It’s always fascinating sitting around fellow youths and talking about the state of our nation – that is what we do, talk. This one took a slightly different turn. It was a workshop with a panel of speakers – wise Nigerian men and women and one well known African correspondent for a major news broadcasting corporation who is British.
The panel were meant to educate the audience about some issues that are not so obvious to the general public. The event started off really well with everyone sharing what they thought should be done to change the state of our country. As always we all had lots to say, the bottom line was that we can not keep going this way, something has to give – what could that be and how do we go about it? Mr Smith (not his real name), the African correspondent who has worked on the continent for three decades suggested that Nigeria today needs external supports to get the country off her knees, Mr Smith has not finished explaining before almost everyone interjected unanimously that “we do not need any more external interventions of Oyinbos!” Needless to say he didn’t finish whatever he had in mind. Our president hiring American PR firm to help with public damage control was still fresh in everyone’s mind.
About twenty minutes later, it was Mr Smith’s turn to contribute and again, he chose his words more carefully that Nigeria will need mentors in the form of United Nations and other international bodies that could help lead us through how other nations have coped during challenging times if we truly want to move forward as a nation. And again, trust my people, the man was interrupted with resounding “No, we can do it all by ourselves, enough of external mentors.” Another very interesting point that Mr Smith touched on was that Nigerians loved to talk a lot about issues but we tend to forget that collating data to defend our points is as crucial as the points we were trying to make and more often than not people understand figures more than words. This point also received sharp red-arrow based on the fact that our problems were too obvious that we do not demand any numbers/graphs to be able to see things were not the way they were supposed to be.
I wonder if the reporter had very good points that is worth paying attention to? Most of the challenges we face today are not from Mars. They are right in our face daily.
On Education: One of the reasons our lecturers keep using strike actions as the only medium of communication is because they get paid for being at home. All our tertiary institutions from College of Education, Polytechnics to Universities are home for one reason or the other for at least three months in a given year, we’ve had nine months straight. This has been the tradition for the best part of 15 years. Yet, no matter how long they stayed at home, they are paid, where can you do this in the world? Actually, by the time they spent two months at home, they forget why they were on strike and started yet another ‘fight’ for their salary. Nigerians need leaders among the decision-making bodies to stop this senseless strike actions. Stop any offsprings of lecturers getting any government-funded scholarship for private universities in the country and for studying abroad, that should be a good start and then include no work no pay policy in their contracts. These should force the ASUU and other representatives to find better ways to express their grievances. As it stands today the main losers were the students who are home wandering the roads and getting into troubles. Currently OAU students are at home for the last one month, they were home for about 6 months last year. OAU is not alone, all of our higher institutions are doing the same.
Health: Nigeria doctors have been on strike now for about a month and there have been numerous talks and seminars about how to go about their demands. Most Nigerians know that almost all of the doctors at Teaching Hospitals have their own private clinics, this is no secret. There is always something, this time it was around titles and you wonder why all doctors have to be off work indefinitely to address this? When they eventually calmed down, the first thing the government would do is to pay for those week/months they did not work. In this instance the losers really are the public who rely on government hospitals for sorting them out with health concerns. Most public officials have hospitals dedicated to them all over the globe aka health tourism and sometimes the well-offs run away to either London or New York to be treated by Nigerian doctors who have been lucky to escape the rat-race of our dear nation. What a country indeed.
Social issues: Loads of social issues around the country today. Most of which am told were ‘our culture’ sometimes I wonder what our true culture were. We struggle daily to understand and argue needlessly about what is socially acceptable norm around certain issues. Take for example religious leaders who majored in cure for infertility and sometimes claim to cure mental health patients. These two examples are traditionally taboos among Yoruba at least. The belief was that everyone is capable of conceiving and given birth naturally and at any age. Also that anyone suffering from mental health must have done something wrong to offend the ‘elderly.’ The list is endless. Now today, we have what has been termed ‘baby factory’ in almost every major city, the government is after them arresting the owners. Who among the decision-making bodies would wise up and understand why we have baby factories, pay investigators to go underground to the various religious centres and learn how their baby miracles actually work? And expose them to the public.
To investigate how the mental health patients were being treated, a poor 12-year-old neighbour was heavily drugged for weeks lay down in vegetative state, he was lucky that his mother finally understood what the miracle centres do and later sort for professional help, the boy had bipolar which definitely should not be the end of his decent life, now back at school doing well while on drugs that help to control his mood swings, also with monthly check up. Can we do this all these investigations ourselves even though we are completely blinded by religion and still holding on to the fantasy of our culture?
I reckon the idea of bringing in third parties to ‘solve’ our problems as Mr Smith suggested was because he could see that we are incapable of telling the truth for the fear of rocking the boats. To be able to do it on our own will require lecturers/doctors being forced to find better ways to vent their grievances to the government otherwise face the consequences of no work no pay.
Humans are rational, we will always choose the option that has lesser negative impact. Can we do it all on our own?