This night,after a long,sunny December afternoon spent talking about “Political Economy in Africa South of the Sahara”,which has showcased a tale of a complex series of connections: the nexus between production, industry and political power. I laid on my mattress under my mosquito net gravely concerned about happenings in and around the country. Now, thinking about it all again in the twilight of sleep and the discomfort engendered by the absence of electricity,one shuddered.
This further triggered the thoughts of the alleged slave trade in Libya and elsewhere along the Mediterranean coast;the billions ex -governors exhorts from their States for a mere eight years of public service, the spiralling increase in the cost of living, the inflation trend, no water,no light, the nation’s health facilities still remained mere “consulting clinics”, long queues emerged from no where in the scorching sun into the gas filling stations in the last three days, and on and on. How could we,in good conscience, have done this to ourselves. All of us. You, me,society for aiding it all,and government’s abetting. I asked myself sotto voce and helplessly.
I closed my eyes and tried to put it all out of my mind,but the thought won’t leave of their own accord. I let my mind drift to my wife Shade cooking her delectable Ìkókoré Ìjèbú, a delicious water yam delicacy,spiced with smoked fish, pònmó and barbecued croaker on top of the mass, it went well with some lemon soufflé- a dish of eggs, milk and flour mixed with cheese fruit beaten to make it light,and baked;to my little granddaughter, to the life and time she’ll have or was going to get afterwards. What quality? Not too pleased with myself: the nation’s position was it an ebb, or its opposite, high tide.
Around the net,clouds of mosquitoes buzzed, seeking the inevitable hole. The last thing I noticed was when my bed shook as dead-sick wifey stumbled against it,half-awake,heading for the toilet. This got me wide awake. In the searing heat of the night, I heard the distinct sough of the sea as my eyes caught sight of the moonless sky and the motionless galaxy of stars through the open window, and my eyes and ears and mind were searching the darkness for clues of the nation’s dream.
What came to my mind was a dream, a dream of a me at a riverside,seeing a couple of flowers, rose flowers of assorted shade of colours and brilliance caught in an eddy and floated off downstream. I can’t remember when last the details of any dream have made my heart glad; not yet fully compos mentis, I walked to my desk.At 2:43a.m.I noticed a comment in my father’s wavy ,(caused by acute arthritis)but cursive handwriting,”‘ The last completely normal year in history was 1913,(curiously, his own year of birth), the year before World War I began”‘,in an editorial in The Times-Herald,Washington, D.C.; March 13,1949 publication.
I hasten to add in parenthesis,that, increasingly, the period from 1914 to 2017 covering two World wars and the cold war, ware a single, discreet epoch,a time apart in which much of the world was fighting war,recovering from war or preparing for war,economic war,political uprising and now, the top of the shelf,terrorism- whose global shock waves is telling the world that things would never be the same again; the often unexpected, swift and violent attacks that often catch security agencies and their operatives unawares, has shaken the people to the core and exemplified a jarring reality: the proliferation of universal terrorism. Fears of suicide bombers, chemical and biological attacks still reverberate through our world of high- tech,security-conscious cities, airports, trains and bus terminals, there is terror on every side, in a whole world that really blew up about World War I and the world still don’t know why.
A period when men thought that utopia was in sight. A period that recorded abundance of peace and prosperity was at its peak. Then everything blew up; and the world is being in a state of suspended animation ever since. More people have been killed in this period of history than at all of the time, security- be it political or economic, security challenge,food and nutrition crises, energy and power crisis, drug and health crisis seemed to have disappeared from the lives of men.
The turning point in history and the period the very existence of the intricately disguised wonders in the universe surrounding us came to ruins. Curiously, their were growths in leaps and bound,of technology, men brought forth their inventions in a purpose-driven world.Recent happenings are bad,real poor and veiled by increasing lawlessness, corruption, massive heist,hunger,debilitating diseases, inequality, such is the times Nigerians have endured in the last three decades. The woes have been far more extensive than ever before. Never before has there been a time in our nation’s history when its capacity for sustaining life has been threatened and or compromised, but now.
A time when things will just not work in today’s complex society; rampant and flagrant disregard for marriage that marriage has become a round of boredom, because of our warped background the importance of the family has been whittled and it’s no longer the bedrock of society.The nation’s crumbling with weakened family ties,we want penalties for crimes eliminated. Add to all of these,the emergence of a nation that does not know how to cater for its senior citizens and the helpless youths, pensioners dying on queues while struggling to collect paltry pensions.
