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Losing the birth lottery

Losing the birth lottery

By: Dara Olaniyan

That Nigeria is in urgent need of some sort of help is a fact agreed on by all. Where we disagree is on the kind of help we need. Some Nigerians are of the belief that our lifeline as a nation lies in spiritual help; some believe in a luta and the reparatory power of street protests; there are those who have opted for a more individualistic “separate and fix your own corner” approach; and there are the nihilists who just want a fully loaded gun, and the heads of a few politicians to point it at.

On whatever side of the various divides we lie, no matter the various beliefs we hold, there is still the Nigerian constant; an overwhelming frustration about the state of things, and a need to either have the problem changed or to run away from it.

On the first part of this topic [The Dire Need For Genuine National Development: Is Revolution a Solution?], it is no gainsaying that if I had twice the word limit of this essay, I could use every single word to talk about the numerous ills and problems of Nigeria our country. In fact, talking about our problems is one authentic piece of Nigerian culture that cuts across all tribes and ethnic groups. A person born in Nigeria can very easily be said to have lost the birth lottery, in terms of being born in a country where you have a high chance at proper political representation, decent social welfare, and a chance at survival.

Once you are born in Nigeria, you already have the special privilege of being a citizen of the poverty capital of the world. At this point, you must pray hard even before you can talk, so you are not one of the 4 in 10 Nigerians living in extreme poverty. If you even happen not to be at the point of birth, your prayers must not cease, lest you are one of the 6 Nigerians falling into poverty every minute.

You will very likely never be able to read or write throughout your lifetime, just like the 72.5 million Nigerians who are illiterates. If you were born female, your odds are even worse. However, do not fear if you are born somewhere up North. Just like 3,538,000 of your sisters, you will be married off as a child probably to some man five times your age, and you can pass away in pain and agony on a poorly equipped hospital bed, as your premature body is forced to try to bring forth life.

As a Nigerian, you will very likely never have the feel of a proper hospital in your lifetime, and you had better warn your body very seriously to not contract any terminal illnesses, as neither a functioning health insurance scheme or even accessible facilities will be there to catch you. Don’t think about the fact that many Nigerians are one terminal illness away from extreme poverty, worrying is not good for your health.

You will try to get a job, but once again, the numbers are not looking very good for you. 1 in 5 Nigerians are unemployed, and there is not much of a reason to believe you won’t be one of them. At this point, you may consider entrepreneurship, but the erratic power supply, disappearing middle class and the generally poor economy will very likely not let you get far.

If you’ve settled for just surviving and getting by, you are still not in the clear. If the bad roads don’t kill you, the police might, or maybe a political thug will, when you are on your way to the ballot box to vote for change. Such is the life of those privileged to be born into the arms of the giant of Africa.

A revolution can simply be defined as “a change in the way a country is governed, usually to a different political system and often using violence or war” It is, in essence, a social and political movement that overthrows the current order, system or practice of governance in favour of a new one. The word “revolution” often invokes fear in the minds of many, because it is synonymous to violence, and even the quoted definition above seems to support that notion. However, “often” is not “always”, and while a level of force is needed in a revolution, it need not always be violence.

A trend can be noticed amongst many developed countries in the world, which is that a revolution is very often a step that must be taken on the pathway to development and national actualisation. The French had theirs, the British did, the Russians did, and even the Americans had their Civil War, which was a manifestation of the subtext of a revolution of sorts; a renegotiation of social rights on racial lines. However, is a revolution the solution that Nigeria needs?

The simple answer is yes. Yes, a revolution is a solution for the Nigerian situation. There is a common fact that cuts across all revolutions that have occurred in history, which is that a group of people, under the guidance, leadership or control of another- often smaller group of people, are fed up of the way things are, and feel the need to reject the current system for a better one. Nigeria checks all these boxes. We are in a country where the government has a stronghold over the economy of the nation, has held the key to several vital sectors of the economy for decades, but has constantly failed to use it for the benefit of the people.

The Nigerian political space is plagued with corruption, inefficiency, constant syphoning of funds, an abuse of the rights of citizens and a general disregard for the citizenry. That disregard for citizens, that unwillingness to answer to a higher conscience in the fulfilment of their promised duties, and that general lack of accountability or fear is exactly why it becomes pertinent for the Nigerian populace to show their displeasure through a series of decisive actions that shake the core of the current system.

I personally recommend an intellectual revolution, as history teaches us patiently that countries which are now enjoying the fruits of their labour, were those who were deliberate and intentional about charting their course for the future. These deliberate, intellectual creations which were drafted to completely change the status quo, have served as guiding voices for these countries over centuries. The British had the Magna Carta, the Americans had the American Bill of Rights, and the Swedish had the Basic Laws of Sweden.

Nigeria is in dire need of a deliberate and cerebral series of guidelines to which the country must abide. That a violent revolution is needed to give space for such an intellectual restructuring is a proposition that I neither deny nor oppose.

This article won the second runner-up prize in the 4th annual ‘Fisayo Soyombo writing competition.

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Adedayo Salami
Adedayo Salami
4 years ago

“That a violent revolution is needed to give space for such an intellectual restructuring is a proposition that I neither deny nor oppose” .
A brilliant piece this is!

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