From snippets I get on social media (more than a handful of pictures from Facebook and Twitter), Nigeria is effectively grounded. People occupied (that word again) the streets demanding change. I’d been bothered about one thing all along – having been incapable of joining the protest because of inevitable distance: the capacity of public protests (with tendency to turn violent and take innocent lives) to make a significant difference. At the last count, more than six people have now been shot dead by overzealous policemen sent to the streets to “restore order”.
The case for oil in Nigeria has become much of a curse nowadays, with total government reliance on exports to get revenue. Underneath that over-reliance however is a corrupt establishment that has used the country’s status as a global oil player to enrich themselves. Just today, I realized that the subsidy now suddenly removed by the government has actually been the cash cow of an addicted group of greedy middlemen in whose interest it has continued to be that the state subsidized the importing of fuel. I can’t think of any other country that produces so much as we do, yet has this much retarded development.
There is a sad, lingering realization, that this revolution will not solve all the nation’s problems. (It didn’t solve all of the problems in Libya, Syria, Iran, America, Tunisia and Egypt either). If the government subsidy removal would be beneficial to the citizenry, government would have begun to put structures in place for people to see and feel BEFORE removing the only benefit that many enjoy as citizens of such naturally endowed country. Now here is a better thought: LET US ERADICATE CORRUPTION. Where are the new ideas for a different country to arise when this revolution dies? Where is the new direction? Where is the new leadership that will take us from here? In ten to twenty years from now, most of the visionaries and pioneers of Nigerian independence would most likely be dead and gone. Who would take their place? What new ideas would they bring to the table?
I had a long discussion this afternoon with a family member about the progress now celebrated in Rwanda. After a brutal civil war that tore the country into pieces in 1994, bold new steps have been taken (including adopting English, abolishing “tribe” and instituting a host of reforms that has now made the little African country one of the best places to live on the continent). We had our chance in Nigeria (and much of West Africa) after “independence” from the British, it was squandered. We had a different chance after military rule in 1999, some progress was made, and then slowly foundered. Is this another chance? What emerges from here when the tyre bonfires are well burnt out and things return to normal? What will that normal be, and will it be good enough?
It should never be. The world is evolving. So should we. For the better.