With the nagging reality of economic recession, it is quite unlikely that the drums would be rolled out to celebrate Nigeria’s 56th anniversary on Saturday. Without a doubt, these are hard times for our dear nation. The signs are, indeed, not palatable. There is hunger in the land. Of course, once hunger establishes its foothold in any place, anger is bound to surface. Thus, there is hunger-induced anger in the land. At the home front, husbands and wives are increasingly getting mad at each other. Palpable tension is everywhere. At the slightest provocation, people easily flare up. Domestic violence is on the increase. At major newspaper stands across the country, members of the “Free Readers Association” engage in animated squabbles that often lead to free for all. That hunger has given rise to anger in the land is, thus, not an understatement.
Characteristically, frenzy prayers are being offered across various religious centres in the country. Mission: For our nation to be free from its many troubles.
“Oh God, please put an end to the troubles of our nation” has now become a major prayer point in different worship
centres. Since nothing is impossible with the Almighty God, Nigerians are, understandably, knocking on the gates of the Most High for an end to the nation’s many woes.
But then, as our nation turns 56, my wish and prayer for the nation differ quite sharply from that of my other compatriots. At 56, my wish for Nigeria is for her troubles to multiply; for her to be embroiled in tougher challenges and battles. My wish is for the country to be entangled in additional complicated circumstances, issues and problems. Before one is accused of all sorts, let me affirm that my stance in this respect stems from a patriotic standpoint that is stimulated by the stark reality that without troubles, difficulties, challenges and complicated stuffs, no individual, nation, or society could really make the needed head start. Troubles, fierce challenges and perils are the major ingredients required to attain greatness.
In 1964, foremost social activist and educationist, Tai Solarin (1922-1994), wrote a controversial article titled, “May Your Road Be Rough”. At the beginning of the contentious piece, Solarin wrote: “I am not cursing you; I am wishing you what I wish myself every year. I therefore repeat, may you have a hard time this year; may there be plenty of troubles for you this year! If you are not so sure what you should say back, why not just say, ‘Same to you’? I ask for no more”.
While trying to clarify his stand on the subject, Solarin wrote: “When my sisters and I were young and we slept on our small mats round our mother, she always woke up at 6a.m. for morning prayers. She always said prayers on our behalf but always ended with something like this: ‘May we not enter into any dangers or get into any difficulties this day.’ It took me almost thirty years to dislodge the canker-worm in our mother’s sentiments. I found, by hard experience, that all that is noble and laudable was to be achieved only through difficulties and trials and tears and dangers. There are no other roads.”
Though many people misinterpreted Solarin’s prayer as a curse, but the main intent is to bring to the fore the intricate relationship between the bumpy roads of life and success. The bottom line is that success is not achieved on a platter of gold. It comes through continuous struggles and battles on the turbulent waters of life. In Solarin’s words, life, if it is going to be abundant, must have plenty of hills and valleys. It must have plenty of sunshine and rough weather. It must be rich in obfuscation and perspicacity. It must be packed with days of danger and of apprehension.
At 56, it will not be far from the truth if one concludes that Nigeria remains a crawling toddler. This is largely because we have always preferred the easy route to greatness. Our Independence was more or less got on a platter of gold. As if that was not enough, we suddenly struck oil. Thus, began a life of misplaced allure and grandeur. At the height of our nation’s stupendous oil wealth, a former Head of State was quoted to have said that: “Money is not Nigeria’s problem but how to spend it”. Thus, we virtually squandered our oil wealth. Today, there is trouble in the global oil market.
Thus, unlike what the rookie Head of State had affirmed, money has now become our nation’s problem. Most states cannot pay salaries. The Federal Government cannot fund its budget. Companies are downsizing. From all indications, trouble is here. Yet, at 56, trouble and more troubles are what we actually need to get our act together. Most of the developed world democracies thrive under difficult situations and conditions. Ours cannot not be an exception.
Current trouble times, if well-managed, could, indeed, be a blessing in disguise. The lull in the international price of oil could be an opportunity for us to eventually focus on the non-oil sector upon which our fore fathers built the nation’s prosperity. Now that we are groaning under severe economic burden is the exact time to pay adequate attention to other sectors where unlimited opportunities for job and wealth creation as well as accelerated economic and industrial growth abound.
We could take a cue from the nation of Israel which turned a huge geographical adversity into gains to become a renowned global agro-economy. We could also draw huge lessons from China which bounced back from a great famine that took millions of lives between 1958 and 1961 to become the world numero uno in food production. The Singaporean model as illustrated by the late pioneer Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, has equally shown us that bumpy roads are crucial necessities for national rebirth.
Going back to Solarin’s postulation, life will be worthless and unchallenging without rough roads. It is the rough paths of life that provide the desirable impetus for greatness. Therefore, at 56, here is wishing Nigeria many rough roads.
God bless Nigeria.
Ogunbiyi is of the Lagos State Ministry of Information and Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja