Help from Within – Our Only Way Out

I will lift up my head to the hills,

From whence cometh my help… 

My help cometh from within.

Why will he say that? Doesn’t he know the song? Can you imagine? He just murdered my favourite song! No, he didn’t.

So before y’all crucify me, please take some time to read through and crucify me later, at the appointed time…Smiles.

A popular saying I learnt growing up is “Heaven helps those who help themselves”. My people will say “it is only a baby that spreads her arms that can be carried”. This explains a little bit of why help has to come from within.  It has to be initiated; the party requiring help must be willing and ready to receive and must make a conscious effort towards getting it by doing something about their situation. No one needs help and just folds hands while expecting it to come. It’s like needing a job and staying at home without applying or submitting CVs. You are seriously going to be jobless for a while. 

Putting my country and other countries like ours in perspective, we are going through a lot and we are just wondering why we are still existing. I don’t want to be a prophet of doom and at the same time I do not need a crystal ball to know it might not be the case anymore if something strategic and holistic is not done about resolving the issues with the economy, education, security and politics. We need to stop looking outwards for help. We need to start looking inwards. We need to look to ourselves.  What can we do to help each other out of this mess we have created for ourselves? Yes we all like to blame the previous generation but if they are responsible for making it this bad, should we go ahead and make it worse or create a better place for our children and grandchildren yet unborn.

A few friends and I started a group some time ago.  We called it My Character Counts Initiative. The name of the group explains our purpose which was to stand out from the crowd, change ourselves as a way of changing our environment thereby initiating what we want to see. We were not sitting back and waiting for somebody to help us out, we took responsibility for the issues we saw and decided to change it by changing ourselves. The same step should be taken towards most of the issues we currently face as a country.

Let’s take a deep look into our economy and I will be talking based on reality and as an economist. I am no Pat Utomi but I know what I see every day. What I am talking about is something that has been paid lip service by the government of the day but I believe it should go beyond that. Their whole body should be involved in driving this – the push for LOCAL CONTENT. Local Content is not something that should be left to the oil and gas industry, it should be pushed across all sectors of the economy. I believe this is really achievable if we all put our mind, body and soul into it.

A good one which our current leadership is pushing is buying Nigerian products. Even though it is more of a reactive action than a proactive one, the good thing is it’s not too late, yet. But if we could all support this idea and really buy Nigerian; Let all computers in use in the country be purchased from Zinox and Omatek and other Nigerian makers.  Let school uniform be made from Nigerian Wax, mobile phones should be from the Nigerian brands, let us eat fish from Nigerian waters, milk from our cows and food from our farms, our economy will improve tremendously.

The nature of my work ensures I make frequent trips between the island and mainland parts of Lagos and due to traffic on the longest bridge in West Africa I usually use the alternate routes through the Marina. For users of this route, something that should always hit our conscience and trigger the need for change is the ratio of incoming vessels to outgoing vessels. I put it at a ratio of 20:2. Very bad it is and some will give worse ratings as mine is only based on visuals from the sighting of the seaports as I move across the outer marina Road and on some of my boat trips to Apapa or Takwa Bay.

For sure, one of the steps to an improved economy is increasing the share of our exports when compared to imports. This can be achieved in two simple ways. Increase export while leaving import as it is or reducing imports and leaving exports as it is with the hope of having some increase in exports for the latter or reduced importation for the former. A good way of making this work by following the second option is to encourage the use of local alternatives to foreign products. Let’s put away the white collar mentality (Doesn’t have to be white to be right) and bring in the African Kola into our daily lives. Dump the suit for the agbada, the shirt for the buba or danshiki and other things for their alternatives. Imagine walking into a bank and everybody is on some really nice looking African Prints making your banking experience as colourful as it can get and doing away with the usual dull colours in the name of looking smart and official. Who made that rule anyway? Let us improve on our palm wine, zobo, kunu, fura, and other local beverages and take them to the international market. Let us take our meals to the world; Our very rich efo riro, ewedu, gbegiri, oha, banga, nsala and other delicious meals that typing their names alone got me salivating already. The list of what can be done is so long and an attempt to put it all in here will last weeks.

A difficult situation, yet an easy solution, if we collectively commit towards making it right. Let decision makers in banks and other companies, school proprietors, government agencies, every one of us create and support policies that encourage help from within. This is not just for Nigeria and Nigerians but for Africa as a whole.

All the advice, foreign aid, loans and support in the world will never help us until we help ourselves.

The Golden Opportunity we seek is in ourselves, not in the UN, IMF, USAID, DFID, World Bank, but in OURSELVES


“Thanks to Petra for the topic and to my awesome editor Oluwaranti. You guys are really the best.”

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