Chiamaka: Nigeria – Hungry for change

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As a young girl growing up in Nigeria, many of the social, political and economic issues, now at the heart of society, were far from my mind. Life was carefree and bliss. I specifically remember giggling as my uncle lifted me up unto his back to watch as a masquerade paraded the streets. Laughter would quickly turn into high pitched shrieks each time he feigned to hand me over to it. I would gaze up at the clear blue skies watching as aeroplanes flew by, wondering what it looked like inside. All the children who lived on our road played together and we relied on one another for entertainment. We played using marbles, danced to the sounds of HipLife which emanated from an old stereo and listened to folk stories. I found comfort and security in my community and in my family. We looked after each other.  Whenever there was a football game, crowds of people gathered to watch the match through our window, praying that NEPA would not ‘take the light’! I could also buy food using Kobo, the Nigerian coin currency which no longer exists. A few months before my 10th birthday, my mother revealed to myself and my siblings that we had been granted a visa to live abroad in the UK and that we would be moving to join my father who had already been living in the UK. My first thought was, ‘Finally! I’ll be able to go on one of those aeroplanes!’ but of course, I would also miss my childhood friends whom I would leave behind.

Almost 15 years have gone by since we left Nigeria. In that time, I have often heard a similar question asked among family, friends and other fellow Nigerians. Can there really be a change?  The frequency and manner in which this question is asked about Nigeria and indeed Africa at large, exposes an underlying uncertainty in the minds of those who long to see a real change come to fruition. On paper, what we know to be the second largest and most populous economy in Africa (hence its nickname ‘Giant of Africa’), a country with great wealth from its oil reserves, is by contrast not what we see. After fighting to gain independence in 1960-merely 54 years ago, one could naturally have assumed that the country now under leadership of its own people would henceforth thrive. However, Nigeria has since struggled to provide consistent and appropriate levels of education and infrastructure. Perhaps doubts as to whether change is possible are not misplaced when we observe the acute lack of jobs and ineffective learning provisions for the young. Poverty levels among the majority remain high.

On the other hand, there have been a number of notable positive changes. The banking and telecoms sectors have created middle-class growth. In some parts of my state,  many main roads have lost potholes and houses are being built. The development of Abuja as the a leading modern capital continues apace. Foreign investors are being attracted by the potential of a growing consumer market – set to surpass the United States in terms of population by 2050. So, perhaps all is not doom and gloom. There are still problems but having seen the small and sometimes larger developments that have been made in Nigeria, there is much hope. Might the next phase of change rest in the hands of our young people? By beginning to arm ourselves with the right values, knowledge and expertise, no matter where we are located in the world, we will have an important role to play. So, can there really be a change in Nigeria? I believe so. But first, we must become the change.

Chiamaka Eneje

Edited by Kenny GB

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Categories: BLOG

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13 replies

  1. I agree with chiamaka on the issues holding nigeria back, I believe if we had strong leaders and leaders who care about making nigeria a better place e.g Governor Fashola, things would improve. But for now, there’s soo much greed and corruption.

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  2. Thank you Tiny 🙂

    I agree. I’m hopeful that our leaders of tomorrow will be better placed to make the changes needed.

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  3. Nice one,Chichi. I can certainly relate to all you said about living in Nigeria and God bless you on the positive msg of change you bring.However,I was still living in Nigeria 11 years ago (about 4 years after you left) and even tho things were not great, they were not as bad as they’ve gotten now. Yet all I heard growing up then was ‘Nigeria go better’ only for things to degenerate to this level in just about 10 years. This leaves me to echo thesame question of whether Nigeria will truly change for the better or are things going to just get worse? I fear for the unity/onennes and ultimately future of the country tbh.

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    • Thanks Chimdi.

      The situation in Nigeria is growing beyond sadness but I am trying not loose hope…not yet.

      The tragedy with the kidnapping of the girls has brought huge attention to Nigeria, and hopefully this will be part of what urges our government to really stop sleeping and start being an active part of its own country. It’s just ironic that the western rulers who we once fought for independence from are proving much more helpful.

      Do you think it would be better if Nigeria divides as a country? So that there is a ‘North Nigeria’ and a ‘South Nigeria?’

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  4. Thanks Integr8Nigeria.
    They say ‘the devil you know is better than the angel you don’t know’ so I will not categorically advocate for a split up.However, I’m always about the best way possible to solve any situation by looking at all options.So going with the devil and angel analogy, we can all agree that our sticking with this devil isn’t doing us any good and hasn’t from the onset. We have had civil war, dictators who seize power in their military rule, the Democratic leadership keep getting worse with the next Leader who takes charge, and ultimately look where we are now. The question I ask myself is this – if we have only moved from bad to worse since our amalgamation over 100 years ago, independence 53 years ago or so, what is the guarantee that the high level of insecurity and other issues will improve and not get worse in the next 53 and 100 years time? I understand these represent long periods of time buy I’m sure we didn’t envision the civil war and suicide bombers when we gained our independence.My point is things could well get worse. USA and the West who may offer help now may only ease the situation in the short run. My next question then is, do I have to wait till I or any of my family and friends become the next victim of this whole craze before we consider the other option of joining the angel. After all for all we know it might be a better option.

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  5. Hi Chimdi,

    For what it’s worth, I don’t think the leadership is getting worse. I think that because of the successful past coups and military takeovers with no reprimand on the culprits, citizens who DO break the law now see and know that history and the present has taught them nothing will be done to them so long as they have the right connections. Over time, I just think that after seeing so many criminals get away with so much, others learn that they can too. Many think ‘Why should we suffer with no food, water or wages and be law abiding when we can take the law into our own hands?’
    All I know is that some infrastructure and some roads where I live have improved. New flats have also come up but that’s from private investors from abroad. When people like Abacha and Obasanjo used to be in power, things were worse.

