I recently (last month) returned back from a ten-day stint in Nigeria. Provided no one is trying to kill you and there are no countrywide uprisings, going home is a wonderful thing. I have to say, I am rural by nature and don't mind forgoing certain modern amenities (like a working shower--buckets are just fine). I like the simple life, though, from what I see, Nigeria isn't all that simple anymore. There are so many, many people. With a population of 163 million, it is the most populous country in Africa. The second most populous country, Egypt, has half as many people.
Perhaps it was the heat and the lack of infrastructure, but I spent three days in Lagos and could not understand why anyone would want to live there. The traffic is murder! If I had to deal with that all the time, I'd probably opt to stay home and make babies. That would be infinitely more fun than sitting in traffic.
But on a more solemn note. Things in Nigeria are tough. Sure, there are the select elite that have stuff in great abundance, but a lot of the population is struggling to make ends meet. According to the World Bank, in 2011, Nigeria's per capita GDP was virtually identical to Ghana's, yet times are hard. Everywhere you go, someone is expecting a handout or tip or bribe of some sort. It's absolutely exhausting and, at the same time, disheartening.
The country is so rich in resources and culture and beauty, but these resources have been and are being neglected. Nigeria could be a paradise; its people should be financially stable. My mother should not have to track my every move while I'm there because she is worried that someone will kidnap me. But how do we, as a people, make Nigeria a better place? The government (all governments, in general) has proven time and again that it will never be the solution the Nigeria's woes, so the people have to help themselves. The people have to empower themselves.
There was a time--not too long ago--when Nigeria was the top exporter of Cocoa to the United States. Nigeria's exports far exceeded its imports. In fact, it was difficult to get foreign foods and other foreign products in Nigeria. Now, Nigeria imports far more products than it exports. In point of fact, the agricultural industry has suffered so much in recent years that domestic food production is not enough to satisfy the country's needs.
So again, how do we make Nigeria a better place?
Being that I am an American citizen, married to an American man, and have four American children, it is easy for me to toss out suggestions, reprimands, and even judgements. But believe me when I say that the state of affairs in Nigeria breaks my heart. I would like to go home for good some day, but I can't uproot my children from a life of stability and near-certainty to a life of utter uncertainty and near anarchy. We need structure. And I need a means of supporting them.
I really want to help usher in changes in Nigeria, but I don't know what to do. I don't know what I could do, while in the U.S. and supporting my family here. I am open to suggestions.