Years ago, in my final year, a particular lecturer asked us to write not more than 8 sentences on “hunger as a biological weapon.” The whole class was baffled because we had a hard time connecting the dots on how food security, which was the topic in question, had anything to do with hunger being a biological weapon. Nevertheless, we all tried our best to put down a few lines before submitting our papers.
Immediately after we submitted our papers, I did a quick Google search to see if I had written down even a semblance of what the lecturer asked of us. I can’t remember everything I wrote down that day but I can vividly remember laughing at myself for all the shalaye that I did on my paper.
Now, years down the line, “hunger as a weapon” makes so much sense to me. We all witnessed how what started as peaceful protests all over the country by young Nigerians demanding the disbandment of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) and the reformation of the entire police force turn bloody. The protests went on for over a week, we trended hashtags online and marched on the streets, yet not a single account of violence was reported… until everything changed. Hungry, ignorant, and probably uneducated Nigerians (more popularly called ‘thugs’) were used as agents of chaos. Our brothers and sisters were killed while we watched, some are still missing till today. Then there was that anti-climax, the one that deflated almost every single Nigerian: the famous speech. That was what changed the dynamics of the whole movement.
However, this is not the time to relent, it is not the time to give up, no matter how deflated we feel. If we give up, then our brothers and sisters would have died for nothing. What we need do is to step back a bit, try to heal or find a way to live with the hurt, then get back to the drawing board and re-strategize. To achieve the Nigeria of our dreams, all hands must be on deck. In whatever capacity we can, we must all step in and prioritize the rebuilding of our nation above all our differences.
The changes we want to see, clearing the rot and the institutional decay, and the election of credible people in government, cannot be achieved in 2 weeks. The race is a marathon and not a sprint, so I want every young Nigerian to ask themselves this question: what can I do to help in rebuilding our nation? What is my role?
I am a young mother and I’ve asked myself repeatedly how mothers of our generation can help to build the Nigeria our kids will be proud of. Here are some of the things we can do:
Teach our kids to be accommodating of people from tribes other than their own
The tribal/religious card has been used to distract and divide us too many times. It is our duty to ensure our children learn that we’re one Nigeria and everyone should be treated with fairness and kindness, irrespective of tribe or religion. It is our duty to teach them not to stereotype an entire tribe because one person from there upset them. It is also our duty, moving forward, to watch what we say around them, especially those tribal snide comments we make unconsciously probably due to our own upbringing and societal orientation. A lot of us grew up hearing terrible things being said about people from other tribes and it automatically affected the way we view such tribes.
Teach them that it is their civic responsibility to vote
We can spend all our time teaching them good leadership and followership skills but if they sit at home during elections, as most of us do presently, the Nigeria we will all be proud of will still be unattainable. They should know from a very young age that it is their sole responsibility to vote and be voted for into leadership positions.
Grassroots sensitization in our local women assemblies
If this period has taught me anything, it is that it can no longer be business as usual. Young Nigerians have undergone a mind shift and we must sustain the tempo if we want to see tangible results down the line. In our women’s meetings, we must do away with the culture of voting for whoever shares bags of rice and other food items; we must do away with the culture of the women leaders deciding for us collectively on where to place our votes during elections. We must learn and educate our colleagues who do not know better that voting a candidate is a personal choice, based on the conviction that the mandate will be delivered when the person gets to the office.
I believe that together, we can build the Nigeria of our dreams, for our children and children’s children.