Arise O Compatriots By Toibudeen Oduniyi

President Barack Obama

“It is time we realise that we are the only people that will develop this country”.

Folks, let me congratulate my brother Barack “Hussein” Obama on his re-election as the President of the United States of America. He truly deserves it, having managed a nation emerging from the blighted psyche of two demoralising wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a battered economy and a country besieged by threats in most areas of its leadership, remarkably well in the last four years.

Has he been a resounding success – No, has he made good attempts and work tirelessly to pursue his vision – Yes. There has been many lows and highs, budget deadlock and health care reforms, etc. All through this period, he has displayed dignity and strength – the hallmarks of a true leader. The election battle was a very tough one, two candidate representing two ideological different parties with their huge foot soldiers exploiting every channel possible to stake their claim to the White House. Now he has another four years, the work continues and I wish him the best.

He must now set his sight on changing the world as he promised four years ago. Obama must remember he is not competing against anybody anymore and be bolder with his policies. First on his list, putting that recalcitrant Benjamin Netayanhu in his place, resolving that huge sore on the face of the world – the Palestinian homeland issue, putting big businesses in check, withdrawing young Americans from doomed wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting poverty in all its ramifications all round the world, curbing the power of lobby groups in perpetual control of Washington and stop the pattern of imposing American brand of democracy on people around the world. Tough demands, but if he manages to crack two or three, his place in history will be unquestionable.

Nigerians displayed such an amazing interest and creativity during the American election – cynics will probably point to the Obama factor. Right from the Obama fund raising fiasco many years ago, to the numerous display pictures that adorn our blackberry phones today. You will think we are all related to Obama in some ways, well he has got to be everyone’s favourite uncle!!! One must wonder what would have happened if Romney had won. This begs the question, why don’t we show this kind of fervour for Nigeria. Rather, it is always a litany of woes. The body polity remain besieged by many ills – mass corruption, moral decadence, youthful delinquency, a belligerent political class, religious intolerance, etc. In the political arena, governance has become the forgotten mission. In the economic sector, we have become the dumping ground of the world. In the social sector, our traditional values are nearly extinct. Where do we go from here??? It is time we must ponder JFK’s popular phrase – Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country. To me this is very apt, as we are always quick to blame the country. I wonder how many of us ever actually pause to ask ourselves what we can do to move the country forward. Looking up to the government or God will simply not do it. People are always quick to blame it on something else but I think the problem lies in us. The fact is that our behaviours define how people view us. On a recent trip to England, I was shocked to find a Custom Officer just outside the aircraft exit door, enquiring about how much cash people had on them. It used to be sniffer dogs looking for drugs now it is humans looking for cash!!! After a few exchange of banter, he explained that they have credible intelligence that people from Nigeria are bringing in lots of cash into the UK without declaring it. And of course, we all know the kind of cash that gets moved around in luggage. Not long after this, a story broke out about a Nigerian arrested at Nnamdi Azikwe Airport in Abuja trying to smuggle out millions of dollars to Dubai. Guess how I felt…

The African spirit of Entrepreneur has to be revived, and unleashed on the poverty scourge that ravages our great country. The success of many Nigerians in Diaspora has proven that we have what it takes to compete with the best in the world. In the United Kingdom, Nigerians lead in many fields of endeavour. At the grassroots level, Nigerians actively participate in politics, with many elected as councillors and Mayors. There are a few Nigerian young Turks rising in both the Conservative and Labour parties and it is only a matter of time before they hit the top jobs. Nigerians in Diaspora must also ask ourselves what role we can play in pulling the country forward. If we look at many emerging countries that are excelling today, the role of people in diaspora have been influential. India’s success as an Information Technology powerhouse would not have been possible without the contribution of Indians in Diaspora. Indians have been the most successful immigrants in Silicon Valley, with a quarter of companies there either founded or run by Indians. This group of people pioneered the software development and technical competence that is now centred around Bangalore and Chennai. The same pattern is emerging in medicine with a viable cottage industry developing in India that has proven very popular both in the West and other developing countries. Nigerians in diaspora must rise up to the challenge of Nigeria. Be it in the form of start-ups or in collaboration with existing institutions and organisations, let’s do it!!!

We should take heart and be encouraged by events in the US in the last twenty years. From the impressive assault on Washington by that kid from Hope, Arkansas to the man who challenged us by doing what most of us never dreamt possible in our lifetime – a black man in the Oval Office. As we ponder the issue of how to resolve the “Nigeria” problem, let us believe in a place called Hope as Bill Clinton did, and let us tell the cynics who doubt if Nigeria can be fixed as Obama did – Yes we can…. We must stand, be counted, and God willing deliver… Let us be ready to challenge the rules of the economic games and established orders. All around us today the world is changing, we are seeing people and organisations breaking the rules, taking on seemingly insurmountable tasks, disrupting conventional status quos.

It is time we realise that we are the only people that will develop this country. Foreign investors will come and go; the reality is that they are constantly on the move in pursuit of profit. Donors will give us aids in one form or the other, but soon or late they will get tired. We must have a strong belief in ourselves and our amazing personal capacity to achieve in the face of serious adversity. The human spirit is unshakable once we set our heart firmly on goals that are very dear to us. Let us be bold and pursue what our minds and hearts tells us Nigeria needs to break the vicious cycle of “bad governance” we are trapped in. I am sure the answer lies in us; we only have to summon the courage to let it emerge. And it starts by taking responsibility for our actions. Think positive and remain undeterred by challenges. When I am back in England, friends often ask me how I cope with all the issues in Nigeria. I tell them I see these issues as merely irritations, once you mentally block them out like this, it becomes easier to move forward. Besides, these challenges will not go away for a long time.

Pursue your dreams and visions, with vigour and focus. Don’t give up.

God bless Nigeria.

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