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by Joseph Sewedo Akoro

Growing up in Nigeria has seen me through myriads of [developing] situations in the country. I am fortunate to be born in the 80s and to experience different governments- military and now, democracy: giving me the wisdom and premise to base my comparison of social and economic development in the country.

I remember vividly the failed attempt to transit from military regime to a democratic in 1993. An election, which supposedly had the Late MKO Abiola as winner, was held but amidst chaos.  This was the first time I learned of the word “riot”. On June 12 1993, children were asked to leave school for their homes before closing hours, private and public workers followed suite. Workers who were not rich enough to own cars had to trek home with their children, for lack of public transport. My mother who at the time worked at the Lagos State Teaching Hospital (LUTH) arrived quickly at my school situated at James Robertson Street, Surulere in Lagos State- to pick up my brothers and me in a Datsun car- that had a government plate number, although my parents privately owned it. This privilege we enjoyed because my father was the then secretary of the Mushin Local Government. Albeit, no vehicle was exempted from the un-written rule of attaching green leaves on your vehicles anytime there was a riot. Those who had to trek, must hold onto a green leaf, which identifies them to be in support of the cause for riot. No longer my mother came to get us from school than we arrived home- a government allocated apartment at 26 Coker Street, Ilupeju- Mushin area of Lagos State. We were safe. As children, we had very little idea of what was happening. We were happy to be home and played the catcher game. Yes, this is a privileged life of the family of a “high-ranking” government official.

The 1993 election and the subsequent death of M.K.O Abiola remain very significant in the history of democracy in Nigeria. Six years after, Nigeria successfully transited into democracy, which it still enjoys today. This is relatively some progress since the attempt of ensuring the restoration of democracy in the country. Indeed, the government administration changed but the rulers remained and the economic problems lingered.  Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo who had one being a Military Head of State in 1979 became President of the Federal Republic in 1999. A new constitution was developed and we assumed a [new] Nigeria.

Is this [new] Nigeria really favourable? Does it make any positive difference in the lives of citizens? Were youth prioritised and have more opportunities to employment?

Last weekend saw a horrible event of over a million young people who had gathered at various locations across the federation to pass an entrance examination into the Nigerian Immigration Service (NIS). This exercise appeared to be another disgraceful show of failure in governance. An acquaintance that was one of the many young people narrated how horrifying the situation was at the National Stadium in Lagos. Brief, the exam did not hold and no report of what has happened to the 1,000 Naira application fees of 1, 254, 959 young people of Nigeria.

A few weeks ago, I had written an article titled “INSOUCIANT PEOPLE, INSOLENT RULERS, INSOLABLE WORLD PROBLEM”. The article was in reaction to the Boko Haram attack on children in their school hostel. I critiqued the insouciance of many Nigerians and had suggested, that the insolence exhibited by our (Nigerian) rulers would spread across the nation, should we all continue to keep silent. If we feel fortunate to be alive today, we should remember that we are victim of what might happen tomorrow.

Yesterday’s event points to this warning, many powerless young people were made to suffer; they were out rightly robbed, not only of their money but their rights. Reports have it that there were death cases. Shall we then begin to talk about human rights without referring to it as being Western? Do Nigerians, especially younger one understand and know what these rights are? Do they believe in the power of their might? Where are the non-apologetic youths who will not easily be bought over just by an invitation to Aso Rock? Isn’t it time for an indefinite declaration of #OccupyNigeria?

Today, I am in deep sadness of what has happened to my [own] people. I am in an excruciating pain and profuse tears, thinking of the people who lost their lives in the quest to [serve] their own country. A friend of mine on facebook wrote: “These bodies hunt my very soul. On their lifeless faces, I see my own brothers and my own sisters. They honestly just wanted a decent paying job. They might have tried all other things. No electricity to sell cold drinks. No good roads to move goods around. No bank to give a small loan. It’s all advertisement. They even went to have their Masters borrowing money from all kinsmen, thinking that would help. They were tired of borrowing or waiting on money from uncles and friends who were feeding too many mouths. Now, tell me what they have done wrong? They were Nigerians. They had dreams. They thought these dreams were valid. And yes, they should be valid but take a look at them. All gone with their stories. All gone with their tears. I’m afraid nothing will be done. Nothing. And now the rest of us are the victims.” I share this sentiment.

I recall the statement of Lupita Nyong’o – “ No matter where you are from, your dream is valid.” Lupita might be right but I am sure that, this might not be correct in the Nigeria context. I think dreams are validated and conditioned by the environment factor upon which they depend. Nigerians living in Nigeria, dream but die in those dreams- no validation, no realization. The socio-political environment is obstructive to progress. Living in Nigeria gets more dreadful each day.

Indeed, I write from a very comfortable place (France) where I enjoy my rights just by being a [temporary] resident by virtue of study. As a young student – no so young, I enjoy privileged benefits in monthly allowances that are regular, medical insurance and transportation subsidy. And yes! I pay taxes- religiously. These benefits are far-fetched in Nigeria- my mother land and the land that bore my placenta. These are benefits I never enjoyed in Nigeria. Regardless, I am unhappy and feel tortured miles away because I consider Nigeria my home. It is unfortunate how ones life could be defined by her/his place of birth.

I am one of those who are proud of being Nigerian and who have the sentiment of being “the change you want to see”. However, the thought of contributing to change in Nigeria seem delusive, where everyone seems to have ulterior motive and nurture a selfish interest. I am frustrated! My patriotism is fading.


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