The worst illiterate is the political illiterate. He hears nothing, sees nothing, takes no part in political life. He doesn’t seem to know that the cost of living, the price of beans,of flour, of rent,of medicines all depend on political decisions- Betting Brecht.
I dashed from the convocation ground of the university campus, located deep into the rain forest of Otta, to the local wing of the airport, to catch a late evening flight to the Federal capital, even as it was increasingly hectic trying to navigate through the confusion generated by human and vehicular traffic due to poor logistics, and planning all rolled into one,on a wet Friday.
In the battle of wit that accompanied the idea of public servants ferrying their wards to schools abroad,the financial implications and attendant neglect of the local universities, the current mashayi and wheelbarrow empowerment all over the land were playing solitaire in my mind;add to this,the
backlogs of unpaid paltry salaries and pensions arrears being owed civil servants, Primary schools teachers and pensioners in majority of the states in the federation.
A sideways turn of the head left or right reveals a people with screwed up expressions,depressed and carrying on with life with frowns on their faces,squeezed noses and sad countenances.This piece therefore is going to be a thumb-nail sketch of what the problems with us are;problems that have turned many of our compatriots to a poor half-starved wretch living in wretched poverty. A clear sign that the nation is
failing its what you see is what you get- WYSIWYG
people,and disappointed the peoples expectations about lifting their spirit and raising their living conditions.
An hour later and with the warm fuzzies around the nation,my experience and wellspring of joy bubbling up in my heart with the numerous first classes of that university, I was momentarily lost in the vastness of space in the sky,seat-belted calmly in a sixty-ton deadweight of a
Super-Constellation hurled ten thousand feet above sea level, and, with only another twenty miles to go started its slow declining flight towards the FCT.
I watched the city of opulence and shimmering prosperity grow on the horizon as it came in view. Then we were gliding over the northern fringes, over the city’s millionaire hotels, posh residencies, villas and surroundings.
The scattered dice of small-holdings showed on the slopes and in clearings in the savannah, and the setting sun flashed gold on the bright worms of tumbling rivers and streams.
My heart’s filled with the beauty of Abuja. Lights were already twinkling in the foothills and spangling the streets of Gwagwalada, Kubwa and Suleja,but, beyond, the far arm of the Nnamdi Azikwe International airport was still touched with the sun against which the lighthouse blinked innocently and ineffectually.
Now the Constellation was getting its nose down into a wide sweep. There was a slight thump as the landing gear extended under the aircraft and locked into position, and a shrill hydraulic whine as the break flaps slid out of the trailing edge of the wings. Slowly the aircraft turned in again towards the land and for a moment the setting sun poured gold into the cabin. Then a soft double thump of a perfect landing.
With its bland and rasping coldness, not so bad and
not so good,much the same as always. Moving down the gangway, I met the hostess. She greeted in their usual
grotesquely obsequious manner, and giggling a little,her eyes were sharp and anxious,belying the affected gaiety of her words.
Picking my bags and baggage off the slow,
labouring and creaking
carousel was done with in a jiffy,as I got a taxi and moved down the long fringed road towards the distant lights of the Ring road and inner city. I began to enjoy the superficial
beauty of it all- the steady zing of the crickets,the rush of warm,scented air,the ceiling of stars and the necklaces of yellow lights.
All these beauty in a nation where growth should be a collective responsibility, yet few dedicate themselves to the process, because it requires change, and more often than not, we are uncomfortable with the things change brings, but the corollary is, if we don’t change, we won’t grow.
On the ride to town I drifted into a reverie which was anything but pleasant; and précising the nation’s emerging democracy as deeply scarred and acutely emaciated,leaving all chronically tensed up,even as the people are beginning to cast a proprietary eye, and are beginning to doubt whether or not the Nigeria
version of democracy is a veritable and standard political ideas or practices. Little wonder the strident calls for restructuring,self-independence and or self-determination;coupled with inflationary tendencies that have vitiated much of the country’s recent economic history.
