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Chile: Uses of adversity

Josef Omorotionmwan
AS far back as August 1600, William Shakespeare, in one of his best comedies, As You Like It, had reasoned clearly: “Sweet are the uses of adversity, which like the toad, ugly and venomous; wears yet a precious jewel on its head…”.

We agree with him but we should also add, as a corollary, that: “Sour are sometimes the uses of prosperity…”. We shall examine both sides of these proposals – the sweet side of adversity and the new bitter side of prosperity:

By now, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) must be getting tired of appearing on our witness stand all the time. We may not stop inviting him for, after all, musicians would also tell you that if a number is good, you can do it as many times as possible in a single outing.

Up till now, Roosevelt remains the only American President who has been re-elected three times (1933-1945). When he was first elected, America was facing the worst depression ever, coming out of the Second World War. He used the presidential powers to pull the country out of the Great Depression.

He brought about the New Deal under which he introduced the welfare system and provided reliefs, loans and jobs to the people through a variety of federal agencies. America bounced back to life.

It is instructive that from the very beginning, the American Constitution had provision for a maximum of two terms for the President but Roosevelt had entered briefly into his fourth term before he died in office. That was the degree of his acceptability and that represents the sweet side of adversity.

On the bitter side of prosperity, even as good as the Americans demonstrated that Roosevelt was to them, there are several books on the shelf, where critics (or cynics?) have laboriously dealt with Roosevelt’s gesture as a policy of repression or appeasement.

These people argue most vehemently that Roosevelt’s idea was to administer some coolant or some tranquilizing drugs on the masses so that they could remove their eyes from him while he did whatever he liked with their government.

It is no longer news that Governor Oshiomhole has made giant strides to transform Edo State from its previous corroded state into an Eldorado of sorts. Even at that, there are some Edolites who have remained fixated at the January 2009 level, when the bulldozers were at work, removing illegal structures and paving way for the gigantic developments and massive urban renewal efforts that were to follow and that have, indeed, followed.

As far as all those on the sour side of prosperity are concerned, Oshiomhole’s efforts have not gone beyond the planting of flowers.

Enter President Sebastian Pinera of Chile: Certainly, this is the man of the moment to many of us. This was the man who personally mobilized world attention, sympathy and technology for a successful rescue of the 33 miners (32 Chileans and one Peruvian) from a depth of about 2,010 feet underground.

Hell couldn’t be deeper than that! They said it couldn’t be done but President Pinera did it! Have you concluded that the entire world must be admiring President Pinera for that rare feat?

Wrong! Some politicians in Chile are not happy with him. They have accused the President of manipulating the predicament of the miners to his political advantage. Sour, indeed, are the uses of prosperity.

Based on the foregoing scenario, there are now people who go into government with the preconceived notion that there is nothing they can do to please the masses. Even if they cut off their heads and offer same to the people, they will still be criticized, anyway. So, why kill themselves, they reckon.

What such people do is to go into government, put in their barest minimum and leave the rest to critics. The sad aspect of this is that the masses are still the losers. Our advice to politicians here is that all those who cannot stand the smoke should get out of the kitchen.

And, in any case, it is better to let history, not the voice of men, be your judge. History’s judgment may be slow in coming, but come it must. True, at the point of history’s arrival, the statesman may no longer be alive. It is precisely because the statesman’s reward rests in the future that there are so few of them among the league of politicians who distort the public cause and the affairs of government.

The Chilean experience reminds us that patience is a great virtue. It is no joke remaining in the ‘pit of hell’ for some 70 days. For a moment, we thought the miners were Nigerians, in which case, the stampede to get into the rescue tube would have been what would kill them all.

But the order in which they came out was arranged from above. It was properly planned and carefully consummated. In Nigeria, tribal sentiment would have gone into it. As an instance, if a Yoruba, Ibo or Hausa was in-charge of the ordering, he would have ensured that his tribesmen among the lot came out first.

But behold, we were also convinced that a good Nigerian consultant, perhaps General Tunde Idiagbon, must have planned out such an orderly turn-by-turn arrangement. Where did they find him? That’s a good research topic.

Again, Chile has demonstrated to the entire world that the goose that lays the golden egg must not be sacrificed. Chile showed the rest of the world that it values the lives of the miners that lay the golden eggs; hence it went to any length to ensure that they were rescued by all means and at all cost.

Given the shabby treatment that Nigeria gives to the goose that lays its golden eggs, the Niger Delta sub-region; and given the way we ceded Bakassi to Cameroun without firing a single shot, it is clear that our leaders would have cared less about the survival of the miners! The sanctity of human life has virtually no meaning in Nigeria.

If we must get our acts together, then, we must begin from the beginning. We must first get our elections right. Right now, the larger Nigerian public believes that most of the people who decide on the vital matters that affect their lives are simply a crude imposition of a defective electoral system. That must stop!

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