    I think the mistake was not controlling Boko Haram when they started. The attention all this has gotten has just put a limelight on Nigeria and it’s presidents. It’s made people and nigerians everywhere wake up to how bad things are in general and have always been. However, it seems worse because now we have a resident terrorist group.

    I for one think that we as a country should divide. Sad, yes and maybe i am saying that out of frustration, but if we allow the north to have their own country as ‘northern’ Nigeria then they can fight within themselves who will rule. This is all for a political cause for them so I say give them their own country. I won’t miss them oo

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  6. Thank you Chi and Chimdi, I agree with you both on many of the issues mentioned.

    However, if we divide now, then haven’t the terrorists won? Does that mean every time a terrorist group emerges we then bow to their demands? I strongly disagree with that message. In times of distress, unity has to be the answer. We ought to stand together in the knowledge that we are stronger than our differences.

    Whether we like it or not, Nigeria is an example to many other African countries, by virtue of its sheer size and economic power. If we split up based on the issue of Boko Haram, I fear this would set a bad precedent. Just imagine the potential ripple effects…other countries with similar issues would no doubt seek secession.

    The spotlight of the world is on Nigeria. Thus, we have two choices: Crumble under pressure or rise in the face of adversity. With everybody expecting us to crumble, this as a great opportunity to stand united and rise.

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  7. ChiChi, I understand where you are coming from. I agree with you on lack of reprimand for culprits in the past being a motivating factor that make these guys do what they do.That only makes the situation even more fearful knowing we have an inadequate and non functioning judicial sytem.

    However I am still very much of the opinion that governance has gotten worse than it used to be, and knowing Nigeria, it might just keep getting worse. You associate the improved governance to the fact that roads and infrastructure have improved? Fair enough as it also improves the quality of life for people. Now my questions :

    1) Has the quality of life truly improved with the building of roads and infrastructure when there is still high rate of unemployment? (not sure of what it used to be tho but im sure its still high).Of what use then are the roads and infrastructure when the majority of the people can’t afford to drive or live in them?
    2) Has quality of life improved when people still go without power and water, even in some state capitals all over the country?
    3) has quality of life improved when the educational system is still in mess?when last did students return to their universities after the ASUU strike?
    4)Why was it in this present administration that the fuel price go up?did salaries go up to?Were there subsidies on other commoditites necessary to balance out the ones removed on petrol?
    5)Ultimately, What is the quality with the high rate of insecurity in the country? Regardless of the armed robbery that we have gotten used to over the years and the recent wave of kidnappings for ransoms,do we not think that Boko Haram can actually spread across the country?

    The questions can go on but the point im driving at is that although we have always had unserious leaders and dictators, this present administration has topped it for me as the most unserious and incompetent of them all. If not, what then do we call a leader who cares more about himself and his personal goals than that of the citizens?Does he not know that he was ‘elected’ to serve and in serving you put the needs of those you are serving first before yours?There was a bomb blast next to his capital killing 70 people and injuring some amd GEJ went for his political rally soon after. On what ground was he actually rallying and campaigning on?on the grounds that he has done well already?I don’t think so. It is common knowledge that BH are tools his opposition are using to derail his governance as well as discredit him for the next election hence he went for his rally to prove a point. But c’mon do what is expected of you as a leader and president. Even a speech condemening the attack and vowing to fish out the culprits as well as promising to reach and support the affected families. Is there even a government scheme to compensate the families of the dead and the injured?I very much doubt.

    Honestly i don’t know for sure how Obasanjo or late Yardua would’ve handled the situation but GEJ is certainly not handling the country very well and does not deserve a second chance in office.
    As for us breaking up, well it seems as though the North does not like the south and the south in turn does not appreciate the North so a breakuo may just be what everyone will need to be happy. However, this governement has failed.

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  8. Thank you, Kenny.
    But I ask one question : Do we have to wait till people related to us are caught up in this whole political mess and power tussle before we consider a break up?God forbid. I say we breakup now in peace before another war ensues due to mismanagement.

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    • Hi Chimdi,

      We definitely share your concerns. From what we know and understand, the northerners and Boko-Haram do not actually want Nigeria to break up. If we do, they know they have a land that doesn’t bear much (especially with the sahara desert encroaching), and that the oil lies in the east. What they are fighting for is an Islamic Nigeria, which we all know is almost impossible without a lot of bloodshed. So, Nigeria is left in a sticky situation: A terrorist group who want an Islamic country, but will not advocate for a break up. Neither will the northerners.

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  9. Interesting Chiamaka. You are so right about those points above. More attention needs to be drawn to these continuous issues in Nigeria. BTW you brought back memories of us in Asata

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  10. Nice piece! Nigeria economy is now the biggest in Africa after the economic rebasing however like you right described, it is for more than a disappointment, it is a lost opportunity to project the image of the black race in a shining light on the world stage. I cry each time I see oppressed, repressed and depressed children of Africa.

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    • Thank you Ola,

      It is frustrating to see what Nigeria is going through, and even more frustrating knowing that our country has SOOO much potential that is just going to waste. Nigeria is in trouble at the moment, and we keep hoping it’s not for much longer…I believe our younger generation has an important role to play in terms of shaping Naija’s future. Knowing where to start is another issue. People are indeed tired.

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