The average Nigerian has some complaint or the other about this country. The assertions, usually, are not far-fetched because we have consistently witnessed upheavals in politics and social life. Even with the change in government, things are seemingly not getting any better; and worse, a majority of the citizens now feel small and hopeless. They believe that Nigeria is completely damaged. There are too many problems to address and there is nothing that can be done to ameliorate the struggles around them. They doubt the possibility of making a difference and possibly bringing a positive change to the nation.
The truth, however, is that while the idea of changing Nigeria is actually daunting, it can be achieved. Rather than just complaining, a little effort from us, as citizens, on an individual level, can actually reverberate and make waves. You need not be a world leader or a billionaire to make the difference either. You can just start with the following:
Educate yourself on topics that matter
Ignorance is a huge set back for many Nigerians. Ignorance is a gentle killer. Do not be the citizen who sits and swallows whatever information is dished to him hook, line and sinker. Don’t be the person who never lends his voice to anything and only moves with the crowd. Consider things on your own. Make decisions based on your own perceptions. Take time to educate yourself on relevant topics, especially the ones that concern you as a Nigerian citizen. That way, you are able to join the fight against corruption in the country, and other efforts geared towards building a better nation. Acquaint yourself with the country’s constitution; learn the laws that apply to you: tenancy laws, labour laws, e.t.c. That way, you can actually know how to stand up for yourself and others, rather than just join a cause blindly when you have no inkling of its origin or implication.
Get involved. Volunteer
How involved are you in your community? The local communities are the bedrock of the nation, and the actions you take to help build these communities up eventually will affect Nigeria as a whole. Whether it is by attending community meetings, starting a neighbourhood watch, writing a cheque, volunteering your skill/knowledge, or taking up the banner for a local cause, getting involved in your local community is a step towards making Nigeria a better place. Even if you have a full time job or you have kids, there are ways for you to participate or volunteer. You could write a letter, start a petition, do more direct activism, and whatever you can, to help with the amount of time you have.
Be kind. Give
Random acts of kindness go a long way in alleviating poverty, a major issue in the country today. Thanks to the expectations of our material-driven society, it is easy to be selfish with time, money, and resources. But if we really do seek forward movement, we need to look at the bigger picture and try being generous with our resources. Giving alms to someone on the street could take them off the streets and cut out the possibility of them becoming a security risk in future; mentoring someone could help them build businesses that would eventually benefit the country’s economy; making donations to NGOs or hospitals could help curb certain epidemics or diseases and cater to those who perhaps cannot afford to work for health reasons.
Keep your environment clean
It sounds totally cliché but it is a crucial step to bettering our country. It is easy to throw the Gala wrapper out of the window when commuting . You may even believe that it is easier to pee by the roadside than look for a toilet nearby. But all these misbehaviors add up to making the environment less attractive and unappealing. How can you promote tourism or drive it as an export industry when the environment looks like a slum – filthy and stinky? Imbibe the culture of dropping leftovers in dustbins and dissuade people from littering as well. Ensure you engage in community clean-up exercises and pay your waste management levies. That is one way to make Nigeria a better place. It starts with you… before LAWMA or FEMA.
Patronize local businesses
Curb your taste for foreign things. It’s hard, we know. But products made or services rendered outside the country are not necessarily better. Places like SPAR and Shoprite are great stores to buy groceries from, but they are really not as great as they are hyped up to be.
More importantly, they are of no real benefit to our economy: the management level staff are mostly expats and they do not stock that much of local brands – even their vegetable sections offer imported produce. There are other options – buying from the local markets, or going to locally owned businesses like Prince Ebeano, Blenco e.t.c. Rather than go to ‘The Backyard’ for instance, why not go to Yellow Chilli or Jevenik where you will even understand the menu better. And when you need medical attention or want to give birth, don’t spend your life’s saving travelling abroad. Have faith in the doctors here. Spend the money here! Don’t neglect the local just because the global is more attention-grabbing. How will Nigeria develop and be better, if the citizens do not trust, regard or patronize their own?
Bribery is the norm in Nigeria. In fact, we are at a point where it can be classified as a core culture in our society. Nobody wants to do their jobs anymore, unless there is an undeserved incentive. The police man who is meant to protect and help you resolve issues will not budge until you “settle him”; your lecturer will not give you the “A” that you rightly deserve until you “sort” him out, and your pastor will not pray for your wife’s safe delivery until you credit his account or donate to the church building.
Bribery is root cause of the corruption the Nigerian society is wallowing in, at the moment. Let us kick against it and perhaps, we will get better as a nation. Refuse to take shortcuts that require paying or giving a little extra; follow due process when relating with government officials. Do not do “happy Sunday” for the policeman and if you are harassed, report to higher authorities and involve the media. Also, do your job, and don’t ask for bribes. It’s actually simple.
Check your privilege
As with most societies, Nigeria is diversified and we have people of different ethnicities, gender and socio-economic classes. A number of people, however, believe that being of a certain ethnic group, gender, religious group or social class, makes them superior to others. You find people who are so tribalistic they fund terrorist organisations who torment others from other parts of the country. There are employers who refuse to promote a deserving staff or give them a job they can do expertly, just because they are female or too young. There are companies giving out jobs to people with “connection” or people from influential homes so that they can gain favour. We have Nigerians who maltreat their domestic helps, treating them as non-humans, because they consider them inferior. Nigeria cannot be better until its citizens become better.
We need to drop the attitude, shed tribalism and bigotry, and work towards ensuring that all achievements are merit-based. Essentially, treat everyone with respect and kindness. You don’t need government intervention for that. It won’t kill you.
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