Wednesday, January 28, 2009

No reward for the lazy man

History has been made and I am glad to say that I was alive to see a dream come true. It is not everyday that one gets to see two million people come out in support of a president. It is not everyday that one gets to see millions of people brace a freezing weather just to see a man sworn in as president. I have defintely never seen such public support in my entire life. I would love to think that our independence day must have been like that. Perhaps it was like that. People taking to the streets to dance and welcome a new era of freedom from the colonial masters. Perhaps they too, ignored the weather and came out to show their support for change. Perhaps there has been such a thing as public support in this country. However, if there ever was such a thing, I would not know. In all my years alive in this country, I have never seen it.

That is why I was so jealous. Yes, throughout the ceremony, all I felt was an intense jealousy for the American people. How come, they can achieve all that? Why can’t we do the same? How come, they can choose their own man and we can’t? How come, they can see lively debates between opponents, and we can’t? How come, they can see their presidential candidates work hard in earning the people’s trust and we can’t?

I asked myself all those questions and unfortunately, I could not think of any good reason why we too, can not have the same in this country. Do we not deserve it? Surely, we have suffered enough in this country to start demanding changes. I too, would love to line up for hours and cast my vote without fear. I too, would love to hear inspiring speeches from the candidate I have chosen. I deserve all that and more from this country.

I refuse to have low expectations for this country. If the Americans can do it, then we too, can do it. Abi dem get two heads? They are human beings just like we are. They are no more special than what we are. They wanted change, they worked hard for it, and they got it. That is all there is to it. Without doing the work, we shall never get the rewards. There is no reward for the lazy man.

Worthy to be praised

“It is better to choose the devil you know than the one you do not know” that is what my mother used to say when I was a child. It just meant when faced with two extreme situations, choose the one you know you can handle. Basically, choose “the familiar". While my mum's proverbs were usually about life and philosophy, my father's proverbs were usually about morals "cut your coat according to your size", "don't behave like the joneses", "birds of the same feather fly together", etc.

Being brought up by two people who had strong principles in life meant that I too developed rather quickly, a strong sense of right and wrong. Another favourite of mine, from my mother, was "don't paint the devil on the wall" which meant do not be negative about the future. But this article is not about my mother, or my late father, or being raised by them.

It is about the fact that we have somehow forgotten why we praise people in this country. Do we praise people for achievement? For being a role model? A stand up citizen? For being a hero? For a job well done? Who is worthy to be praised?
I was never praised without a reason as a child. To get praise, I had to do something that was worthy to be praised. Good grades in school, or being helpful in the house, or being kind and decent to all those around me. Nobody praised me if i was naughty or being intolerable. The rules are simple enough. Do something that is worthy of being praised, and you shall be praised.

However, the people we “praise” in this country continue to puzzle me. Now, I do not know how others have been brought up, or what their own parents told them, but the fact that we continue to not only accept corrupt human beings but also praise them, shows very clearly how baseless our values in the society have become. Before we adorn human beings with all sorts of crowns on their head, can we not ask the simple question, “What exactly have you done that is worthy to be praised?”I am constantly astonished about the way we so easily praise dishonest and corrupt human beings in our midst.

Yet, those that live honest lives are seen as “weak”, unable to hustle for their share of the national cake. That is what the small minded would think. Unable to understand, that there are so many people still in this country that hold fast to principles and morals. The same ones we were ALL taught as children. These people are the ones that still keep our hopes for a better Nigeria alive.

Let us start celebrating those that earn their living doing an honest day’s work. Let us celebrate those that still dare to stand up and do the right thing. For the men and women in Nigeria who will probably never see a morsel of the national cake.

For those whose futures are dependent on their own abilities and not who they know.

Let us celebrate the teachers, the nurses, the doctors, the journalists, the ordinary people who work so hard for their daily bread.
Let us celebrate them because they are the ones who show our children that there is still pride in hard work.

Let us praise them, because they are worthy to be praised.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Na only Abuja get street light?

I have prayed to God to enable me start this year with a positive attitude but this country will not let me. Every day, as I read one story after another, my cynicism and pessimism slowly creeps back in.I have read a lot of stories during my time writing this column. Stories that have alarmed me so much that I began to doubt the sanity of our leaders. From Madam Etteh’s massage beds to Ibori’s air conditioned prison cell, many stories have been too good to be true.