Then, you’ll ask,in this 21st century, what is our politics! What is the nature and future of our dreams plagued with dishonest and selfish politicians who seemed not to realise that good leadership is about making others better as a result of their presence and making sure that the impact lasts in their absence.I came to a conclusion that, to be successful in this “Me Generation”,the nation needs leaders who must be open to new ideas and concepts and must stay open to change. Who would tell you there are times when they are not sure;when they don’t know but they’d like to know, and the people they are supposed to lead don’t know how much the leaders don’t know; leaders who could dare to invest in people, light(both in the figurative and ordinary meaning) the people’s path without brightening your own.
But the problem with our nation is the lack of such good leaders. With this background in mind, Mister President as right as rain has dutifully laid before the NASS, the 2018 appropriation bill with the ‘hope’ of reversing the present sorrowful state in the nation,with several millions of our kith and kin living in sordid poverty and an unpleasant and frightening image of possible future trouble,which is too bad to continue. The NASS has to commence deliberation and the process of ‘slash the hash’ in the budgetary proposals. The hollow ritual again!.
The immediate concern,do I detect a soupçon of malice in some of the remarks, is the scorching condemnation of government’s inattentiveness on (1)the ambitious ambiguity and the credulity in the proposed bill, predicated on 2.3mpd, (regardless of the cartel,OPEC ‘wild card’,)when the country was only able to record 1.9mbd in 2017(2) without the president’s men and technocrats indicating how the president intends to shore the additional 600mpd;would the shortage be compensated for by anticipated higher oil prices. All right-minded people would surely be shocked with such inattentiveness to details.
The nation’s budget is annually based on so many assumptions, which violates the principle of science,empirical evidence and proofs. Not surprising a bit,because we’ve been fed by government and taught to live with the ‘illusion of miracle’.The NASS has once again be called to higher duty and must considered the proposed bill,not with the comfort of the status quo as excuse for not challenging old thinking,but with the certainty of today’s realities,it is only when you don’t know what you don’t know,that you are vulnerable and susceptible.You may know a lot, with the benefit of hindsight,yet,you don’t know all there is to know. So should be opened to good inputs. Now that the state of the economy -the relationship between production, trade and the supply of money in the country is very worrying.
The nation’s seemed an immense wild Eden to be tamed and mastered. A bogey and freak economy based on a false economy in a supposedly wealthy environment to boot. The NASS should however, not be overwhelmed,or confused and or stranded,but rather should work with the template that nothing is impossible;even as it goad and encourage the executive,nay the nation through legislation to think and work along the template, such is the power of the legislature as an institution in a democratic setting.The NASS must grasp and release the feelings and concept and unnecessary concerns that are holding the nation back;and stir the nation to embrace the new ideas of life with precision and boldness. The NASS therefore must place a premium and high value on good thinking and not react to the bill as a people that has found themselves at the mercy of circumstances and facing the same obstacles over and over.
In order to navigate and navigate well the deep knee bends of life and nationhood, the nation’s old ideas must be challenged and replaced with new one’s. There’s a world of difference between performing for peoples approval, and being free to minister to their needs. Striving for approval is like any other drug; you can never get enough of it. Simply immature! That’s not how leaders are expected to live. Most of the time the people aren’t thinking about the leaders at all. They are too busy thinking about themselves, what to eat and how to survive till the next day – or worrying about what leaders think of them. Get to give the people what rightly belonged to them and which ordinarily should be theirs, which is a good life. Failure to do this is the way social injustices begins. It’s the way seeds of revolution are sown, and where’s it all going to end. If the legislature,as the peoples representatives sit and watch the nation’s flush of ecstasy about our dear fatherland grown cold,and does not stand up and be counted,in the long run, nobody will be safe.
It is amazing how humans quickly get bent out of shape when wholly dissatisfied with things around them. It’s not enough to dream of a better Nigeria; we must do all in our power to make it a reality.If we don’t act, work to improve Nigeria ,we’ll end up stuck in the same place, doing the same things the same way with the same principles, and dreaming the same old dreams, and never getting anywhere in a nation that’d fallen from its heights to a humbling grandeur.
The leaders must come to terms with our realities and the need to birth a new Nigeria of our dream, but our elected representatives should stop overestimating their own importance and competencies. In the same vein, to the almighty executive, President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it.” The bottom line: unless the president with his wide and soft political powers delegates, his leadership will deteriorate,and his vision, which mostly were in his mind will stagnate,if it has already not done so. His zero-tolerance for corruption apart, he should correct, comfort, sharpen and strengthened-all hallmarks of great leadership. Good leaders: (1) Are consistent. Laying a budget riddled with boobytraps on the walls of the national Assembly due to the president’s office inattentiveness is not. Walk the talk so everyone knows that what’s heard at the bottom is practiced at the top.(2) Don’t see people as statistics.
