Nigeria: When Shall We Take Responsibility? – By James Eze

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By James Eze (shareadrink@gmail.com)

In his lecture at the Silver Jubilee of The Guardian in October 2008, Chinua Achebe observed that; “Nigeria is neither my mother nor my father. Nigeria is a child; gifted, enormously talented, prodigiously endowed and incredibly wayward. Nigerian nationality was for me and my generation an acquired taste – like cheese.”

I will always remember the above submission by Achebe. To my mind, no one has looked at Nigeria the way he did. In reality, Nigeria has been something of a bitter joke to many of us. Like a football Nigeria’s leaders kick her around as they wish. To some of us, Nigeria is probably the only location on the planet that represents two extremes; it is both the best and the worst place. Best because our loved ones live here and worst because our hearts are broken here. If you live in Nigeria, you are just a breath away from heartbreak. So, over the years, it occurred to me that Nigeria is a pain that will not easily go away. I realized that the trouble with Nigeria never changes. But perhaps even more depressing, I realized that the only thing that might change Nigeria is the power of taking responsibility. Now, let me make myself clear.

Nigeria is a victim. A victim of acute neglect! She is suffering from rejection by her citizens; their refusal to take responsibility for their country, their own happiness and their own dreams. Nigerians have chosen to hide from their own truths… that Nigeria is neither their mother nor their father but a hapless child we must all take responsibility for. Achebe was right!

I often chuckle when Nigerian intellectuals, thinkers and philosophers berate Nigeria for failing them. I chuckle at our sense of outrage, our cry of anguish and our willful rejection of our collective heritage. But outrage is the easy way out here. Nigerians have shown extreme annoyance with Nigeria for years and it hasn’t changed anything. I think it is time to ask ourselves what next.

What we have done with our famed talents? Among us are gifted writers, economists, surgeons, scientists, thinkers, educationists, bankers, activists, footballers and actors. Nigerians in the Diaspora compete with their peers across the world. Some of them have broken the glass ceiling to become mayors of important cities, members of parliament, heads of major corporations, renowned academics, painters and writers and lately, Vice Chancellors of universities. Nigerian professionals in the Diaspora have brought respect and dignity to Nigeria by taking backbreaking challenges in different fields of human endeavour. They have shown that given the right conditions, we can change our story. Are Nigeria’s troubles beyond the genius of these people?

It seems though that they have yet to come to terms with the fact that no one else will create the condition for them. We all have to desire the right condition enough to get actively involved in creating it for ourselves. Pointing a finger at Nigeria from the safety of the West is an expensive indulgence that cannot be sustained. We all have to take responsibility.

We ought to be unhappy that a country whose founding fathers were all deep thinkers is today led by folks whose vision is blurred. It may be easy to excuse this irony by citing our military past and its hangover but if we have yet to figure our way out of that challenge even with all our advancement in western thought and learning, then we have no one else to blame but ourselves.

The question is; since bad leadership hurts us the same way regardless of ethnicity, why is it impossible for enlightened friends and associates across the fault lines to come together and retrieve Nigeria from the abyss? What happened to the bonds of friendship forged over the years across ethno-religious lines? Why can’t we express our disappointment with Nigeria as one people by building a network for progress? Who are we all waiting for?

At the moment, there is no conversation between young idealistic Southerners and young idealistic Northerners. There’s no common ground to dream a better Nigeria into existence. We appear incapable of rising above our differences to fashion out a better country, to instill higher standards in public service and to organize our society for both prosperity and posterity.

If Nigeria is to ever experience real greatness, Nigerians must take responsibility for Nigeria!

Eze writes from Awka, Anambra State.

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