Please, Maintain Your Silence on Nigeria, You Hear? By Japheth Omojuwa
2015 is the year Nigerians are waiting for to have the country in the right hands. 2015 will come but even if the right hands get to be voted for – which is not likely – Nigeria will not take a marked turn from where it is today. There may be improvement in certain areas but that leadership that’d ensure a paradigm shift in the Nigerian way of doing things, that now advanced state of impunity, will not give way to a new order until what feeds our leadership its incompetence, nonchalance and failures continues to feed it. Nigeria continues to fail because of the dearth of a sound following. Everything rises and falls on leadership, yes, but leadership rises and falls on the following. How can anyone truly say that a select group of people, less than 5,000, continues to be responsible for the misfortunes of hundreds of millions of people? What we already know for sure is that our leaders are some of the worst kinds of leaders in the world. What we have yet to admit is that our following is not far from holding the corresponding world title for followers.
Warren Bennis once noted that, “If I had to reduce the responsibilities of a good follower to a single rule, it would be to speak truth to power.” If I had to reduce the irresponsibilities of an average Nigerian follower to a single fact, it would be that we hardly ever speak truth to power. Without a doubt, we curse and abuse our leaders all day long, but only when such leaders are not there. We call them names, we say everything about why they are the reason ours remains a country underachieving despite its enormous potential but only in their absence. In their presence, we show them a different side. We suddenly transform from being roaring lions to meowing cats. We fail to take them to task, we fail to question their previous deeds; we fail to lay down a marker for others to see that given a chance, we will challenge them. What we don’t however fail to do is pose for pictures with them and then fawn over them making it obvious we don’t just want to be like them but that we want to be them! We pretend they are evil but we know deep down within us, we are not only like them without the power; we are them as they were when they were followers.
Let’s face it, even those of us born in the 1980s can relate to this let alone those who have seen it all when it comes to new hands taking the mantle of leadership in Nigeria. Except for may be twice, every new Nigerian leader has been welcomed by the people with noise and jolly celebrations on the streets, in homes and in bars. Bar a couple of them, all the Nigerian leaders came with some seeming breath of fresh air that inspires optimism in the people. Needless to say such fresh air has cumulatively led us to be a nation that has lost trillions of naira to corruption, lost out on a chance to be one of the world’s top countries and a seemingly God chosen role not only to provide leadership for the black race but to be its pride in the face of a silent global war of races. Where are we today? Have we lived up to that expectation?
How can we continue to expect fellow men to do the right thing given the chance to manage our affairs if we don’t constantly and consistently remind them of what the right things are? How can we daily listen to men and women who have now removed our once low bar of excellence and have replaced such with anything-goes kind of leadership? Right before our very eyes, people take pictures of lone standing fences, tweet the same and proclaim to us, “We now have a new university.” What happened to our sense of value that we overlook the cost of running our government and then jump on anything the Wendell Simlins of this world want us to see as never before achieved successes in Nigeria? What are we being called if not fools if people spend trillions of naira and then show us results that reflect only millions have been spent? The great Chief Gani Fawehinmi and his likes fought and fought, now they are gone and we are still slaves in our land. Yes, slaves! Only slaves are told to worship leaders that provide public amenities built with the wealth of the people. Only slaves live in Banana Republics where their leaders have their faces plastered on every road, billboard and wall as though the faces of the said leaders are all the people need to see to be fulfilled in having a country that works. If you could afford to buy this newspaper, chances are that you have travelled to countries where the following play their role of checking and guiding their leadership. If you have never travelled to such countries, you at least watch movies. How many big pictures of David Cameron greet you on arrival in the city of London? How many Barack Obama billboards meet you on arrival in Washington? If we decide to elect men who only find their sense of value in seeing their faces on billboards and posters even when not in election season, shouldn’t we the people at least guide them on the reality and essence of value? How can we say we live in a democratic nation and yet accept the realities of poverty, oppression and incompetence as the norm of governance? When did docility become our way?
We, the people – if we truly exist – have failed this country and are failing this country! We expect that certain people in certain places will help check our government; we miss it daily yet we never seem to learn. The National Assembly was designed to be the direct voice of the people, is that what it is today? Do we look at the Senate and see a bunch of driven people ready and willing to serve the people or a gang of men and women willing to please the highest bidder? Do we look at our state Houses of Assembly and see people that represent the people or rubber stamps of governors – or the President in impeaching circumstances?
Do we look at the political parties and really think our interests are the reasons they issue press releases that are big on abuses and inanities and very short on ideas? At what point are we going to realise that as long as we the people continue to restrict our grouses and complaints to our private chambers, we will never have it good with leadership in this country. Good leaders are good leaders because they have followers who have high expectations of them. Today, most Nigerians expect nothing good from the leaders, so, whatever we get is of course likely to be touted as some form of transformation. We are the responsible for what we get out of government because apart from voting according to interests other than competence and capacity, we let our leaders walk on our heads while we watch on in admiration, waiting for our turns. That turn will not come for at least 99 per cent of us. Let that sink in. if Nigeria doesn’t work for all of us, most of us will suffer, and the lucky one per cent will feed fat on us all. Keep keeping quiet you hear?
Omojuwa is a political commentator and social media executive
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