by Tunde Leye
Everyday, all around me, I see a Nigeria that the older generation has bequeathed to us. It is a nation where nothing works, whose citizens are harassed the world over simply because they carry a green passport and one which it takes a lot of effort to be proud of.
Whenever I meet people of my generation, in our late twenties up to mid thirties, I make it a point of duty to repeatedly remind them of the massive task of building almost everything in this nation that lies ahead, and how the responsibility for building these things lies squarely on the shoulders of our generation over the next four decades. The older generation have failed to build much of anything for us to build on. We still have the same challenges we had on the eve of our independence very present today, albeit magnified by our now massive population and years of corruption. The identity problem exists, the infrastructure deficit is greater, industries are dead, unemployment is alarming, education is a joke, blackouts are the order of the day, citizens are killed by terrorists, politics is tribal, the media and creative arts still live on crutches, we are light years away from food sufficiency, the list is endless. Nigerians achieve things not because of their government, but in spite of the government.
All that my generation asks is that they take the task of leaving a Nigeria intact for us to build seriously.
It would seem that, like the villains in cartoons, Nigerian politicians are usually so bent on taking power by any means that they do not mind presiding over a landscape that is devoid of life. Hec, they will even go ahead and destroy the nation with their actions, inactions and greed to rule over the devastated abyss that will be left behind after their havoc has been wrought. This generation that has led Nigeria either publicly wielding political power or out of public view through shady machinations is aging and gradually dying off. Also, we are thankfully in a democracy, hence those that are in the majority are the most powerful influencers of the direction of things. If we had been in a dictatorship, civilian or military, this dying generation would have easily replaced itself with a new generation of their kind. But we can step in now, and reclaim our nation from the trajectory that it is already on. it is the urgency of this situation that I require the majority of my generation to see and commit themselves to the aspect of this nation that they intend to build and then position themselves to take leadership of those areas and be the drivers in those given areas. I, for example, am committed to building a Nigerian Publishing Industry that will not be only critically successful, but commercially successful enough for all the practitioners within its value chain to have a good living from working within it. Therefore, my actions and all have been geared towards making this goal a reality. I hope to achieve it early enough so I can then move on to giving back and use the lessons I have learnt, plus the network I would have had to create to achieve my goal to contribute my quota to building this nation. Building the nation is not equal to occupying public office. As it will be clear from what I described above, there is not mention of public office. Any service in public office will most likely be incidental except events happen that make me reconsider this. It is commitments like these that we need to see and drive passionately across board that will build this nation. And our ambition has to be great if we want to pull this nation back from the precipice it is into the greatness it has the potential for. We must not be content with handouts and crumbs from the generation that has clearly left us with next to nothing as a nation but be ready to take on the highest levels within the spaces we intend to build. It took some young men in the late eighties to have ambition to take on the top and start their own banks for us to have the banking industry that today is the highest employer of graduate labour in the country.
The fear for many of us is the fear of hunger in one form or the other. Most of our parents toil for about three decades to see us through school and it is the hope that we will face our work after this so we can earn a living, take care of our parents and start our own families. Dedicating time to pursuit of things like building a nation which frankly doesn’t care about us and jeopardizing earning our living doesn’t make sense. Making mistakes when starting things is not an option many of us can take. Our parents have not stolen enough money to be a safety net for us and our leadership over the decades of earning oil money has not created any safety nets for us. So rather than try to work for the collective, we focus on building our own personal countries – our homes, and for those who can afford it, our serviced apartments and estates. And trust me, these are valid fears. If you lose your means of livelihood in Nigeria, you are so on your own in most cases that the fear of such loss causes us to put up with the worst of degradations and lose sight of the bigger picture.
But you see, we are the generation that must do the double work of making a living for our private lives and still do the hard work of building our nation simultaneously. Again, I will give my own example, because it is the one I know best. Whilst holding down a time consuming day job in banking, I still write extremely regularly and in large volumes and run my publishing and media business as it is at the core of the part of Nigeria I want to build. As Naruto (sorry if you are not a fan of anime) would say, it is my way of Ninja.
Everyday, all around me, I see a Nigeria that the older generation has bequeathed to us. It is a nation where nothing works, whose citizens are harassed the world over simply because they carry a green passport and one which it takes a lot of effort to be proud of. I do not want to leave such a Nigeria to my own kids. I do not want them to look around forty years from now and still have the same problems I have today within and outside Nigeria. We need a critical mass of my generation thinking this way so that we can do the hardwork of building this nation.
As the bombs continue to go off all over the country, all I can think of in the sadness that covers my heart is the cost of accumulated years of corruption. It is why we don’t have a working national identity system. It is why the CCTV in Abuja isn’t working. It is why our vehicle registration system is so inept that we can’t track the owners of the cars used in the bombings.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.