Now, Let Us Talk

Naija let's talk

From the oil rich swamps of Bayelsa to the deserts of Sokoto, from the highlands of Adamawa to the bustling Lagos. If you were ever to crisscross this country, you would have covered 923,768 Square Kilometers with 152 people in each Square kilometer. You would have met 250 tribes and heard over 400 dialects. You would have worshipped in a shrine, a mosque, a church and possibly a Hindu type temple. This is the home of diversity, the place where 150million people call home.

Like popular Nollywood actress Genevive Nnaji stated in her recent CNN Africa Voices interview, there is no place like Nigeria. Indeed one of the more popular songs we sang years ago in primary school while marching to our classrooms declared unequivocally that Nigeria is a home of great beauty. The reminders of this fact are not in short supply; with diverse vegetation, amazing landscapes and aquatic formations as well as a weather pattern that is neither too harsh nor too friendly, we are perpetually in no doubt that under the sun, this is one of the greatest places to be in.

But are we really a great nation? While that answer remains a subject of intellectual debate depending on what school of thought you belong to, there is a general consensus amongst us all; one which we express at every opportunity and which foreigners are quick to notice and point out, that we are far from being who and what we can be as a country and as a people.

So how did we arrive at this place? What went wrong? How did we end up becoming the biggest export of human beings to Europe and America? How did we become the most popular black face in Asian jails? How did we end up with a comatose health system and a public utility system on life support? How did our oil money grow wings and perfect the art of flying? How did we end up in the number of countries that are expected to pack up any day? Most importantly, how did we succumb to defeat and agree in our minds that it can never be well with Nigeria? How?

Quite a number of great minds have attempted to answer this question and their varying views are all quite on point. Regardless of the view you hold, one thing is certain; we are not under any curse. We are instead, a victim of our own machinations.

Let it be clear, our leaders in the past fifty years did not hate this country. If anything half of them fought the British for independence and the other half fought to keep Nigeria one during the civil war. So they loved this country as much as we do. But their love was not enough. They were misguided. They took wrong decisions. They enthroned ethnicity. They feasted from common wealth. We let them. We were docile for too long. And from experience, when a people lose their ability to express their opinion, such a people are beyond help.

Sadly I see these traits I blame on the generation past on display among my generation. I see it in the degree of cynicism and indolence. In the ease and hurry to cut corners. In the hot air of the make-believe national consciousness we express on Twitter, chains and chains of poorly thought out opinions and unoriginal talk backs. I see it in the effort albeit insincerely to appear as youth leaders of a million and one youth groups while in essence simply positioning ourselves for donor funds, government largesse and the opportunity to appear on television. I see it when in this age we still speak in terms of tribe and creed and hawk around such archaic terms as zoning and federal character, ‘our turn’ and ‘my people.’ I see it and it hurts.

I see it in the disconnect among the youths of this country. We are quick to make statements on behalf of Nigerian youths without any idea of what we are talking about. For many of us, Nigeria consists of Lagos, Abuja and perhaps PortHarcourt. Anything happening outside these places doesn’t concern us neither do we care to be concerned, except when they make news. The violence and manslaughter in Jos doesn’t matter because ‘our people’ are not there. We do not know what the boy in Damaturu thinks nor do we seek the opinion of the girl in Okene or put their peculiar circumstances of existence into consideration. This disconnect is our Achilles heel and to build the Nigeria of our dreams we must start from there.

We need to talk. By talk I don’t mean the same old activity we have been engaged in all these years. No. I mean a different kind of talk. Talk that is two-way. Not noise. Not complains. Not hate. I mean talk that is productive…that reaches out to enquire, to explore, to understand, to encourage, to advocate. Talk that is not cheap and not over rated. That confronts the issues directly without any colouration. That brings up pragmatic solutions and defined directions for achieving them. Talk that is focused, but all encompassing. The kind of talk we’ve never had before. A kind, we must now have.

The elections are here, and we all perhaps have made our choices. It doesn’t matter what those choices are. It doesn’t matter if your decision is popular among your friends. What matters is that we all get to talk through that ballot paper, that we express all our yearnings and  aspirations through that thumbprint. And regardless of the outcome of the polls, we would have by our participation, proudly kick-started the process for a new Nigeria.

Now, let us talk.

About the author

Sylva Nze Ifedigbo prides himself as being a core Nigerian. He hails from the east, grew up in the north and now lives in the west. He is an award winning fiction writer and essayist and has written widely on Nigerian Socio-political issues both online and in the print media. Nze, as he will prefer to be called, is a graduate of the University of Nigeria Nsukka and ceases every spare time to blog or tweet.

6 comments on “Now, Let Us Talk

  1. Banks Eniola on said:

    This article is amazing and I hope this election will be the beginning of a great debate across this nation and I hope this dialogue continues throughout this generation and the subsequent generations.
    Our discussions and participation in the electoral process should not only be energised during an election cycle but it must become a fundamental part of our psyche as a nation…because we only stand a chance to reshape our future by continuously speaking out about what is wrong, right and good about us and how we will like to be governed!

  2. hajho on said:

    No, we are not a great nation. Instead we are a nation with great potentials if we ever care to work on it. I thinks Nigeria, has deluded itself long enough on its supposed greatness it’s time we admit some simple truths, let me mention a few, we lie and steal a lot. Prostitutes in Europe and states are Nigerian. Most 419 ERS WITHIN AND OUTSIDE Nigeria are Nigerian and we contribute little to our country and any other country on average that is why we count for little in and around the world and I can go on and on.
    We need to work and truly become truthful with who we are as a people and start to see ourselves as a country.
    I told a college of mine a lawyer and intellectual just the other day that I was going to vote a particular candidate for the abj senate seat. He spent the entire afternoon trying to convince me against voting for the individual bcos he is not a gwargi man and the seat should be occupied to an indigene. The incidence struck a chord in me and I began to put my choice and behavior in perspective. The fact is for many of use religious and ethnic bias shapes our thinking preference and way of life.
    I have chosen to do away with ethnic and religious bias because they have gotten African, Nigeria nowhere. I think we need to take a pragmatic approach towards politic and our interactions’ and actions towards each other. I think we Nigerians should love and treat each other as citizens that is the only way to integration. Lastly I think every registered voter should vote for a candidate. It is no excuse to just right all of them off , we all must do a background research on candidates and vote someone.

  3. As much as I think the act of talking is important to building a new vision of Nigeria – we have to remember that our greatest failure as a nation has been our inability to do. We all know what to do – we know we should wait our turn, pay our taxes obey the law, do our civic duty but every day we compromise our words through our actions. While we talk we should remember that walking the talk is as important as talking the talk…

  4. Pingback: Introducing Nigeria Dialogue « Nzesylva's Weblog

  5. nijerd on said:

    This is so true. We need to come to a point where we are first Nigerians before we are either Muslim or Christian, southerner or northerner, Hausa, Igbo Yoruba, Ijaw, Ebira, etc.
    Nigeria needs new thinking and fresh ideas, and it’s incumbent upon everyone of us to not only speak the right words, but to do the right thing.
    Naija will rise again!

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