The Insight by Lateef Adewole
This is the first Saturday of the new year 2024. Let me first congratulate all of us for making it to this year. I am using the opportunity to wish everyone, a happy new and prosperous year. May the Almighty God allow us to witness many more to come, in good health, wealth, joy and abundant grace. He alone can do it. Our existence and survival on this surface of the earth is beyond us. He alone determines our fate, to be or not to be. So, we thank Him for being alive till this new year and beseech Him to grant us many more of it.
When I say many more of it, I can imagine that a lot of readers will want me to be more explicit. Sincerely, many people will not wish for a repeat of what they experienced last year. It was one that will linger in many people’s memories for a long time, for the wrong reasons. However challenging it was, that we scaled through it means something. It showed how strong and resilient we are as individuals and as a country.
In life, every situation or challenge is an opportunity to learn something. Life is exactly the opposite of school (academics). It tests us first before giving us the lessons (teaching), unlike school where lessons are taught before we are tested. What is crucial is to learn from any lesson that life teaches. It is something no one can run away from. And it never ends. Life is full of ups and downs, a roller coaster of sort. Periods of difficulties and bliss interchange. Either of them has its purpose. So, whatever we went through last year, it was to prepare us for the future, a better and glorious one, God’s willing.
As we enter into the new year, a common practice is having new year’s resolutions. I saw a comedy where one man said his new year’s resolution is already being broken in less than one week into the year. Well, as humans, we are fallible. No one can exist faultless. However, it is important to be resolute whenever we hope to do anything if we ever want to achieve our desired result.
I called this year, a year of renewed hope. It is not necessarily that of political slogan of President Tinubu. It just happened that it is a suitable theme at this moment. Every time one listens to lamentations of most Nigerians, whether physically, on television, radio or on social media, they reak of hopelessness. Many Nigerians have lost faith in their country. They lost hope that things could ever get better.
As human being, the worst state one can be is that of hopelessness. Such person feels they have nothing worthy to live for. In case of Nigeria, the people do not believe any positive change can ever happen. In fact, even if they are seeing any good thing being done by the government, they receive it with scepticism. They live in suspicion of the leaders who they believe have no interest of the people at heart. This is the unfortunate state that many Nigerians have got to.
It is such hopelessness that has catalysed the “japa” syndrome in the last few years. It got to a head in these years, when people who were considered ‘rich’ by Nigerian standard, began to also ‘japa’. I have seen too many of these. Top bankers, oil company workers, business people doing well averagely, left all they had worked for and built in decades behind, to go and start afresh abroad, nearly from the bottom. Business owners sold off their businesses and used the proceeds to move out of the country. People spent as much as N10m to N30m to relocate. Was that small money? That’s not for poor people.
Migration is a global phenomenon, an ancient practice, not new to the country, but the driver and objectives of the recent ones call for concern. A lady who was a former bank manager in Nigeria resigned and moved abroad, only to start working as a cleaner. She videoed herself and posted it online. Recently, a senior doctor friend of mine told me of his colleague, another senior doctor who has reached the pinnacle of his medical profession as a consultant in Nigeria.
He relocated abroad few years ago. He said that he was employed but for a whole year, he was only allowed to take blood samples from patients. What an insult! This is a person that patients used to line up to be given dates, just to see him while working in Nigeria’s hospital. He was so frustrated that he resigned and returned back to Nigeria. One can only imagine the level of hopelessness that must have driven him to leave Nigeria in the first place.
I have too many friends who have ‘japa-ed’. One was a bank manager in top rated bank. When I asked why he decided to leave, he said that one day he sat down, looked back at where he was coming from, how far he has come at his age, and then looked at what the future holds, in terms of opportunities, security, education and general future of his kids, and concluded that it was better he left at the time to give his kids the leverage he didn’t get, to better their chances in future. He couldn’t see such hope if he continued to stay back. This is similar to why many middle class Nigerians leave the country.
