Opinion: DOES Nigeria game plan?
By Olamide Oseni / Image Credit: Google Images
My naivety and idealism about Nigeria is dead.
Just a few years ago, my thoughts were that of sweeping, embroiling revolution, hoisting the flags of change high above the nation’s capital, with people chanting cries of freedom, influenced by the fight-for freedom-epics that were so rampant back then, although It was never quite clear on whom we’d be needing freedom from.
Nigeria as a country is one with potential, an incredible amount of human resources which properly applied, could transform the country to new heights in a couple of years, but the more I see, the more I shudder, we have made too many compromises with how we are choosing to live life, that we are wound up tight in a ‘Gordian Knot’ of compromises and I fear there is no Alexander on the horizon to unsheathe his sword and free us from this unruly mess we have made for ourselves.
The biggest problem I have noticed with Nigerians is how we all avoid responsibility for the personal contributions we have made to the system which we live in, the one I find the most amusing is the imaginary line we have drawn between ourselves and our leaders, like the are from Mars or something, as if they were not from our ranks, like we didn’t elect them into office. It’s such a farce. I guess it’s always convenient to have someone to blame for your faults or in this case, a couple of not innocent persons.
To put things in perspective, a couple of weeks ago, I boarded a taxi and the cab driver flouted a traffic rule, immediately he was flagged by a police traffic officer and the first thing he did was offer the police officer a bribe, the police officer rejected the bribe and immediately most of the passengers in the taxi flared up and started calling the taxi driver all sorts of derogatory names till eventually, the policeman accepted the bribe albeit one that was higher than the initially offered one.
Now you could say that the police officer was just holding out for the bigger bribe and honestly you would be making my point for me. It’s pretty hypocritical how convenient we are with every day low-tier corruption and bribery but when the big ones make the headlines, the snake dilemmas and monkey sagas, we huff and puff till, well till nothing happens. Nothing actually ever does happen, does it?
While economists will paint a picture of the future, filled with job opportunities, of how Lagos is the rising star of Africa, of how our rising GDP will contribute to the good of everyone, I can tell you one thing economists are good at, their consistency in giving inaccurate predictions about the future. I should know ‘cause I spent the past 4 years of my life studying economics.
We are divided along so many lines, tribal prejudice, religion, income inequality and bigotry against new thinking are just some of the biggest and we are at an exact point in the making of the world’s future that we cannot afford to be so divided. While we are turning our gaze inwards addressing petty squabbles, the rest of the world is moving on to discussions around machine learning, artificial intelligence, block-chain and cryptocurrency, the very technologies that are going to invent the future. And here we are still arguing about grassland for cattle.
You could choose to make a case for the growing number of tech-hubs and competitions revolving around tech that seem to be on the rise in recent times and how we are being hailed as the fastest developing technological economy in Africa but that’s just sophistry. It only stands to reason that as the largest population in Africa, we’d be hailed to have the largest technological economy in Africa, we also have the largest economy overall in Africa, doesn’t make much of a difference especially when you consider that we number around 200 million people, does it?
The notion that we are on the brink of some big-time technological revolution is a fallacy of thinking, yes we are progressing a bit in these terms but we are still way behind the rest of the world, you only need to draw parallels between where we are and where other countries with similar or even fewer resources are, and our plight takes a sadder tinge when you recognize that most of our brightest minds in this field and others are being lured by brighter prospects abroad to contribute to the very discussions we are failing to have and to improve the technologies that we are failing to leverage on, and once again economists could paint you a glorious picture of how Nigerians in diaspora are contributing to our figures as a result of the money they send home and all but that is just short term thinking. In the long run, where do we end up?
The pretty obvious conclusion to draw is that we don’t have a game plan and watching the circus parade that is our government only stresses this fact further, a game plan would imply that we are thinking long term, that we understand that the world as we know it is about to change, that technology is bringing a new world order and that countries are fighting tooth and nail to secure their place in the new world order, that the key to helping us create a better future for us is to wholly embrace new and liberal patterns of thinking (somehow the burgeoning cannabis industry is still a taboo), to stop being so close-minded, to embrace the creative destruction that comes with technological innovation and progress, and most of all to back our never-ending talk with action
Like I earlier mentioned, we Nigerians as a people are masters at the art of pointing fingers, we are good at shrugging off responsibilities and we are firm subscribers to the “Messiah Mantra”, that someone somewhere is coming to save us, wave a magic wand and fix the system while we idly spectate and cheer on. To put it in plain terms, that’s bullshit, we need to save ourselves.
To close off, I’d just like to remind you that the year is 2019 and ten years ago, we couldn’t conceive how we would be living now. In 2009, Facebook was just becoming a global phenomenon, twitter was only 3 years old, and it was still years before the coming of Instagram, WhatsApp & Snapchat, having a stranger pick you up at your house or office and drive you around sounded like one of the stupidest ideas ever and today they are features of everyday life, and now it’s 2019, artificial intelligence is on the rise and every day the world records new and immense leaps in technology, it’s no stretch to think that we can’t really conceive of how we’d be living 10 years from now but we Nigerians are doing a really great job of ignoring these facts while other countries are racing to define their future.
One of the realest quotes I have ever come across says “The future is a place of our own making.” I can’t remember who said it but it is a statement that has always deeply resonated with me. 10 years from now we would be living in a Nigeria that we designed whether intentionally or not, and I think we all just need to understand that we all have a choice in how that future turns out and assume responsibility for it.
Revolutions always start with a change in mindsets.