Few years ago I was with a group of fellow Nigerian students and we were discussing the sorry state of the country. As usual we started blaming our leaders for all the problems in the country, accusing them of being insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. As we shared our different stories, I noticed an Oyibo (European) classmate listening intently. And from nowhere, he just asked the most annoying question ever:
“But why do you people allow your leaders get away with this?”
We all looked at him like he was crazy and then attempted to explain that our leaders were among the most selfish, unconcerned, and wicked types the world has ever produced. But the Oyibo boy paid no heed, he just continued:
“You Nigerians are among the most traveled, educated and passionate people in the world, I have no doubts that if you really put your minds to it, you can make your country work.”
Again, we tried to defend ourselves and explain that we couldn’t make the necessary changes because our leaders were bad, corrupt, wicked…
Several years later, I realised that my European classmate was right after all: the problem with Nigeria is not really her leaders, but the collective passivity of her citizens. The Oxford dictionary defines being passive as “accepting or allowing what happens or what others do, without active response or resistance.” This definition is captured very well in late Fela’s song “suffering and smiling.” We have simply become desensitized to things that should cause a national outrage. Look around you, the number of women dying during childbirth is not getting lower, the number of people dying in road accidents is on the increase. Unemployment rates are higher than before, insecurity is on the rise, …etc
Instead of confronting these sad issues, we have become experts at saying things like “one day one day, e go better”, without making any concrete efforts to make things better. Sadly, as events in recent times have proven, when we don’t do anything about a problem, it doesn’t just magically go away, it gets worse.
How did we get to this sorry state? Well we all know the answer: a refusal to take a stand. We would rather dance, party, engage in silly debates about celebrities, run commentaries about red carpet events, than make any tangible efforts to effect change. We get emotional when we hear sad stories of avoidable tragedies suffered by our fellow countrymen and women (sometimes even children) and then proceed to write an obligatory “R.I.P” or some other sentimental message. It ends there, when we are called to try and do something about it, we make excuses. When someone gets bold enough to do something about a societal problem, some of us make comments like:
“ah…it will not work!” “This is not America o!” “Our leaders won’t listen!“
And for those who eventually get convinced to join a cause, they get easily tired after a few weeks or months of waiting. They won’t lift a finger to go the extra mile, they are just happy to say a word in support or sign an online petition. They would rather watch and see what happens. If nothing happens after a while, they say “I no talk am? Nothing go happen jare!“
Why do we find it very difficult to go the extra mile to achieve any goal that is for the greater good of others, unless we stand to gain somehow? Why do we defend our lack of enthusiasm with recycled lame excuses? Why do we even bring up stories of people who tried something similar in the past but did not succeed without finding out why they failed? Why don’t we learn how to do things differently? Why do we continue to bleat about the same leaders, year in year out, generation after generation?
Now I don’t mean to be overly critical or act like I am better, this is also a message to me. I know very well that change is a very hard thing to achieve. We only need to look at the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jnr and other great men and women to see the costly sacrifices they made. But alongside those sacrifices came great honour. The honour of seeing a better society, the honour of knowing their children would be spared the pain of their experiences, the honour of doing the right thing and the honour of being role models to millions around the world. There can be no honour without sacrifice: of time, resources or even comfort.
Our society is getting progressively worse and no one but us can change it. This change will not come easy or fast, but with determination and purpose it will surely come. We only need to look at the Egyptians and other countries involved in the Arab Spring to know this fact. I am by no means advocating chaos and mass rallies, I think there are other safer routes to achieve societal improvements and hold our leaders accountable.
Unlike our parents who were too terrified of the military dictatorships in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s to demand for changes, we have the advantage of a democracy. We also have the advantage of social media to get our voices heard. All we need to do is use those voices to speak up, not just swap pictures of our latest hair-dos or entertainment gossip. We cannot continue to remain passive and pray. God will not do for us what we can do for ourselves!
Nigerians, we are a great people. Our future is bright, we have the legacy of great men and women who fought hard to give us an independent nation. We are among the best in the world, we are enterprising, we are intelligent, we are hardworking, we are simply outstanding! We the youths, can harness all our talents and make this nation great again. We can replicate in this country what we enjoy in other nations: safer roads, better healthcare, improved educational standards, etc. This is the 21st century, we have many things in our favour. All we need is determination and a refusal to give up easily. We cannot afford to do otherwise; posterity will not judge us kindly if allow passivity consume us.
As my own way of holding the Federal Road Safety Corps accountable for the high statistics of fatal road accidents, I have started an online campaign. Please join this campaign and help by giving suggestions on this links, thank you:
In conclusion, I leave this comment by MIT professor and modern-day philosopher Noam Chomsky:
“Passivity may be the easy course, but it is hardly the honourable one.”
Photo Credit: clutchmagonline.com
Theresa Omoronyia is a trained business analyst and has degrees in Management Science and Computer Science. She lives in Glasgow, UK with her husband and son. Theresa enjoys being with people and her passion is to help those who are hurting. She has worked as a volunteer in orphanages, and as a peer educator and music tutor to secondary school students in Nigeria.