By Ekerete Udoh
I was in a state of pure ecstasy almost bordering on delirium as I traversed the nooks and crannies of the land. The environment looked pretty familiar yet everything around me was different. The ambience, the demeanor of the people, the aplomb, the ‘swagger’ and the patriotism everyone projected was decidedly different and deeply infectious. I was confounded by all I had seen around me, and for a moment, I felt discombobulated. “No, this is too good to be true” I found myself shouting in pure excitement. “Could this have happened within the past six weeks since I left the country”? What changed? And how this new orientation and attitude, command such breath-taking and profound dimension which for 51 years we had attempted to effect all to no avail or with diminishing output”? I had wondered aloud.
Everywhere was fully lit- the perpetual darkness had melted into the deep blue sky; the roads were world-class- free from the stomach-curling bumps and potholes that had previously defined one’s travelling experience, the traffic moved spectacularly well, as everyone drove according the rules and there was no animalistic display of bravado behind the wheels neither did someone attempt to forcefully cut me off my lane. The traffic lights worked as well and everyone waited patiently for the light to turn green. At bus stops, everyone lined up to board the fully air-conditioned municipal buses driven by drivers in sparkling uniforms.
The air was clean, the smog in the air all clear. At the airports, the airfares were within range of the average Joe. All the major airlines had a somewhat uniformity of prices- there was no unilateral fixing of air fares by according to the whims and designs of the airline operators, because the regulatory agencies would have none of such arbitrariness. If I was still in a state of shock over all these, then what was ahead was to say the least confounding and I was by this time, screaming praises to God for finally pulling my country away from the abyss of inefficiency and a blatant lack of ownership of the instruments of governance by both the leaders and the led.
At the ministries where I had gone to see some people, the professionalism I saw -from the man at the counter was simply overwhelmingly. Looking smart and speaking in a voice and cadence that had been trained to show courtesies to visitors, I was ushered into a waiting room, and there, again, I was shocked when the aide to the big man, came out just after just 10 minutes to announce that the big man will see me in a few minutes and asked if I could be served coffee while I waited. Exactly 10 minutes, I was ushered into the office of the big man and the business at hand was concluded briskly and as he ushered me to the door, I felt proud to be a Nigeria. “Wow! I had exulted “So this is happening in my country? Where are the naysayers who daily rave and rant that our country cannot function properly- that elected leaders are not accountable to the people and that they all see themselves as all-powerful potentates, who are blissfully disconnected from the pulse of the people”? I had exclaimed.
The news media was equally seized by the new air of patriotic fervor that was swirling all over the land. A particular headline caught my attention “The Deputy Governor of Lagos state “Chief Ikechchukwu to visit Abia state”. “No, no, no” I had scrammed. An Igbo man as the deputy governor of Lagos state- in my lifetime? No, this can’t be true”, but there it was on the cover of the newspaper! What happened to the lords of ethnic politics, where did the apostles of parochialism-, of indigenes/settler issue go? Were they thankfully defeated and had their tails tucked between their legs? So they were finally overwhelmed by the forces of national renewal? I couldn’t believe that all these were happening in my country.
At the national level, the president was forceful in his defense of national ethos, interest and values. All those who had played upon the narrow fears of their little enclaves were put to national shame. The new spirit spoke of national unity, of the pursuit of things that bind us as one people- where the diversity of our union was held as value-added as opposed to the diminution of our collective essence. The northerner, while still attached to his or her roots and values, trumpeted more issues germane to our collective development-same with those form the South-West, the South-East, South-South and the Middle Belt. All around me, a new spirit of national renewal was blowing all over the land and I was drunk by this new wind that had been unfurled.
The private sector was thriving, jobs were being created because government had partnered with that sector and had given them benchmarks - practically tying future partnerships on the need for the sector to create jobs for our teeming population of graduates. A new agency fully funded by the federal government was granting soft loans with no interests but with strict monitoring mechanism to college graduates who desired to start a small scale business instead of looking for employment. With the steady supply of electricity, Nigerians brought out the innate creative talents in them, and instead of an army of unemployed youths roaming the streets, looking for quick fixes, most were now looking inwards and trying to dream dreams of self-sufficiency predicated on the ‘can-do’ spirit that was now the motivating impulse of the land.
Driving around the streets, I saw policemen in sparkling uniforms and brightly painted cars patrolling the streets. I observed a driver being arrested for attempting to bribe a police officer while he, the cop was trying to carry out his law enforcement duties. “Is this truly happening in my country? God, may your name be praised” a crowd that had gathered to witness the arrest of the driver had chorused. “This is a new day in Nigeria” the arresting officer had intoned and “if you think you can bribe me to obstruct the discharge of my duties, then you are painfully mistaken. Come with me young man to the station” he had commanded as the errant driver was handcuffed and driven away in the siren-bearing patrol car.