It was so much fun watching the video clips of the book launch “Making Steady Sustainable Progress”. It looks like a collection of political juggernaut in the APC and their friends;climate setting for 2019,you’ll say. To put that into perspective,one would have thought such fora and publication(whose artwork and finishing looks more like a coursework on cookery) would have offered a little reality check on the growth and developmental imperative in this season of “Change”and the state of the nation.
But remember the old proverb,”For want of a nail”? It goes like this: “For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost. For want of a horse the rider was lost. For want of a rider the message was lost. For want of a message the battle was lost. For want of a battle the kingdom was lost. And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.” When you gleefully and joyfully do little things like they are big things. Is that how to advance the cause of a nation? Is that how nation’s advance?
To the compilers and organizers, it was a ride to the point of precedence- the
place where we have been before- but no farther. The publication appeared to be a subject of instinct rather than from specific fact.
I suppose the citizens were meant to intuit the answers to the nation’s multifarious questions. But one is grateful that our people have their intuition about what is right and wrong with their lives intact. The result of how well the nation had been micromanaged is evident, and speak for themselves, don’t they? My folks would say,bímo yó,bí mi ò yó,òdò mi ní kùn mí wà.
President Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the US, a Nobel peace prize winner has this to say, and I think he had the dinosaurs and cabal in the corridors of power in mind,”Extend pity to no man because he has to work. If he’s worth his salt,he’ll work… the best prize that life offers, is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” Somehow, I think we’ve lost the spirit, if not the letters of the pretty timeless words. Our dear Mister President must silence the trumpets, cancelled the parade and get to work afresh. This time the nation needs ingenious inventions, innovations. It is the time for us to quit hedging our bets and playing it safe. If accolades come, politely deflect them before you believe them.
The lights went out,power outage, Abuja suddenly,assumed the position of a big village,with emission of diesels from power generating sets, even as I settled to put this down on a rainy night by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp. Something told me that with the colossal amount allocated to the purchase and maintenance of generators,there appeared no end in sight to the nation’s power and energy crisis. Its a shame.
To our politicians and political leaders ,the truth has to be told; and, in telling the truth in our collective dementia and recourses to restructuring,
self-determination and other peremptory agitation, one must not
forget to appreciate that
happiness is linked to income level, possessions and gainful employment. The happiness such as seen by Mister president during his last visit to Anambra state is happiness on the outside with an inside filled with venomous, strong bitter feelings on the inside.
Here,there is a story I’d like to tell: one morning a mother was out
shopping,when she dumped into her son at a shopping mall. Angry and alarmed that he’d skipped school,she demanded to know why he wasn’t in class. She listened patiently to his explanations and then replied, “I’m not accusing you of telling a lie,but I never heard of a school giving time off for good behaviour.”
The moral of this story is clear. Sometimes the truth hurts- but never as much as being told a lie. PMB may not have noticed it,but it is glaring that the rest of the nation happens to be in a bit of a mess. The truth is like a mirror; and like it or
not, it allows us to see ourselves as we really are and make the necessary corrections and adjustments.
To date,it appeared that the nation’s prolonged waggles in the quagmire and a difficult and dangerous situation from which it is hard to escape,
became possible,because Nigerians have at all times at the roundtable failed to tell it as it is. We are all very selfish and wrapped up.
When a people are all wrapped up in themselves, they make a pretty small package.
We have failed to tell ourselves the home truth about the ‘imported,-made-in- Nigeria democracy, its
headaches, realities,and winner- takes-it-all syndrome; and this has been a source of constant distress rather than a blessing to majority of our compatriots. Take for
instance,the average take home pay of a House of Representative member is put at #7 million plus other perks just to assist
formulate plans that give direction for today, and increase the nation’s potentials for tomorrow;but
most of them ,pardon me
are doing absolutely nothing to unleash their enthusiasm and hope, to find solutions for even seemingly impossible situations. Then you ask, in that situation, have they earned their corns?
Nigerians are not happy but in a way the government has a way of warming the cockles of the peoples hearts,if you saw the President’s visit to Anambra state.But even at that, the government must not confuse happinesses it saw at the state visit with merriment. Merriment comes from joy,not happiness, and
understanding this, is to the peoples emotional well-being.
