Monday, August 9, 2010


I pondered on Otunba’s words for a minute and met a brick wall. “So, what do you expect me to do for a country that has not exactly done any tangible thing for her youths” I asked. I wanted to test his patience.

“Build your character in every way. Leadership is not Nigeria’s biggest problem. Character is. It is the only leadership quality we must have; character and capacity. If you have capacity, capability and character, and then if you have the opportunity, you must succeed. A lot of Nigerians have opportunities but they don’t have character or capability, so they can’t cope. Some people have character and capability but no opportunity. Once you can get somebody who has capabilities, character and opportunity, he will make a difference,” he said. My pulse was racing. Suddenly, anger, pain, passion, hope, redemption all welled up inside me; the nation into which I was born was causing my blood to boil.

He must have felt it because, then, he looked at me intently and touched my hands in the gentlest way. “Dare to be different. Do what you can with what you have where you are. Lead where you are. Change starts with you,” he added coolly.

On the way back home, I was speeding on a free lane. Usain Bolt wouldn’t even catch me on this, because I was racing on a future Nigeria fast track. Otunba totally convinced that Nigeria can be great again. I was rethinking Nigeria’s future and it will largely be built on what our generation does with the opportunities, no matter how small, presented us today.

Although our past leaders of Nigeria may have plundered the country’s wealth and resources; they may have raped many Nigerians of their right to decent living and good infrastructure. They may have left the country battered, bruised, naked and ashamed. But enough is enough. Wolves in sheep’s clothing should no more be allowed to continue feeding on Snow white’s inheritance. Nigeria’s future must be protected by the enlightened generation of youths. We must rescue Nigeria from the grip of charlatans masquerading as leaders; not just in the political space, but also in the church, in the mosque, in the market place, in your neighbourhood, on the streets, at your workplace, everywhere. Nigeria must rise up and say no to corruption, religious violence and jungle justice. We should join hands together to build a new Nigeria that everyone can be proud of.

“Salvation lies in true self-character development. When that seed of change and true character grows in you, the ripple effect is felt elsewhere outside you,” I remember my father telling me when we debated about the essence of salvation and how some have abused its meaning with contradictory lifestyles. When I briefed himr about my encounter with Otunba, he had something more to say.

“I agree with your friend Otunba. The failure of leadership is the root of Nigeria's problems. And it stems from the loss of true character. If Nigeria must get it right, then change must begin from inside. May I ask, what are the future leaders doing today?”

“Many things. We are holding mass rallies and sensitizing youths across Nigeria about issues that need to be addressed,”

“Okay, great. It's fine for you to have your youth rallies, mass movement actions and roundtables on the way forward for Nigeria. But truth be told, change begins from self - character development. Each person can make a difference, by visiting the future and contributing to the present. Don’t expect a seventy year old man to do that for you. Only the youth can,” he answered.

“This is our chance of redemption; of which this enlightened youth generation will play a major role. Nigeria is in your hands. Release it to the Potter and let him show you how to get involved in recreating a new Nigeria that you, us and our children’s children can be proud of. The world is waiting for your manifestation,” he continued

“We keep saying that Nigeria is the richest in terms of human and natural resources, Nigeria is the giant of Africa, and all the big clauses we use. But rich nations are envied. Powerful nations are feared. We say we are full of intellectuals. Intellectual nations are admired. But we have failed to be trusted. Only trusted nations made up of people of character will be trusted; if people of character must be trusted. That’s why I say we must go back to the future, today. And this is You, Youths,”

“I concur, dad,”

“By the way, did you know Obama met with some young African leaders recently?” he asked.

“No. What was his message to them,” I asked.

“Yes, YOUTH can,” he replied. Otunba’s wise words came back to me in full force. Don’t give up on Nigeria. Change starts with you.

The Revolution has begun.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010


When elders speak, even the forest animals pause to listen, says an African proverb....

