My recent return to Nigeria, I arrived through Murtala Mohammed International Airport Lagos. It had been a frustrating morning, from a two hour delay to terrible services aboard a sorry excuse for a plane. As we landed the airport, being herded towards immigration and customs, the most cliché incident happened, the lights went out (don’t worry this isn’t another cliché lament on the inefficiencies of Nigeria). I wasn’t fazed, neither was I shocked at the power failure; if anything it was expected. However, something did happen as we queued
up to have our passport checked that surprised me. An immigration officer walking past me lamented “Nigeria sha…only in Nigeria, will such a thing happen”. He said this with a shake of his head. For some reason, this did not sit well with me. I mean, I had already heard similar remarks from fellow Nigerians on the queue, so I didn’t understand why that of the officer bugged me so.
Fast forward a few weeks, I’m in the middle of another typical argument about Nigeria’s woes with a close friend. She then says “Nigeria’s problem is not my problem, not my responsibility”. All of a sudden it hit me. It was a realisation that silenced me, and threw me into deep thought. I’ve thought about it before, but just sparingly. However now, it seemed so obvious, so glaring. Finally, I saw through the illusion. Several of us (especially the youths) are trapped in an illusion. Unfortunately this illusion is self induced; we have decided to trap ourselves in an illusion of separation. The only reason, the remark made by the immigration officer bothered me so much was just because of one simple fact: he was in uniform. A man wearing the immigration service uniform is a representative of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. As a representative of the state, he has no right to separate himself from the state or the problems of the state. It’s like the cashier at a bank complaining to you, the customer, about poor customer service in the bank; it sounds absurd. But in truth, it is my assumption that is absurd. What makes me separate from the state or the problems of the state? My passport doesn’t differentiate me from the state. When I’m outside the country I am a representative of the country in its totality. The problems are not the country’s alone but mine as well.
Don’t get me wrong, I know that certain decisions of key actors have and still are crippling the nation, but the thing is we are all being influenced by these decisions. We cannot escape it. We being passive and believing that it is “their” responsibility to give us power, water, good roads or safety is getting us nowhere. By separating ourselves from the state and the problems of the state, we are not only giving up our responsibilities but ownership as well. This is our country, not “their” country. Next time you hear a remark such as “Nigeria is a failed state”, remember that the true meaning of that remark is that “you are a failed state”. Or next time you hear someone say “Nigeria is inefficient”, remember that what the person is really saying is that “you are inefficient”. It’s time as youths and as citizens, for us to stop the blame game. Let’s leave that for the petty party politics and politicians. It’s time for us to see past this illusion of separation and take our role as active citizens. Citizens, to which being Nigerian isn’t merely a passive adjective used to identify oneself, but an active noun vested with the power to make positive impacts in the country. We are all stakeholders, and representatives of the state. We are not separate from the state or the problems of the state.