Opinion: Can’t we Just be Normal?

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Opinion: Can't we Just be Normal?
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Ndidi Uwechue

Ndidi Uwechue is a retired Metropolitan (London) Police Officer and a Pro-Social Advocate. Her personal mission is to use every means available "To produce a safer and more caring Nigeria". She writes from Abuja.
Ndidi Uwechue
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I regularly hear words such as, “Our great country” or “We can be great again” in reference to Nigeria. Such words make me wonder what the speaker means by “great”. Plus, for us to be “great again”, it implies that Nigeria was once great, and if so, when in our history of 105 years was Nigeria ever great?

From amalgamation to form Nigeria in 1914, and up to 1960, Nigeria was colonised by Britain but is it not strange for a people to say that when their land was occupied by a foreign power, their country was “great”? Today, “great” countries are those with enviable engineering technologies and they are able to manufacture all sorts of high precision and technically complex objects such as airplanes, ships, space rockets, trains and high speed railway systems, factory machinery, medical equipment, armaments, skyscraper buildings etc. Clearly Nigeria is not in that category, so it would instead be more correct to hope that one day Nigeria could become a “great” country.

If we are honest, Nigeria has been left so far behind that it is not possible to be among the great nations, not yet anyway, but we can aim to be among the NORMAL nations. A baby first has to walk before it can run. So too, Nigeria should first become a normal country, and when that has been achieved, we can then attempt to run with the great nations of the world. It is good to aim high, but it is even better to aim true. Young people are yearning for a normal country so on a daily basis you find them seeking visas to go abroad, or using unsafe and illegal methods to escape Nigeria. A normal country is one where things work as they should, and not where chaos, confusion, crises and disorder rule.

There are principles which affect individuals and nations. One very important principle is that “you reap what you sow”. Since Independence Nigerian society has been extremely careless in what it sowed, it sowed the seeds of corruption, and now the entire nation is reaping the fruits of corruption, which are a dysfunctional and delinquent nation. So, in order to become a normal country, Nigerians ought to sow good seeds, and pull out the weeds of corruption. It all starts with the mind, with the thinking. Up till now Nigerians thought that it was clever to grab a piece of the “national cake”. That orientation created a corrupt and uncaring society. We now need to uproot the weeds of “national cake” taking, and plant the right seeds that will build a normal nation. We now need to reject those attitudes that destroy a nation and replace them with community mindedness, valuing honesty, valuing hard work, valuing discipline and restraint, and valuing humility. In essence, to create a normal country we need to have citizens with character.

Let us visualize a normal country. In a normal country citizens would be able to have constant, good quality electricity at an affordable price. (When that is achieved Nigeria can be truly said to have entered the modern era). In a normal country citizens would have toilets in their own homes, schools, and places of work, plus there would be adequate public toilet facilities. In a normal country schools would have decent science laboratories and libraries, and environments that would be conducive to learning. In a normal country hospitals would be well-equipped and fit for purpose. In a normal country roads would have pavements and traffic lights so people would be able to cross the streets without anxiety and the risk of being mown down by uncaring motorists. In a normal country trains would be commonplace and boats would ply our rivers with passengers and with cargo. In a normal country the environment would be clean and beautified by trees, shrubs and flowers, and waste would be safely managed.

Cumulative neglect puts Nigeria at a low starting base. Thus, for Nigeria to become a normal country we could start off making most of our money from Low Technology Manufacturing such as the production of food, beverages, textiles, clothing, leather products, sustainable wood products,  paper products, printing, and furniture.  This would impart the ability to work unsupervised, to be good timekeepers, to pay attention to detail and understand the necessity for precision, it would boost confidence in our abilities, and rebrand Nigeria as a serious country, ready and able to do business and to produce high quality dependable products. “Made in Nigeria” would begin to have a positive impact, which we will need if later we want to work towards being a “great” nation, for scaling up into Medium-low Technology Manufacturing, Medium-high-Technology Manufacturing and High Technology Manufacturing.

In 1960 at Independence Nigeria held a lot of promise and had a lot of potential. However,  nearly sixty years of damaging and systemic corruption, plus, sadly, what Nigeria’s founding father, Lord Luggard said of us, ie lack of foresight, and inability to visualize the future have destroyed much of the potential we once had. So we now have a lot of work to do to become a normal nation. Those who have much at stake because they have most of their lives ahead of them are young people, those 35 years old and below who make up 77% of Africa’s population. Although young people are not personally responsible for sowing the wind because they were not born then, they are the ones reaping the whirlwind. However, they should not fear, they can use this whirlwind as the wind to blow the sails of their ship to a new land, a new Nigeria, a normal country. Normal is good. Great can come later.

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