In international arena, the foreign affairs minister was speaking in a clear, active and powerful voice as opposed to those days when we spoke in passive voice on international issues and the promotion of our national interest. The minister was now using such clear words as “we expect our brothers in the continent” or we “expect our allies to” instead of the usual “We hope our brothers “or our” allies”, fully conscious that in international system with its anarchic layers and lacking controlling or centralized authority, when you “hope for things to be done” it remains what it is: hope but when you “expect “things to be done”, it carries a force and power of expectancy and urgency. The new phrase was in recognition of our new national consensus on major issues which had given us a stronger voice- one of authority as opposed to one that was lost in the din of all other ‘smaller voices.” My country was now on the ascendance and I couldn’t be more proud.
All over the 36 states, I saw people who originally came from other parts of the country working together as one, and some running for elective position because those voices that shouted ‘carpet-barger’ or those who trumpeted parochial and ethnic-based platforms had been drummed out of the public square and were now only operating from the fringes. Nigerians were now proud to proclaim themselves first as Nigerians over those of their tribal identity that had pretty much defined our previous existence.
It was a new day and as I got lost in the intoxicating aroma of the new national spirit, I felt a strong urge to use the bathroom, and as I walked into the bathroom, unzipping my pant, it all came together. I opened my eyes and I realized that I was on my bed in my home right here in Saint Albans, Queens, New York. It was all a dream- far removed from the realities of our daily existence in Nigeria, and I was seized by a paroxysm of anger and disappointment. The dream was too good and I didn’t want it to end, but it had ended and the cold reality was now starring me in the face. Nigeria of my dream was only a thriving entity that resided in my dream. It was a far cry from the reality on the ground, which made me real sad.
But can’t we build a nation such as the one I dreamed about? I think we can and as an eternal optimist and one who completely believes in our capacity to reinvent the wheels of our progress, I know we will get there someday. Let this dream inspire our leaders to do the right things so that our land- peopled by a proud and exultant citizens; industrious and creative will have cause to raise their heads and proclaim the majesty of our land and our people. It takes a few people to help engender this, just as America had their Washingtons, the Lincolns, the Franklin Roosevelts, the Clintons, the Reagans and now the Obamas, thank God we have a few of them already- the Akpabios, the Fasholas, the Yugudas, the Obis etc- let their efforts help bring about a tipping point in good governance so that the dream I had above will be lived out in reality. That should be our collective prayers because Nigerians are dreamers who also work hard to have their dreams fulfilled. It takes just a few good people to have this dream become destiny fulfilled. May it be well with Nigeria.
Congratulations to Governor Akpabio
Here’s congratulating Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, on his emergence as the Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum. As the visionary and the propelling hand behind the ‘Uncommon Transformation’ in Akwa Ibom Ibom state, which has been nationally and internationally celebrated, I have no doubt that he will, in close partnership with his colleagues and the leadership of the PDP, uncommonly transform the way the party deals with its different ideological blocs and get them all united to work toward the strengthening and deepening of our democratic culture. Congratulations again Your Excellency!
Franca Ogagbor-The Pride of Nigerian Diaspora Community
She is one of the most respected members of the Nigerian Diaspora community who has added value to our community in significant ways. Deeply religious, ethical and committed to the best practices of shipping industry of which she is a respected member, Franca Ogagbor- a former model who in the 80s was the face of ‘Close-up’ toothpaste, and Vitafoam under the late John Oduah’s Lintas Communication has been running Grandbelle International- a foremost shipping and freighting forwarding business that caters to Nigerians in the Diaspora and those from Nigeria wishing to have their goods shipped from the United States.
In a community where we have unfortunately been negatively stereotyped due to the activities of a tiny percentage of our nationals, the Delta state born Franca’s ethical approach to business has been lauded by all, earning her company the membership of the prestigious Better Business Bureau (BBB,) membership of the U.S Chamber of Commerce and was awarded “Woman of the Year 2012 by ‘The Association of Professional Women of New York ‘“for demonstrating excellence and dedication” in the shipping industry. “Our clients come first-we go the extra mile to ensure that they have hitch-free shipping experience with us. We handle the shipping needs of most Nigerians and other Africans here and also those in Nigeria who desire to have a reputable shipping company that will deliver their goods in real time. We feel blessed by the accolades we have received, and are happy to promote the Nigerian brand in our industry.” Franca had stated when asked why her company has won all the accolades.