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Saturday, October 2, 2010


Why we are Nigeria
By Chude Jideonwo
Being Keynote Speech, delivered at the launch of The Future Awards Season 6 at Terra Kulture, Lagos on Thursday, September 30, 2010.
Last year, on this same stage, we spent a few words reminding Nigerians about what we have to celebrate as a nation. One year after, for us Nigerians, celebration is, literally, in the air. Tomorrow, our country completes its 50th year, and Nigeria begins yet another cycle in its evolution as a nation.
But is there really, really anything to celebrate? For a month, many Nigerians have relocated to Abuja, joining a posse of our compatriots looking for a bit – any bit – of the billions of naira budgeted to celebrate 50 years. All over the country, tomorrow, there will be concerts and parties, raves and grooves, all to celebrate this nation that many of us have regularly criticized and cursed.
Shouldn’t it be a day for, as Nigerians say it, sober reflection? Shouldn’t we be having , instead of feel-good parties, summits, conferences, seminars, work and talk shops, everything else, dissecting where we went wrong as a nation; and how the next 50 will be different?
Allow me quote liberally from Ako Amadi, a columnist with NEXT newspapers. “On October 1,” he said. “Nigerians will surely wake up to the pounding of marching boots and martial music, complemented by a rumble of armored vehicles, the flight display of combat aircraft. What else? The inspection of a guard-of-honour and, in the evening, a state banquet, valedictory speeches, laughter and music, cultural dances, comedians and clowns spewing banalities and filthy jokes.”
But, rejoice though we may, the truth is none of this will help us find out when young school-leavers will get jobs, or how tens of millions of Nigerians who live on less than a dollar a day will find that basic of all needs – food. It won’t answer where the many displaced from their homes in shanties in Lagos will live or where the banned okada ride4rs will find jobs.
But then we are Nigerians and Nigerians like to celebrate. At the drop of a hat we will rejoice and we will felicitate, but it would seem that when it comes to the urgent business of nation building, we are found wanting. Indeed, like \Amadi said /=”Nigerian leaders and captains of industry are preoccupied with acquiring dual citizenship to flee their country. The process facilitates health care in advanced countries, siphoning of stolen money out of Nigeria and the children's education in primary schools, colleges, and universities abroad. / Target countries of Nigerian emigration and capital flight are unconcerned and sometimes happy over our plight. Your brain drain is their gain. The monies embezzled in Nigeria and deposited in their banks are never returned because they enrich their economies.”
We have been called a neo-failed state; we have been described as a sleeping giant, we have been described as one of a club of Africans countries that have qualified the continent to be called, as the Economist did call it, the “basket case of the world”.
And so when many say that October 1, 2010, must be marked, not celebrated, one sympathizes, understands, in fact almost embraces, that point of view. Those are the people that warn that this should be a serious warning that time is running out for this nation; that “vultures are hovering above in expectation of a putrescent cadaver, when a very sick Nigeria is finally strangled to death by its corrupt elite.” Because indeed our dear country has not fulfilled, or even neared its potential. Our leaders are fiddling – doing carnivals to declare for president of a crippled colony - while Nigeria decays and burns. The masses don't care about anything, anymore. This jubilee will be anything but golden. The thrill perhaps is gone.
But then we announce today, not with excitement but with guarded optimism that there is something to celebrate. It is instructive for us that The Future Awards, formed to show hope in our future as hope began to flag, is passing its 5th year in the same year that Nigeria is passing its 50th because we see it as a fantastic opportunity to emphasize our message: we have something to celebrate in the fact that young people have managed to excel in spite of the many problems is what we should be most proud of. That faith that the young people have retained in the country is most responsible for its existence and most responsible for the hope that we have in the nation’s future – and what we are doing is celebrating that hope.
We tagged today The Authentic Celebration because we said to ourselves that we cannot allow this symbolic occasion be high jacked by the old guard, the same old destructive forces. This is the cusp of a truly new and we must seize this moment to lay claim to our future; to our country; to our vision of a society that works, and which people can truly achieve their potential. Sitting at home and moaning, while they spend our national resources in a farce is not acceptable. We must also celebrate the possibilities, the opportunities, and the vista. The old guard counts on the fact that we will continue to cede the field to them, same way that they expect that next year – after all our noise – we will not come out, we will not register, select, vote or protect our votes. From tomorrow, the new beginning of a new dawn, we must send a message that this is our Nigeria.
We must state that any national celebration or nation building effort that does not have the youth at its centre and at its core is not legitimate. That is why today we have gathered 50 of Nigeria’s best, whom we describe as the Face of the Future, past winners of these awards – scientists, engineers, innovators, pioneers, professionals, entrepreneurs, artists - who have made continued impact and are relevant at the moment and we are celebrating them. The old rank of leaders has had the last 50 years. These young people are icons for the thousands who will chart Nigeria’s course for the next 50.
B3cause we, who almost singlehandedly built new industries in technology, IT, new media, music, fashion, style, events, movies, comedy, development, are the real Nigeria. We are the ones, who decided against fleeing the country in a moment of frustration; who have stuck with it through rain and shine; who have maintained a resolute faith in the works of our hands and the power of our visions. We are Nigeria, not them! Not them! Enough of allowing them – and you know who the3y are – claim a destiny, a country that belongs to you and me.
IN 2006, the future awards campaign was it’s about time, in 2007, we said we were the boldest xxxxxxxxx, In 2008, we said we are the future, last season we made it bold that we represent Nigeria. But this year, we are leaving no room for error or ambiguity: we are not just Nigerians, we are not just the future, we don’t just represent Nigeria, We are Nigeria. We are a generation of pioneers, of innovators, we are roses that grew out of thorns, the generation they called wasted but the whole world is now celebrating; we are the generation that will go out into the lections next year and take our country back. We are the generation that, in the last year of Nigeria’s 50th anniversary finally said: enough is enough.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the future.

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