Arit Okpo: Fighting to believe [New Voices]

I love Nigeria. I love Nigeria very much. But many times, I don’t think Nigeria loves me. Nigeria is like that bae who you do everything for and always put on your dp, but who never answers the phone and does every single thing you hate.

We’re celebrating our 56th anniversary of independence and I have never seen the level of disillusionment that I am recording among my friends and age-group. I’ve also never seen this level of fear – that’s the underlying tone beneath a lot of our complaints and comments on social media. For many people, life is becoming tighter and tighter, goods and services are becoming scarcer, essential commodities are becoming luxuries and we might have to start eating grapes with seeds. It’s a difficult place to be in. More and more young Nigerians are contemplating leaving the country for 2 – 5 years, a very sad reversal from the wave of optimism that saw young Nigerians leave the diaspora and come here with pockets full of dreams to change Nigeria and make a fortune in the process. For the first time in my life, I am thinking about living somewhere else. Just for a few months I tell myself, just for the experience I tell myself, but the truth is– I am beginning to feel like I need a break.

Now there is one question that always holds me when I start indulging in longing fantasies of living in a country where systems work and where power holding doesn’t hold power – if we all leave, who stays? Who make things better? Who changes the country? That’s 3 questions I know, but you get the point. It’s a responsibility I have not yet been able to evade and pass on, which is why I know I’m not going anywhere, because whether I like it or not, this is my country, to have and to hold, for the rest of my life.

You love this country too. Yes she frustrates you in a way you have never been frustrated in your life, yes you provide all your amenities and do stuff that your taxes should pay for; yes it feels like you’re giving this country everything and she’s giving nothing back. But you love her just the same – the sun feels sweeter here, the food is tastier, the hustle fires up your blood and in a way that you don’t feel anywhere else, you know that this is home.

This is home, and that is why we will fix this country – because we cannot allow things to continue the way that they are. I don’t know about you, but I cannot abide the thought of talking to my children and grandchildren about how much better things were in my time. I cannot abide the thought of handing over disrepair and decay to another generation and leaving them to put together the pieces that our generation could not. I refuse to accept that things cannot get better.

That’s why I celebrate the many unsung heroes that do their best day after day, in their respective fields, to make things work. I celebrate the ones who get knocked down by our poor systems and failures and then wearily get back up to give it another go. They…we, are the backbone of a country that will rise again. I am privileged to meet and interact with these people who are putting their best into being excellent on a daily basis. In business, in government, in art, in humanitarian work… I have met too many people with hearts dedicated to this country, each one doing their best to make things better. They convince me that we have all it takes to make things work. They remind me that I am not alone in my faith in Nigeria. They encourage me to keep doing my own bit, in my own way, to make my country a better place.

Nigeria is more than a geographical expression, it is a people united against all odds, it is a spirit that refuses to let go. Even though it feels like there isn’t much to celebrate now, the sweat and tears that make up this great country on a daily basis helps me to believe that one day, we will celebrate again.

Arit is a highly versatile Content Producer, Presenter, Writer and Speaker. She currently produces and presents The Crunch, the flagship news show for the Ebonylife TV platform, where she discusses and analyses current affairs issues and stories. Arit has also presented travel show Destinations Africa; politics show Naija Politics and cooking show Chefrican, also on the Ebonylife TV platform. She is passionate about telling the African story from a positive and powerful perspective.

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