Monday, May 3, 2010

Little Practical Steps While We Wait

It seems highly unlikely that an epidemic of selflessness and patriotism will suddenly break out in the ranks of our political and social elite class. This is partly because we have a culture of passive indifference on the part of the citizenry and a rapacious appetite for filthy lucre on the part of our politicians. The primary purpose of government in Nigeria would appear to be the personal enrichment of politician-contractors and the personal aggrandizement of our infantile political class. And I am not convinced that either prayers or curses alone can provide the magic formula for solving our problems. Prayers obviously didn’t work in Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Sudan, North Korea and their utility, as a sole or prominent weapon in the Nigerian context, is highly dubious to put it rather mildly.

Given the foregoing doom-laden scenario and abject prognosis, it is unsurprising that true patriots and even ordinary compatriots have become resigned to their fate, accepted our unattractive ‘destiny’, retreated into mental and physical inertia and adopted a ‘to your tents o Israel’ mentality. If this situation is not reversed, we risk giving up the struggle for our nation’s betterment, emancipation of ourselves and our very survival becomes a chance occurrence subject to the capricious whims of our bandit politicians and crooked rulers.

Methinks we are not totally helpless and I direct my appeal to those Nigerians who have had the good fortune to have an education, are able to earn a living and have the luxury of not worrying about getting the next meal. There are simple things we can do while we wait for good governance in our motherland. Here are some of those things, and this list is by no means exhaustive.

Health education: Inadequate knowledge of health issues is a major factor in generating our dismal health statistics like infant mortality and life expectancy rates. The lack of awareness of elementary health facts and misconceptions even among highly educated Nigerians is truly alarming. For example very few people outside medicine realise that ‘heart failure’ is not a synonym for ‘cardiac arrest’ and ‘food poisoning’ does not mean deliberate contamination of food by chemical poisons or juju powder. Those who know can painlessly share knowledge and can repeatedly ram these nuggets of knowledge down the throats of our family and friends. It is literally a matter of life and death.

Health promotion: Those of us who are healthcare professionals can adopt a more proactive attitude to the health of our families and friends. We can, for example ask hard questions about health and wellbeing and not simply wait until things become desperate. Practically speaking, why not offer a free health check (physical examination, blood pressure, blood sugar, haematological and biochemical profiles etc) annually to most or all members of your extended family. It surely must be cheaper than burying them prematurely later.

We can encourage our people to ask more questions from healthcare professionals when they go to hospital. For example, if your doctor says you suffer from typhoid, ask questions about his diagnosis methods and treatment suggestions. The doctor ought not to mind and I can attest to this longing for even mild curiosity from personal experience as a practising physician in Lagos. We must take control of our health and robustly discourage sloppiness and quackery in medicare.

Education: It is possible to inexpensively augment the efforts of our educational system at all levels and help improve the overall literacy level of our citizenry. One example is to have small mentoring groups consisting of perhaps 3 to 5 individuals each. They can they undertake to ‘adopt’ a few pupils each and closely promote their education by measures such as helping them with sc materials, liaising with their teachers and generally taking an active interest in their academic development. This need not be a high cost option and a few phone calls here and a few purchases here would rapidly amount to a lot of effective attention. This is especially pertinent to those of us who live abroad as, by my reckoning, a paltry monthly outlay of 20 pounds can be put to very effective use. If your ward is able to access the Internet (and there are many cyber caf├ęs around in Nigeria now) you might even be able to keep in touch more frequently and less expensively by email. Just think of how inspiring a pep talk from ‘Uncle Joe’ from Lagos or ‘Aunty Joyce’ from London can be to a young child in the village. We can disseminate information about scholarship schemes, support our alma mata, supply writing and reading materials to schools in our neighbourhoods and set up school competitions (spelling contests, essay competitions, endow end-of-term prizes etc).

Career promotion: We can all actively seek to promote the careers of our younger compatriots and offer useful help based on our life experiences. If you come across one studying Accountancy for example, help them to consider taking ICAN exams or if you meet a youngster studying medicine, try to help consider options for postgraduate training and career development should that be their ambition.

Reduce waste: It is very common for us to fritter our cash on frivolities like big parties and flashy clothes. Some might argue that these parties are deeply entrenched in our culture and arguably play a role in maintaining some social cohesion in a fractious society but this is a largely specious argument. We can have smaller parties less frequently (and have just as much fun), decline to celebrate 80th year remembrance of our late great-grandmother with anything more than token drinks and prayers and ‘spray’ just a little less money (or none at all) at the next Owambe party. Whatever we save this way can be deployed to making the lives of others just that little bit more bearable. It really is that simple.

Little acts of protest: When our absentee governors, legislators and senior special advisers and their retinue of lackeys and political jobbers arrive on their next trip to Europe and USA, those of us who live here can take advantage of the culture of democratic protest in these societies to make their stay most uncomfortable. We can pester them with hostile posters, flood their residences with protest mail, harass them with hostile phone calls on TV phone-ins and generally make their lives miserable. It is a fate richly deserved by our traducers and we are morally justified in doing this. I am open to suggestions in this regard.

It is regrettable that we are unable to mobilise our abundant resources to promote the wellbeing of our people and lift Nigeria into the ranks of advanced societies but that is our lot at present. We can either wring our hands in frustration or do something, no matter how little. The time for action is NOW. Please do something. TORI OLORUN. I BEG UNA.

Femi Adebajo
United Kingdom

No comments: