Are you mad? I have been here since 4.30am and you think you can just come and ‘chance’ me? Na only you wan get beta life, abeg comot for road, mmsscchhewwwww.’’
I froze for 10 seconds after that long hiss and gently turned my head to take a glance at both the speaker and receiver of those harsh words. ‘’Oh, you still dey look my face?’’ Before I could take a proper look, he pushed me off the queue and forged ahead. This was my first encounter at the British High Commission at Abuja in 2008; I had accompanied a friend to process her visa but the crowd was massive and I was shocked to learn that some people actually came as early as 4am. After that experience, I could only imagine how bad my country was and wondered if there was any hope at all for us who had no plans (at least not yet) to leave the country. I was stuck with the notion that there was definitely a better life outside Nigeria, perhaps the promised land with greener pastures where all our dreams will come true. To worsen my anticipation towards the promised land, I watched a movie where someone punched some buttons on a machine and lots of money came out. After I saw that, my eyes popped like that of Popeye – in my thoughts I was like ‘oyibo people even get money for free’. It was until I grew up that I realized ATM machines only dispense money from your account which has been funded by you and not ‘osho free’ like I thought.
While hoping to get to this land with greener pastures, I didn’t realise that the grass is greener where you water it. We seldom give ourselves the opportunity to think of ways to water ours because we are too busy admiring the neighbour’s green grass and fail to give attention to ours. Nigerians fail to understand that the solution to a problem lies in the problem so running away from Nigeria to another country will not solve the problem. Unknowingly to some of us, we have better lives than those who reside in the suburbs of America or Europe, even though there is a discrepancy between my thoughts and my sister’s perception about people living in ‘jand’or ‘yankee’. I have a sister who fantasizes about living in Canada, getting married and raising a family there; far away from the shores of Nigeria where she will have constant electricity, no traffic, no generator noise and no fuel scarcity. Jand to her was the ultimate remedy to the difficult Naija life, it was a safe haven – a means of escape into a better world with no chaos, worries or troubles, a city where the streets light up every night and electricity never blinks. More than half of Nigerians strongly believe that the only way to their promised land is leaving the shores of Nigeria; but what if we are already living in the promised land and completely oblivious of it? We have whined, complained, spoken unkind words about our leaders, cursed the land and rained abuses on the country without acknowledging that anything good could emanate from Nigeria. You know we like free and easy things in Nigeria, not everyone wants to do the task but everyone wants to enjoy ‘beta’ life.
Complaining about our current position is the best way to ensure things stay exactly the same; we can only make progress when we respect and appreciate what we have while focusing on strategies to move forward. Complaining was the reason the Israelites ended up wandering in the desert for forty years before they reached the Promised Land, what does that tell you about Nigeria? Sometimes it looks like we have taken one major step forward and suddenly it feels like we took ten steps backwards. How long are we going to complain about things not changing and still remain stagnant? It took me a while to understand that other countries also face the same issues with us – they worry about bills too, have issues with their government, face unemployment & have cases of violence, robbery and in some places even worse issues like hurricanes and tornadoes. Eckhart Tolle, in his book ‘‘The Power of Now’’says “never catch yourself complaining, in either speech or thought, about a situation you find yourself in, what other people do or say, your surroundings, your life situation or the weather. To complain is always non-acceptance of what is, it invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself a victim but when you speak out, you are in your power.
Nigeria is in recession but there are still people making profit in their business; many people conquering new grounds and improving everyday. Look deep within and find that substance you have that can change your situation; if you cannot succeed in your own country, what is the guarantee that you will do so in a foreign country? The truth is, it is not easy anywhere, we can water our grass and patiently wait for it to bloom into a beautiful green field. Instead of complaining about everything and looking for where to run to, we need to get up & act if you want things to work. Don’t wait for the government, you can be the first step to the change you want to see.