T HE ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaigns kick-started by the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, is being misunderstood as if the President is shifting the Change he promised to the doorsteps of Nigerians. The impression I get when I speak to friends or read their write-ups is that President Buhari is abdicating in his responsibility to bring the desired change his promised the people of Nigeria. They say that the ‘Change Begins With Me’ campaigns is an attempt to divert the attention of Nigerians from the real issues. They claim that the President is blaming them for the economic crisis they never created in the first place. They are of the opinion that President Buhari should bring the change he promised.
Those who know better tell us that change will not come if we continue to wait for other people. The tell us that change will elude us if we continue to procrastinate and continue to shift it to some other time. They tell us that we are the ones we have been waiting for. They tell us that we are the change we desire, the change we seek and the change we want. Now, why am I saying this? What point am I trying to make? What do I want to achieve? As a father, as an activist, as a leader, and as an elder, I have seen it all in Nigeria. I have seen why things seem to remain the same, even when we try to move forward. I have seen why Nigeria is not working. I have seen why we seem to remain the same when other countries are moving forward. I have concluded that even you brought all the money in the world to Nigeria we may not make it because we need attitudinal change. We need to change our character. We need to change our mindset. We need to love this country and work for it to bring the desired change we all need.
I have been diligently following the recovery of public funds from certain individuals like service chiefs, politicians, business men, contractors, civil servants, among others, and I have been asking why we steal what we do not need, while we steal and steal and will not say enough is enough, and why we steal for ourselves, for our children, for grand children, for our great grand children and even generations yet unborn. I am told that “our foreign exchange reserves plummeted from $62bn in 2008 to $30bn by 2015, at a time when oil prices were at a historic high, reaching a level of $114 per barrel in 2014. By comparison, Indonesia, another oil producing economy with a high population, increased its reserves from $60 billion in 2008 to $120 billion in 2015” about the same time. Now, who is to blame? You blame the government, the rats in NNPC, the rats in the MDAs,the rats in the Budget office, their cronies and associates, their hangers on, etc. They are all Nigerians.
A Professor from the University of Lagos once took a weighing machine to the markets in Lagos to verify the claims of Nigerian manufactures concerning the weight of their products. None of the products passed the simple test. The products weighed below what was written on the labels. Now, who is to blame? Fathers and mothers who pay for their children to go to special centers to write their examinations are not government officials. Special centres are where students go to be helped to pass their exams. The criminal organisers of the scam buy the question papers from WAEC officials and get experts to provide answers which they now handover to these students at special centers. What about some medical doctors who run baby factories where underaged girls are lured with say N50,000 to get pregnant and when the babies are delivered these doctors and their collaborators, sell the babies to would-be buyers ranging from N500,000 to N1,000,000? Are they not ordinary Nigerian citizens? What about the lawyers and judges including the well respected SANs who run from one court to another to defend those who looted the nation to bones?
What about the ordinary Nigerians who connive with government officials to defraud government and sabotage the system? What about our contractors who collect money for projects and use it to buy more cars and marry more wives? What about government officials and ordinary Nigerians who connive to loot the nation and stash the money abroad, and sometimes such funds are never recovered? What about the ordinary bankers and bank bosses who help the looters to keep stolen funds and even help to open several accounts without sticking to the rules of the games? What about the governors, senators, legislators, traditional rulers, leaders of thoughts, among others, who encourage criminals to destroy government installations in the name of agitations? What will you say about university teachers who demand sex or money for students to pass their exams? What about those who go to collect our scarce foreign exchange earnings promising to use it to import raw materials, only to take the dollars to the black market and make millions just for making phone calls to the right people in the corridors of power? What about those who use our scarce foreign exchange to go and import toothpicks, toilet rolls, toilet soaps, etc? What about those who divert military hardwares to the enemies or those who work for the enemies of the country for personal gains? What about the church leaders who connive with any government in power just for personal gains instead of speaking truth to power in tandem with their callings? Police who erect illegal checkpoints across Nigeria to extort money from ordinary Nigerians are pulling the country down. Those rats who add thousands of names (ghost workers) on the pay roll to steal billions every month are pulling the nation down gradually.I can go on and on.
The truth is that some of us used to say that Nigeria is what it is today because of what our past leaders have made it, whether they are civilians or military, but today, I am singing a different song. My experience since I left the University of Nigeria in 1985 is that all have contributed to the mess we find ourselves today. The little wrongs things we have been doing in our homes and offices have magnified in no uncertain terms to become the big problems we have today as a nation. A nation fails because we have failed as a doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers, soldiers, police, fathers, mothers, presidents, ministers, senators, house of reps members, governors, commissioners, artisans, etc. Governance is a collective responsibility. Government must show the way and the citizens must obey the law and do the needful. Citizens must change their attitude and mindset for this country to join the comity of developed nations.
- Igbokwe lives in Lagos.