There are times,and such is the time we are in today,
when we can’t and shouldn’t be happy -when people are hurting,going through tragedies of immense proportion in violent crimes, kidnapping, rituals killings, cultism or losing jobs and loved ones.In the face of injustices happiness is inappropriate, if not impossible. Curiously, more money to be appropriated annually in the nation’s budgets have not really worked. Our politicians,particularly, the elected Representatives must have found out by now,that money and more money can’t buy happiness, much less joy.
It’s been said that the poor are better off than the rich, because while the poor keep thinking money will buy happiness, the rich know better. Trying to find happiness and joy in materialism is like drinking salt water: The more you drink,the thirstier you get.
To the poor
masses,happiness is external, joy is internal. Happiness depends on what happens to us;joy depends on inward character. Happiness depends on what happens to us;joy depends on what we feel. Happiness is based on chance; joy is based on choice.
It is clear from the book launch, that our leaders in our own homegrown mistletoe have betrayed the hope, poise, tenacity and determination,and that
gave me a startled heartbeat to comprehend,even,as the euphoria that ushered the “change” era has deteriorated and the soaring spirits settled under the weight of responsibilities in a bastardized nation and a freak economy.
The elected and selected
Representatives have grown to become unfeeling, stiff, unapproachable and
everywhere but anywhere. That all have seen like Britain’s wartime PM,Winston Churchill political opponent called Cripps,an arrogant man who was widely disliked for his smug self-righteousness and indignation.
What is the complements for our politicians as we begin to regard politics tragically as a narrow, even trivial pursuit and a conventional social goodness;and with the amount of wealth around the nation manages to be both intimidating and unchallenging, that we may exhaust ourselves trying to abide and keep the rules, yet may never experience true happiness and peace;and what’s more, the politicians and the peoples representative as the insiders,by virtue of their elevated status, become judgemental toward the people and the electorates now regarded as outsiders.
Our leaders have in no small measure ‘helped’ our boringly lifeless and dissatisfied lives by making the nation feel good about feeling bad,by loading the nation’s life filled with fear-inducing situations: fear of unemployment, gainful employment, poverty, deprivation, frustration;fears that make the nation unproductive.
The leaders oversimplifying the Nigerian self-interest of a ruling oligarchy rather than the rational calculations of the complex interest of the larger population, where the nation needed them to slam the door in fear’s face,even
as they try to look for superficial ways to distinguished themselves in becoming what Mark Twain termed “a good man in the worst sense of the word.” If our political leaders were to do needful and right their wrongs the nation will discover that what the nation is coming up against isn’t a closed door -it’s repressed fear.
Time it is therefore,for the political leaders to show the nation that they can think, learn and achieve. Gift of
self-worth! The politicians are expected to act the role of a mentor who painted the picture of a future,then equipped and challenged the people to reach for it;to reach for the heights, rather than just sharing the commonwealth for selves,spouses and families. They forget that when you come to look back on all that you’ve done as politicians, you will get more satisfaction from the pleasure you brought to other people’s lives than from your billion naira accounts. Sir Wilfred T Grenfell said, “It is obvious that Man himself is a traveller; that his purpose in this world is not” to have and to hold,’but’to give and to serve.’ There can be no other meaning.” It’s so easy to live only for yourself. In fact, it’s one of human being most basic instinct- one we have to overcome each day.
In a nascent democracy that is still nestling but money gulping in its operations and practice; here are some questions our Representatives should ask themselves public at their plenary sessions: (1)Am I approachable? The nation’s political leaders love the place of honour, they love to have us call
them ‘distinguished’ and ‘honourables’ and with an idea,gait and mien that distance them chronically
from the very people they are meant to serve. (2)Am I gracious? Aren’t we staying away from the needy and dependent that we are meant to serve. That one’s bright, lucky and opportuned to hold public office and has much to offer -they should still connect. (3)Am I real? We say things to woo and impress the electorates, when they haven’t a clue what we are talking about. So let’s be real with ourselves-and others! Think and be real with the issues bordering on
(i)devolution of powers,
(ii) fiscal federalism,
(iii) the sharing and allocation formula and
(iv) generally kick start a functional and organic restructuring of the polity. (v)The predominance of the rule of law,
(vi)total independence of the judiciary, that must be encouraged to institute major and swift reforms,that would engender respect for law and fundamental values-which can put an end to the rule of impunity and disdain.
