Opinion: Diary of a confused activist

by Temitope Gafaar

I am a helpless activist; human rights, environmental, political, and religious; sometimes, even animal. I want things to change in Nigeria.

“God save us all.”

I have been saying that a whole lot more in recent times. “God please protect me, my family, my friends and my country. It is well.” Because no one seems to do that, protect. Because we are all confused activists but some of us do not bother denying it.

Those were the words that popped into my head when I heard about the Dana air crash that tragically claimed over 160 lives. When I sit in front of my laptop and read about the kidnappings and bombings that are happening in Nigeria, I offer my sorry excuse of a prayer and move on to the next story. Best-case scenario, I comment on a couple of blogs, where I never fail to insult the government and the persons who run it. I might go on Facebook or Twitter, post the appropriate postables and tweet the right tweetables, crossing my finger and hoping other people re-tweet. I might propose some grand gestures and ideas that are sure to fight the crime in Nigeria; all to ease my conscience for minute or so.

But without a doubt, I always go on to the next blog post, or watch a movie or read a book or just cook, all in the hope of cheering myself up. You see, I need the cheering up, not the families grieving neither their mournfully departed nor those coughing up ransom money; definitely not those battling near-fatal injuries in dilapidated and run-down hospitals. No. Me, the comfortable student studying abroad and thousands of Nigerians like me, shake our heads dolefully and move on. In our helplessness, we deceive ourselves that we also need comfort.

I am a helpless activist; human rights, environmental, political, and religious; sometimes, even animal. I want things to change in Nigeria. For example, I want the modern-day slavery and child abuse that has plagued our country for years to stop. Labor laws that exist to ensure members of the skilled or unskilled labor forces are being paid fairly and treated justly will put a dazzling smile on my face. Of course, wanting is not the same as doing. Doing requires the conviction and the strength to challenge the practices we have all grown up with and learnt to accept, and, in the height of delusion, justify. Doing requires that we check ourselves and make sure we are not guilty of what we accuse others of, because when it comes of social justice, we are all villains and perpetrators. It’s when one realizes that they may have to pay the house girl more money and treat her with more respect, while facing the almost impracticable task of convincing others to do likewise, that the question arises, how much conviction is needed to stand up for what is right? No matter the number of people who oppose you, distract you or simply do not care? Is it cool to be a so-called activist only when you have enough people in you camp?

Nobody wants to listen to the whining of the upper middle class, but I do have a few questions before I become a helpful or activated activist. Where does one even begin when the ‘holier than thou’ ideal has been established? How many so-called activists are required to even make this a legitimate cause? What qualifies as fair treatment? How can we be certain it is ensured? Who do we meet to air our concerns? Do we have to offer any bribes to officials in high places, because God forbid we stain our squeaky clean fingers? That will only offend the political activist in us. Or should I start simple, convince and make my parents understand that their treatment of the household staff is inhumane and unfair? Should I hope I pose a credible enough argument to make them forego the status quo and hope that they also convince their friends, in continuation of a beautiful circle of life? Questions like these and more plague the mind of a confused activist. It reads like the Yoruba adage, ‘enu dun rofo’, which can be translated to, ‘It is easier to cook vegetable soup with words than with action’. I have joined the millions of Nigerians that sit at home, or grant interviews (since the media seems to be the only sector that is booming in our dwindling economy), condemning any and every thing with strong arguments; and proposing beautiful plans to stop some sort of problem. But the solution ends there. Or no? I am a college-educated ajebuttah and surely, all those sociology classes should have taught me how to save this country.

And that is just one problem. How do we tackle the alarming homelessness rates on my home country? How do we aid the millions of underfunded and impoverished shelters and orphanages? How do we ensure discrimination, based on ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, political views, and age, becomes a thing of the past? We need to stop hanging on to meaningless prejudices that only hold us back. How do we curb the widespread environmental pollution that has gripped Nigeria, without most of her people acknowledging or noticing? And I do not refer to the littering of the roads, but rather to our carbon emission. I am also referring to how we use so much plastic and discard them, without thinking to recycle them. I came back home last December and had half a mind to stuff all the empty plastic bottles that littered my house into a suitcase and bring them over to be recycled here. Because we need to start worrying about our carbon footprint and the dire results that are caused. We are starting to notice some these; the heavy flooding that occurs during the rainy season, the rise of the ocean surface and the increased heat. The amount of cars and industries in Lagos alone makes me fear for what inhaling all these toxic fumes can lead to in the future; ours, and our children. Conservation. Our leaders do not seem to understand it. We do not seem to understand the enormity of our actions. But how does one educate everybody? How does convince people to take a minute our their busy lives and donate more than a thought to Nigeria*s future?

No doubt, our inability, reluctance or failure to impart and impact the change we so desperately want to see in our motherland is shameful. It is so easy to talk about how we, the youth, are the future of Nigeria, and how we all ‘bleed Naija’ but truth is, we have never had to. Till then, we might just enter the circle of life and pray for a good job, preferably in an oil company, like Shell. We might even choose to go down the ignorant path and find a reason why the victims must have deserved what they got. Why were the Ogoni people living so close to an oil drilling site anyways? And why haven’t the Christians in the North moved South already?  We might proclaim ourselves the smart ones, the ones that knew what airlines to trust and which suya vendor to buy from. But even from behind our high fences and tinted car windows, Nigeria’s problems are our problems.

