Everyone has said something about Nigeria’s numerous problems and opportunities. There’s nothing new under the Sun. Nevertheless, for the ignorant, the forgetful, the curious, the historians and the curators of knowledge, Chude Jideonwo has written acollection of short, engaging essays, speeches if you like, that his generation, the one before, and the ones to come should take seriously.
In “Are we the turning point generation?” Chude – arguably one of Nigeria’s most influential young people below 30 – x-rays the past of our beloved country with boldness and wit beyond his age. He borrows a leaf from some of Chinua Achebe’s most important works; highlights Lee Kuan Yew’s narrative on Singapore; plus stories from Israel and China. He is unashamed and fearless to tell the truth.
“Government is the single most important force for change in any society – print that and paste in on your door if you want to do something to change your country,” he writes. That’s a simple, sound and insightful piece of advice. It took me several years to realize how the wrong people in government can sabotage the most brilliant of ideas from private and non-governmental initiatives.
Chude acknowledges the relevance of activists, freedom fighters, the opposition, radical lawyers, dogged journalists and progressive clergymen in governance; nevertheless he emphasizes the equally crucial need for competent and vision-driven individuals with the capacity to transform the government from within. “Many capable leaders will be flawed and will have undesirable attributes, but Bola Tinubu need not be flawless if he could create the political environment for a visionary like Babatunde Fashola,” he argues.
“Nations are not changed by the innocent and the unscarred, and people who have an unblemished record. In reality such people do not exist…”
He questions the existence of “the Nigerian dream” – whatever that means – and cautions against neglecting the country’s peculiarities as a nation and the dangers of outright transplantation of ideas and solutions from other parts of the world.
“How is it that perfectly reasonable and principled people get into the Nigerian government and suddenly begin to speak in tongues that normal people cannot understand? How come what is crystal clear to everybody else is not at all clear to those who make and drive public policy? Governance should be made unattractive to those who only want the easy life. Our government is one continuous owambe party, and it’s time for the music to stop.”
Chude is sharp and crisp as he sets aside sentiments whilst highlighting the failures and successes of some of our country’s past and present leaders. “Mr. Ribadu was clearly not a politician and didn’t have the skill set to convince, to persuade, to influence, maybe even to inspire. It was like watching a train wreck… the failure of his candidacy was spectacular. Mr. Ribadu was a fine public official, a model for effectiveness in service that has and will inspire a whole new generation – that much remains.”
He draws important lessons from these examples as he urges Nigerians to continue to ask the right questions and indentify and support people with an agenda for our country – one of competence, development and nation building.
The headline question remains: Could our generation, Generation Y, be that critical generation in which Nigeria takes a decisive turn and step into the reality of the ever-elusive dream of a Nigeria that works like the most advanced of economies? “The young have it in them to be as clueless and as corrupt and as close-minded as the old. Our social media savvy and general openness to technology will not by itself save us.”
Chude does not pretend to have all the solutions. He presents a 52-point roadmap for incremental change as an alternative to forceful radical change. However, the onus lies on each one of us to step up and save our nation. “We are all we’ve got, and this should be the turning point generation. Let’s keep faith. If we stumble, let’s rise. When we fall, let’s rebound. Let’s refuse to let Nigeria go; let’s insist that it must work.” I agree.
Gbenga Awomodu is a versatile storyteller in the digital age. Writer, blogger, editor and content strategist, he writes from Lagos, Nigeria. Follow him on twitter: @gbengaawomodu.