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Being a Nigerian: 26 Years Before ‘I’ Die and what I will make out of it

by on September 9, 2016
 

Adewunmi Emoruwa

Whenever you read this, I penned this piece on my birthday, 4th September 2016 on a blessed Sunday. The weather is humid and precipitous. My potential is enormous, outlook is bright and I really cannot complain. I am not scared of the future or anything but I realize that I’m probably at the median of my life.

A quick googling of ‘the life expectancy of a Nigerian’, which by the way is less for males than females is about 52 as at 2012. That is to say, hypothetically, that I have 26 years left but it’s not my fault. This is what my country offers me with a world ranking of life expectancies standing at 171, Nigeria has one of the lowest in the world. What a country to be born!

The bible teaches to “number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom” and began to ponder upon what I would do with the remaining twenty six years of my Nigerian life. 

This is the Irony of being Nigerian – living in hell on earth but not wanting to die not even the faithful oppressed peasants assured of heaven. One would rather pray to die and make heaven if I went through half of what these ones go through daily. Nigeria is a poor country that discriminates against itself. A majority of the people -hundreds of millions of them – live below 50 cent a day going by the prevailing exchange rate. Our country boasts of poor leadership as a result of poor choices made by poor electorates. 

It is so depressing and makes one thankful for being so blessed and fortunate. I don’t splurge but cannot say one is strapped and you can call me a ‘cheerful sharer’!  This is is the whole essence of the piece and in particular what I will love to do with the ‘other half’ of my life – to give, give and give more to my country. We must move beyond the common question – Who Nigeria don Epp?  

These are the things that my resources would be allotted to to; Firstly, I will ensure that I will devote the rest of my life to the cause of good governance, intergenerational change and equity in Nigeria. I am persuaded that the key to building a great Nigeria lies with its most important resource which is its young people. Young Nigerians have the capacity to turn things around and possess the energy and passion to take their country back! This is why I currently serve at a Non-Governmental Organization, the League of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (LEPAN) as President in voluntary capacity. Our flagship project themed 1Move brought together young Nigerians from all works of life, across partisan and ethnic ‘divides’ and who all pledged to advance the participation and inclusion of youth in our democratic space and on that same night of 18th May, 2016 the #NotTooYoungRun Campaign was born. An organization, YIAGA began a campaign and pushed what became a bill seeking to reduce the age eligibility requirement to contest elections into public office in Nigeria.

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The rhetoric, the campaigns, the talk shows and what was once described as the social media cacophony of anger need to stop. We have seen a lot of youth rallying and organizing efforts such as Light Up Nigeria, GenVoices, Occupy Naija, Rethink Nigeria and many others. The the cause of good governance in our country is priority to me and it is a duty to ensure that young people must lead this. The next elections in my home state, Ondo presents an immediate opportunity for me. I am looking to support and endorse a candidate who presents solutions to the issues that concern me the most and is willing to offer our smart young people an opportunity to frame policy direction. 

This said, I will not accept any political appointment for myself under this new governor but will be glad to nominate a really smart young person with strong ethics and character as well as aligning conservative values. The strategy will involve raising Funds, deploying Technology and Human Resources to this campaign. At least maybe if we get it right with governance, I just might ‘live’ longer. 

Secondly, empowering entrepreneurship and focused charity work will be my pursuit. One thing today has taught me is that it is impossible for one man to save the whole world so my focus will be stayed on the things that bother me the most and those things which can help people help others so to speak. I believe that our recession is an opportunity to discover true entrepreneurship. Oil has created a rent seeking, lazy, entitled and self enriching class that created this present condition where it is difficult for Nigerians to eat. I have only invested in Oil once, to finance a retail transaction and probably that will be the last. We need to create more entrepreneurs than traders in our country. And that will take investing in knowledge, human capacity and in ideas. The first half my life constitutes a struggle to do good and assist others with school fees, emergency healthcare bills and even those who are broke in ways they can’t explain. It is my plan to wind up on this era.

This year I have made about 6 -7 investments in technology ideas so far, committing money, office space, equipment, contacts and time to people whom I had no prior connection to and it feels fulfilling than anything I have ever done. It is my hope that I find others to journey with on this path as I look to boost these numbers. The idea is to make more of these investments and consider it as playing a lottery for charity. Beyond the potentials for great returns, we have to put Nigeria to work. Less of business plans as there is no time to over analyze. Give me a good idea and a model and let’s learn together. No failures.

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My approach to charity for instance in a case that would involve paying paying school fees would rather look to train people to gain skill i.e. Technology and its various applications and pay them for actual work done to support their education by withholding an amount of the pay due to them as a future savings fund which could be invested on their behalf. Not sure how that will work but we have an ongoing experiment with a 17 year young lady who was sent to clean at our office. I couldn’t accept her reality. (child labour!) She is able to use a computer for the first time in her life and she owns a laptop now. She is currently learning to code as well as MS applications. I pray she stays focused and spends less time on Facebook. You should watch out for her! 

Thirdly, I wish to give more time to my family, a promise to try. They say family is the closest person to a person when they are set to die. I mean my immediate family but who knows? My siblings are cool people and my parents too and we have our little differences and huge distances (location) separating us which is bridged by the love in our hearts, the values that we share which we were brought up with. I guess this makes us unique in some way. I’m not given to theatrics. Most of the few people I call friends don’t know much about this my family. There is little or no reference to it.

I feel like Jesus sometimes, my life revolves around my mission, or call it work. I have built a new family with those who my paths have crossed and those whom my purposes align.  

Even at this point, Marriage or babies remain out of my consideration and one can of without the pressure from my immediate family. Dear Mum, I shall remain single for now! I am of the opinion that marriage is one of our problems in Nigeria; people go in unprepared and born babies unplanned destroying each others ambitions and putting pressure on the country’s GDP. Our ladies and men feel inadequate when they reach a certain age and disturb themselves in the guise of making fervent prayers to God. I shall remain single till I am ready to wake up daily beside just one face all my life. I don’t think that is the hardest part. It is because there is no time. We have loads of work to do! 

Till Jesus comes and the day we die no more, I wish myself, Beyonce and all others born on this great day – Happy Birthday!

Adewunmi Emoruwa is President of the League of Progressive Ambassadors of Nigeria (LEPAN) and Chief Operating Officer at Gatefield.

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