...Well, I’m African. And proudly Nigerian, even though sometimes I feel pushed to describe her as my other country... But frankly, no matter where I go around the world, Nigeria will remain my country. However, I must confess to you that I still feel the Andrew’s rush of blood... I’m fed up of this country. I want to check out, man! ... Although time has refined my thoughts... But really, Naija sucks, man.... the system don’t seem to be working.... I mean, what has this country really done for me so far?

“Oh, bulls...t. Stop kidding yourself, young man. What have you done for your country?”

“Wait, who....what!?” Was it now possible to read people’s minds in a five star hotel lobby these days? My friend, Toyin, forgot that he was in a public place. We turned and saw a towering man staring at us with burning gaze. Toyin almost melted. The man, wearing an expensive lace outfit, looked fifty, or sixty.

“Forgive the interruption. But, you were speaking so loud into your phone. I thought I should let you know that you might be disturbing the guests,” Now, he said this with a smile playing on his lips. Toyin looked confused, like someone who was unsure whether if he should take the man’s words to heart or hand him a piece of his rage. He cut my thoughts into pieces with his next statement.

“Who knows the future? But I know that Nigeria has a future. I can understand your pain and frustration with the system. But this country will always be your fatherland... or motherland,” he smiled again.

“Eh, may I know your name sir,” Toyin asked. His face suddenly looked familiar. Again, he smiled, this time like a father who, two minutes ago, just met his prodigal son.

“I won’t tell you my name since you might want to interview me further. But just call me Otunba,” That made me laugh. Yeah, right.

“Nice to meet you, sir, em, Otunba...sir,” In turn, we both shook his hands and sat down. Just then, one pretty hotel attendant walked up to him.

“Your luggage will be down in a few minutes, sir,” she said.

“Thank you, Juliana,” he replied her. Then, the impression clicked. I must have seen him on TV... or met him at a function.

“I understand there are millions of disillusioned youths all over Nigeria,” he continued when the attendant left.

“Sorry Otunba, with due respect, I am simply angry at the system,” Toyin said politely.

“But of course, that is expected, with the poor leadership the country has suffered over the years. Despite the current situation now, please don’t give up on Nigeria. You don’t have to live this life complaining about Naija all the time, because if you’re the complaining type, there is a lot to complain about,” he said.

“Of course sir, with all the corruption and many other problems that...” Toyin was cut short by his laughter.

“There is a lot you can do by way of constructive participation. That’s why I’m saying what your generation and all of us need do now is to look into the future and ask ourselves, what is the future of this country, what can I do to make Nigeria better? The future of this country depends on the younger generation whom we must nurture,” He noted.

I thought I heard uh uh from the middle aged man who covered his face with a newspaper at the other end.

“But where is the environment, Otunba?” I asked. “So how can Nigerians constructively participate, when we all know that it is a broken record to say that the Nigerian system has failed to empower the youths. Our educational institutions have crumbled. There are not enough jobs for graduates,” I argued.

“I agree, shame on our leaders. But, this is your time. Don’t let them push you to the wall. Push back, with the force of your intellect and character. Yes, the so called leaders have failed. Yes, the past generation may have failed to build the right structures for the present. But please don’t you fail the next generations after you. If there are fifty million disillusioned youths and you can find one hundred willing ‘change’ agents, that’s good enough to affect the country’s future for the better. Be a significant part of the one hundred. Do something. By developing your character and skills, the force of you would be a ripple effect that will affect millions out there,”

This man must be on drugs or he really knows what he is saying.

“The older generation (of Nigerians) may have lost the 20th century. We must not allow the younger generation to lose the 21st century. This is your chance, our chance of redemption. Nigeria is in your hands. Release it to the Potter and let him show you how to be involved in recreating a new Nigeria that you, us and our children’s children can be proud of,” he continued.

“Maybe we should just all pray, I think, Nigeria needs deliverance,” Toyin said.

“But of course. And you, my young man, can be one of the deliverance ministers,” Toyin looked at me quizzically. Otunba laughed.

“What I mean is, your generation has a great opportunity of rethinking Nigeria’s future today. Don’t give up on Nigeria. Sometimes life begins at fifty, you know,” he said, smiling.