Thursday, October 1, 2009


"Happy Independence celebrations!” One of my colleagues greeted me. I replied cheerfully. “Happy Independence celebrations!” she greeted another. He sneered. “What is there to celebrate?” “Having not being kidnapped is something worth celebrating,” another of my colleague quipped. Funny, but sad.

Nigeria clocks 49 today. But a country that chooses not to learn from its past would grope in the present and stumble into the future.

There was a time in this country where you could leave your door open and your neighbours would keep watch for you, even if you were gone for days. No, we don’t even know our neighbours. When we do, we can’t trust them. Security of lives and property is a big issue. There was a time when stealing N100 was a big deal in this country. Today, even a child sneers when you give him N20 as ‘dash’. Today, when some politicians steal a N100 million naira, they are given chieftaincy titles. Age and figure falsification is an acceptable practice today. Ask the Golden Eaglets. There was a time when a 21 year-old Nigerian was really 21. “Everybody does it,” some would say. See? What more shows a warped up value system than a country which runs on dishonesty (no matter how simple it looks), sneers at its heroes and glorify thieves? There was a time when Nigerians obeyed the simplest of traffic laws. Today, the other man on the steering deliberately bashes the side of your car because you are trying to do the right thing while driving. There was a time when the cashier at the supermarket or filling station would run after you to give back your N5, N10, N20 ‘change’. Today, they would tell you, “Haba, bros…” or “na dat small change dey make you hala?” Materialism is celebrated, ‘it doesn’t ‘really’ matter how you made the money, as long as you have it’. There was a time when the right amount of fuel is sold at filling stations. Today, air is pumped into your car or jerry cans and you wonder why after buying 25 litres worth of fuel, your 20 litre can is still not filled up. It’s a long list of there-was-a-time for many Nigerians (you can share yours too). Maybe when we remember how things used to be in a ‘sane’ society, we can start doing something to change the present situation in the country.

The problem with Nigeria lies in the corruption of our value system.
It reflects on the kind of poor leadership the country’s had over the years. That’s the reason why Nigerians vote crooks into government and encourages thieves into positions of authority.

“What is there to celebrate? Nigeria is like a bomb waiting to explode,” my colleague complained. So many things need to be fixed in this country, yes. But ‘this bomb’ shouldn’t be allowed to explode. You and me can make a difference. By what we do with our lives and to our personal value systems in this country. A corrupt system is created by a society who by action or inaction of its people encouraged the erosion of the right value system. There would always be bad people in society, but a functioning system would ensure checks and balances. Haven’t you wondered why Nigerians are so law abiding when they go to foreign countries? It’s because those countries have built up the right value systems.

Nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice. Yes, Nigeria got independence on a platter of gold. But we don’t need a bloody revolution. What Nigeria needs is a mental revolution; a re-orientation of her value system. The sacrifice lies in us giving up tribalism, nepotism, corruption, dishonesty and hypocrisy. It lies in us sacrificing our vast differences on the altar of unity and the right ideals. That is when true independence freedom starts. Until there is a tangible commitment from the leaders and the led to imbibe and promote the right value system as one people, it would still be a long road to salvation. But I believe things can work well for this country. I have faith in my generation to change the course of this nation for good…to greatness.

I welcome you into a new Nigeria where we would be our brothers’ keeper, where equality would be the name of the game in the practice of politics, where institutionalized corruption would be a thing of the past, where things work. 24 hour electricity, good road networks, good governance, a functional education system, robust financial services…; when one, two, three generations after, the presently unborn Nigerians can look back to this history (today), smile and say, yes, these people made the sacrifice for us to be this great nation. Nigeria can be made better, by you and me; because WE can make a big difference, by first adopting the right value system – patriotism, honesty, truth, hardwork, determination…. (fill in the gaps) - and running with it.

“Let us be the change that we seek in the world,” Mahatma Ghandi once said. It takes a small stone to spread a ripple effect on water. Simple things matter. Look into the mirror. A positive national change can start from you; in your family, school, church, work place or community. Then, the ripple effect begins.

Recently, I asked Dr. Myles Munroe how the gap between Third World countries (which include Nigeria) and the First World countries can be reduced. He said “when we begin to see that we don’t need the first world countries to become successful, that the secret of our success is in our own countries.” Nigeria must be built by Nigerians, on the right values.

“There is a lot to celebrate, other than not been kidnapped,” I replied my friend. ‘It’s the divine opportunity to influence a positive change in my generation.”

Happy Independence Celebrations, Nigeria

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