It is universally accepted that the only permanent thing in life is change. This may appear paradoxical but it is indeed very true. Whenever people refer to the “good old days,” they are simply telling us that things, in general terms, have indeed changed from what they used to be, albeit from better to worse. This is where lines have been drawn in this debate. Was our yesterday really “better” than our today, as a result of technological and other advances? But is that all? My granddaughter aged four already owns and operates an iPad. At that age I was merely struggling with my slate to learn to scribble some incoherent letters of the alphabet. But with all that my granddaughter’s iPad and other sophisticated learning materials, can she be engaged as a pupil teacher after completing primary school? Whereas in the good old days of my primary school, primary school leavers made good pupil teachers before proceeding to secondary or teacher training levels. Some others immediately after completing primary school could also take up jobs in both the public and private sectors, rising through the ranks to top positions.
Let us now consider home security and for a moment recollect that in the good old days people did not bother to have or to erect high fences to barricade themselves in their homes. You could easily walk into your neighbour’s premises unfettered to ask for salt and pepper without encountering ferocious guard dogs. Honesty and trust were hallmarks of the good old days as illustrated by the way commodities and wares were displayed along the way, in market places and in front of premises without attendants. Most of the items, especially fruits such as bananas, oranges, groundnuts and some food items were there for you to pick up and drop your money, since the prices were common knowledge. At the end of the day the respective owners simply collected their money and any unsold items. Is this possible today? Changing scenes of life indeed! What about the undertaking of journeys from one location to the other when you did not worry about the time of day or night. Yes, trips could take you longer time but you were not scared of being harassed or being waylaid by armed robbers and other antisocial elements.
Let us now direct our attention to food production and promotion of our staple foods. In the good old days there was no home that did not have a food garden where vegetables, fruits and staples like yam, cassava and coco-yam were grown and produced. Many schools both primary and secondary had school farms which encouraged the pupils and students to imbibe the dignity of labour and pride in food sufficiency and security. Little wonder then that the groundnut pyramids have disappeared in the north of the country, the cocoa plantations have dwindled in the west and the oil palms trademark of the east of the country have equally been neglected.
The pride of a family, indeed of a nation, is the ability to produce food, the staple food it needs to feed the family or the citizens. But when food has to be imported, the cost implication brings to bear a burden of insufficiency on the citizenry. Little wonder then that there has been an increase in the tendency to resort to quick-fix food substitutes such as noodles to meet the hunger challenges. But is this not indirectly running away from the main problem of food insecurity? We tend to ignore the fact that there is a direct relationship between ENERGY and FOOD PRODUCTION. Empirical evidence has shown that the high cost of oil and other energy sources in the world market is directly responsible for the increasing cost of the imported staples by the countries concerned, Nigeria inclusive. Modern agriculture is capital intensive and also energy intensive since you require heavy equipment and machinery to produce and transport the agricultural produce from location to location, especially from the remote rural areas to the large concentrations of consumers in the urban centres. This means that food items will continue to be scarce on the tables of the masses if we fail to revert to home grown agriculture.
Let me now turn to this other side of the discourse of the good old days of yesterday versus the science and wonders of today. Mankind has benefited immensely from “modernization” as a result of advances in science and technology. Travel time has been tremendously improved upon by the introduction of advanced transportation modes. You may recall that in those “good old days” it took a minimum of 2 weeks to go from Lagos to London by ship. When we consider communication there are wonders to marvel at as opposed to the town-crier communicator of days of yore. Imagine line telephone systems and the modern mobile smart phones and what they are capable of accomplishing. In mass communication there have been advances in reportage and presentation and that is why you can have virtual newspapers like SUNDIATA POST for your news coverage needs. What about the breath-taking innovations in medicine and surgery? These days you are not scared to have eye surgeries because the hands and equipment have been skilled to leave your eyes better than they were before the scalpel. We can go on and on to enumerate the modernization and advancement of today, but one question must be answered. What is this life all about? The answer should give us an insight into why the “good old days” continue to reverberate.
By Jonas Odocha