I have recently returned to social media after a 9-month hiatus. My decision to unplug was rather abrupt, but in hindsight, it was one of my best decisions. I was mildly surprised to see that the trends of posts on my Facebook Newsfeed haven’t really changed much, with the exception of covid-19, which had yet to break out as at October 2019. The socio-political dialogue remained the same: corrupt Nigerian leaders, widespread internet fraud among the younger generation, feuds among bloggers and influencers, fake news and “audio money” etc. There are smatterings of celebrations: birthdays, joyous births and anniversaries amidst the looming presence of the covid-19 pandemic. With resurgence and second outbreaks here and there, it has been described as a marathon, not a sprint.
Overall, it’s nothing but the humdrum of normal life in Nigeria, with the added dimension of covid-19. Or is that all? Well, it depends on your perspective.
The morbid picture painted above is from my Facebook News Feed. In real life and other social media, the view starkly contrasts. Life–in all its glorious and raw vitality– is happening all around us, silently blooming like flowers in spring, announcing its earliest presence only to the ones who stop to smell the flowers and notice the subtle hues of tender buds. Creation is in progress; Nigeria’s young people are creating Music, Movies and Fashion. That is life and living. That is the life force of humanity, flowing briskly and at steep gradient.
I have heard it said that Entrepreneurship in Nigeria is a black-hole that sucks even the light—quickly dimming the luminescence of starry-eyed dreamers. Well, only for so long, because it’s a fact that nothing lasts forever.
I ask you a question, “How do you reclaim the desert?”
“By planting the right kind of seed. “
Once implanted, all it has to do is grow. Reaching inexorably downward to the springs of water, and upward to the sun’s rays, that seed could very well live for 100 years, and reach up 100 meters tall, depending on what kind of seed it is. Like the tough terrain that Nigeria is, wildfires, pests and pathogens may threaten to wipe out the young crop. Such is life.
You see, life is made all the more remarkable because it exists in the face of daunting odds. As long as there is one viable seed, nature patiently restarts the cycle, and life goes on. Now imagine what happens when hundreds or thousands of viable seed open and bud at the same time.
In his classic, “The Wealth of Nations”, Adam Smith attributes the prosperity of nations to certain factors, which include the ability to organize production such that the majority of the citizens are able to participate, specialize and obtain the means of consuming what is so produced, or to consume what other nations produce, and so enjoy a higher quality of life. In other words, national prosperity is enhanced when the production value chain is long, and allows for mass participation and specialization. This is how to break the wealth code.
Whilst you may argue that the world has changed in profound ways since Adam Smith wrote his classic, and nowadays we cannot consider production and industry without weighing their ecological impact, yet the fact remains that productivity leads to innovations which solve problems, even ecological problems.
In the final analysis, though Nigeria’s politics and leadership remain as corrupt as ever, though industries are less funded than their foreign counterparts, even though some of our best brains opt to use their intelligence as a tool for fraud, and many more are jumping ship by emigrating, yet thousands of young Nigerians continue to exert their minds in creation and value accretion. Life’s creative force continues unabated, moving inexorably and gathering momentum as a young river fed by thousands of thin streams as tributaries.
I recall the words of the late Prof Pius Adesanmi in his speech, “Iyalaya Anybody: Pencils, Nigerian Innovation, & Africa’s Path in the 21st Century”.
Africa’s redemption lies in her Youth demography, and she has them in hundreds of millions. The late Adesanmi said, “I insist that the lack of enabling or inspiring official environments for the unleashing of the creative intelligence of the continent’s youth demographic is an ironic advantage …identifying the next big thing and surmounting debilitating circumstances has never been a problem for Africa’s youth demographic…. The imagination of the youth is unleashed and cannot be stopped. The innovation or invention that will make you accountable to the people is always just around the corner. The innovation that will bring you closer to good governance is always just around the corner”
Look keenly; we are nearing the critical mass. Listen intently; the sound of a rushing avalanche. Despite all the destruction and decadence, Nigeria will win, as surely as flowing water always finds a channel. I believe.