Let’s Start Somewhere

There is a long-lasting tradition the average Nigerian is aware of, a tradition of passively complaining about what is going wrong politically, socially and economically without any interest [by the complainant] to actively engage in making a change. Reasons for this inactive involvement in socio-political and socio-economic affairs range from the personal to the practical, realistically, not many can be faulted for declining to be involved in the complicated bureaucracy that is the Nigerian system. However, the price of joint reluctance has consistently been poor governance and a failing economy permeated with corruption. Moreover, hesitation has caused the populace to become unwittingly complacent in maintaining the structures that have repeatedly failed the nation.

For decades, Nigeria has seen and elected the same names and parties. Restricting views to the modern presidency, re-instating into power two former military rulers as well as maintain, from the period of 1999 to 2015, the same political party being the People’s Democratic Party.

And while we may want to recognise the positive impacts of some of these former regimes, we have to admit that a positive result at the price of maintaining negative influences is not something we should celebrate. Like a toxic relationship, we have given too much value to those who destroy us and have neglected to see what we can do for ourselves.

For decades, the nation has hoped of structures to be put in place to improve necessities such as employment rates, better housing, better education and so on, without really believing in the community as a unit. The government has been seen as the country’s patriarch and the citizens of the country have been waiting for the head of the house to take responsibility.

Leaders are supposed to be elected, for the people, by the people and do not have a God-given right to lead beyond that. Decision to live in a state, run by elected officials, is a social contract we [the people] commit to and our job in the past has been to demand that our daily political, social and economic needs are met by those we have chosen to represent us and those we have chosen to regulate our needs. Now it is clear that the government (more or less) has failed in meeting their end of the deal, it is up to the nation to not only push for the replacement of these leaders but also to develop ways to maintain prosperity in social, economic & political elements of the society.

There are two sectors in particular that the average citizen in Nigeria can contribute to for the sake of growth and development without relying on the government completely and these sectors are the agricultural sector and the educational sector.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu & Muhammadu Buhari.

It may seem daunting at first but farming and creating a network for the distribution of farm produce is actually very possible without the influence of the official government. The necessary tools required are a farm, farmers, distributors and a market, all of which we have in excess in our overpopulated Nigeria. For instance, according to several sources, Nigerians are one of the largest consumers of rice in the world and may just be the largest consumers of rice in Africa. Yet, regardless of the fact that almost 81% of Nigerian land is farmable the nation is not part of the list of top rice producing nations but rather the country is reported by the BBC to be spending $5 million dollars a day on rice imports as well as having only 1.26% of our 2017 budget directed at developing internal rice farming. Furthermore, due to the excessive imports, inflation on food products in demand such as rice is extremely high which does not fare well for more than half of the country who live below the poverty line.

To counter this, let’s have the people invest in ourselves. In Lagos alone, there are over 100 farms most of which trade in imported goods. This does not have to be the case as clearly imports are doing more harm than good to our economy.

Rather than invest in acquiring imported goods these agricultural agencies could invest in employing more farmers and giving them the tools and means to grow and sell the products that they harvest. According to Aminu Goronyo, the National President of RIFAN, switching from importing rice to producing rice will allow the cost of the product to reduce by 66% which is huge considering the limited income of many Nigerians.

Additionally, if 10 large companies stop importing their rice and each of these agencies decides to employ 1000 farmers, that will result in 10,000 jobs given to individuals who otherwise may have remained unemployed. This scenario could be taken on a country-wide scale, and consider the possibility of a massive reduction in unemployment and the resulting impact it would have on the large-scale poverty and food scarcity in the country. An increase in productivity would result in an increase in GDP which will have a circular effect and before long the profits could spread to other industries. Even more, considering the worldwide demand for not only rice but other agricultural products, a more agriculturally productive Nigeria could become a leading exporter of most if not all of our natural resources as the country has been blessed with the land, seasons and population for such.

Admittedly, this is all in an ideal sense and we do need some form of stable governance to allow sustainability, but ideas can have power if people believe in them and all this writer asks is that people put their energy into finding and implementing solutions of this sort.

In the area of the educational sector, Nigeria has much work to be done, but like the agricultural sector this work need not start with the government, but instead, its foundation can begin with the people. The percentage of educated individuals with the country is more or less 56%. This means at least half the country’s population can do a little to make a huge change in the literacy levels of the other half. How? You may ask. Well by first of all creating an awareness for the need for proper education. Many believe themselves sufficiently educated because they have an understanding of religious and cultural principles and are unwilling to be impacted by ‘western’ ideals. It is our responsibility as the members of the literate half to show that education is not a western curse but a necessity for development. It is the responsibility of churches and mosques to use their platforms to encourage the pursuit of general knowledge beyond religion. Workshops can be held in small communities to help people explore not only academic concepts but social ideas. They can be used to teach people about themselves and the world around as well as encourage the talents of the youth. We don’t need to bring new technology to small communities to help the residents become more literate. We can start with books and climb from there.

Novels were my first teachers and they can be the same to millions of Nigerians across the country. Private citizens can donate money for the establishment of community libraries or just simply donate books for that purpose. Additionally, while we appreciate the effort, we do not need foreigners coming to Nigeria to improve education when we have Nigerians that can do that themselves.

On a more structural level, the numerous private and public schools already in existence around the country have a role to play and our communities must force them to play this role well :

  • Teachers who would rather invest their time in belittling and demeaning children should not have the role in an institution that is aimed at helping these children develop.
  • Academic institutions should make the emotional and mental health of its students as much of a priority as the academic progression of these students.
  • Subjects like natural and world history matter, as well as challenging electives such as psychology, communications and statistics and even visual and performing art electives such as dance, drama and so one. Schools, especially, private schools which have some autonomy over the kinds of subjects taught need to expand their curriculum beyond basic and sometimes outdated content.

Nevertheless, leaders are needed to create sustainable structures to maintain the actions of civilians and private citizens that benefit our nation.

The Independent National Electoral Commission has on record 46 registered political parties in the country. While there is no law against the establishment of numerous political parties, there is also no clear purpose to the existence of most. Some may argue that these parties are a representation of diversity in beliefs and opinions and they may not be wrong.

Lagos State Governor, Mr. Akinwunmi Ambode and his Kebbi State counterpart, Alhaji Atiku Bagudu launched Lagos-Kebbi Rice christened LAKE RICE, saying that the partnership which culminated into the launch was not only designed to ensure food security but showcase the ability of Nigeria to become a producing nation.

One would imagine instead, that it would be more beneficial to unite as one or three parties which aim to represent the voices of the people on the most important matters that concern the public for this period of time.

Can the members of the numerous ‘democratic’ and ‘progressive’ political parties currently registered with INEC honestly argue that together they will not be stronger? Do they believe that they will not be better able to challenge the monopolistic parties that have quite poorly governed our nation for years? Or perhaps they are in it for a different agenda?

The Nigerian government — is full of corrupt individuals and the corruption that exists as well as its effects carry over to how businesses are run and how people live their daily lives. Corruption and poor governance because of it, therefore, has been a plague that has haunted this country for decades.

Before the 2019 election, we have a chance to put our foot down and say enough is enough. We need unity against the norm and we need leaders that care more about improving Nigerian states than planning their next extravagant holiday. The best chance Nigeria has is its people, those in power have had their chance to make a change but they haven’t even attempted to change the structures that keep the country from developing as one. If you have the means, create the time and form alliances aimed at working together to bring forward ideas, better ideas that can actually make a difference. Having endured the pains of poor leadership and having watched as our once-booming economy continues to fall into an abyss of disappointment it is about time that we make the decision to save our country and thus ourselves by taking reigns of control for the greater good.

Sophia

20 | graduate ~ philosophy and politics || aspiring screenwriter/producer • available to do online freelance work

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