Why Are We So Difficult? By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I’m sure each and every one of us must wonder sometimes why we find it so difficult to agree on the simple things of life. We seem to quarrel over every little thing like babies fighting over lollipops. Just look around you and see how entire communities are killing themselves under the flimsiest of excuses. It is going to be difficult for good leaders to emerge when we despise ourselves with so much venom.
I will like to take us on a little historical excursion and hopefully end with a thesis that would show how we’ve missed our boat and why we shall continue to flounder in the middle of the turbulent sea until a miracle happens. I must warn straight-away that miracles are hard to come by these days. The miracles we seek belong in the realm of magic and magic belongs in the realm of optical illusion.
We are not the only multi-cultural and multi-ethnic nation on earth but our differences have become terribly divisive and totally polarising such that it has become impossible for us to form a consensus on any issue. The ongoing National Conference typifies this unreasonable attitude. We fought a civil war that claimed millions of lives to keep our country together yet our situation is far worse today than at that time. The one thing that is obviously keeping us as one is an illusory poisoned chalice called crude oil. Attached to it is one of the largest deposits of gas in the world. There are other natural resources scattered all over Nigeria that it has pleased God to bless us with. Most developed nations lack what we have divinely received on a platter of gold. Those who have are fortunate to have selfless leaders who could harness those earthly possessions and put them to wonderful use.
We have not been so lucky. At the beginning of our journey, we seemed to have started well until impatience began to set in. The first of our leaders were great men and women who acquired impeccable education abroad and returned home to fight for our Independence from colonial rule. Unfortunately, the ethnic lines were already cracking up naturally as a result of the forced amalgamation of 1914 by Lord Lugard. Our leaders lived in perpetual suspicion and mistrust. It was only a matter of time before things would fall apart and our country would no longer be at ease.
Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa and Obafemi Awolowo were some of our bright stars at Independence. They held sway in their different regions. Awolowo was exceptional and undoubtedly phenomenal. The speed at which the Western Region was going, it would probably have emerged ahead of Singapore and Dubai in terms of development. But the crisis that rocked the West and spiralled to other regions would start our cycle of perpetual violence and grief. As if that was not bad enough, the politicians, were shortly thereafter summarily sacked, killed or jailed. Since then, we’ve known no peace.
We have had to endure coups and counter coups with each military leader promising heaven and earth. But as soon as they settled in, they began the task of despoliation and complete annihilation in earnest. They built a pyramid of corruption and lawlessness. The few civilian governments in between were virtually forced down our throats. And they served their masters loyally. Our material resources were wasted in a most profligate manner, our rich human talent compromised, ridiculed, disgraced or dehumanised. We’ve spent the best part of 54 years searching for those elusive leaders of our dream. It has been one calamitous experience and experiment after the other even if we have had occasional flashes of inspiration every now and then.
Unfortunately, we’ve not been fortunate to have that motivated, rousing and inspirational leader at the very top, a man imbued with that supernatural spirit of trust and performance; a man with a sense of vision, direction and delivery. Someone who’s ready to sacrifice personal comfort for the collective good of all. There is no question that we have more than enough wealth to cater for our needs but the greed of a few has made nonsense of such a possibility.
The trouble now is that it has become virtually difficult if not impossible to identify anyone who can drive us to our destination in this season of anomy. Nothing is more important than searching for and finding that leader who can unify Nigeria from his success at a free and fair election like Moshood Abiola did. This is not going to be an easy task.
To be an Abiola would take many years of preparation. Abiola was not an accident of history or circumstance. He was a product of assiduous planning, ingenuity and groundwork. He had a mission and understood what was needed to actualise it. He built bridges and reached out to as many souls as he possibly could. The result was great and resounding. No one doubted his victory but some self-conceited Nigerians clearly hated the outcome. Abiola was never your typical politician. He had successful and thriving businesses in the strict sense before embarking on his political journey. Politics for him was a hobby of sorts, which demanded his attention, because of his uncommon desire to dutifully serve his people and help them bid farewell to poverty, as his manifesto suggested. He was never in government even if he was visible in the corridor of power.
There are miniature versions of Abiola today but they are being crushed by the godfathers who have erected obstacles in their paths. These hurdles include the deliberate assault on education and the promotion of ignorance. It made the enslavement of the people a fait accompli. And to cap it all, poverty was introduced as a weapon of oppression and subjugation. Nothing could be more lethal than combining ignorance with penury. Who would dare challenge the Master who controls life and death?
