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Nigeria, delusions of grandeur

By Tabia Princewill
DICTIONARIES commonly define delusion as “beliefs or impressions that are firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder”. Now, let me tell you what else is said about delusion.

In the words of former US President, Jimmy Carter: “there’s always an element of self delusion among people who believe they ought to be President. There’s an underestimation of your opponent and an overestimation of your own abilities.

This is compatible with being rich and powerful, the idea that we were blessed by God because we deserve to be blessed”.

As Nigerians, we commonly see what we want to see and generally don’t ask questions and as a society we have all become masters in the art of self-deception, so rather than present our best selves to the world, we throw out our worst or at most those with frankly dodgy pasts and reputations, or we pick what seems like the obvious choice for a job, because of the image they have built which often contradicts reality. But time for delusion is soon to be over and the glasshouses will come crashing down.

NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA
NGOZI OKONJO-IWEALA

Dwindling oil revenue

The Minister of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala recently acknowledged the need by the Federal Government to further the war on corruption in order to face up to dwindling oil revenue and this statement was met with a feeling of “too little too late” from many quarters of society.

Indeed, it seems members of the Jonathan administration continue to misread popular feelings and their analysis. Statistical evidence tells us Nigeria is now the largest economy in Africa and this has long been used as one of the PDP’s key campaign themes to demonstrate the President’s achievements.

However, what PDP chieftains seem to fail to realise is that what Nigerians contest is not the fact in itself but rather it’s lack of implications for their day to day lives.

Nigeria being the largest economy in Africa has not impacted the rising cost of food or housing, nor has it enabled young Nigerians to find more jobs (if anything, unemployment is at a historic high), so the average Nigerian begs to differ when PDP presents a somewhat rosy picture when describing Nigerians’ fortunes. In fact, what some feel are achievements, others would say is merely window-dressing and paltry accomplishments.

No matter how many classrooms or almajiri schools government claims to build, the state of the individuals within those classrooms remains the same as no real reforms to the educational system have been conducted in perhaps the past decade if not longer. What is the actual content of what goes on in the average classroom in Nigeria today? Our students are in no way prepared to be globally competitive, talk less of becoming informed citizens who make the right choices later on. So, both indigenous and foreign employers of labour continue to deem our graduates unemployable despite the many dubious first class degree holders, MSc and PhDs our system churns out every year.

The main issue with Nigeria you see, is delusion or the unwillingness to deal with the root causes of issues rather than cosmetic attempts at hiding the truth, which very often shows the inefficiency and inadequacy of our public officers.

Most Nigerian politicians know nothing of public policy and do not bother to learn even when they get lofty portfolios and responsibilities, unlike their counterparts abroad who often become so knowledgeable that they end up teaching university courses on the subject, based on their experience in government.

Another issue is with the recruitment of those who do claim to have public policy experience: very often we are blinded by brand names and “hype” but if one looks closely, hype in Nigeria is rarely based on intrinsic worth. The reality of one’s relevance, importance and competence can hardly be deduced in Nigeria by the number of times one appears in the media, or by the honorary, sometimes unmerited, titles one is given and these are all social issues to be tackled.

I will not go into the commercialization of the Nigerian media today, as this issue probably deserves its own separate article. But definitely, it has become clear that all the PhDs, honours and would-be international accolades in the world cannot replace honesty, steadfastness and simply put, the will to do the right thing.

Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala went on to say: “the cause of the disease is because we don’t have in place the institutions, the systems and the processes to block and prevent it (corruption) in the first place. That’s the only difference between us and the people abroad.”

Whose job is it to put these institutions in place? One cannot keep blaming those who came before us. When one is a leader, the buck stops at one’s desk. When a CEO inherits a bad situation he must fix it or resign from the board so that more able people can operate.

Popular culture

Truly, Nigerians are fed up of excuses and would like to see real change. It’s not for nothing that Gandhi said we are the change we seek. Indeed, if not us then who?

I’ll end with a note on popular culture. The 87th Oscar’s held late last night and like many across the globe, I was struck by the performance of the soundtrack from the movie Selma, called Glory. “One day, when glory comes, it will be ours”, the song said. I truly believe that the 2015 elections are Nigeria’s moment of glory, an unparalleled opportunity to rise up to our challenges and defeat them or to reward more of the same.

The song went on to say “freedom is our religion”. I believe the national religion that can assuage our differences and irrevocably bind us all together as Nigerians, is the idea of opportunity, irrespective of social status, ethnicity and religion.

So, who will lead us to freedom and stand in the hall of fame? Vote wisely.

 Option A4

IN Nigeria, we have become accustomed to putting the cart before the horse, for our own selfish reasons. In a country without constant power, the cashless society, rather than operating towards increasing users’ convenience, often acts as a hindrance when POS’ don’t work and ATM machines are down due to « system failures ».

To use a phrase coined by the Economist, Nigeria is often left with nothing but « miserable choices », caught it between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is therefore no surprise that we continue to refuse the usage of Option A4 although so far, it has proven to be the best workable system, free from external manipulation.

It’s the difference between a broom and a hoover: some would rather say technology, but let’s start from the basics I say and build from the ground up.

Yoruba traditional leaders

I WILL never be tired of saying   this because it is the truth and simply reveals the level of chaos and rot in our society and politics: the sort of things that are openly discussed in Nigeria would land public officials in any other clime in serious trouble.

There was talk over the weekend of a deal between Yoruba Obas and the Jonathan administration so “sons and daughters” of Yorubaland (read the elite) can get key positions in Jonathan’s cabinet.

This is the equivalent of the sort of “cash for positions” scandals, which in the United States or the United Kingdom people go to jail for or at least face severe inquiry if they are found trading their influence to unduly secure lucrative positions or contracts for themselves or their proxies.

Nigerians ask the question: what about the common man? How does he benefit from elites bargaining and selling positions to one another? Things must and will change.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.