This is a difficult but very important tale. It may seem far-fetched because the Africa my children will experience will be worlds apart from the one I knew. It will be akin to when my parents told me about the Biafran War and the torment Igbos went through as they battled for freedom. This time, however, it will end in the favor of those fighting for a better future. Our history will shock our children but also remind them to appreciate the struggle, and lean in to maintain the good work, so that history will not repeat itself. This is what I pray for.
My six year old asked me recently how come we experience power outages in Nigeria, and for a while I was tongue-tied. I didn’t have the slightest idea on how to begin to explain to my child that this issue, among others, has been an uphill battle since I was a child myself. I couldn’t recount the story of how we have been laden with poor electricity, terrible healthcare and abysmal educational standards, topped off with a total absence of basic amenities required for a normal life. Today, I feel hope curling its calming hand over my discouraged heart to believe that this will no longer be the norm. I feel our story being rewritten.
There will come a time when I will narrate the tale of old Africa to my children. I will describe to them the first time I heard Nigeria referred to as the ‘giant of Africa’. I was only 8 years old, but I imagined that Africa must be a real disappointment for such a nation to be considered to be that mighty. They will discover that this description was as a result of the apparent natural resources the country had, and the extraordinary potential that it posed, even though it was mismanaged. This will not make sense to them, because they will see the nation finally living up to its title, boldly and strongly.
I will tell them of a time when, despite the fact that we were blessed with so many tourist destinations, we preferred to travel out due to the deplorable conditions of our own attractions. I will show them pictures of how these sites looked before the welcome changes were made. They will wonder how this could have been, because by that time there will be a flood of visitors flocking to all our hotspots. They will see how the nation reaps from this positively.
I will unpack my own personal experience with the poor healthcare system when a specialist at one of the most reputable hospitals in Lagos flippantly gave me a wrong diagnosis that could have caused irreparable damage. I was informed that I had to terminate a pregnancy because the doctor could only see “debris” in my uterus. Thank God I insisted on a second opinion from another hospital. It will be so good to live in a world where there is complete reform in the healthcare system.
They will learn about the time when people preferred living outside the shores of Africa (even though the colour of their skin was seen as repulsive to others) because the people understood that being here meant that their basic survival would come at a price too high. By the time I tell this story, there will be a great blend of different nationalities living and thriving here.
My children will be told about a not-so-distant time when our education could not compete on a global scale, because our government preferred to line their own pockets, as opposed to developing high and affordable educational standards for everyone, irrespective of social class. With great joy, I will see our universities listed next to top schools around the world as the best.
I will attempt to recount the innocent lives that were lost in the crosshairs of the terrible fight against bad governance. Their sacrifice will not be in vain.
This is an encouraging time for me as an African. All my life, I have seen us discover ways to placate ourselves in spite of the odds that continue to cause us harm. However, now I am seeing the united resolve to fight for a better place that the next generation will be proud of. Africa has bled for quite a while, and in times past, we had sought external help to stop the outpouring, indicating that we lacked faith in our own solidarity to get the outcome that we needed. This is no longer the case.
With the upsurge of social media, the issues that we have managed to view as normal for so long are now under a magnifying glass; plainly witnessed by the whole world. However, this time we have at long last recognized the power we have as a people and are now banding together to transform and shape the narrative going forward. It is amazing to see the solidarity among African nations for the first time, to reject the old hand the government have consistently utilised in running the systems, and to clear a path for the new. I can feel a shift taking place, and although it will still require some time and effort to get to where we ought to be, I know for certain that the journey will be worth every second.
They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. This sentiment has never rang more true. This could very well be the moment that Africa rediscovers its better, collective self. The only way to go now is forward; stay encouraged, for better days are coming.
As I gaze at my family, I recognize that there is also a shift in my mindset. I will no longer have a slouch as I go about raising them in a country that I grew up in, that is wrought with more negativity than positivity. I will have a quickening in my steps because of the assurance that better days are looming ahead. I will work joyfully twice as hard to furnish them with access to all the necessary tools needed to finish the transformative work that has only just begun.
This is the Africa I will fight for my children to see.