I recently found myself in discussion about Nigeria with an acquaintance of my grandmother's. A man only a few years older than my older brother. He was of the opinion that there was no hope for significant progress in Nigeria within his lifetime, and I was of the opposite standpoint...
Sometime before this, I was in another discussion with an acquaintance of my mother's, who couldn't understand why anyone would leave the U.S.A to come home to Nigeria. No matter what I said to him, it seemed my reasons wouldn't suffice.
In my brief time back I have been involved in a number of discussions such as these, and I have found that pessimism is really the name of the game. Few Nigerians honestly believe in a better tomorrow. The realities of the everyday, are too challenging and disappointing to inspire confidence. Those, like my grandmother's acquaintance, who live abroad and have come back to "survey", find it difficult to see what there is to come back for (other than the money of course), and those who have never left, are all too anxious to depart.
Neither can be blamed of course, because Nigeria leaves much to be desired in infrastructure, in service, and in politics. But looking at these two polarities, is like looking at two observers, both trying to answer the question "Is the glass half empty? or half full?" where the glass is Nigeria.
Is the glass half empty? or half full?
The "outside" observer, having experienced all that developed nations have to offer, finds themselves suspended in the upper half of the glass - all they can see is a vast emptiness, and a risk of drowning below - "better to stay up here", they think. While the "inside" observer, is inside the water, kicking his/her legs and struggling to stay afloat - thinking "Oh my God, Oh my God, I'm about to die. How can I fly up into that emptiness?" Both observers see the full picture, yet both observers views are constrained by their circumstances...
In my last post "A Fire in the Atmosphere", I was trying to describe that situation as found at the surface of the water. An utter chaos where everybody is passionately struggling, looking for air to breathe. People are dying everyday, some are dragging others down with them, some are using others to stay afloat, but a good number, realising their peril, are looking for, and finding legitimate ways to swim.
As a returnee looking at this picture, I think it is time for Nigerians, both at home and in diaspora, to begin to turn this proverbial question on its head. So I ask you dear readers:
- Is the glass empty?
- Can the glass be filled?
- Do you care?