However, this next story is the one that made me exclaim, “tufiakwa! Una don craise finish for dis country!” As usual, I was reading my daily dose of Nigerian news (a task that many Nigerians must have abandoned, if not, they will be out protesting at this very moment) when I saw a story in the Vanguard titled “Aliero denies move to power Abuja with generators” dated 9th, January 2009.

In this article, it seems the minister of the Federal Capital Territory Administration, was trying to deny statements which had formerly been given to journalists about powering Abuja streets with generators. He now attested that it was not “the whole of FCT” that will be powered with generators.

First of all, who was that human being that thought that using generators to power the streets of any city was a good idea? Who brought up that harebrained idea and who were the others that actually listened to such stupidity?

Such an idea is an insult to my intelligence and to the people of this nation. It’s very clear that using generators will not solve the problem in the long run. We all know that. Case closed. However, because of the necessity to function as a society, we have all been forced into accepting generators as if they are the norm of the society. It is not normal and has never been. We are polluting our environment seriously and blatantly wasting the earth’s resources because of our laziness in solving this problem. When countries all over the world are investing strongly in the conservation of the environment, Nigeria is doing the opposite. Again, we insist on moving backwards. Abuja is situated in the right area where solar energy can actually be considered as a means to solving the electricity problem. Yet, did anybody come up with such an idea? No. We hate to see the utilization of resources, we rather squander them. The earth that has given Nigeria so much is to be raped and abused as we want.

If the government goes ahead with this ridiculous idea, I would love to see who benefits from such a contract. Who shall supply the generators? Who shall supply the diesel? Who shall build the generator plants? In fact, I want to know who will supply the “pure water” for the labourers as those plants are being built. I have no idea how all this is supposed to be cheaper than investing in improving our own electricity.

Have you ever heard of the capital of a nation, powering its streets with generators? This nation baffles me. Most of the Niger-Delta is engulfed in darkness, hospitals are almost non-functional because of the lack of power supply, and this is the priority of the government? Street lights in Abuja? I understand the need for the capital of the nation to be safe for its citizens but surely we can come up with a better solution?

Using generators to power street lights is just a short term solution. The problem of electricity in Nigeria has to be solved once and for all. As long as we keep falling back on generators, Nigeria is not ready to move forward on this issue. I implore the government of Nigeria to show more determination and strength of character on this matter. I strongly believe this problem can be solved if we pursue it relentlessly instead of relying on the usual half measures we so easily succumb to.

In the mood for something else...

It is 2009! Unlike many people in Nigeria, I did not spend the first hour of the New Year in church. No sir! I prayed a silent prayer at home and happily danced my way into the New Year. I was still in this mood when a good friend of mine called to complain about a New Year message delivered to the women of Nigeria on N.T.A by our first Lady. Apparently, the message had been that they (the women of Nigeria) should “obey their husbands”. In the mood I was in, I was determined not to get upset by such a message. I am trying to be optimistic about my country. That is my New Year resolution. I am sure our first Lady did not have a speech at hand; perhaps she was caught off guard? Or perhaps it was just too hard to say something to the women of Nigeria? Maybe I should give it a shot? See what we can come up with?
Nancy Reagan once said “A woman is like a teabag. It's only when she's in hot water that you realize how strong she is”. You have so much power in your hands and yet you do not know it. You make up 50% of the population and yet, you walk around as if you are a nobody. You have been fed lies for years and these lies have scarred you. Your soul has become weary and you now drag the burden of these lies with you.
Yet, you are the same woman who they said would never go to school. You are the same woman who they said would never be able to vote. Would never drive a car, fly an airplane, go to space. You are the same woman who they said would become worthless with age. You would be a nobody. Useful only for keeping their food and bed warm.
Is it not time, my dear sisters that you take your rightful place in the society? Is the water not hot enough now for you to show your true strength? Is it not time to...

I would have written more but then the government would have to pay me for my efforts. After all, shebi dem get people wey dem dey pay to write speech? Abi all of dem still dey on vacation?