By Douglas Anele
Most Nigerians would agree that although a few of the VIPs that address our man-made problems from time to time are sincere and genuinely concerned, others are just grandstanding to create the impression that they really do care about the country and millions of suffering compatriots.
The solicitude of pretenders is bunkum. Just as it is virtually impossible for a giraffe to pass through the eye of a needle, it is extremely difficult for pseudo leaders created by our corrupt system to muster the kind of compassionate imagination, altruism and enlightened disdain for opulence needed to really feel the pains of poverty and, more importantly, to do something about it.
These days, political leaders who combine the three character traits mentioned above are rare because it requires years of hard work towards self-discovery and spiritual discipline to cultivate them. Having said that, it is somewhat quixotic that wealthy politicians, retired top military officers and highly connected business tycoons who benefitted immensely from the distorted socio-economic and political environment cease every opportunity to condemn corruption in the very bad system they helped to create.
Similarly, it is ironic that expiring (or expired) corrupt politicians who managed to avoid jail time due to deliberately shoddy handling of corruption cases by anti-corruption agencies rail against corruption as if they were saints. It is now fashionable for these undesirable elements, in a desperate search for political relevance and avenues for primitive accumulation, either to rejoin the ruling party which they abandoned earlier or spend a lot of money to form new political parties and, consequently, strut around as financiers and national leaders of such ad hoc and ideologically barren political formations.
Again, some of them formulate narrow ethnic political agenda or cause and rally members of their ethnic group to support it. The irredentist allegation by a cabal from Yorubaland that Yoruba people are marginalised by the current administration of President Jonathan; the clamour for a President of Igbo extraction or for continuation of Jonathan in 2015 by a few prominent Nigerians of Igbo and Ijaw extraction, respectively, instead of insisting that the candidate with the best proven qualifications should lead; the fundamentalist agitation by archaic Northern politicians that the presidency must return to the North at all cost in three years’ time – all these opportunistic ethnic shenanigans prove that Nigeria is still a fractured and sick geo-political entity.
Moreover, they indicate that so-called Nigerian leaders have learnt nothing from our chequered political history since independence. In my view, fixation on ethnic agenda especially at this time when the fundamental pillars of Nigerian unity are tottering, except in response to clear and concrete danger like the pogrom against easterners living in the North In the mid-1960s, is bad and must be strongly discouraged.
Remember, the most powerful, ethnically diverse, nations in history attained greatness through transcending ethnicity. Therefore, it is important that Nigerians should be deeply suspicious of local champions parading themselves as leaders
of opinion from different ethnic nationalities whose stock-in-trade is to whip up ethnic hysteria based on exaggerated cries of marginalisation.
More often than not, those who continuously recycle such claims either had their hopes of political appointments dashed or were schemed out in the distribution of lucrative contracts by government. I, an Igboman to the core, do not care about the place of origin of an elected President, as long as the person chosen through free and fair election is sound in body and is the best morally, intellectually, and emotionally among the candidates.
Thus, if we are serious about moving the country forward, if we really desire to inaugurate a paradigm-shift from pernicious corruption and greed to sustainable development anchored on selflessness, discipline and patriotism, then we must be prepared to make the necessary sacrifices required for national transformation.
As I argued earlier, Nigerian youths, “the leaders of tomorrow,” cannot rely on their elders for the kind of moral-spiritual transformation which the country needs right now. The elders have failed repeatedly to lead by example. As political leaders, top military officers, civil servants, captains of industry and financial institutions, academics and clergy etc., the older generation is neck-deep in bulimic corruption, greed, indiscipline and hypocrisy.
Enjoying “the best of all possible worlds” in morally warped and shambolic Nigerian environment, a handful of them shamelessly pontificate on the need to fight social ills plaguing our society, whereas they are the ones responsible for the mess we are in presently. It is disheartening that a critical mass of Nigerian youths has imbibed bad qualities of the “old breed.”
Rapid negative changes in the sociology of many families, typified by the increasing phenomenon of single parenthood, and steep decline in the capability of our schools as agents for inculcating positive values and appropriate mental habits into children, have aggravated the problem.
But then, we cannot wait until everything is right before attempting to reconstruct Nigeria on a solid foundation of zero tolerance for corruption and indiscipline, integrity, and compassion for the suffering masses. Just as the courageous act of a vegetable hawker in Tunisia triggered what is euphemistically called the Arab Spring, so too a simple act of pure self
-sacrifice and defiance of the current unjust system by a street hawker or market woman can ignite the revolutionary consciousness of Nigerians.
The turning point in the historical development of any society is invariably launched by a tiny minority of resolute, committed, visionary and sincere patriots who are willing to stake even their lives for the betterment of society. Our country, Nigeria, is not an exception in this regard.
Consequently, Nigerian youths should look in the mirror individually and begin the process of change from images reflected on it. They should stop lazy armchair murmurings or episodic and short-lived demonstrations against bad policies of government and get to work by boldly and creatively engaging with people in positions of authority and power in a sustained manner capable of replacing the old order with a new and better system.
It is only by tapping into their inner reservoir of creative moral energy that young men and women of Nigeria can truly intervene in remaking history. Our people are steadily getting to the saturation point when all their latent energy for absorbing hardship would be exhausted.
If care is not taken by government to alleviate suffering, poverty and frustration quickly, explosion of pent-up anger by the masses will generate a socio-political tsunami capable of destroying the country. A stitch in time saves nine!