Sadly, this class is very crucial to development of any country. They form the mass of those we call elites, who are responsible for the running of the country, both in public and private sectors. Imagine the exodus of this class that we have witnessed in the last five years which consists of academicians, including Masters, PhD holders and professors, doctors, engineers, lawyers, and many professionals and non professionals in various fields. It is the biggest loss for the country- its human capital. Doubling down on the loss is the fact that Nigeria invested fortunes to train all these people through higher education in particular.
Anyone who knows how much it costs to train just any university graduate in the western world will realise that Nigerians get their higher education degrees for free here, “technically”. No one should talk of those meagre amounts being paid for their education as serious costs. To now lose them to other countries is a big setback for Nigeria. But, can anyone blame whoever chooses to leave? No. The major blame goes to the leadership of the country which has made the country continually less attractive for her citizens to stay back. Many patriotic Nigerians endured all these for so long before they threw in the towel and left. More people are still leaving daily.
How can this be reversed or stemmed, at least? It is by giving hope to the people and make it materialise. President Bola Ahmed Tinubu made Renewed Hope his political campaign mantra. He has not stopped repeating the same since he took over. While saying that is good, making them happen is more important. Nigerians have been lied to so much that they no longer believe whatever comes out of government people’s mouth. It is seen as lies. It is the call of the present leadership to act to change this perception and narrative. I am a supporter of the president. I believe he has what it takes to turn the fortune of the country around.
He also assured Nigerians that we will begin to see and enjoy the benefits of many tough and painful decisions he took last year, particularly the petrol subsidy removal and the unification of the exchange rates that has driven the rates through the roof. We are anxiously waiting for them to materialise.
However, giving hope is not just the responsibility of government alone, it is a collective duty. Citizens, like people in government, have their parts to play. Unfortunately, many Nigerians do not see it this way. There are three levels to this: Divine intervention (God), government and the people. Mistakingly, Nigeria, being an overly praying nation, the citizens have abdicated their responsibilities and put everything at the doorstep of God. This is why we have not made the desired progress.
God is for everybody and every country. He makes it rains for everyone. Makes sun shines for everyone. Makes water, air, land, minerals and other resources available to all countries in different proportions. He created us as human beings, gave us brains and ability to think. He gave us hands, legs and all other bodily parts that make us function as humans. He gave us life. Over eight billion people on earth, placed in different geographical locations. And gave us free will to use everything as we deem fit.
After all of these, while human beings like us in many other countries use theirs appropriately to solve their problems, advanced the cause of their country and help humanity, we refused to utilised ours in same manner. Rather, we return to the same God and pray to Him to come down and do for us, that which we are supposed to do by ourselves. That is why we are having more religious houses than industries. A company will fold up and it will be converted to worship centre where people pray to God for jobs. A state government of impoverished people would have the audacity to spend an humongous N32 billion of public fund to build a worship centre, when his people are wallowing in abject poverty. Isn’t that madness? God has done His part, we should do ours as humans.
The next is government. I just cited an example of the kind of people we entrusted with political leadership in one state now. Similar of such abound across the country. Are such persons not misfits for that office? After God, government is saddled with the responsibility of taking care of the people. Where government fails, the people despair. That has been our lot in Nigeria for decades. We have been unlucky with political leadership. By law, government has power of life and death. Not to deploy it appropriately is a failure.
Or, rather than deploy it for the good of the populace, the leaders use it for self-aggrandizement. While the people are hungry, they are overfed. While the people are lacking, they misused available resources for self. While the people are unsafe, they protect themselves with all available security agents. While the people lack quality education, they send their own to study abroad. While the people are dying from minor ailments, they go abroad to take care of themselves, at the expense of the public. They live a detached life from the people they claim to represent and lead.
A video has been circulating on social media in the past few days. It was that of Honourable Dekeri Anamero, of the House of Representatives, representing Etsako Federal Constituency of Edo State. He thanked President Tinubu for allocating trailer loads of grains, rice in particular, to each of the federal lawmakers (senators N200m and Reps. N100m worth) to be shared as Christmas palliatives to the people in their constituencies. He showed four trailer loads of his own and his plans to distribute them to his people. I was shocked to hear or see that. As current as I try to be, I did not know about it and I never heard or saw any lawmaker shared anything, especially in the south, and in the South West where I come from and live.
