Christiane speaks with Gen. Salim Idriss, the Chief of Staff for the Free Syrian Army.
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following blog post was written by Nosarieme Garrick, 25 year old daughter of Nigerian government employees. She left Nigeria at a young age, and now seeks to promote activism within the Nigerian diaspora. This letter to Nigeria’s leaders is a personal appeal by her, and is not endorsed by CNN or its affiliates. “Amanpour” will pass this letter along to the Nigerian president’s office and we will post the government’s response as soon as we receive one.
Dear leaders of Nigeria,
I am a citizen of Nigeria holding a green card in the US. I left in 1998, after the death of Nigerian Dictator Sani Abacha, along with several others. After growing up in Nigeria, and watching others leave to pursue an education, it just seemed like the thing to do if you could afford it. Some entire families relocated to the UK, the US and other countries, other families sent their kids alone to foreign school, for a chance at a better education. Its now 2010, and some of us are itching to come back. I don’t think any of us were ever comfortable with the idea of abandoning our country.
I'm not sure how much longer I want to live abroad. After all, I would like my future kids to know where their mother's from, even possibly go to school there. However, all the brouhaha that has been stirred up in the news these past few months makes the country seem even more unappealing, than it was when it sent us in droves to foreign lands. I've kept in contact with some of the children in the Diaspora, and we've all discussed coming back home, but you keep giving us reasons to stay where we are. I hear you would like us to come back, but you've lost our faith, we don't believe in our government. Fear not, we are willing to work it out, it is our home, and so we’re ready to help you help us come back. Here are some suggestions of ways for you to make us consider the idea.
Our obvious reason for leaving was to get a better education, which is unfortunate because at Nigeria's independence we had the highest number of university graduates in Africa. The crumbling education system has contributed to the increased crime rate; being that our brothers and sisters back home, have very limited options. Maybe you could reconsider the budget cuts you made on education, and look into the proper training for teachers, in order for them to provide proper education for your children. This could be prepare them for a university education, or vocational training, not everyone needs or wants to go to university. Overseas we're taught that you can't get anywhere without a bachelor's degree, a lot of people have been the exception to the rule, but I'm glad I had the option to get a bachelor’s. Maybe we could provide that option for people back home by putting more money into the university system. Once we start to believe in our education in Nigeria, I doubt that people will feel the need to send their kids to the UK or the US for school.
You should think about consulting once more with Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala. Remember, she used to be your former Minister of Finance? She’s now the Managing Director of the World Bank. According to The Punch Nigeria, she made this statement at the Institute of Directors conference in Lagos: ”One of the untapped growth drivers is Nigeria‘s youth. The time has come for us to focus on them and reap enormous development benefits or ignore them to the nation‘s peril.” See, she believes in our potential, don't let another country make use of us. Even Canada has been trying to lure us to their schools, they value our billions of dollars that we are ready to pay for a proper education. That money could go to Nigeria.
While living abroad, most of us have become accustomed to basic necessities provided by an efficient infrastructure. We come home and we have access to things such as electricity, clean water. These are things that we hear are considered a luxury in Nigeria. Only those who can afford generators, and their own water pump system have access to these luxuries, and even then the cost of diesel is appallingly high. There's a campaign called Light Up Nigeria, where your citizens are begging you to fix the problem of a limited power supply. The problem is crippling all aspects of life, and hindering productivity. This would be the keystone in creating a brighter future for Nigeria. Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help, maybe you could ask Brazil, or South Africa, how they build and manage their dams and use those ideas at home. You have an abundance of manpower at your disposal; don’t be afraid to use it. Look into other forms of energy; we hear solar panels really work!
No one is immune to dealing with the anxiety-inducing traffic caused by badly built roads, so it’s a wonder that you haven’t done a better job of fixing our pot-hole filled roads. We suggest that you make a solid effort in rebuilding and maintaining these roads, as this would ease transportation, and would make life a lot less chaotic than it already is. Look into contractors to build and oversee the maintenance of roads. I'm quite sure that there are large amounts of civil engineers abroad and back home, maybe you could employ their skill and create some incentive to rebuild these roads and infrastructures.
Some of us joke that going back home even to visit is like playing Russian roulette, we're never sure if we're going to make it back. From armed robbery, to kidnappings, to militant activity, the lack of security really keeps us in our foreign havens. We need to remind you that it is your duty to provide a police force that is competent, skillful, and aptly equipped in order to protect civilians. We want to look at the police officer and feel safer when we see them. We would suggest a tougher examination to join the force, since protecting citizens is a really important responsibility.
Kudos on moving forward with the amnesty program for the militants in the Niger Delta. We hope that you see it through. I’ve visited Bonny once, and I would also be a little upset as well if I lived in deplorable conditions, while black gold was being extracted right from under me. Thanks for trying to integrate these ex-militants back into society. You know what would be really great? You could work on fixing the damage done to the quaint little fishing villages, mangroves and farms in the region. You could talk to the Friends for the Preservation of the Niger Delta Environment. Take away the oil spills, and the region of the Delta would be a great place to vacation. Just think about the tourism potential, you could just create an industry that employs thousands of people in the region.
Did you know that 70% of Nigeria's population is under 30, and so many young Nigerians are living outside the country? Have you noticed the sudden rise in protests? Just yesterday, there was the Enough is Enough march. We're trying to let you know that we're paying attention, and we're just going to keep doing it more frequently, and more vigorously, until we have your attention. Lots of us are doing brilliant things overseas, but we would love to do them back home, we just need to know that you are ready to collaborate with us and give us the opportunity to do so. Maybe you could create more help for small businesses. For example you could create a micro-lending program to encourage entrepreneurship and spur innovation. We are a hard working people; we just need to be able to work.
The reason a lot of us are so doubtful of your ability to fulfill any of the promises made, is because we have only seen our great nation deteriorate since we gained our independence. I've even heard some say we would have had a better country with more opportunities had we stayed colonized. Doesn't that just break your heart? I'm sure Herbert Macaulay is rolling in his grave. We think you just need to go back to the fundamentals of being a civil servant. Think about your job description. You are there to serve civilians; you are in government to make life better for your citizens. If you doubt that you have it in your DNA to do so, please make way for someone else who does. We need you to become a transparent government, where funds don't just vanish into thin air, don't think we haven't noticed. Give us the numbers of your budget; show us how much in funding you've received. Don't just tell us you plan on fighting corruption; show us. There is an organization called Publish What You Pay, maybe you've heard of it, you should talk to them, they can help you in becoming more transparent. Look at it as an investment, the better Nigeria becomes, the more investors will flock in. Think about it, how can you convince foreigners to come do business, if you can't even convince your citizens to come back?
Listen, we don't expect you to snap your fingers and fix things. We are not looking for a temporary patch. We are looking for long-term sustainable solutions. We believe that change will come from individuals living in Nigeria, we are simply asking you to aid us in clearing the roadblocks, so that we can move Nigeria closer to greatness.
I hope I have not been too forward in this letter; personally I’m just tired of my dear Nigeria being a joke to the international community. I admire all of Goodluck Jonathan's efforts from adding some new blood to the cabinet, to his push for oil reform and we would all like to help him further our country's development. Need more ideas? We’re filled with them, don’t be afraid to ask us, we’re happy to lend a helping hand. Right before the elections, Nigerian Youth for Change is organizing a “Million Man March” and we are coming in droves, just as we left. I think by leaving, we misled you into thinking that we didn’t want to vote. We’re here to reassure you that we want our voice to be heard. So come election time, present us with a proper leader. Give us a NEW leader coming with a platform for change, and we will vote for him, at least I know I will. A sincere leader, with integrity, will listen to his or her people, and more importantly one who doesn't have a price.
Na Gode. Dalu. Ẹ se.
Your Nigerian Daughter,