The word ‘future’ is used to refer to things that are meant to occur in the time to come, just as the word ‘forget’ denotes a failure to remember past events. The parallel-nature of these notions is undisputed, as the past can never encounter the future, and the future in the vastness of all its likelihoods can never correspond simultaneously with the past. If the aforementioned explanations are employed as facts, the phrase: forgetting our future is rendered impractical and notional at best. However, the unreal nature of the phrase in question becomes contentious, especially when the time is taken to examine and weigh some of the predicaments that are presently at play in Nigeria against the backdrop of an ever-uncertain future.
What this means in the most blunt terms is that: the present generation of Nigerian leaders are aggressively and blatantly cashing out on the dreams of a better Nigeria for its future generations. Even more disturbing, is the fact that the vast majority of Nigerians are in collusion with our leaders through our apathy and overwhelming silence. With a lack of constructive foresight exhibited everywhere in our motherland, from the management (or mismanagement) of our infrastructure, all the way to our commitment (or a lack thereof) to programs that invest in our youth – the backbone of tomorrow – it is clear that the policy makers in Nigeria are accomplishing the impossible: they are forgetting to remember the future. Our collective future.
Seen within the context of the ancient Chinese proverb that states: “If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are headed,” let us picture the people of Nigeria as passengers on a Danfo bus, and our leaders as both the conductor and the driver of said vehicle. When a passenger needs to take a bus at a car park, more likely that not, their first interaction is usually with the bus conductor who informs them where his vehicle is headed, along with the corresponding fare to the passenger’s destination. The passenger then has a couple of choices if the bus is heading in his or her direction: he or she can negotiate the terms of ride – in order words, haggle over the fare; elect to take another bus if the rates are unsatisfactory; or take the current bus with the fare that was proposed initially. Whatever the outcome, once the passenger gets on the bus after an agreement has been struck with the conductor, the bus driver is then obligated to take the passenger in question to the location that the passenger agreed on with the conductor.
During the election cycle, our leaders as candidates seeking our votes entice us with alluring promises. They are like a bus conductor who promises a cheap fare to our destination. However, time and time again, especially at the federal level, once we get on the bus (which corresponds to after an election) our leaders tend to drive the bus that we elected to journey upon to unfamiliar destinations.
One of the tenets of democracy is rigorous and uncensored debate. In the most common market places all around our country, even to our corporate boardrooms, Nigerians are known as skilled negotiators. I once saw a Nigerian man ‘price’ a pair of shoes from N8000, down to N1200 at Wuse Market, Abuja. With this being the case, it often baffles me as to why Nigerians – especially those who are educated enough to understand the complexity of the issues at stake – choose not to thoroughly negotiate the cost with the conductors and prospective drivers of the bus known as Nigeria before we allow them to drive us. Make no mistake, picking our leaders without mediating the terms of their election allows them to (yes, pun intended) take us for a ride.
Yes, we are a young and somewhat unpredictable democracy. However, if we choose to follow the tenets set forth by our constitution, the everyday Nigerian needs to understand that our leaders work for us, and their policies must reflect as such. Correspondingly, our leaders need to understand that we put them in power (in the event that they are popularly elected), and in this regard, if they choose to be inattentive to the needs if this 160 million strong nation of diverse individuals and beliefs, democracy gives us the option of removing them from office.
Albert Einstein once defined insanity: “doing the same thing over and again and expecting different results.” As passengers on this bus, the current generation of Nigerians have chosen to be the model of this definition on multiple occasions since our return to democracy; electing leaders that have delivered only undeliverable promises. This situation has not only affected Nigeria as we know it today, but has put Nigerians in a situation where the only options that future generations of Nigerians are left with are to either sit back, relax, and enjoy the bitter ride to an unwanted destination; jump off the bus; or rally with the other passengers – who have also been ripped-off – to demand that the drivers of this bus change course and take us where we need to go.
If we look around us today, many passengers on this bus have been journeying on it for a while. Many still, have chosen to jump off and embark on less fulfilling journeys on other buses, moving to other countries and draining our nation of some of its brightest minds. However, for those of us just getting on – the Nigerian youth – who are beginning to understand that the drivers of our country seemingly have no regard for the passengers, and continuing travelling on this road will have devastating consequences for our future, what will we do? We have been forgotten. Soon, if we do not make a choice, another generation of passengers will come on board, look around, shake their heads and curse us under their breaths for being complicit in their deception through our silence, and cowards for not taking the wheel.