This morning different thoughts run amok in my mind, the one place I do not want my mind to go to and to which it wanders ceaselessly is my country Nigeria. It’s the dirt on the roads, the fact that the roads are mostly bad, that everyone is literarily a government unto himself: we provide our water, our light and within estates, we provide our own roads. The fact that the good hospitals are really expensive and that the very few public hospitals that are good, are overcrowded and you only get to see a doctor if know someone or bribe someone there. That on Sunday 15th August 2010, lives were lost on a bridge in Lagos, when several cars were engulfed in fire and I heard on the news that the cars were trapped in the inferno because the police had mounted a checkpoint in front from where they collected money from passing motorists and upon hearing of the fire, did not clear the checkpoint until the fire got out of hand. When I hear that a single Nigerian Senator earns more that the President of the United States of America even though 70% of the Nigerian population lives under a dollar a day, I find it really worrying.
What worries me about the situation is not just the reality of what is happening now, what worries me is that it is getting progressively worse. I am wondering what we will hand down to the next generation of Nigerians as we do not seem in any hurry to change things.
My mum says she was studying in America when she was pregnant with me and she returned home to have me, because Nigeria was still a great country, whose passport it was not a disadvantage to have. She tells me how there were no visa offices then, how you flew BA to the U.K and got your passport stamped at the point of entry; now I hear that the U.K Border agency is introducing biometrics to the point of entry in the U.K just to be sure the Nigerian who got the visa is the one coming in (I am sure there are other reasons but this is the one that I hear!). I am wondering why we refuse to make our own country better, why we must earn and go and spend it somewhere else, why we enjoy the clean streets of the U.K, the crime free streets of Dubai and do not think of replicating the nice things we see and like here.
Oh the thought of Dubai! The fact that Dubai was built using oil money, which Nigeria has and has had for longer, makes my blood boil! I hear Dubai found out it had oil, they also found that like all mineral resources, the oil would run out after a certain number of years and they thought that they needed to have more than that to sustain the dream they had of Dubai, so they choose to diversify their economy by turning arid dessert land into a tourist haven. Some 30 years down the line, Dubai earns only 7% of its GDP from oil, some 45 odd years down the line, Nigeria earns 89% of her GDP from oil, having no other sector of her economy that is a major fee earner. Dubai continues to grow according to plan (though with the occasional hitch), Nigeria seems to be going round and round on the same spot and stagnating in others, with plans to spend N10B on her forthcoming 50th Anniversary, when doctors in one of the states of Northern Nigeria recently went on strike because they had to use lanterns for childbirths that took place at night, when there is still no free hospital or free primary education.
See why I did not want to think Nigeria? Too many questions, too few answers, like all Nigerians, I feel able to diagnose but not treat. The despair is overwhelming, because even my own little good feels like a drop of water in the very vast Atlantic Ocean. I shall leave this thought now and ask you, what you are doing in your little way to make Nigeria better. Perhaps if we each did something small, it would amount to more than a drop in the Atlantic? I don’t know, I am just musing but I am certain that something has to give, something has to give!
*PS: this post was published here on 8th July 2010. I deleted it in error; hence the need to re-publish.