The Small Things that Matter

Small things don’t matter, like law students from Babcock University, Obafemi Awolowo University, Lagos State University, University of Lagos, and Crescent University, who will not be able to represent Nigeria at Africa Regional Rounds of the Price Media Law Moot Court Competition, organized by the University of Oxford this year. Their visas were not released by the South African Embassy for reasons unknown. But these things don’t matter. What does it matter that Nigeria will be missing where Rwanda, South Africa, Ghana, Cape Verde, and Gabon will be mentioned? There are more important things, like the 2019 general elections where we have to choose between a blundering dictator, a business-oriented kleptocrat, and a bunch of losers parading themselves as a third force. This is far more important.

Its not important that a woman whose water just broke loses her child because she couldn’t get to the hospital on time. Its just one child. The Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) called for a general strike, that led to street-wide protests and road blockades. What were they fighting for? An increase in the minimum wage that will affect everyone positively. Besides, Nigeria produces an average of 19,000 babies every day; so what difference does one stillborn child make?

If you don’t get admission through the Merit List into a higher institution, you don’t have much to be worried about. If your legs are long enough, you can get in via the ‘Dean’s List’, ‘VC’s List’, and the elaborate system of ‘scratch my back, I scratch your back’ that operates in public institutions. This is a small matter anyways. What does it matter how I get admission, as long as I get a good degree and use it for the betterment of Nigeria? There are more important things, like the secret recruitment that goes on at the Central Bank of Nigeria. If we don’t resolve that, it threatens the integrity of our institutions.

The list goes on but I must stop here. There are many small, irrelevant things, like the bribes we conventionally give police and army officers along the highways, to ‘avoid their wahala’, which don’t really matter. But only when you aggregate these things, you understand why some people say, ‘They’ve stolen Nigeria’s pant’.

Every time a young Nigerian loses an opportunity to push ahead because of the bad reputation of his country, his resolve to ‘japa’ and never come back is strengthened. Yet we complain about brain drain.

Every time a life is lost needlessly due the inability of authorities to be proactive, another person loses faith in the Nigerian project. That is why we have more than 2 million uncollected PVC’s, a few days to a general election; representing more than enough votes to spring a surprise if they were given to alternate candidate.

Every time we subvert due process, in order to extend undeserved advantages to others, we make it clear that we do not value merit. So, don’t complain when you have lacklustre individuals running for political office.

Some people say our biggest problem is corruption; for others, it is jobs, or their lack thereof. I say it is our orientation. This top-down approach to solving problems will never work in a big country like Nigeria. Like a leaking pipe, too many things will leak through the cracks, unnoticed, until the smell of the spirogyra puddle attracts our attention.

We need to start looking at things from a bottom-up perspective. You can call it grassroots politics. Real grassroots politics, not the Fayose-Adedibu Brand. A brand of politics that considers that how the decisions made in Aso Rock affect the little man in Ikoyi, Osun State.

A brand of politics were politicians and political parties formulate their ideologies and manifestoes, based on the aggregation of public opinion and feedback, not what the detached experts in Broad Street or Wall Street say.

But who are the Nigerians who will advance this small man approach to politics? Definitely not those who can part with millions to buy nomination forms and spend billions to get elected. So, we must come back to the new generation, the ones who bear the brunt of the Nigeria’s failures. We must hope that through it all, some of them will keep hope alive. They will keep fighting to add value to themselves, in spite of the stumbling blocks the country places before them. We must hope that their definition of success goes beyond CEO, SAN, Partner and any other fancy title. We must hope that they get involved in the political process, rather than just sit back in the comfort of their air-conditioned offices and complain about bad leadership like their parents before them.

We must hope, because that is really all we have, no matter how faint it is

Small things matter, and I hope one day, we realize this.