Akinwumi Akinola: How Nigerians Can Make Change Happen

Let me begin by acknowledging the fact that this is crucial time in Nigeria; a time its citizens are sensitive to the use of the word “Change”.  I understand our economy has dipped tremendously and the economic indices do not resonate with the realities of the common man on the street. Currently, our minimum wage of N18, 000 can barely put food on our table let alone afford the basic needs of family such as education and shelter. Just when the price of fuel was reduced in the global market and lay men on Nigerian streets were hoping to enjoy the same measure of reduction in cost of transport, the price of fuel increased by more than 50%. For these reasons, I understand the plight of Nigerians. Sincerely, it would be insensitive for me to assume that Nigerians are not asking questions; questions like how did we get here; questions that bother on the duality of change- for good or for bad.

Change, they say is the only constant thing in life. It is the very index for measuring growth and performance for anyone, any people or any nation. Even though we all desire change, our readiness to pursue change intentionally is questionable. Our politicians understand the emotional appeal of this lexicon so much that it was a campaign mantra that gave a huge leverage to a political party in the last election. However, desiring change is not enough. We must always weigh our options. We must ask practical questions. In asking myself the questions about how our dear country, the giant of Africa found itself at so dismal performance in the comity of nations, I arrived at two major conclusions.  The first and more obvious one is the dearth of quality leadership in our system and the other one rarely discussed is active citizens’ engagement and participation.

In Nigeria, we are blessed with huge non-human resources that should make us the envy of the world. However, these resources can only be harnessed when the right people plug them into an effective system that can engineered and driven. For instance, our failure to save and plan during the oil boom is hugely responsible for many of our economic predicament at the moment. We failed to diversify our economy and paid little attention to other investments such as the solid minerals and agriculture. While these are examples of leadership and administrative gaps, this discussion will be incomplete without exploring the subtle ways we can improve our outcomes in Nigeria as citizens, without necessarily being in political position.

We have an entitlement mindset that grossly sets us back as a people. As citizens, we must dispel our paradigms of expecting government to do everything for us. Some weeks ago, some young Nigerians criticized the N-power initiative put in place by government as a job-creation strategy. According to them, N23, 000 was too small to eke out a living as a graduate. These same people believe everything must happen so fast for them that they discard opportunities to start small and learn. They would not even consider agriculture- a major economic driver in economic recessions like this because they consider it demeaning. Ladies and gentlemen, we must be real, truthful and ruthless with ourselves about growth and development.  The developed countries we envy such as USA are hugely economically driven by Small and Medium Enterprises.

We also must understand that change does not just happen. We must actively track our growth indices and demand accountability from government from time to time. Can I ask you a sincere question; do you know the senator representing you in the national assembly? Do you ask him questions or communicate your opinions to him? It is a global truism that evil prevails when good people sit down and do nothing. We must be socially responsible, contribute our quota to the GDP, pay our taxes, vote at elections, but more importantly demand effective, responsive governance and accountability from government.

 In closing, let me remind you that life sets us a challenge to test our courage and willingness to change. At such moment, the challenge will not wait and life does not look back. The change we seek is hidden in deep complains called recession. I believe that NOW is the best time to re-jig our plans and harness the deluge of opportunities that abound with the down-turn.  A week is more than enough time to accept our destiny or decide to respond positively to change. The change we seek will come in trickles; by your diligence and strategic thinking; by accepting responsibility where others complain and changing your paradigms as a people, then as a nation.

In the words of Mahatma Ghandi – “Be the change you hope to see in the world”. The ball is in your court- to let change happen to you or to take charge of the change you experience.

Thank you for listening!