By Princess Adenrele Adeniran-Ogunsanya, (Former SSG, Lagos State)
Roman triumph, a civil ceremony and religious rite of ancient Rome was specifically created to extol and publicly celebrate the military achievement of an army commander who had successfully completed a foreign war.
As part of the tradition the general was elaborately dressed in gold embroidered triumphal toga and a crown of laurel that succinctly captured him in the mould of a near-divine or near-kingly persona.
On this special day, the general rode in a four-horse chariot through the streets of Rome in an unarmed procession with his army, captives and the spoils of his war.
Among the entourage of the general on the triumphant ride was his slave, standing behind him and tasked with the responsibility of reminding the general that, although he was at the peak of his glory today as exemplified by the honour accorded him by the state of Rome on this special occasion, he could fall tomorrow.
The servant’s message called ‘Memento mori!’ is well documented in Apologeticus, a book written by Tertullian, the famous Roman writer in these chilling words: “Look behind you! Remember that you are a man! You are not god! Remember that you’ll die one day!!!
A cursory look at the Nigerian situation brings to the fore the reign of impunity where the leadership rides roughshod over the people without a care.
When a leader looks down on the very public on the strength of whose votes he got into office and tells them to their faces: “I don’t give a damn!” in response to a harmless question of public concern, what further evidence do we need to come to the grim reality that these are not normal times?
A leader should expect salvo of criticism from the watching public from whom criticism of all shades come – justly and unjustly; besides, criticism itself is an integral element in the social contract between the leader and the led. Every so often, sycophants jump in the fray in defense of the source of their daily bread.
During my boarding house days in England in the 60s I remember with nostalgia the image and clearly, the distinctly golden voice of the late Prime Minister, Allhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa whenever he came for the Commonwealth meeting.
He commanded a listening attention which made me feel proud as a Nigerian. It was an era of charismatic political leaders whose carriage and composure in the public space earned the country the respect of the rest of the world.
In Nigeria today, the campaign for re-election into office for the second term starts right from the inauguration of the incumbent.
The leadership carries on as if it is all about them alone; the plight of the masses doesn’t seem to matter anymore. Once voted into office, the leadership deploy all manners of gimmicks to entrench themselves in office if possible, for life.
Our new generation of political gladiators have been found wanting in sharp contrast to exemplary leadership of the first generation politicians. The late Prime Minister and all the regional premiers of that era in government took a cut of 10 percent in their salaries to trigger off the drive for savings to finance our development.
The selfless service
rendered by the first generation of politicians cannot be replicated. The emerging picture of younger Nigerians can at best be described as a youth whose future has been hijacked and stolen by those who will stop at nothing at maintaining the present status quo.
Time was when the Nigerian youth was not only vibrant but known for its penchant for the pursuit of a robust pan-Nigeria and pan African agenda.
They were very prominent in the agitation and the build up to Nigeria’s eventual independence in 1960; their voice rang out to the whole world during the campaign against Apartheid era in South Africa.
We remember with nostalgia the Alli-Must-Go University students’ uprising; we also note with pride the mass movement and outcry engineered by the Nigerian youth in the wake of the assassination of General Murtala Mohammed in 1975.
Now, caution has been thrown to the wind; general comportment and etiquette has no place in our polity. In its place is what can at best be described as bad animal like behavior.
Nepotism, greed, crude serial verbal abuse are the in thing across board; not to mention the colossal human lives that have been wasted. We are in a nation where a man’s worth is judged by his chain of mansions and fat bank accounts – even if all were acquired through shady means.
Education, from whichever direction we look at it, has remained our greatest problem. At one time education alone cost more than 40 per cent of Western Region budget and 50 per cent of Eastern Region budget respectively.
The leadership of these two regions saw education as the key to development. We tend to think that generating electricity is our biggest problem.
As much as we have brilliant scholars it is sad to note that for every one of those brilliant ones, we have over a hundred others who despite their university education and academic qualifications are unemployable and those employable hardly get employment.
Perhaps the only glimmer
of hope could be found in the crop of younger Nigerians, who in the midst of the chaos have been able to make bold statements at home and abroad in the areas of arts and entertainment.
We have a generation of youth being used to snatch ballot boxes; an army of cult members engaged in daily bloodletting; able bodied men kidnapping for ransom to make a living; an ever rising population of youth in drug trafficking; violent armed robbers and sundry other vices. We are definitely sitting on a time bomb.
During verification exercise conducted on primary school teachers in Edo State, a teacher in Asologun Primary School, Ikpoba Okha Local Government, Mrs. Augusta Odemwinge could not read a sworn certificate affidavit she purportedly tendered as part of her credentials.
The sorry situation is a reflection of the obvious neglect of the education sector from the early 80’s to the present.
A recent report published by BGL, a Lagos based consultant firm, has it that 5 percent of the country’s population consumes well time was in this same country when we were the highest producer of cotton in Africa with cotton contributing more 20 per cent to the nation’s GDP.
It has dropped to a mere 5 percent. The malaise that afflicted the cotton industry is quite monumental, as we now limp with a mere ten ginneries – a far cry from 51 scattered across the country in the 80s.
In the South West of Nigeria we had a specie of tomato with its own unique taste. Is there anything wrong in the continuous production of agricultural products that shot us on the world map before the discovery of oil?
While the leadership has chosen to ride roughshod, the followership cannot be said to be docile but seems to have been boxed into a corner, voiceless. I have no doubt in my mind that the hardship of recent times would have made our people know a bit more of what they do not want and how to reject it at the polls.
The scenario playing out has greatly distorted the beautiful picture of Nigeria well meaning Nigerians craved for. The Nigeria of today is a shade darker than its luminous image of our beloved country at independence in 1960.
May be the answer to the puzzle can be found in the revealing statement credited to the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, who at a lecture on Leadership and Good Governance said thus: “No political party in Nigeria- what we have is copy and paste manifestos….., leaders who are tribalistic and egoistic….
Nigerian democracy is like a football match where you have the 22 players who after the match go away with their benefits and entitlements because they are the players while the rest are spectators clapping and singing’’
The gale of carpet-crossing
in recent times is quite revealing; it reinforces the long held belief that there is no longer ideology in Nigerian politics