THE LEGACIES WE HAVE
‘’Years ago, I met a woman here ion Bournemouth who was living in one of the most expensive hotels in the town. She asked me how much I would charge to take her to London, and I said to her 250 pounds. And she said ‘what if I would hire you for the entire day and you take me to London and back, and I of course pay for the parking ticket and everything, how much would it be? I said to her it would be about 350 pounds. For the sake of curiosity, I asked her, ‘what are you going to do in London? And she said ‘shopping’, Pick me up at my hotel tomorrow by 10am and we would go to London and back.
The following morning I went picked her up and we drove down to London. She spent close to 30000 pounds shopping, paid the parking ticket and we came back. We went to London that week between 3 to 4 times and she spent over 100000 pounds shopping. On our last trip she said to me ‘you would be taking me to Heathrow airport tomorrow. I am going to the US’. I asked what she would be doing in the US and she told me she has got a Daughter studying there. She has one studying at Bournemouth University, another in a university at the US and another in Canada.
He continued, she told me that her Husband is one of the top shots in Nigerian Government as at that time, and that if I want to come to Nigeria, all I need do is let her know, and she would arrange for someone to pick me up at the airport and have me accommodated and taken care of, he added.’
It then occurred to me that all that money the woman was spending was money meant for the poor people of Nigeria. That woman spent nothing less than 300,000 pounds in less than a week that I’d met her; that’s obscene; absolutely crazy. For a country as rich in human and natural resources as Nigeria, it absolutely has no business being poor. Nigeria is the most populous black nation in Africa, and also the richest in natural resources and every standard. Why then are its people so poor? Because of its leaders who siphon, steal and splash money meant for development on themselves and family alone. If the spouse of a Government official will wallow in such ill-gotten wealth, how much is the President stealing then?
I had left my laptop at home, picking just my tablet which has the e-ticket that would admit me into the International Commencement Ceremony of my University and photo camera. First off, I walked for miles on end going round and round in circles looking for the bank I was to open an account with, found them after an hour only to be told everything I need to do is online (lols).
Then began the hunt for the Bournemouth International Conference Centre. After walking all the way from Bournemouth Square to HoldenHurst Road, I could not get a bus going to the BICC. One of the kind bus drivers advised me to walk down as it is not far. It’s less than a 10 minutes’ walk from here, he said. Go on, you can do it; and walk I did. When I reached the pier which is some few paces away from the BICC, I saw a BU international student with his student card dangling from his neck.
I quickly stopped him to ask directions for the venue and he said to me ‘it is taking place at the Talbot campuses. Mouth agape, I asked him, are you sure? Of course I am sure, hen enthused. I am just coming from there. And because I was already panicked (it was already 5pm, the time all students should be seated, because I had run out of data my tab refused to download the e-ticket. I didn’t want to be showcasing one of the bad habits Nigerians are known for; African time.
Noooo, God forbid. I cannot come and be disgracing myself and country in a foreign land) I was panicky as they come, and I listened to him. I then asked him, I am already late for the commencement ceremony, and how do I get there? The fastest way to go would be by Taxi but then it would be expensive. I quickly said I don’t mind, so long as I make it to the ceremony. I briskly walked to the nearby cab stand and jumped into the next taxi on queue.
He is a gentleman in his sixties, warm friendly and chatty like every other person I have met since my arrival in Bournemouth. I quickly told him where I was going, and he said, ‘’don’t worry my dear.
I shall get you there in no time. He started making conversation and then asked me what I would be studying in Bournemouth University. I told him and he said, ‘that’s a pretty good course, and proceeded to tell me about his son who has a Doctorate in Digital Journalism. He asked me what country I am from, and I told him Nigeria. He turned around, looked me straight in the eye, and said to me; let me tell you something about Nigeria.
That was how I met, the kind old taxi driver in Bournemouth whose name I don’t even know. He spoke to me about the indecent corruption of public office holders, and said, ‘’You are the ones that should free your country from those who have held her hostage’. Perplexed, I turned to him and said ‘’me? I am just a poor man’s daughter and poor civil servant struggling to survive. Who would listen to me? I am here on a scholarship, I won a scholarship; else I would not be in the UK.
Excited, and his voice a note higher, he said, ‘’you see my point exactly. You won a scholarship that means you are worthy, you are a leader. It is your responsibility to help fix your country. Nigeria needs you and people like you. You have to fight for Nigeria and free her from those stealing her blind. You got to do this for you and for your children and their children after them’’.
We had reached the Talbot campus by then, and I hurriedly thanked him, paid the fare and alighted and fled towards where I thought would be the program venue feeling flummoxed, perplexed and trapped.
As fate would have it, my program was not in the University but in the BICC. But luckily, there were free buses on standby to convey students to the venue (which was right where I left by the way). Needless to say, I just about made it to the ceremony and the rest as they always say; is history.
It is actually now, 24 hours after that the enormity of my encounter with the kind taxi driver is really dawning on me. Ironically, we Nigerians seem to not even be fully aware of the task before us. We keep on trivialising topics of our national discuss to which woman is wearing a hijab or not, who is in what party or not, who is from the North, South, East or West or who is a Christian or Muslim. Majority of our debates have always revolved around these issues. There just aren’t enough genuinely focused, unbiased balanced intellectuals to elicit intellectually stimulating debates that are centered on patriotism, nationalism, national interest, national unity, national cohesion, social re-orientation and change. We are just in a vicious circle.
The legacy Nigeria has now globally is that of a nation in wanton corruption, ethnic and religious strife, poverty, diseases and illiteracy; which cannot be further than the truth because that is the legacy our leaders built. But it doesn’t have to be this way, we are much more than that, we are better than that. We can change the narrative, we can change our reality and create a better one, and we can build a better Nigeria.
I feel weighed down by the responsibility that kind old man in that harmless conversation laid on my thin frail shoulders. Because I know this is a responsibility not to be borne by me alone, but by 200 million Nigerians. Nigeria needs all of us, each and every one of us. Man and Woman, young and old, rich and poor, educated and non-educated, Southerner, Easterner, Westerner and Northern, Muslim, Christian, Traditionalist, Animist and Atheist. We all matter, Nigeria needs all of us, to save her from imminent death, to heal her, build her, to nurture her and give her back her glory as the mother and giant of the African continent; for our sakes, for the sakes of our Children and their children after them.
God bless Nigeria
HAWWAH A GAMBO