A Must-Read: And We Were Not Always Like This by Dokun Adedeji

From all accounts and considerations, our country Nigeria, cuts the picture of a forlorn and debased caricature of what a real country should be. It is so painful and pathetic to accept that a nation so full of promises and verve can be so unhooked and heading into ruins.

It never used to be like this!

I remember my growing-up years when my father used to gather us together in the evenings; we used to have what now seem like an inquest on our country. He told us how it was that he and some of his friends and classmates were picked to travel from our village, Igbara-oke to Ado-ekiti to buy books for the class. They used to walk back then!

That is really not the highlight of such stories – it was the fact that items were displayed by the roadside for wayfarers to buy, and wait for this – these items were not attended to by anyone! The prices were denoted by the goods and if you wanted to buy, you picked what you wanted and pay to the invisible seller!

No one cheated! No one stole the items!

The seller would return from the farm, collect what was left, count his or her money and head for home trusting all had gone well. Yes, this was in Nigeria – the same Nigeria that you now need a double CCTV plus your eyes to monitor events!

How did we get here where to trust is to be foolish, where to believe any word is to be stupid and ready for a disappointment that may spell doom for you? Why should we now look to the past for the glory and good days? Can we ever again regain the past – the age of innocence when our dream was for a great nation?

Maybe we can, but definitely not by happenstance or fumbling through life and experiences as is characteristic of our today.

I remember a personal experience which is still with me till today that has helped to create for me the narrow path as in the words of David Frost in his book – Road Not Travelled (I think). He wrote: I saw two roads diverge in the forest and I took the least travelled on.

Our lives and the decisions we take is about making the right choices either as an individual or as a nation.

We were living then in Sapele and I was very young, not of school age, so one of our neighbors, a teacher asked my parents to allow her take me to school to feel and prepare for the future. This teacher, not of the same ethnic background and just a neighbor, had my parents’ confidence and pronto, I became her ward and a student. Then, it didn’t matter where you were from, the important considerations were – you were a Nigerian and a neighbor. No one cared what your religion was as long as you were of good conduct.

The real story was that on one fateful day, I had found the cover of a cigarette tin on the field whilst playing and acquired it and brought it home in my school bag. Yes, cigarettes were sold in tins! My mother, in her normal and routine check of my bag, found this strange material in my possession and the questions poured in torrents – where did you find this? Who gave you this? Why did you think you could not only take it but also bring it home?

And this was just the cover of the tin! What would have happened if I had brought the whole tin?

Since I had no answers to satisfy her myriads of questions, she beat me blue-black and further asked the driver to take me back to school – to return the cigarette tin cover to the exact spot I picked it from!

The import of the story was and still is, whatever you weren’t given or permitted to take, does not belong to you!

Now, in the same country, you could take anything that catches your fancy whether anyone is looking or not. The more of such you take, the smarter your neighbors consider you and you may become ripe for a traditional title for money or other debased National Honour. This is how despicable and low our nation has fallen. Such men and women are celebrated in the media and painted as role models.

Only just a few years ago, The Guardian debuted and everyone, no matter your strings of acquired traditional titles or ‘academic degrees’, you were Mr! It did not take long for that vision to die. It met its death in the arrogance and vain-glory of the elite Nigeria and with its demise, our journey into the abyss commenced.

In those days, when you read the columns of those great and committed men, hope for a better Nigeria was rekindled!

Where are the men and women of today? Their thoughts and stand do not sell newspapers again.

We are in a different time and season that Prof. Wole Soyinka christened Season of Anomie – nothing matters anymore as long as you have money; the means of acquisition is totally irrelevant and you hobnob with your co-criminals and despoilers at the corridor of power. The beauty of our nation is slain on the high places.
Our youth is in quandary – no role models to pattern their lives after, truth is absent and honor has taken flight from our once-proud nation.

And, it was never like this!

We had sun-crowned men and women who could speak truth to power and fear no retribution. We had pastors who thundered from the pulpit conveying the heart of God to a dispirited congregation. But alas, a new time has crept upon us.

Those days do not seem to matter anymore. Standards and values have changed and the only currency of worth is money. Our nation is on the throes of death – our national spirit lies on a gurney moving in the direction of the morgue.

Where are the men and women to bring back our country from the precipice and move us in the direction of the tomorrow we once dreamed and yearned for? How can we turn back the wheels?

This work is not for the faint-hearted or for a jolly-rider; it is for statesmen who can make us dream dreams again.

It is not for the politicians or carpet-baggers but for those who truly love our country and are consumed by passion to bring back the glory days.
Yes, we can if we want it badly.

Whatever the mind conceptualizes is possible. The Nigeria of our dreams is yet possible even in the midst of the present and enveloping filth, decadence and moral turpitude. We just need to put our back to it and engage our hands.

We have all it takes to build a virile nation if it be our common desire.

The Bible says: The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few but it enjoins us to call on the Lord of the harvest to send laborers to the field.

Who will sound the trumpet for a new Nigeria? Who will personify our dreams?

It never used to be like this but surely, it can be different.

– Dr Dokun Adedeji (Twitter – @dokunadedeji) writes from Lagos, Nigeria.

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