THIS BABY IS TEN YEARS OLD!

naija_flag_CHave you noticed these days that there is a somewhat increasing intelligence in children, and their rate of apprehension seems to be ever expanding in a very complex and diversifying world? True. I have suddenly developed an interest in the developmental stages of children and wonder how their plain and simple minds comprehend and retain information. From age one through age five, you will marvel at what your baby knows already. Even without a deliberate attempt to teach the child, there is a natural desire to learn and to explore and experiment with something new.

In fact nowadays, what we learnt in secondary school a while ago, is being moved down to primary school level, and what our first year classes were like in University, is being passed over to higher secondary teaching. This is simply because more and more information is emerging and the world is getting more complicated. Children nowadays are born into a generation of unrestricted flow of information and a young child is saddled with the ability to do so much more than playing mere police and thief, or the famous hide and seek. The other day I heard of a 13 year old having an associate degree while still in high school.

Things are changing fast, and there’s a growing urgency for the individual to become more open minded and hungry for learning, as this distinguishes between the man living now and the man living in the past. What baffles me however is the fact that despite the rate of change and how people are taking advantage of what is at their disposal globally, some people are dying of lethargy, while others simply refuse to come to terms that things have changed and that many things have become obsolete. I laugh today when I see people carrying maps all around the streets of New York when GPS devices are all about at very cheap prices. You can even load your smart phones now with voice enabled maps that give your real time location and tell you every move that even a blind man can accurately follow. Yet some are stuck in the past.

My interest here is not on how we individually respond to these global changes, but on how Nigeria has responded to the available opportunities these past ten years. May I remind us that this baby is ten years old! This means that a child who was born on the 29th of May 1999 is exactly ten years of age today, and in the world we exist in today, a ten year old can become totally responsible for his life and choices. While it may not be appropriate to compare Nigeria’s ten years of democracy to the developmental stages of a child, as this is way too simplistic, there are certain background principles we cannot afford to overlook, as it applies to our country. Let me consider a few of the democratic ideals which Nigeria should by now possess.

After ten years of democracy, Nigeria should by now deliver the benefits of the system to its people. Democracy is simply the government of the majority, establishing the will of the people and ensuring the greater good for the greater number of people. This means that whatever the people want is the sovereign and overarching responsibility of the government. In ten years, how much of the desire of Nigerians have been fulfilled by its leaders? Rather, we consistently see a shoving aside of the greater good for the pursuit of personal ambitions. No one deems it necessary to determine and report the state of the country, so Nigerians know what we are up against. There is a silent assumption that anything goes and people will put up with anything that they are confronted with. For instance, why has the government not explained in details to us what happened to 16 Billion dollars or naira (irrespective, it’s still a mouth gaping sum) meant for the power sector in the last eight years? By this time we expect a clearly articulated path towards a recovery of the power sector, but we are still at a point where very few know what’s happening. Nigerians have a right to know, and it is the will of the people that the benefits of this system begin to deliver value. Ten years is way too much time for a baby to crawl and it seems that we still have an attraction to keeping our motion gravitated towards the dust.

Second, accountability is now a buzz word that flies around with no substance in our democratic system. So much talk began with this dispensation, yet we are still harassed by the superfluous display of corruption reborn. It seems public officials are getting more daring in their acts of unaccountability and there is a growing comfort with the fact that nothing can happen to them. We have heard of the many cases of corrupt practices and the many names that have been named, yet how many of such have we celebrated their jail sentences? The very same ones indicted for the otiose bastardization of the vehicles of public utility are gracing the pages of our glossy magazines and shoving on our faces their pin-headed conceptions of the good life. And worse still is that the nature of our corruption has morphed into prebendalism, where government officials now feel a sense of entitlement to the revenues of the Nigerian state.

A bigger problem is that while we are preoccupied addressing these manifest practices at the top of the structure, the base is being wasted away by petty thieves who call themselves councilors and local officials. Even those who exercise some form of bureaucratic discretion at the community level, use that as an occasion to extract profits for their miserable living at the expense of petty services that will make life a little bit more comfortable for their denizens. The baby is ten years old and still grappling with the basics of structural and economic locomotion. What even worries me most is how much effect this has on the ordinary person who tries to survive in the midst of all this. Many now accept corruption as an incurable sickness that one has to live and manage with. The result is that prudence and excellence have been sacrificed on the altar of the convenient, and creativity and innovation have been wacked to the barest minimum in society.

Lastly, we still have not come to the point where we clearly understand what the rights of the Nigerian are. Having a constitutional document with statements mean nothing until it is translated from paper to action. There is still an undervaluation of the Nigerian person, hence when decisions are made; it is without regard for the dignity of the citizens. I heard there was a rebranding of late, and I cared to pry into the nature of the efforts and found that it was devoid of a people centered approach. Rubbing grease on the skin doesn’t guarantee that people will appreciate its beauty. Feeding the stomach however will of necessity manifest on the outer covering, and no one needs to be convinced to see the changes. Whatever our rebranding, if the rights of the Nigerian is not clearly put first, then we risk the make-the-mockery-of-me-joke again. Because I am a Nigerian, I am entitled to a good life and I am entitled to certain basic services like security, and should be free from all forms of harassment, whether by the breakers of the law, the long arm of the law, or by even the law itself. I should be free to enjoy what power my vote carries, and to demand for what my tax can pay for. We all know what these rights are, and it cannot be overemphasized. My point is that at ten years of democracy, our political system is mature enough to accord us these privileges and there is no excuse why it hasn’t at this time.

So while we are in an age where many countries are using the available opportunities and tools to give their citizens a better life and to foster the environment necessary for the burgeoning of a next generation of global interactions, we are still slow to learn and slow to walk. This is so reminiscent of those kids in your class who just couldn’t take anything into their brains. What was left was for their craniums to be cracked open and literally purged of excess puss and infused with all the textbooks. While several countries are unlearning the art of physical or human based warfare, we are still confronted with a case in our Niger-Delta that seems to be a training ground for a guerilla movement. Religious crisis is still driving our peace from us and uncertainty surrounds the state of our ethnic marriage. I sometimes begin to wonder if Nigeria’s case is as “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

Time is passing by and this baby is slow to grow. But grow it must. I have resolved to do my part and hope it strengthens one part of the whole. I write to discover myself and to hold myself responsible for the things I must do as time goes by. Our country is not a closed case as long as I live, perchance my very loyalty maybe the needed vitamin this baby needs to get up and run as others are. So as I wonder if there’s anything to celebrate, I am suddenly reminded that I am one reason to celebrate why my country will be great. As long as I am determined and open to learning and to improving myself daily, this will translate into the national good I so desire. I will not subscribe to faineance or allow me become hopeless in a time when hope screams out from every corner. But my greatest joy is that there are much more people like me who are greatly impassioned for the Nigerian state and are laying down their lives for the love of it. It is their course I have chosen to follow and in a little while, we will take back our beloved from them that have no dream, vision, mission, and passion. Else, this baby will crawl for the next ten years. But God forbid!

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