Nigeria celebrates 50 years today and I can’t help but reflect on my experiences as a child growing up in Nigeria, how far the nation has come, our responsibility here at LadybrilleNigeria.com, my hope for a better country and the responsibilities of the many Nigerians who visit us daily here on our site.
As a child growing up in a single parent female home in Nigeria (which was highly unusual at the time), I had the “privilege” of living with and among the poor. I say privilege because my life’s lessons began there and have served me well through life and till today.
In the early 80s, we lived in a 2 bedroom in the poor part of Ikeja, Lagos. Our apartment had a shared latrine (hole in the ground), which all neighbors used. You definitely had to be careful navigating your way in the latrine. Undeterred by the hardship and truly the Nigerian/African mother that my mother is, she worked very, very hard to raise us all, four children total. She was keen on education and understood its value. Accordingly, she managed to save and send us all to some of the best private schools in the country. Getting to elementary, grade and ultimately high (secondary) school meant walking very long distances and taking public transportation, even though there were times, later, were my mom would take us to school in the family vehicle we ultimately purchased as things got better.
I am so grateful for the experiences as I think back in hindsight. Walking those long deteriorated and at times horrendous roads (especially during the raining season-think floods) in Ikeja and later Ejigbo, meant I was exposed to a different Nigeria, one that majority of the country’s citizens still experience today.
The Nigeria I grew up and experienced had children scavengers hunting in larger than life heaps of waste for food, plastics, bottles and whatever they could get to survive. I wondered often where their parents where? Why did they have to live that way? Did they ever get sick from eating such bad foods? The images of these children hunted and would hunt me in my dreams well into adulthood.
The Nigeria I saw as I “trekked” and took buses with my siblings back and forth to school was one were citizens took the law into their hands because they couldn’t trust the government to do so. Repeated burglaries and armed robberies meant when thieves were caught, they were stripped naked, beaten to a pulp, car tire(s) thrown over their heads and then, right before my eyes, and those of many including children who watched, were burnt alive. The corpse(s) stayed on the streets for what seemed like weeks bloating, bursting. The stench. Jesus Christ, the stench was nauseating I can’t even begin to describe what it felt like to go through that, as I navigated my way to school, and had to pass one of these corpses.
I was exposed to a Nigeria where orphaned children begged on the streets for food and money. The Nigeria I saw well into the early 90s before I left the country had the mental and physically disabled citizens on the side of railroads begging for money, some in their own excrement, many times oblivious to the trains approaching.
The Nigeria I saw, as a child, had heavily congested traffic jams and vehicles that had no business being on the roads because the smog they generated created such pollution it was crazy.The Nigeria I saw also had high rates of road accidents and many times a medical response team that was nowhere to be found. I could go on. Of course there were happy memories, lots of them, with family, friends and schoolmates but I also remember these vivid images from my past.
These images and experiences, among others, shaped and drove me to be intensely focused to succeed. It was never a question of “whether” I would succeed. As far as I was concerned, I knew I had to succeed, PERIOD. My drive was fueled by the fact that, even at such young age, I felt a strong urgency and a strong sense of responsibility, empathy and compassion to be a part of the solution for a better Nigeria. The children I saw were my age mates. Some much younger. I felt, strongly, they deserved better.
Ultimately, my mother being the hard and smart worker she was who had God on her side, worked her way up Nigeria’s corporate ladder and by the time we left Nigeria to return to the States, we were arguably part of the country’s middle class.
In the early 90s, my family was among the initial set of Nigerians that began an exodus from the country for greener pastures in the US. While I left Nigeria, my heart stayed there and the images of these children, among other things stayed with me. When I visited the country, over a decade later, the latest being in 2006, the realities I grew up with were still present. Nothing seemed to have changed much.
In 2010, a state like Lagos where I grew up has seen significant changes thanks to Governor Fashola. But, many of the problems I discussed above still exists; plus Lagos is but one state in Nigeria.
As the nation celebrates 50years today, for me and for you, the question really is, how far have we come as a nation; and are we doing our part to build a better country for Nigeria’s children?
We can continue with the excuses i.e. “ngbati, ngbati” as they say in the Yoruba language. But, at the end of the day, why is Nigeria, as big as it is, with its many resources constantly in the dark i.e. power outages? Why is it so common these days and the norm to hear about citizens being kidnapped? Child trafficking of our children to European countries continues in alarming rates, where is Nigeria’s criminal justice system when our children need them? In terms of infrastructure, it is truly ridiculous that as of September 2010, 2million of Nigeria’s citizens in the North are displaced because of man induced flood. At what point do Nigeria’s citizens get sick and tired of being sick and tired? At what point do the citizens decide to shake the status quo and demand for a better Nigeria for the future? Are Nigeria’s children not worth the sacrifice? The Christian and Muslim conflicts in Jos etc. how long will these continue ? What systems are in place, if any, to aggressively address these ongoing religious conflicts once and for all? How much more bloodshed before we say, enough is enough?!
It makes no sense to me that majority of the country’s graduates cannot seem to gain employment. Healthcare is in a deplorable state, orphaned children continue to beg on the streets, children continue to scavenge for food at these waste dumps around the country. Aren’t Nigeria’s citizens fed up?
Yes, the country has made strides. But, there is still a lot more to do. Today, I pray and hope for a better Nigeria. A Nigeria where our children, not just children of the elites, but all children can have a chance at a good future. OUR CHILDREN ARE our future, the leaders of tomorrow, I am a living example of that slogan. The government and its citizens MUST invest in the future. It is my hope that as the 2011 election rolls around the corner, you, YES YOU will go out and vote. Equally, I pray 2011 is the year that a true leader emerges, one that can begin turning the country around.
For us at LadybrilleNigeria.com, our job is barely getting started, there is so much more to do. We thank you all for your continued reading, comments, emails, daily visits and sharing our messages with your friends, colleagues and family. All of what we do here is truly towards the ultimate goal of lifting our country up. When all is said and done, we want to be a part of the solution. We want to be known as a Nigerian brand that facilitates and inspires fashion entrepreneurs who then create jobs, educate, hire, encourage and empower Nigerian citizens, especially girls and women.
As one of my new favorite rap artists X.O Senavoe who is of Nigerian and Ghanaian parentage raps, “We’ve Got the Power.” It is my prayer we use use it.
Happy Independence Day and God bless Nigeria!
Uduak Oduok, Esq.
Founded in 2007, Ladybrille® Magazine is a California based pioneer digital publication demystifying the image of Africans in the west through contemporary African fashion and celebrating the brilliant woman in business and leadership, with an emphasis on the African woman in the diaspora. Our coverage includes stories on capital, access to markets, expertise, hiring and retention, sales, marketing, and promotions.
RT @Ladybrille: Nigeria @ 50: My Hope For a Better Nigeria http://bit.ly/aJ3sZd
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