I know that the words that make up our Nigerian pledge are quite intense. Though I have heard and spoken these words since childhood, hearing them again in church last week, brought tears to my eyes.
I wish I could travel back in time to the mind of Professor Mrs Felicia Adebola Adedoyin who composed the pledge before it was enacted by the presidential decree of 1976 of the Olusegun Obasanjo Administration. I have a question for her: What Nigerian dream did she envision?
Using these three words in a pledge was beautiful. However, in the scheme of things, practicing them as individuals in our various spheres of influence has been tough… Very tough.
The structures, systems, cultures and values that we see and know encourage dishonesty and are disrespectful of the dignity of Nigerians and the honour of Nigeria. Minimum wage is no longer ‘minimum’. It actually is ‘meagre’ and Education is financially, emotionally and morally expensive. I refer to, among other things, the topical hashtag #SexForGrades currently trending.
Global Index report of 2019 refers to my Nigeria as one of the ‘least developed and emerging economies’. This got me angry, but I understand that whether I like this or not, to some degree, this is the truth.
Speaking about ‘truth’, the truth is that many of us are tired of trusting, hoping and waiting for Nigeria to be great. Even when we try to, it just seems that there is a dead end – a circle; one that makes you start over and over again without making progress.
When I looked through dictionaries and books about the meaning of those three powerful words though, they meant different things. They are about being true, being unselfish, being steadfast and unmoving even when circumstances around are not favourable; and also, being all of these things to the end.
But. one thing I have discovered is that we cannot do all of these things without love in our hearts. Love is the oil that gives us the power to do all these three things in their purest form and at any time, to any person or entity. The absence of love and respect usually is the presence of selfishness, a lack of respect and disregard for something that should be held in its highest honour.
But how do we love a country that has not loved us; a country that belittles our dignity and has made her children a laughing stock in the global community?
Another voice says to me ‘To which do you belong, Oludara? The Chicken or the egg?’
I belong to the school of thought that says the egg came first and then, the chicken. My Nigeria is no egg nor chicken. She is a reflection of who we all are as a people and that, I must agree with. We all are culpable in the grand scheme of things and in our corners as the case may seem.
I do not excuse the indiscretions of leaders who have made us question the essence of our hope for Nigeria. Instead, I fear that when this (my) generation become national leaders in the next few years, we just might do the same things all over again.
Love and respect for Nigeria comes with the knowledge and understanding of how Nigeria began, focusing on her strengths and changing the narratives to showcase all of that. But do not tell me how great a product is on television if all the experiential touch points are less than great.
It is not enough to change the narrative alone. The people and elements in the narrative must change. The people are you and I. The elements are what we do.
Nigeria is us. We are Nigeria.
By Oludara Ogunbowale
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