Subsequently, rumors started spreading that some southern lawmakers sold their shares to their northern counterparts and pocketed the money. I found this difficult to believe. But, if this is untrue, where are the trailers of rice then? Definitely, I have not seen any being shared. As a community leader in my CDA, we were never invited to come and collect any such rice for our people or witnessed such being shared to people within my community, town or local government. So, where is the rice?
It is actions like this that worsen the distrust of the masses against the government and political office holders. Up till today, many people did not know where the ones given to many governors are, and what happened to the money given to them to provide succour to the citizens in each state after the removal of fuel subsidy. I hope President Tinubu will demand accountability for these allocations.
Sincerely, the government has failed and disappointed the people too many times, but that should not make us close our eyes, shut our minds completely and give up all hopes. “Ti a ba ni ki a di oju ki eni buruku koja, ti eni rere ba fe koja, a ko ni mo” (if we close eyes not to see bad people pass, we won’t know when good people will also pass). As a believer in Tinubu’s capacity, while continually calling on him to prove me right and prove his traducers wrong, I implore the people to give the government a chance. If the government fails in their responsibilities and promises, I will be at the forefront of the people calling them out, especially President Tinubu.
As the Yorubas would say: “agbajo owo, la fi n soya. Ajeji owo kan, ko gb’eru dori” (there is power in unity. No one is an island). As the government has their responsibilities, so are the people. Unfortunately, like I said earlier, the people have abandoned theirs or are even committing worse atrocities than people in government. We elected the people in government to serve us, but we don’t ask them about that service. Rather, a number of us, who are “chopping” from the crumps from their tables, sycophantically hero-worship them. We never demand for transparency and accountability from them. That is why we could be treated in such manner with regards to that allocated rice issue. “Dem no fear us again.”
If all the people who attack Tinubu and his government daily, for almost everything, could deploy same effort and energy to tackle their state governors, if we can all pay as much attention we pay to the federal government to our state governors and governments, we are likely going to start getting better performances from them because they will be put under pressure and on their toes, but we don’t. Even the local government duties, we expect federal government to do them. This is where we are failing as citizens.
Another, more disheartening role that citizens have been playing is becoming embodiment of endemic corruption. The case of the free seats that were booked up by the staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and were sold, is now well reported. How wicked can we be to ourselves? FG approved free train rides for travellers to ease their movements during the festive period. They were booked up by criminals and genuine passengers were denied opportunity to benefit. Same trains travelled with so many empty seats, while passengers were stranded at different stations because they could not get tickets. That’s citizens to citizens.
A man reported a scam going on in many of these big supermarkets. He said he picked items from the shelves and mentally calculated the total amount to be N27,000. When he got to the counter to pay, the machine gave him N31,000. He was angry and demanded to see the manager. Upon manual recalculation by the manager, it was N27,000. How did N4,000. add to his bill? Where did that come from? He said some other customers who have paid decided to do the same and found out that huge amounts have been added to their actual bills.
One can only imagine how many people have been stolen from, without them knowing, daily and for how many years, and in how many supermarkets that is happening? This happens in fast food restaurants too. Why has criminality taken over our society? That was from citizens to citizens. Not government. Same people will still abuse and criticise politicians and called them thieves. Who now is not a thief in Nigeria? Admissions are sold in the universities. Certificates are racketeered. Employment slots are sold. I don’t want to start recalling other countless scenarios like that. Everything has corruption embedded in them.
How can a society where almost everyone is a crook, gives hope? Who will give hope to who, really? The people who complain today about those in power are doing worse than them in the small spaces they occupy. What would they do if given bigger opportunities? So, the matter of being hopeful is not only that of government to the people but we all need to do our parts to make our country a better place by doing right by it. We need to change our ways for the better. Only this can engender genuine hope for all, instead of fantasy.
Once again, happy new year to all of us. May we live to witness many more and better ones to come.
May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.
God Bless Nigeria.
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