Veteran broadcaster and TV Host, Funmi Iyanda decided to write an open letter to Nigerian youth and she decided to dish her mind in a not-so-long open letter. Read up
The thing about age is, it is catching. It’s like a hysterical jester lying in wait for the fool.I want to tell you about Mrs Okoro. Before l turned nine, school was a vaguely irritating distraction from the pursuit of happiness in play and adventure. Every school day, I’d wear my red checked dress and burgundy beret uniform and passively submitto school. l was not a rebellious child. I was a bored child who daydreamed through classes until lunch when the school served asaro and chicken with bananas and ground nuts as snacks. That was until l got to Mrs Okoro’s class.
Mrs Okoro made letters become words, words which became stories, stories which became my life. I loved her dearly, perhaps it was transference as l’d recently lost my mother but at nine, l started going to school because she was there. One day walking out the gates after school, l saw Mrs Okoro getting into a bus ahead of me so l ran across the road to get into the same bus. I didn’t bother checking for traffic. The next thing l rememberis thinking heavenlooked rather like Akoka road. I had been hit by a car and was staring up at the concerned faces of Mrs Okoro and others. The driver was distraught; he was a student at Unilag and in the moment before pain cut through my adrenalin, l remember being happy l had been hit by a grand university student not some infernal danfo bus driver.
He took me to the university health centre where the nurses gave me a large cone of ice cream to comfort me before treating me and putting me in the big university bus home. My heart was swollen with pride as the shiny big bus drove down our dirt street in Bariga. Not a dime was exchanged, no one called my father at work, there were no mobile phones and we had no phone at home. There was no need; the system took care of me. It was Nigeria 1980.
Recently on my way out of Nigeria, the Murtala Mohammed airport was thrown into chaos, people were sweating and swearing, passengers stranded as all electronic equipment had stopped working. The place stank because there was no water to clean the toilets. I watched the white airline crew walk by with barely contained derision as they gingerly sidestepped the mess. The problem wasn’t that there was no electricity at the airport, that’s normal; it was that someone had not supplied the diesel to run one of the generators.I sat in a corner, observing people; those who fascinated me most were the band of men, mid thirties to late forties, Nigeria’s emerging business and political elite. I recognised them by their Louis Vuitton luggage, logo jacket and velvet slippers, disguising their social anxiety with an unabated desire for the pointless. Seemingly oblivious to their environment, they strutted about backslapping and rolling their r’s, being cocky, rude and dismissive to everyone.What stuck me most about these preening peacocks though, was their total lack of shame at the state of things. They are the band of new-Africa-rising, proudly Nigerian jingoists, living in a glass bubble as far removed from the Nigerian reality as you can get. For them patriotism is not a recognition of failure and a determination to redress it, but a slogan to be worn, tweeted or liked.Later on, crammed into a rather unsanitary first class lounge, I watched them posturing for furtive young female travelling companions, clearly under instructions to pretend not to know them. The odd thing is that these are no corn farmers made good from my native Ida ogun, these lounge dwellers are very well educated and uncommonly well travelled Nigerians. A defective fraction of the immense amount of brainpower and knowledge Nigeria has produced. They help prevent their peers fulfilling their potential and a pool of brilliant thinkers, explorers, scientists, innovators and artists is lost, squandered by a nation that strangulates its best.I often hear foreigners perplexedly comment that Nigerians are some of the best educated, urbane and confident black people they have ever met, so how come the country is so, well, Shit?One reason staring them in the face is that, the best-educated, urbane and confident elite they delight in meeting has failed us.The question therefore should be, what is it about the country that makes it impossible for its bright, hard working, resource rich population to organise itself into collective prosperity? What is it that turns some of Nigeria’s brightest technocrats into hand wringing, head-scratching incompetents when they achieve power?You see, Nigeria was founded as an economic proposition to collect and remit resources to the empire, with the British government entrenching a feudal, centralized, western-education-phobic elite in the North and a westernized, Judeo-Christian, anglicised elite in the south.