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.