If you are an ardent reader of this column you know we are in the era of speaking nothing but the truth. Truth to ourselves and truth to power. The state of our society today has left each and every one of us with deep afflictions. Majority of the people are reeling in pains, cheating, denials, dislocations and harm. Everyone’s conscience has a big wound which only truth and positive actions can heal. I stumbled into immutable words of late elder statesman, Dr Alex Ekwueme, last week on Facebook and the expressions hit me hard even to the marrows.
The sage responding to a journalist’s question said: “We have a country, we don’t have a nation. There is a difference between both. When you refer to a country, you are talking about geographical entity but when you talk of nation, you are referring to nationhood, shared vision and commonality, things that enhance the oneness of a people. In a nation you don’t kill people the way we do in Nigeria. Not even Ghanaians would kill themselves the way we do here. A country is easy to make but you work hard to create nation.” Shared values! Our undoing is not knowing that nations are products of deliberate creations.
These days I apply the term country or nation reservedly when talking about our society and the reason is simple. I know that countries don’t just jump into existence, they are outcomes of intense negotiations and agreements. In our case the British colonialists thought of a quick fix to save cost and Nigeria was the outcome. In creating Cameroon, same colonialists were kind enough to order a referendum and that was how English speaking parts of our society found themselves as part of Cameroon. Feeble efforts by our founding fathers to find a country got us federalism which would have served us some good but the military came into power and destroyed that effort and the consequences are with us now, threatening to consume us if care is not taken.
All through last week I was at home in Asa land in Abia State with other leaders from the area to have direct interface with the people especially the youths. It flowed from a prompting from the state governor, Dr Okezie Ikpeazu, call it one of the benefits of the youths uprising that hit us few days ago and you won’t be wrong. My findings were shocking just to put it mildly. First point I picked is that of disconnect between the leaders and the led. Someone is tempted to say it is a localised issue, it is not. It is a national malaise. These days, our leaders are not only very wicked, they keep themselves very far away from the people and reality.
They don›t know what the people think, desire or speak, most times leaders give away this impression they hear and understand the language of the masses but when you go closer, you discover the language and world view of both parties are different, not just that but opposing to each other. The level of poverty and deprivation is such we ought to be ashamed of ourselves especially what we did that brought us to this sorry state of existence. Our youths live in a different world – a Disney kind of world, this utopian realm where things could fall into place just by mere wishing. What is responsible could be found in lack of sound tutorship.
Parents go out to search for daily bread and hardly have time to nurture those they brought to the world. Far large number give birth to children they can’t cater for, so they saddle society with children who grow up in the culture of the street. Hmmmm! Privatization of education is causing its own harm; education is not only priced out of the reach of most families, schools concentrate on passing exams to attract more patronage, all at the expense of building character and resourceful citizens. Meet with the young ones all you hear is, I want good life, I must make it. I want to travel abroad. Take a close look at who is talking, he neither has skill nor great education, just entitlement mentality.
We have just had a protest few days ago, it shook the society a great deal because the contradictions have been with us for a long time. Those who tag it a coup are misreading the situation. The state of the young generation and how to handle it has been a recurring issue. Our leaders ignored it because it appeared to them the most convenient path to tread. It is that omission that is producing the heat we feel. What we just experienced is minor compared to what will come if we fail to heed the signs and take appropriate actions. We can’t leave the minds of the young people empty and expect them not to be filled, of course it will be filled by neo-colonial and imperialists films, drama and literature flying all over the place especially on the social media.
We must get parents to build up the minds of their children, faith-based organizations must move from prosperity message to discipline, hard work and industry. Government must get the schools to teach productive education including character. It means returning to sound recruitment of teachers. At present it is very difficult to differentiate between cultists and teachers. It was not so in the past. We must teach the young ones that society has evolved from when public and private sectors can provide all the jobs, we are in an era where many would have to stand and develop businesses and then employ others.
Government has responsibility to offer leadership. Good schools, affordable productive education that impacts skills, filling the mind, credit facilities possibly at no interest, creation of business units to assist talents establish and grow businesses, putting in place a merit system, advertising for employment chances and filling opportunities by way of exams and interview processes running on highest levels of credibility are options that have become pertinent if we must cross the boundaries of defeat.
Our reward system must be such that it creates a sense of worth and is geared towards achieving the kind of society we collectively envisage. Our media and other communication outlets must run on ideological basis, the songs, films and news must reflect the aspirations we want to achieve. It is time to redefine our development concept, nothing says we must be like Europe. Building eight or 16 lane expressways when four lanes would suffice is madness, doing so when the issue of human capital development is still hanging amounts to acts of genocide.
Our focus should be massive development of agriculture and tying to it industrialisation. Given our level of education, the degree of unemployment should not be such to cause a threat. In truth we ought to be running our industries, producing enough for home consumption and for export at least for the African markets. This choice isn’t happening because of poor leadership quality, negative policies like quota system and corruption. We should resolve to change now that the consequences of negative inputs stare us in the face. Pretending as some tend to do is to court calamity. In the days of great rage, force has no effect. This is not from my mind it is pure lesson of history.