(vii)Free press and
(viii)free access to economic power to a greater number of Nigerians.
It is a time to ruminate, reflect and take decisive actions not on what might have been as we seem to be doing but on what is.
Its been said that the depth of one’s hurt determines the width of response, I want to hasten to add that the foundations for how the people react in 2019 is been laid vigorously today, and they may react in two ways (1)”Tit for tat”.Except the elected Representatives change their ways and begin to do things in such a way that everyone can see they are “honourable” and “most distinguished”; sincerely, what they’ll suffer in 2019 is in the hands of the Nigerian electorates, that ab initio made them the men and women they have become politically speaking, and whatever they are today is as a result of what Nigerians are and Nigeria be. If they want Nigeria and Nigerians tomorrow, let them today begin to take the high road.
Asking the people to be patient for about eighteen years has in a way showcased patience as a difficult task and skill in their relationship with the state and its politics. It is particularly, more intriguing, when they are angry, tired,hungry,empty, hurt,and incomplete, with the wholesale choices the political leaders and elected Representatives make based on their limited perspectives rather than the larger picture, and consistently making copious errors that keep negatively impacting on the nation’s livelihood.
Errors stemming from (1)not asking the right questions. Not inquisitive enough and hungry for all the pieces of the puzzle.
(2)Our leaders must find answers to the lingering questions, political questions, economic questions et al. They only need to sift through the surface impressions of what they are seeing and they’ll see a clearer picture emerged;because things are not as they appear at first. Once the correct pictures emerge, they must harmonies with:
a)their will and altruistic motives;
b)best purposes and intentions and participation as politicians and stakeholders.
3) they must act knowing that they are acting on the best and most comprehensive information available. If they are able to have applied themselves to all these,and Nigeria doesn’t work, they can relax,as politicians, in the knowledge that they did everything possible to make wise decisions.
The ‘”Change'” in the PMB era is turning merely to a mere mantra from which even ardent APC members in the neighborhood are shying away from, and can only be successful if the APC and the PMB administration can divide the nation’s circumstances into situations that can be changed or altered and those that cannot. Yes,nearly everything in life can be changed, or approached in a different way. But it can’t always be done right now.
The government must make a list of things it can change. So far,the administration keeps,(and this is free of cant)failing and not up to
measure-because it persists in trying to change what can’t be altered. The nation’s “Change” war shoud be about realistic thinking not casual wishes or a vague daydream. There’s a world of
difference between faith and fantasy. Somebody said, “For every problem under the sun, there is a remedy or there is none. If there is a solution go and find it. You’ll achieve success in the face of seemingly impossible odds, but when and only when you discover it. But, one, the notion must leave the President’s mind, be mounted on a template and predicated on a blueprint. Then his administration must ignore what he can’t change, focus on what he can without letting emotions alone dictate his decisions;(ask anyone who has to perform at the top of their game, and you’ll find that much of their time is spent overriding their emotions)- and opportunities for growth will reveal themselves. As Hannibal said during his famous march across the Alps,”will either find a way, or make one.” The nation needs that spirit too.
The politicians must overcome ignorance. As writer Don Wood quipped, “stupid is forever;ignorance can be fixed.” So far the political leaders appears not to be thinking realistically, or fail to seek out the information and expertise they need in fashioning out good laws and appropriations, they do not see the people as they are. Their decisions are rushed and they are often so reluctant to stop and find out what they really need to know. One may be fortunate enough to get promoted beyond one’s level of expectations and competence. But if one’s knowledge doesn’t keep up with the position, one is doomed to fail,and consequently, the nation will fail.
The elected Representatives, executives,legislative need more of wisdom and insight. They are expected to adjust themselves and stop overestimating themselves or be ‘too wise’ in their own conceits,a là,the “a je kun iya” crooning senator. The people can no longer venerate their leaders absurdities, to keep the nation’s otherwise broken limbs and bruises at this time therefore demands extraordinary yeomanry.
