Like a leaden weight, I have borne this message for many months now. Only recently have I had the opportunity to commit these words to paper. I know that your country will be having its elections this year. I know that expectations are high and low at same time. I know emotions in your country oscillate between despondency and hope. I do not blame you, even outsiders think of Nigeria in such ambivalent terms; a land at once full of potential and yet perennially underachieving.
You have seen three elections in this current republic. They have been total charades. Ballot boxes stolen and stuffed, people maimed, electorates robbed of their mandates, inept leaders finding their way into office lacking a plan. All these have left you cynical. You no longer care. You have left the dirty game to the marauders. Even in power these highway men continue to insult your intelligence, your pride and your rights. They bleed your country dry and leave you raped, relieved of a living, relieved of your hope.
But still, in that indefatigable optimism that is undoubtedly Nigerian, you have begun to hope again. “Perhaps in 2011 my vote will count” you say. Perhaps a leader with a strategy to bring Nigeria from the brink will get elected. Perhaps our law enforcement agents will tackle the forces that will try to seize the ballot box. Maybe this time election riggers will be prosecuted. Maybe for once your politicians will stop playing ethno-religious cards which are actually just selfish cards. You fantasize; perhaps in 2011, kidnappings will cease, agitation will become non-violent, simple infrastructure will put in place. There will be power, you dare to imagine.
I know your hope is constantly being assaulted. Some Direct Capture machines for the elections were whisked away under the nose of airport security, leaving them bewildered. A state party chairman was murdered, a presidential aspirant has threatened violent change if elections don’t go as planned. The doomsday strategists of the West suspect Nigeria might not survive till 2015 or even these elections.
But I charge you to remain resolute in your defiant hope. You must hold on stubbornly to your demands for a saner nation. You cannot allow the lethargy of the last decade to continue. For, if you do, it will be fatal. I am glad you roused yourself when Nigeria was almost ruled by
proxy earlier last year.
I am however disappointed you appear unbothered that your national assembly alone consumes 25% of the government’s recurrent expenditure. I am surprised you have not taken to the streets. You appear to have many other priorities. Where are your student colleagues; the
student unions that hounded and harangued military dictators? Did you see UK students protesting their increased fees? Where is your NLC and TUC that constantly questioned and stalemated fuel price increases? Why do you slumber, my friend?
I hope you will be awaken this year and rise to your full height. I hope you will protect your votes. I know the thugs and ‘area boys’ will be armed. I do not ask you to be violent or engage armed men. But I ask that you be curious and united. Register, vote, wait around to hear the results of your street’s polling booth, record the announced results on your phones, record happenings around you, document everything, send text messages to media houses, upload videos to YouTube, use Facebook and twitter if you wish. It will be dangerous but it is your future that is at stake here. You will be the ones that will have to look for those non-existent jobs, it will be your businesses that will be crippled by lack of credit, epileptic power and bad roads. Your wives, your children will have to visit those ill-equipped hospitals. Your siblings will have to struggle with several other millions to get one of the odd 350,000 spaces in Nigerian universities. You will then flock in your tens of thousands to the democracies that bother to care. You will then man their industries, guard their gates and clean their dead. You will lose the most if you choose to go back to sleep, look
the other way and mind your business.
I must stop now and leave you with this one message. Don’t just be full of prayerful hope; be practical in your believing. I know you are deeply religious but I ask you to take your fate in your hands and not just leave it in the hand of the supernatural. Rouse yourself, rise and mind
Nigeria’s business. Your country needs you!
‘Till we meet again.
Image via Workbloom