columnBy Abdulrazaq Bn Bello
The woes and throes of collapse that befall our nation are no longer news. Nigerians, and, indeed, those who follow up the Nigerian story, are used to hearing news of monies looted from the public treasury in billions (and most recently trillions, like in the case of the fuel subsidy thieves); scores of people dying in avoidable road accidents on a daily basis; high profile criminals who should be rightly escorted to the gallows to face the hangman getting ridiculous sentences with options of fine (while a petty thief gets a death sentence in Delta State for stealing car stereo); trigger-happy policemen taking the lives of bona fide citizens for refusing to part with N20 bribe; and whatnot.
All of these, and many more which will make even the devil shudder, have left Nigerians yearning for change. I quite agree with May Akabogu-Collins, a visiting Professor of Economics at the American Business School in Paris, when she says that a Nigerian spring is long overdue.
In truth, many people have become disenchanted with the Nigeria project, as no good seems to come out of it. However, the quest for change in results without a commensurate change in the way of doing things is at best a beggar's wish. That is to say, doing the same things over and over will only produce the same results over and over. This is because, as Dr. Yusuf Qardhawi, the great scholar and theologian puts it, corrupt realities cannot be changed by immature strategies based only upon good wishes and intentions.
In finding the solution to a problem, I used to think that the starting point is to actually know the problem itself. But that seems not to be the case with Nigeria. In our peculiar case, the problem is well known, even to the ordinary man in the street. And at more scholarly levels, you find people, both in formal and informal gatherings, discussing the problem like it is the course they studied in the university. But the unfortunate irony is that, in our case, the more we know the problem the more elusive the solution seems. More so, those who know the problem too well are usually a part of it or are mostly the ones involved in perpetuating it. If you ask an average Nigerian what the country's problem is, he most probably will tell you: corruption! - referring to economic and financial crimes. However, that person who is quick to point at corruption as the bane of our country is also, in most cases, involved in one form of corruption or another.
For example, it is easy to find a university lecturer accusing those at the helms of affairs of the country of financial recklessness, whereas he is full-time into trade by batter with his female students, exchanging sex for grades. Perhaps, a clearer example is that of the late Fela Anikulapo Kuti who was foremost in criticizing the government of the day, especially with regards to financial probity and corrupt use of power for selfish ends, but who was himself indulged in corrupting the youths (males and females) of our country in his kalakuta Republic where he promoted moral depravity, turning them into sexual perverts and drug addicts. It becomes a case of the kettle calling the pot black.
Well, like I have aptly pointed out, our problem is not ignorance of the challenges confronting us as a nation and as a people, but the lack of will and passion to do things differently in order to effect positive, developmental and progressive change at the various spheres of our society. We believe in sitting back and waiting for a Messiah to descend from the skies to turn things around for us. But manna and quails no longer fall from heaven. We must all emancipate ourselves from our conservative ways of doing things and adopt progressive alternatives, reorient our mentalities, and imbibe some appreciable level of moral uprightness, self-discipline and honesty, before we can start seeing things turn around for the better. Building a strong and ideal society means everyone must play a role.
It is a truism that when a fish is getting rotten it starts from the head. That means if we must get it right with regards to building the kind of country and society we much desire, then, in addition to refining our ways, we must get the best of us to superintend over us at all levels of leadership. But how do we expect to undermine the unimpressive antecedents of our choices of leaders, turn a blind eye to the fraudulent process that brings them to power, and yet expect them to transform into award winning leaders overnight?
For instance, we had a Goodluck Jonathan who was a deputy governor and later governor of a small but rich state like Bayelsa, with no more than eight Local Government Areas, and with an estimated GDP of $4.34 billion and a per capita income of $2,484 as at the time he was there, whereas a state like Jigawa, at that same time, had twenty-seven Local Government Areas with an estimated GDP of $2.99 billion and a per capita income of $673. Yet, at the end of his stint at the Bayelsa Government House, his performance could best be described as dismal and lacklustre. This same man vied for the highest office in the country and whipped up sympathy from Nigerians with the story of his shoeless childhood and the unfortunate "it is our turn" propaganda. At the end of the day, he was imposed on the country as the President and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces by the ruling political cult, and Nigerians yet expected him to perform signs and wonders, not by his competence, capabilities, or antecedence, but by merely been christened "Goodluck"! Come to think of it: how can a man who could not perform in a state with only eight Local Government Areas, and with as much resources as was at his disposal, suddenly transmogrify into a Messiah in a country of seven hundred and seventy-four Local Government Areas? It just does not add up.
Therefore, my brothers, sisters, and fellow countrymen, as the next round of general elections for change of leadership in 2015 fast approaches, and as experience has shown us that those with poor and wretched upbringing usually "don't give a damn" when they ascend the mantle of leadership, but rather turn out to be opportunists who see power only as a means for self aggrandizement to make-up for their years of shoelessness and misfortune, we must learn and commit to elect leaders based on their credibility and proven worth, rather than on mere sympathy and regionalism. We cannot continue to evade the realities on ground and expect our "luck" to shine and just wake up one morning to see our country metamorphose into an abode of utopia and euphoria. In the words of Plato, the philosopher and mathematician, "the city is what it is because our citizens are what they are".
God save Nigeria!