‘Gbenga Sesan: Why giving up is not an option (30 Days, 30 Voices)

But how long will a nation once known as a giant continue the act of burying her head in the sand? Change agents come, change agents go, but the sore livelihoods remain. So, what must we do?

It was one of those afternoons in Lagos. The sun was up in all its might, as if to prove a point to air cooling units. Traffic was bumper to bumper, with enough frayed nerves to light up any tiny dispute. And then, a wrong turn that led into the unforgiving Mushin traffic. In between forgiving the driver and worrying about how to apologise – again – for arriving late for a discussion with the Carrington Youth Fellows at the US Consulate in Lagos, I read a tweet announcing that an icon of change had given up on trying to restore Nigeria into at least the semblance of something worthy of the adjective, nation.

(S)he’s not the first to do such. Many more will give up after trying so hard to draw honey from the rock. Stop. Don’t be quick to blame anyone for giving up. How many times have you been reminded of how erratic Nigeria is, just after a meeting where you were encouraging young people to change Nigeria or die trying? These things get to you. One of those days, I pulled out my passport, headed for the airport and paid for a date change just to get on a flight before my veins would burst. Once in a while, you get the chance to get on a flight – inwards in thought or out of town – just to draw enough energy to continue.

In this matter of changing an outrightly insane society, many have been wounded. Many more have found an alternative pathway that solves personal misery but adds to the communal hopelessness. But how long will a nation once known as a giant continue the act of burying her head in the sand? Change agents come, change agents go, but the sore livelihoods remain. So, what must we do?

Just before we throw up our hands and/or begin to plot permanent escapes – in mind or action – maybe its worth considering the fact that giving up on change is a win for the minority that benefits from chaos and rot. They know that warfare principle quite well: get your enemy to believe they can’t change their circumstances while suffering loss and the battle is over. Mohammed Ali stung like a bee; many times with words before the punch that drove home the victory.

Let’s not forget the small gains. Change takes time, though change agents must remain impatient in order to avoid excuses that slow the process down.

It took about 2 generations of hard work to destroy Nigeria’s promising existence and fixing it may not take less than a generation’s deliberate hard work. Of course, I’ve taken the liberty to equate one generation to about 20 years.

Exit, the all-time reaction of (wo)men to unsuccessful attempts or unfriendly circumstances, has been with Nigeria since the days of “Andrew”. Exit, expressed in many ways, does not fix all responsibilities. In fact, the reason many are able to retreat to spaces or places is because some people didn’t exit those spaces or places in the days when change looked impossible. Think of today’s most celebrated destinations, and you’ll be reminded of the folks who persevered to make change possible.

If every changemaker, regardless of present location or place on the Discouragement Curve, will own their space and make a dent, maybe our eventual islands of sanity can come together while we also maximise the principle of enlightened self-interest to recruit others for the noble task of nation building. In 2001, when I saw a much smaller picture of the change that could come to Nigeria, I wrote:

“I see a new Nigeria emerging, one that will be built on the labours of our heroes past, hewn out of the debris of the present waste and engineered by the strength of the future leaders: the youth. These young men and women will adopt Information Technology for the purpose of personal development, nation building, regional cooperation and global participation. They may be unknown today, but in the secrecy of their abode, they master the tool that will change their lives and that of their nation. They’re building the nation’s tomorrow today.”

It’s now 2012 and I still believe in what I saw at the time. Only that it’s much bigger now and the tools available to people are much more diverse.

Every weekday all through my early days at St. Peter’s Demonstration Primary School, Akure, and Federal Government College, Idoani, we recited the National Pledge. So help me God! I will be true to the words that spoke to me: to serve Nigeria with all my strength. So help me God. Many of us did the same, also singing the words of the National Anthem. Remember the line that says, “Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey”? How about, “…the labour of our heroes past, shall never be in vain”? Let’s move on to the less known second stanza. If you give up now, who will fulfil these words: “Guide our leaders right, help our youth the truth to know.”

Giving up is not an option. On Nigeria or other efforts at which you’ve trained your hands, giving up is NOT an option.

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

One comment

  1. Giving up is easy. Trying to maintain ones resolve to stay put in face of problems that plague the vision, the tools for growth et al is hard. But living with the guilt and the 'what if' questions are harder.

    If change agents quit, what happens to the agents' of the change agent? E ba ara yin s'oro.

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