Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever can, or ever has (changed the world).- Margaret Mead...

Today, I am visiting a friend at the University of Ibadan (we go a long way back, and I have known him for almost 9 years now). Visiting UI means going from one end of town to another and this provides me with an opportunity to observe quite a lot of happenings I seem not to have noticed before, and I will relate some of them below.

As the cab moves from Gate (sort of the commercial nerve centre of Ibadan) towards UI, I cannot help but try to quantify how much work needs to be done to bring positive change to Nigeria. You would understand this statement better if you could see and experience the same things as I have today. Close your eyes for a moment, and imagine that you are sitting next to me in the cab – let me relate the things that I can see as I ‘enjoy’ my ride to UI.

Look as far as you can see. Treat your eyes to the sight of mountains of debris alongside the road, gutters that have been blocked by yearlong deposits of trash, streets strewn with sachets of all sorts and sizes, rubbish stretching as far as you can see in any direction. I used to think keeping the environment clean was a collective responsibility! Whatever happened to waster-paper baskets? Hello, weren’t the first few hours of the last Saturday of every month reserved for cleaning the environment? Is it just me (probably an error in perception), or is it like that last Saturday only comes once a year?

Hey, look straight ahead! Can you see that policeman over there? Can you see him stop a cab driver and collect N20 from him? Alas, our cab is to suffer the same fate, however – my driver has to pay N50 because he refused to pay yesterday! Guy, to see the way the policemen carry on and on about the compulsory ‘contribution’ to their salaries, one would think it is an ENTITLEMENT! I used to think that bribery was something that was done only in the dark, alas the day is here when we see it right there in the light – on our roads!

Sorry, but look to the left. Can you see the artisan on a ladder – leaning against an electric pole? He is making an ILLEGAL connection, and I guess he is trying to beat the pre-payment meters. Sorry, but I thought that it was the prerogative of PHCN officials to touch NEPA cables. Gosh, I even read once that tampering with PHCN property could lead to a jail term!

While you look to the left, I can see a terribly scared woman flagging down a bus. Everyone in our cab seems to know her. On investigation, I find that she got the scars when a kerosene lantern exploded in her face – because the kerosene she used was adulterated. I did not know that the drive to maximize profit could lead to such callousness and lack of respect for human life. What if she had died?

OMG, see our very own cab driver scramble to put on his seat belt as we approach a checkpoint, and then take it off the instant the policemen at the checkpoint are out of sight! I cannot keep it in any longer – and so I say “sir, seat belts are for your own good, not for the policeman’s good. Did you know that having a seat belt on increases the chances of your survival in event of an accident by 50%?”

Right in front of us, can you see a driver rear-end another man’s car as he tries to change lanes without using his indicators? Glory to God, one of the first things I read about driving is to assume that every other driver on the road is insane! Listen, I thought driving tests were conducted before licenses were awarded? Where on earth could you be going in what kind of a hurry that would make you disrespect every traffic rule known to humankind? I was taught in primary school that it is better to be late than be the late (if you know what I mean). Or did he (the driver) not go to primary school?

Eewo, see that woman mixing two OBVIOUSLY different grades of garri! As we pass we can hear her swear by God that they are the same. Geez, take a second look at the garri! One looks very white, as in white, and the other is as grey as grey can be. Does she think that our complexion clouds our perception?

See that fine Ibo boy selling pirated films in a fake DVD labelled 100 in 1 (it is actually about 10 films divided into 10 subsections – so you have The Mummy 1A, The Mummy 1B, The Mummy1C etc). Pete! What happened to the regulatory boards? Or do they think that we cannot read?

I cannot help wondering if these things just started happening, or is it that I just started noticing them? Are these things part of what the average Nigerian has come to accept as ‘normal’, or is it just coincidence that I happen to see all of this in a 10minute trip?

I was reading Salisu Suleiman’s ‘140 million liabilities’ sometimes yesterday, and now I agree with him more than ever that we have got a whole lot of work to do to get there.

It goes both ways, top-down and bottoms-up. We do not need a re-branded image, what we need is 140 million re-defined identities! I quote Salisu - ‘only then can we begin to see our population as assets and not liabilities’. The change we want will come from inside, and it cannot be forced (look at WAI – it did not last beyond the regime that started it), it can only be taught...

When last did you hold on to a used sachet of sachet water until you could find a waste-paper basket to dispose of it properly? Or do you belong to the group of people that drops sachets and wrappers at their convenience? When last did you hold on to a used recharge card till you found a proper way to dispose of it? When last did you jump a queue (particularly at Health Sciences – if you know what I mean)?
Do you do the very things that you complain about? Do you ask for bribes in the thousands, and then complain when a minister is accused of fraud in the tune of billions?

It starts from me, it starts from you, collectively – it starts from us. We need to commit ourselves to standing for the truth at all times, and in all places; our rooms, and on the roads. I will take a break from my usual practice of using one quote, and I leave you with the following:

You must be the change you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Gandhi.
Take what you learn, and make a difference with it. – Indian Proverb.

I can see a new Nigeria! Can you?

I talked something similar to this over with Nike ALADE a while ago, and Nike – this is for you. Love you...


  1. i can see a new Nigeria and i definitely swear to do my part in making my dear country a better place to live in.
    thanks for reminding us that we are in this together.

  2. This is really great, you write really well, i'm so glad to be associated with u. Keep up the good work, don't stop!

  3. 140 million liabilities..true dat. social character and responsibility is our key to true national in good followership. i pledge my allegiance to positivet change!!!

  4. Tight!!!We need the revolution of the mind to drive this nation forward.Good work,bro! Nigeria needs pple like you with healthy mind.

  5. igbodipe iyabosile anthonia4 July 2009 at 14:32

    with pple like you Nigeria is going to be better.great work.