The people have sought to bring to the world the grim facts of the problems of poverty and lack, and people who feared and feel insecure in parts of the federation other than their own;and for all of these and
more,the people can no longer disguise their fears of the maladjustment and manipulative tendencies in the polity,even as the nation’s image has received a serious set-back,and, has thus become a testing-ground for assessing the sacrosanctity of unity in diversity, that has left the world watching the nation’s fast deteriorating record as a model of sanity and stability.
The people’s with anger boiling up inside them like cats’ fur,(depressed and frustrated even with the
uncanny abilities to handle delays, disappointments and detours), with their
elected Representatives that are always fussing over trivial matters or going home on furlough, has, in spite of the senseless serial drama in and around the nation remain ineffective,inefficient and incompetent-A serial
drama, (produced and directed by this tragic-comedians and comediennes-oní yèyé àlè àmùdás),that has often
freezes the peoples joy,with a countenance of frozen looks and squeezed faces.
In spite of the senseless serial drama and accompanying tragedies in and around the nation, the people determined their own levels of joy with the believe that to respond with anger to happenings in the nation is an endorsement of the politicians attitudes and behaviours. In a way,the palpable peace we have in the nation today is because,the people cannot control what’s going on in government, but control they did,what’s going on within them individually and a knack to “be in the moment”, rather than obsessing over what should happen.With what is going on in the world, one would have expected our lawmakers to show they have great prescience even as they stop abusing parliamentary privileges by mechanical and platitudinous speeches,and admit that the nation has problems of leadership,a leadership that keep rationalising and justifying non-performance and poor attitudes to governance and not growing in tune with the spirits of the people as a finished work.
While the people may be at liberty to be decisive with their worries and fears that have crippled them and have refused to become realities,the politicians must
not be clouded by emotionalism and a grotesque distortion of the truth,but must with the benefit of hindsight exhibit that critical sense of self- examination as they discovered
(I) the several missed opportunities in the protracted process of nation-building.
(ii)the nation’s rich economic potential to be exploited for the interest of the Nigerian people.(iii)improve the nation’s agricultural and extension services.
(iv) improve health care delivery programmes.(v)create employment for the generality of Nigerians.
(vi)the awakening of moral imperative to provide relief and succour for the poor;
(vii)palliative for the oppressed and address other injustices and injuries. (viii)to be transparent and honest with the poor Nigerians who are currently witnessing a depleted
foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages,debts and an economy in deep trouble;must believe in themselves that
Change in the
polity,-economy, and social orientations are bound to have widespread social and economic ramifications,and (x)in its present state, the nation can not afford to disintegrate,but must not pursue any agendas contrary to the principles of the ‘Republic’,as its strengths lies in true unity,but this mass
sufferings all around must stop.
As a multi-nation state,Nigeria must begin to demonstrate the quality and resourcefulness of character, intellect, values and passion which are qualities that should define us as a people. On this score therefore,the NASS must commence the processes of negotiating political settlement, just as the president should exert such soft political power his office guaranteed him to further doused some of the tension, brickbats and disaffection in the land. While the people do not expect the president and other political leaders to rub their feet while feeding them grapes,they are riled,peeved and heavy hearted with the rampant greed and the pervasive lack of caring all around.
While the people continued to get busy venting their spleens on one another, establishment and institutions showing their displeasure at the state of general discomfort all around, the pervasive corruption, rot,rut,apathy and incompetences ,the
world has produced remarkable advances in transportation, communication and other technologies which have brought tremendous and unprecedented economic changes,where many enjoy a standard of living hitherto thought impossible, even, with the global financial and debt crisis.
The situation is so tragic, and sadly, Nigerians, millions of who don’t have a place to live or food to eat
and waking up to the most serious global economic crisis, of the last 25 years,now feel unsure of what to say or do. So they wound up saying nothing and doing nothing, but grumble. But I have a premonition, and that is, if the people can’t control what they say or do,they can control how they react to it come 2019.#
Jimi Bickersteth is a blogger and writer.
He can be reached on Twitter @alabaemanuel, @bickerstethjimi,@akannibickersteth