, why are the ministers and officials of the ministry allowing Nigerians to be exploited?
Why can’t willing Nigerians have prepaid or functional meters so that they can be in charge of what they consume? How do you bill a family of four living in a three-bedroom flat N70,000 monthly in a country where minimum wage is N18,000 and governors have refused to pay a mere N30,000 minimum wage monthly?Before 1999, we complained that we could not confront the military that were in charge because they had guns. Bloody civilians like us have been in government now for 19 years, and not much has been achieved collectively. Why can’t we hold our government accountable? Why should we continue to return people who do not fulfil campaign promises to power?
There is scarcely any local government functioning optimally in the country. Some have pot holes on the roads leading to the local government secretariat! Nigerians are almost 200m; if we all decide to leave this “shithole” country, who will accommodate us?
It is time we discarded this docile garment for a no-retreat-no-surrender garment. Let us begin to hold all elected and appointed government officials accountable: from our councilors to the president. Our PVC is our power, let us use it. That is not to say I have any issues with dual citizenship. People hold dual citizenship all over the world. It is fine as long as it is voluntary. Too many Nigerians are being forced by the political and socioeconomic situation of the country to hold dual citizenship and it is not acceptable. We can and we should do something about it.
We also need to ask for more from our religious organisations. It is not enough to set up universities and other educational institutions that majority of the members cannot afford. Many parishes and branches of churches have clinics, but these medical facilities cannot stem medical tourism.
Now that these churches have built their mega headquarters, they should move on to build mega hospitals. Many of the big hospitals Nigerians patronise abroad are owned by churches. The same can be replicated here. The Catholic Church, for instance, has a very good eye hospital in Ogun State. The church can collaborate with eye specialists and people who can run world class hospitals to convert this hospital to a world class eye hospital that can meet the needs of Nigerians, who currently go abroad for eye treatment.
Having completed its ultra-modern headquarters, the Deeper Life Church should build a world class Paediatric Hospital as its next mega project. The Redeemed Christian Church of God should give us a world class cancer centre. Bishop Oyedepo and his Winners should give us a world class orthopaedic hospital. The various Muslim organisations should replicate these kinds of hospitals to cover other areas of medicine. Religious organisations can and should reverse the medical tourism. What is wrong in the “Giant of Africa” becoming a medical tourist destination like India? We have the human and financial resources, which can give us the necessary material resources.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote has helped Nigeria to be self-sufficient in cement production. He will soon replicate that in petroleum products. Where are the other rich Nigerians? Who is going to help us achieve 24/7 uninterrupted power supply? Who is going to help us to be self-sufficient in food production? Who is going to lead the industrialization charge? Who is joining Innoson to manufacture motor vehicles? What about our transportation system. Let us deregulate our roads and rail sectors to allow private participation. We can fix this massive rot called Nigeria and make it attractive to us and outsiders.
Whether or not we officially declare it, Nigeria is in a state of emergency. We all need to have the mentality of wrestlers in a cage fight (no retreat, no surrender) and solve our problems. Until Nigeria becomes great, no Nigerian, no matter his personal wealth and accomplishments, will earn the full respect of the rest of humankind. We are either all great as Nigerians, or we have a few shit-smeared great men from a “shithole” called Nigeria.