The image above not only represents the heart-rending inferno that consumed some commuters in Lagos last week, it could also pass for the current state of the Nigerian nation. On Saturday, a young man, in an apparent demonstration of his dissatisfaction with the chaotic and saddening reality of the country, stood at the Maryland intersection holding up a signage that asked the government of the day either shape up and fix Nigeria like they were elected to do or resign. He stood there almost all day, alone and stoic in his one-man peaceful protest, braving the odds. When the pictures began to make the rounds on social media, one would have expected everyone to laud his initiative and courage, but that was not the case. Rather, some of the same youths who have been clamouring for a revolution opined he was only wasting his time and would soon tire out.
Within the last two weeks, hundreds of people have been killed either as a result of gruesome attacks by herdsmen or accidents that would not have been happened if someone had done what they were supposed to do. It’s a vicious cycle that is never ending…people are killed either in a bomb blast or slaughtered like animals in a massacre, the government blows hot air and directs the police and security chiefs to ensure the carnage does not occur again. But soon enough, the next spate of murder or accident happens right in the same place.
In the last 2 years, there have been a couple of fatal incidents owing to heavy-duty trucks falling off the Ojuelegba bridge. The Lagos State government is aware of this, they are aware that tanker drivers park right on the bridge for days sometimes, thereby, constituting a nuisance, and more worryingly, a danger to motorists and pedestrians within the area, yet, no concrete response or decisive action has followed as expected.
The rhetoric among the masses has been the same.”Have you gotten your PVC?” “There’s too much bloodshed in our land, we need to intensify our prayers.” We express our condolences, put up memes and images that show that we are mourning on our Facebook and Instagram pages. We rant, pour vituperations and lament on all of the choice issues bedevilling Nigeria. And then silence. Events and other distractions overtake the issue and we move on with our lives like nothing ever happened. We never really take action and when we see people like the young man mentioned above, we snigger and conclude that nothing can come out of their lone voice crying in the wilderness.
When the present administration in Lagos resumed office, it took some time for them to settle down to work, during that period, the crime rate increased, especially in and around notorious spots like Oshodi. The environment became more filthy too and commercial bus drivers and motorcyclists had a field day picking and dropping passengers wherever they pleased. One didn’t have to be a social analyst or commentator to know the government was still on holiday. So I took I pen as I am inclined to do and wrote a piece where I expressed my concern about a deteriorating Lagos and how the Ambode administration needed to wake from its slumber and get to work.
This article was published in a national newspaper and it elicited a rejoinder from the office of the Ministry of Information. They refuted the allegation that the government was in limbo and Lagos had begun to retrogress and assured Lagosians that they would soon be able to see what the government was doing. Not long after, Ambode began to construct roads and bridges, and the light up Lagos project also began. The masses began to praise the government as one that was impactful, especially because it was perceived as one that extended developmental projects to the obscure suburban areas that had been neglected by previous administrations.
Am I saying my article was largely responsible for the change in government behaviour? No. But there’s no doubt that someone within the echelon of government read it, and not only read it but saw it as bad PR for the then new administration. If they didn’t regard it as important, they wouldn’t have responded to it. All I am saying is, that little effort one person puts in to make our country a better place for the rest of us should not be discountenanced in any way or form.
While we hold the legislature responsible for the creation of laws that benefit the populace and the executive for the enforcement of those laws, we must remember that as citizens, we also have a huge part to play if Nigeria is going to rise from the depths of “anyhowness” she has sunken into.
No nation has ever become great because it was religious ofr abdicated what should ordinarily be solved by common sense to a god. No country is regarded as a world power today because they built churches or mosques in every nook and cranny of their geographical space. The Chinas, Americas and even Singapores of this world are not where they are today because they fasted and prayed. Our prayers and fasting will be effective only when we take deliberate steps to change things.
The life of a Nigerian at the moment is worth less than that of a cow. It’s no insult, it’s the jarring reality. In a country where human beings are murdered in their hundreds because cows are not given the leeway to feast on their farms, (and without any consequences too), what message are we passing?
We shouldn’t just be moving on from all the tragedies that have befallen us these past few weeks, it will be far more calamitous for us in the future if we continue to go about our businesses because none of our immediate or extended family were victims of past tragedies. We need to begin to look inwards. We need to begin to ask ourselves what we can do in our individual and collective capacities to save our nation.
As an enlightened young person, can you educate the young people within your community about the dangers of selling their votes? As a respected community leader, can you influence the people you lead to act right all the time? As a teacher, beyond the Math or Geography you have been contracted to teach, can you mentor the upcoming generation to become adults who are worthy of emulation?
The buck stops with us. All of us. Nigeria will get better only when we begin to put our money where our mouth us.
But will we? That’s the begging question.