By Muyiwa Adetiba
We all dream of being rich, famous and good looking with lovely spouses and beautiful children. But for all of us, that is where it all ends— in the realm of the surreal. Harold Robbins puts it well in his timeless novel:‘Dreams die first’, because they do.
The reality of birth, and circumstances, jolt us early in life, to determine how far we will go in the realisation of these fancy dreams. At the end, nobody has it all; and only a fool will even want to. The ability to separate our dreams from our desires, and to be able to balance these two contending factors, is what responsible ‘growing up’ is all about. We strive to satisfy our needs while hoping (and praying) that something will be left to indulge our desires. And even in the pursuit of our needs, we learn to prioritise because there are times when the line between a need and desire is very thin.
For example, a middle income earner might consider a family car a need and a desire. But only an undisciplined and irresponsible man would send his children out of school so he could buy a car. As we grow up through the university of life into adulthood, we learn to look at the bigger picture. This means that our ability to indulge in some of our desires depends on other factors like the needs of our core and extended families. Most of us have therefore learnt to put many things (both needs and desires) on hold so our children– sometimes nieces and nephews – can attend decent schools. That’s what being ‘a man’ is all about.
But how many ‘real men’ are in positions of authority in our dear country? How many can deny themselves of their luxuries so that one more child can go to school? Or that one more child’s life can be saved? Our leaders make glib remarks about unemployment and poverty yet none – as in none –is prepared to scale back on their lavish lifestyles.
I once watched Governor Amaechi of River State— someone I used to admire— on TV talking about corruption and unemployment in the country,and all I could see was the shinning new plane he had just acquired.
And where do you situate the presidential wish to spend 1.3 billion Naira on refreshment, 2.2 billion Naira on a new ‘event centre’ and 9 billion Naira on a new ‘home’ for the vice president? Is it need or desire? Or simply a government that is out of touch and out of control? A presidency that needs a fleet of ten planes in a country that has no national carrier? and is prepared to spend18billion Naira every year to maintain that fleet?
Even richer countries will not attempt such profligacy at this time of global recession. Can you, for an example, imagine any British politician, daring to suggest an upgrade on 10 Downing Street when the people are complaining about unemployment and tax? The State Dining Room is said to accommodate 65 guests and nobody would think of a new one. Whatever for?
Norway, an oil producing country, is richer than Nigeria. Yet her Prime Minister is said to travel on commercial airlines. Why can’t we look in that direction? Or in the direction of the President of Malawi, Mrs Joyce Banda who sold the presidential jet her predecessor acquired as ‘a need’ together with 60 Mercedes Benz limousines. In addition, she cut her salary by 30%. Or the president of Uruguay who donated 90% of his salary to the poor.
According to an expert, the 18billion Naira earmarked for the maintenance of the presidential fleet, will provide decent accommodation for 18 million Nigerians.
Even if there is a ‘need’ for all these things, where do they stand in the face of contending demands for a better, healthier and more educated populace?
Right now, Nigerian is ranked as one of the worst places for a baby to be born. (2) Over 70% of the populace live from hand to mouth. (3) An estimated 11 million children of school age are out of school. Out of this 7.5 million are girls. (4) Youth unemployment is said to be as high as 45%. (5) Mo Ibrahim index for African governance rated Nigeria 43 out of 52 assessed countries. (6) Sunday Punch investigation put government funds that disappeared through fraud, theft and embezzlement, at 5trillion Naira. (7) Meanwhile, Nigeria had about 50 private jets when the Yar’Adua/ Jonathan government came in. Today, it is more than 200 and growing.
What verdict do you give to a government that continues to govern this way?
May I end with a classic Stevie Wonder song of the 70s.
‘We are all amazed but not amused by the things you said you’ll do. So much concerned but not involved with decisions that are made by you. We are sick and tired of hearing the song, telling how you are going to change right from wrong. But if you really want to hear our view. You ain’t done nothing.’
Any government which cares about the verdict if its people and of history must begin to chart a new course NOW.