It is typical of the Nigerian Television Authority to not let us forget in a hurry what some patriotic Nigerians have been saying about our nation. A comment made by the United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, is one of such. NTA plays, over and over again, the clip where she addresses Nigerian youth and now it has become impossible for me to not seize the opportunity presented by her comment to state a few things about her and attest to the view she expressed.
From time to time we hear other Nigerians too who speak about the need for the youth of this nation to defend what is theirs. But not many are doing this with any level of sincerity or conviction. Most speak publicly about uniting our people but in their privacy, it’s something else they say. In fact, when it pays them they arouse passion in youth to shout and disparage our nation, our different tribes, and the religions, all in a disguised effort to push whatever selfish agenda they have. On other occasions, they subtly support the youth to carry weapons with the excuse that they’re agitating over one issue or the other.
It’s a common occurrence such that it’s now a tough task knowing who isn’t shedding crocodile tears among public figures, who’re ever engaged in rivalry, as they seek political office, appointment, contract. When they lose out they talk down on Nigeria and demonise our different tribes in their private moments. It’s one reason one should call attention to the few patriotic ones who sincerely believe in this nation and who have demonstrated it all their life. I love my nation and so I’m on the same page with those who love it as I do.
I return to Mohammed and what she said. I shouldn’t think I need to repeat all she said as anyone who watches evergreen NTA would have heard her and would have taken note of what she told the youth. One remarkable angle to what she said though was that Nigerian youth shouldn’t be negative about their country. She said she’s been surprised by the disparaging comments that some of them make. They have not even made the most of their nation and the opportunities that being citizens presented before they begin to talk down on their nation. She’s obviously shocked any Nigerian would do such to the same Nigeria that she can die for. That’s what Nigeria means to Mohammed, the size of her conviction. Nigeria is a nation she can die for.
Mohammed’s comment is significant because it’s the very opposite of the negative things some Nigerians say about their nation. They say such things as though there’s a nation on earth that doesn’t have its challenges, which must be worked at all sleeves rolled up. When I hear such negative comments, I always wonder whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Nothing about their own nation is good; it’s everything about other nations with all their faults as well that’s good. Now, let’s not be mistaken. There’re not many Nigerians, who live abroad today, that have spent their lives here more than Mohammed has done. Not many of these guys in the Diaspora, who have nothing good to say about Nigeria, even appreciate our challenges or do anything about it as she has done.
Let no one be deceived by Mohammed’s looks. She lived here most of her life. She had been doing a lot of things in the interest of her people and the nation long before she came to be known by many Nigerians. Her late father who was from Gombe studied Veterinary Medicine in the UK. There he married a Briton. He returned home with his wife and was posted to Kebbi during the Sardauna era. He was later posted to Jos and later Kaduna; under his headship, the popular Livestock House was constructed in Kaduna. He was the first Nigerian to be the Director of the Federal Livestock Department. He was the Sarkin Fulani of Gombe and a neighbour and friend of my godfather, the late Durbin Gombe, Alhaji Lamido Abubakar, who was a former Commissioner of Health in old Bauchi State, District Head of Ajiya Dawaki, member of the Gombe Emirate Council and a kingmaker.
I was probably one of the earliest set of southerners aware of the existence of a certain Amina Mohammed before she came to the attention of most Nigerians. From the early 1990s, I heard so much about her from the Gombe people.
Durbin Gombe regularly mentioned her in his discussions with me. She was the star daughter of the Gombe people. Why? She had worked to ensure they had some things that other states both in the North-East geopolitical zone and other parts of Nigeria would have loved to have. I won’t go into the details of those except to say that from the 1980s onward, she forever used her contacts to ensure people of Gombe got whatever they set their minds on getting.
Mohammed, once part of AFRiproject- an NGO, once part of a British engineering company, lobbied and made convincing presentations to people in high places as to why her people should be considered for one thing or the other. That’s what her people, her fellow Nigerians, mean to her. One Gombe person said to me, “There’s no better daughter of Gombe than Amina.” Another said, “Her passion for Gombe is unequalled.” And she was so respectful that anytime she was in Gombe, she would come to greet Durbin Gombe, kneeling down as even a Yoruba woman would do before an elder.
That’s another reason I state that no one should be deceived by Mohammed’s looks. She had all the opportunity to choose to live abroad as a young lady and talk down on Nigeria as some do but she chose to stay home and contribute to the progress of our nation.
Here at home, at one point, she became part of the civil society and was at inception the National Leader of the campaign for Education for All. When the Nigerian adopted that, President Olusegun Obasanjo selected her to be the leader of the same programme, Education For All. She got involved in the UN Millennium Development Goals and was later appointed as the head of MDG by President Obasanjo. She served under three other presidents, including the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), before she was appointed as the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN.
Mohammed attended primary school in Kaduna and Maiduguri, Borno State. Since she completed her university education, she has always been involved in activities targeted at aiding Nigeria and Nigerians to progress. It’s something many, who don’t even have her kind of background, have never done for this nation but they’re the ones who relentlessly talk down on Nigeria and its people. Many of them never left the state, where they were born, before they travelled abroad, and from there they feed on misinformation and the prejudices expressed as journalism online, on the basis of which they write demeaning things about Nigeria and its good people.
Part of the mistake many youths make is that they don’t separate the leadership they don’t like, or feel doesn’t perform, from the nation that’s the only one they have. Leadership comes and goes, the nation doesn’t go anywhere. It’s always there for anyone who believes in it and wants to do something to make it better.
A nation can only improve as much as the people believe in it and put their all into improving it. Certainly, nations such as the US and the UK didn’t get to where they are by their citizens running away for material comfort and then turning around to badmouth their nations. Some people stayed home and paid the price in sacrifice and sweat.
In Nigeria, we are good at criticising others for all the ills of the nation. It never occurs to us that we too have something to contribute in our small corners. As a youth, Amina Mohammed, overlooked material comfort abroad to make her own contribution to our nation and what she said on NTA that youth should do was what she did. Nigerians who disparage their own nation should show us what they’ve done.
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