That is why we are where we have found ourselves right now. Our youths are being brainwashed perpetually and many have become resigned to the fact that life is good as it is and would never be better. Those who pick crumbs prefer to continue doing so while believing that no Messiah would ever emerge. I read comments like “all politicians are the same” and “there is no need to change the present ones or try the ones in opposition”. All manner of reasons are given to sustain the status quo. Those who attempt to challenge the stereotypes are labelled anarchists and enemies of State. Nigeria has become a country where it is a crime to criticise government no matter how constructive you try to be.
The opposition itself has made it easy for the ruling party to govern in perpetuity. Less than one year to the next election we are yet to see concrete steps to assure us of a better future. The names being bandied about suggest nothing much is likely to change as politicians are not willing to risk a bit of creativity in the selection of candidates. I’m almost certain there would be voter apathy engendered by the lack of capacity to ignite a passion or superlative enthusiasm in first time voters.
I thought we would have learnt useful lessons from other climes. If you want to achieve something monumentally new you must attempt some spectacularly fresh stunts. The godfathers can help us by wilfully throwing up the younger whizz-kids who litter our political landscape. Let our ageing statesmen rise above personal and selfish interests and support people who are relatively refreshing. The world is moving in that direction while we continue to recycle our tired, retired men and women. No matter how strong a man is, he must begin to decline at a stage in his life. Those who conceived of retirements must have considered that incontrovertible evidence of the law of diminishing returns. While we need men and women with experience, they can only act as pillars of support and not as front-liners. To do otherwise is to rubbish the lives of younger folks and discard their vibrant talents as well as sentence them to eternal servitude. Those days are gone when the older generation reigned supreme. The world has changed so much and governance requires the modern approach to deal with it. Even at home, we have to listen properly and open our eyes very wide to understand and follow the new culture of our kids who occupy more than 60 percent of the entire population. How do we hope to satisfy their yearnings when we do not speak their language or appreciate the new temperament? We must endeavour to uplift Nigeria from antiquity and obscurantist tendencies. Our ways are sadly too quaint and unpleasantly steeped in an inglorious past to continue in that mode. We have groped in this darkness for too long and it is a shame that most of us are not willing or ready to change this system that has kept us underdeveloped and irritatingly backward.
Some of us saw that hope in the promise of a hard-built coalition of forces called APC despite the obvious imperfections that came with it. 21 years after Abiola brought that hope of a new Nigeria closer home, it would be so wonderful to relight that beacon and give us a glorious ray to behold. The APC does not seem to appreciate the magnitude of the burden we expect it to bear. We’ve never been this close to a new beginning since PDP was concocted by the military politburo in 1999. The cry for change in our country has not been this loud. Many people are willing to embrace APC warts and all. For them it is a risk between diarrhoea and sure death. They’ve tasted and tolerated PDP for 15 years and life has never been so bad. It is not likely to be better soon if the current trend persists.
Those who oppose PDP are not against President Goodluck Jonathan per se. They are mostly tired of a party that has not been able to find its bearing in so many years, in too many ways. That is why they ‘voted’ for Jonathan and not PDP the last time hoping that a black pot can still produce some white pap. But that pipe-dream was misplaced and it has since evaporated into thin air. PDP is too set in its ways and no leader can easily wriggle out of its complex web of confusion not least, a man as supposedly meek as our President. The PDP apparatchik has made it impossible for him to operate freely even if he planned to. He’s had to dance to their macabre music. This is why he’s wobbled from one crisis to the other. He has only managed to retain power by the skin of his teeth.
No one is sure whether Nigerians are willing to give Jonathan a second chance by ignoring the antics of PDP and dealing directly with the President. His chances would depend on how he’s able to convince the electorate and a few of the juggernauts that he would be more in control after the next election when he would no longer be at the mercy of his party. It is going to be a tough one to handle but he would have to try all the tricks in the books again like he did on the last occasion. The goodwill of 2011 has expired so quickly. A top-up is going to be scarce and expensive.
This is why the next election promises to be a very herculean one for both sides with the candidates running almost neck and neck. As for now, it is still too early and definitely too close to call but APC can seize the momentum by killing its paranoia and wearing its thinking cap. To dislodge PDP is not going to be easy. The difficulty does not stem from the fact that PDP is too formidable. On the contrary it is weak, crumbling and defeatable. It is because members of the privilegentsia would find it easier to do business with Jonathan than anyone else. This is why some hawks within APC must rethink its position and throw up younger folks without the heavy baggage of the past.
A word is enough for the wise.
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