Nigeria on My Mind…



By Femi Akintunde-Johnson


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Sometimes you wake up and sincerely wish you can spend the entire day simply keeping to yourself, and refusing to share your thoughts, and indeed, any other things with any human being. You just feel that unexplainable craving to be selfish… I don’t know if it is right or wrong, but I have been feeling like that quite often lately.

 For reasons I don’t yet understand, Nigeria has been weighing heavily on my mind. We all have our several “Whys” to ask of Nigeria. We all have our several scars to show of how Nigeria has impressed on us and our psyche. Almost everyone has one story or more, on the traps and craps we have had to endure simply because we were born on this side of this earth. Is there any adult who has not been scarred or seared by the circumstance called Nigeria?

 I believe, we can only quibble about the degree of Nigeria’s ‘influence’ in our lives – for good or bad. Some deal with the circumstance with grace or grit, while others succumb to devious means to survive… yet, some allow themselves to be sucked in completely without raising a finger in audible protest.

 One major issue always leaves me drained as I have not been able to find an answer to it that can put my mind at rest. The question is: Why do we work so hard, bargain so hard, pursue our dreams, goals and ambition with so much passion and sometimes desperation… why do we do all we have to do to become successful, and probably grow old doing it…and finally…die, leaving all to those we are in no position to advise, guide or command about how to manage, invest or dispense our “hard-earned” wealth, riches or reputation? When we sit to reflect on the fruitlessness of pursuits of personal growth and accomplishments, we are stormed with undisguised frustration… of dressing well for an outing without destination in mind.

 On several occasions, I have concluded that it was pointless working so hard in this very harsh country, amidst mostly hateful people who barely can contain themselves in their haste to deny you your entitlements, or frustrate your drive and vision. If you are lucky, you may find yourself around mentors and subordinates who share your dreams and are enthused by your passion. That ‘lucky’ scenario is an exception, rather than the regular.

 But what do we really want? Why do we struggle to amass wealth we can hardly spoil ourselves with, so that we do not attract others less privileged but desperate enough to kill so as to correct the “unfairness”? Why do we persevere in busy itinerary that will produce humongous profits but scant satisfaction in our ultimate success and acquisitions….

 When we sigh at approaching ill-health, or whimper at the whiff of danger, we express our vulnerability, our ordinariness… we are not so strong that we can eradicate things that can eliminate us. Basically, our riches and success are mocked by the tiny unpredictable and often inescapable circumstances like accidents, robberies, infernos, and other natural and man-made situations.

 There are people who have worked all their lives to give their children the best education money can buy; their families the best life can offer… yet before their death, their children (on whom they have desired and nurtured to prolong their ‘legacies’ and ‘traditions’) have succumbed to the lure of drugs, masochistic contra-religions and such morally bankrupt tendencies that simply mocked all their permutations and projection.

 Surely, the oligarchs often die miserably, disillusioned and disoriented. There are others who are now bogged down by debilitating diseases as a result of relentless and soul-wracking pursuits of financial and professional successes… they mull over their wasted youth and impotent wealth as they pine away loveless, childless, empty and lonely… even as hangers-on surround and preen over and around their sick beds. At a point when such wisdom is of no use to them, such people must face the traumatizing realization that their lives have been one big emptiness as all they have acquired cannot truly give them peace, joy and fulfillment.

Should we then not aspire to the heights of our profession? Should we not work hard to make good clean money so as to put food on the table for our families? Should we, because of the fear of what tomorrow holds, not work hard or dream big and truly hope to live out our dreams? By all things good and right, please pursue your dreams… run after your purpose… do not dwell on the impossible… keep an eye on the probable, and do not fear hard work. In all these though, be clear in your mind that your life is not lived for your self alone.

 A life lived for spectacle, dash and flash will procure for the owner a giant grief in years to come. Be clear in your mind that the best laid plans can tumble; not because you are a weakling or irresponsible or disorganized…Remember, there are things in life we cannot control or dominate. There is a much greater Being holding the strings to our lives…and since we cannot manipulate Him, it is useless making plans for what tomorrow will be. Place emphasis on the Now, and individuals who populate your Now… treat them well, cater to needs when you are privileged and equipped to do so, and devote your attention to propagation of goodwill and good gestures.

 The spinoff of that is: you cannot be disappointed by the actions and attitude of those who are close to you. Your children will not wait on you for a lifeline before they can stand on their feet. The chances of you dying a failed father or benefactor are greatly reduced as your life has shown brightly that you have built people, not money-making machines.

 So, what is this all about? It is the need to understand that people we build today will determine how well we die tomorrow… if we spend our prime time building strong structures, durable and self-sustaining institutions and procedures… then we empower our future (not just our families and fond associates).

 For one, that is how, I believe, Nigeria may become a better place to live, and to call our own. When, from the bottom up, we appreciate, encourage and honour honest, good, old hard labour… and yet give quality and sensible time and resources to build and nurture our homes and children, in the straight and narrow path… over the years, we can build a great and strong nation… not just by mere jingoism and platitudes… “Good people, great nation”!

Pix: Map of Nigeria.jpg