By Dul Johnson
Those born between 1950 and 1970 are Nigeria’s midnight’s children. They are the special ones born in the period surrounding Nigeria’s independence in 1960. They are the special children who grew up and went to school, finished school without a hitch and got jobs even before they left the university. This was at the time Nigeria was at its best, the Civil War of 1968-70 notwithstanding. They saw the best and got the best of everything. I belong to this generation, this privileged group. Today’s children do not believe us when we tell them about our growing up days, especially when we talk about our university days. They think that we are either lying, exaggerating or even dreaming. Some of them have had the courage to challenge us: “If you enjoyed this country the way you talk about it, and most of you are at the helm of affairs, then why are you allowing things to go the way they are going?”
The younger generation is right to a large extent. But then, those who have been at the topmost echelon of the helm of affairs in the past two decades with the exception of one (Goodluck Ebele Jonathan) were not midnight’s children. At least, at the national level. They were children of the day before midnight; they were the children of yesterday, or the day before. Nevertheless, it is we, the midnight’s children that are guilty. For, we are in the majority of those who have participated in the destruction of the country in every way. Therefore, we must participate in the rebuilding process, which starts with ensuring that a person who knows this country well, who understands our problems and has the brain and the guts to perform the difficult task of leadership is put in that office, whatever party they belong. We must do this by actively participating as elder statesmen and women, who have a duty to rescue the country that has given us its best. We must do this as men and women who have lived our lives to the full and have nothing to fear or lose; as men and women endowed with the magical powers and natural authority that our period of birth has conferred on us. If we fail to do this, we shall exit the stage with heavy guilt in our hearts. The 2023 general elections will be our chance, indeed, our golden opportunity and probably the last chance for many or most of us alive. We must, therefore, rise to the occasion.
As Nigeria’s midnight’s children, I dare say that you possess both the natural and supernatural powers (should that be needed) to make things happen. I say this with confidence because three quarters of those who ‘own’ and run Nigeria’s economy, civil service, the armed forces and politics are midnight’s children. Unlike what it is today, getting into any of these sectors was not a hurdle at all. And while most of us have retired from the civil service and the armed forces, we still have a lot of influence on those we left there. We also have a lot of influence on society generally and we should be able to use that. But to do that, we have to think Nigeria. Many of us think that we are not responsible for the mess and therefore should not feel guilty. Such an argument is untenable. It is true that we did not make the mistakes, but those who made the mistakes handed over to us. They are no longer here while many of us are still around and contributing to the problems. Those who made the mistake (our elder brothers) who pushed our fathers out of the way were fooled by the super abundance of resources cultivated by our fathers with support from the colonial governments. As a result, they did not look inwards to grow the local economy for the future as their predecessors did.
All that is history. What is important is the fact that there are still very many of the midnight’s children around, both inside and outside every helm of affairs in the country. Posterity will not forgive us if we do not join forces with the younger generation to turn things around for our grandchildren. Our sphere of influence is wide and strong. We are the fathers and grandfathers of today’s young generation. Many in our group are captains of industry, patrons of influential associations, we have our protegees in the armed forces and security services, many are professors in the universities, Directors in private companies and government parastatals and Agencies, Vice Chancellors, traditional rulers and so many other offices or areas of influence. This is the time to use all of these influences and connections. This is the time to prove that you love this country, that it gave you its best and you are prepared to pay back. Do not only vote and make sure that your vote counts. The power that your social status confers on you should do far more than that. You can all see that the country is drifting before our very eyes. If we, midnight’s children do not act, I cannot imagine who else would. And the only way we can save the country is to ensure free, fair, and credible elections in 2023. We must insist on merit, not party. We must insist on ability, not cronyism.
Be assured, my dear brothers and sisters, Nigeria’s midnight’s children, that if we fail to save Nigeria through the 2023 elections, the blood of the country will be on our heads, that is if our own blood is spared. For, such a failure would be our failure, and we would go down history lane as ingrates who got the best from the country but could not rise up to the challenge of saving it when they have everything within their power to do so. God forbid that this happens. The time to begin work is now, and the work must be sustained from now till February 2023. Spare no effort to bring about this peaceful revolution. Make sure that your household, your relatives, your friends, and every sphere of influence is galvanized and ready with their Permanent Voter’s Card.
The time for being complacent is gone. The days when people of believed that politics is dirty and felt safe in self-made cocoons are gone. If you are protected from the harsh economy, your relatives and immediate community may not be. Besides, you are not spared the security scare that pervades the entire country. You cannot move freely as during your growing-up days. If all these are not enough to rouse you from your slumber, the fact that you don’t have much time left to give something to your dear that made you should be enough to jolt you into action. If you can do nothing else, help to enlighten the younger generations about the need to embrace the values which saw our predecessors build the Nigeria which gave us so much. With your wealth of experience, enlighten them with correct analyses of the people that have been put forward to be elected. They should be able to elect the right people who will take Nigeria back to the ‘golden’ days of the midnight period. Arise, for there is no time to waste!
- Prof Johnson is of the Department of English and Literary Studies, Bingham University, Karu, Nasarawa State.