Alas, it is not so easy to sojourn to obodo-oyinbo, learn their ways, and return, as shining knights riding our Louis Vuitton luggage and Christian Loubotins, to fix the 10th failed state in Africa, 14th in the world. What can I say or do to transform the sixth most dangerous African country to live in, a country with a life expectancy that is thirty percent below the world average? We all agree something must be done, that some things must change. Until it dawns on us that we must do likewise.

God save us all.

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

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Comments (16)

  1. You guys have talked… and gone, just as you predicted. I didn't see this at the time. Can you guys come back. I have the solution. I am the Nigerian you never knew existed.

    The solution involves coming together physically. Are you ready to leave your computer, leave your family, friends and your previous worldview? Do you have the MORAL COURAGE to do it? If you can, I guarantee you things will change… in one generation, not one year!

    @OIbhagui

  2. You are absolutely right volunteerism is definitely the way to go. I have some friends that have recently started doing some volunteer work at an orphanage and I agree that if more of us volunteer on a regular basis and actually help people the country will get better. Not to lay blame but perhaps this should become a major focus of churches, mosques and so on. Lead your flock to volunteer and help the less fortunate regularly and the nation will change.

  3. I enjoy d article, bt d problem wit us nja is that, we say things that we dnt do. When wat is said is not wat is mearnt, den wat need to be done, wil not be done. We shud let action speak not words. Tnks.

  4. Beautiful write, well thought out words. Its so easy to point out flaws and failings of others while we loose sight of our own shortcomings. Its also very unwise to list out problems without practicable and realistic ways of solving them. That's the root of OUR problems.

    First of all let's get one fact straight. We, you and I are the NOW of Nigeria!!! Your niece and lil cousin and 4 year old neighbour are the future of Nigeria. The youths of any country are the NOW not the FUTURE so we must accept and respond to the issues battling us in this Nation with not just "oral" or word of mouth solution, we must walk the talk.

    @Sir farouk, never underestimate the impact of a small act. So just keep doing the little you can do. A life somewhere, somehow will be better for it.

    What do we do with our spare time, our weekends? We need to cultivate the habit of volunteering. More so that we have an irresponsible government. We all have to step in to assist this visionless and selfish government. Volunteerism is best when you don't ve material or cash gift to give. When you volunteer you give your time, you change lives, you impact the society and most importantly your own life will be transformed. Volunteering will set you on a path of self awareness and discovery. So adopt a Cause and work passionately to make Nigeria better. Do your bit and pass on the baton.

    Y'all should think about this "the problems of the world, Nigeria especially are numerous and a wise man knows he can't solve all, still he knows which to tackle".

    From a concerned "ajebuttah".lol

  5. Ȋ̝̊̅'m guilty of dis do guilty jst as d writer is,4as long as Ȋ̝̊̅ can rmembr Ȋ̝̊̅'ve hated d idea of droppin litter on d streets yet up till date Ȋ̝̊̅ stl do it @tyms, Ȋ̝̊̅'ve alwys tlkd abt d change and ve done nuffin abt it, lyk hw do we go abt dis change, dis much needed change? Bit by bit or radical?

  6. Lol the irony in ending the post in 'God save us all'. I really enjoyed reading this post and could not help but nod my head in agreement and once again continuing the cycle of the Nigerian mentality; suffering in silence, accepting things the way the are , making our own bed. Its surprising how we can feel comfortable living like this. I mean why else do we? Just my own ₦3.25k ( 2 cents , Exchange rate $1 = $162.20 ).

    1. I don't think I could have said it better…but the post seemed hypocritical to me. The writer complains about doing something and how it should be changed, and then turns right around and does the exact same thing she is condemning….what has she done since she realized this to change things?

    2. Instead she is still instilling the same 'God' mindset, that keeps Nigerians from getting anything done because they believe all they have to do is wait for this said god to come and fight their battles, because again "silence is the best answer".

      1. I think she's saying that she is also guilty of it. That's the whole point of the article. She's talking about herself and others

    3. I would just say that nothing can really be done until the Nigerians that are, sadly going through all those things personally, get angry, putting all things, aside and request change…even if I had plans to make a better Nigeria, if I don't have support of the people, maybe because I refused to infuse religion, then what will be the point if dying.

    4. All she had really done was tell us the truth but the thing about the truth is we already know it and at the same time you can't really be mad at someone for speaking the truth (I guess lol) . From what I had gotten from the post, the writer never really said how it should be changed ,which is very understandable due to the complexity of the situation..she however questioned how we may solve it , like we do everyday. *sigh* All in all its not the end of the road, yet, and at this point since just about none of us are doing anything for a change..we can only hope that we do what's better for ourselves the next time the right time comes around again and again and again.

  7. I can definitely relate to everything you have said. The most that I can say I've done is be nice to those serving me and tip them regularly. But this solves almost nothing. People are dying, people are being treated terribly and so many of us watch it happen. I think that many more organizations need to rise up to fix our country. The money is there, maybe concentrated at the top, but the money is there fund these organizations. Nigeria must change and I think that people are realizing this more now. This might just be one article but soon there will be more articles, and then more action. Keep up the good work. Spread the word to other Nigerians and inspire them to fight for change. God bless you and bless our country.

  8. I suffer from the same mindset, I feel like I want to do lot more and sometimes I have some decent ideas of how to go about but then I feel like being an activist in our country requires extra effort, you have to survive first. I have adopted an approach of doing my little best to shun corruption and report it where I see it, educate those I interact with on non-discrimination and so forth. I believe that the best many of us wanna be activists can do is to maintain our integrity, try and impact out immediate community and hope that if enough of us do it, Nigeria will change for the better.

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