Business woman Mary Kay Ash said,”P&L doesn’t mean ‘profit and loss’-it means “people and love.”Leaders don’t agonize over decisions and assume responsibility for peoples emotional reactions or upheavals that “change” ordinarily brings;when you are doing what you should be doing the opposition and such like don’t agree,that’s there problem, unless you make it yours. And in another breath,steamrollering all opposition should be out of the question, in fact, a well thought out and well implemented agenda would be a scorched earth policy that would have destroyed any thing that may have been useful to the opposition.A sound, mature and good leader deals with disappointment and keeps a good attitude; are willing and ready to face the music even when they don’t like the tune.
To the NASS and the executive this is not an auspicious time to flex muscles,for the nation to work and move forward,both arms must strive to accept and understand and respect each other’s unique perspectives. They don’t have to agree line for line on all sub-heads,but must appreciate where the other arm is coming from and seek to find common ground. They shouldn’t have a hard time with views and values where they differ. The nation right now, expects a sociopolitical awakening, so to speak, and the APC much touted political “change” is one more indication that the nation is apparently getting to terms with the imperatives of sociopolitical change, let the legislature raise the executive’s hands to push the reset button.
Yes,segments of our culture are getting too uncomfortable with the things change would bring and are have grown hostile and are forming a new alignment, which in a way, is further deepening our democratic experiences, but PMB’s change and fight against corruption have gained more traction but less enthusiasm and even lesser apostles and ambassadors for obvious reasons, we are all corrupt in our different ways. Unfortunately for all of us, including the “haves” and”have nots”, we are all,now, hard pressed on all sides and left perplexed, by this prolonged ailment that has sapped us physically, emotionally, mentally and confronted with the challenge to ‘fold up or hold up’.
The NASS and the executive has to harmonise their positions, even as they use the occasion of perusing the 2018 budgetary proposals, to go beyond mere perfunctory examination and evaluation like one in the perfumery counters of department stores,but perused the bill and get a perspective of the whole valley. The nation has to come up with solutions. We need a redoubled enthusiasm, strength and vision to be able to stir the nation.
The outcome and appropriation elements in the 2018 budget could actually act as a springboard that would stir the nation into fulfilling its dreams.Talking,so to speak, of fulfilling dreams, actually forces a number of posers on us.Question: Do we have a strategy for fulfilling the Nigerian Dream in place? Are we working on it? The only thing worse than having no dream is having one without a plan to make it a reality. A strategy gives one energy, direction and focus. Our NASS and the presidency, must note that,to develop strategies for achieving the Nigeria of our dreams,it must I) focus on specific, establish tangible targets for what we want; help set goals aligned with the purpose, mission, and passion; put them in black and white in specific measurable details; maintain a clearly defined goal for every major interest.
Last line: For here and now, the nation presumably get an ‘F’ in the critical parameters necessary to move our dreams and visions out of our leaders hearts and heads into our lives. Dreams don’t merely come about or come true because you ‘wish upon a star’. They come true because you seek leaders who themselves are sufficiently motivated to be able to give direction, put them down on paper with specific measurable actions and timeline.
From our experience, we often don’t get anywhere because we’ve lost the leadership instincts that has the power to inflame the imagination and stir the heart.
Therefore, to get things done,to move progressively from stagnancy to a good height government must not be afraid to think in large terms with clean hands,clean eyes and clear heads. See the solution and contemplate it as being real with such intensity that it becomes real. Whenever you contemplate solution it manifests- and at this state of lack, searing indictment of poverty, penury, leaders should be seen as synchronising their feelings, thinking and action to make them dynamic in fulfilling the mandate given unto them;so as to help move the nation out of this ebbing shadow and into light and keep in focus the Nigerian Dream; while also midwifing an economy drive that will gravitationally pull or force, making special efforts to avoid waste and or wrong use of resources. They have to up the ante. Our compatriots expect and deserve no less. It is a mandate!
A bead of sweat in the heat of this December night gathered on my chin, fell unapologetically,on the “Dell”. With infinite patience, I connected my earphone, after a blind tortured search, I felt the hole for it and slipped in the end. The earphone static’d,into life chief commander Ebenezer Obey’s…
” On one condition, that we are ready,
to work together,
to save Nigeria. ”
“Báyi kó o rárá,
Báyi kó ò,
Báyi kó’láyé tiwà,
Láyé ojó yèen,
Bàba wá Édumárè,
Wá y’ígbà yí sí rere.”
We shall experience a turn around in fortune
Jimi Bickersteth is a blogger and writer.
He can be reached on Twitter