By Tabia Princewill
Nigeria is currently in a catch 22 situation: It is difficult to create something new from something old yet for the new to emerge and give birth to more of its kind, the old would have to agree or allow this process in the first place.
The leopards attempting to “change” their spots, literally (they were once members of the PDP) find it difficult to relinquish a system and its entrenched backwardness, which has always favoured them.
We the people, although such a system promotes only our suffering, have gotten so used to pain and discomfort that many of us find ourselves defending it and its flag bearers.
The average Nigerian enjoys and encourages lawlessness. Each one of us believes he or she matters more, simply because to those at the helm of affairs none of us matter at all. To some of us, personal interests are superior to party interests because our morals and thought processes are rotten to the core. People keep asking why Nigeria is seemingly cursed with poor leadership and I constantly ask us all to take a good long look in the mirror: where do leaders come from? The men and women in Nigerian politics today were not imported from Zanzibar, Tibet or any foreign country.
They were born and bred in Nigeria, breathing the same air as the rest of us and most of all, thinking the same skewed, erroneous thoughts. I attend a lot of events where so-called leaders from various professions are celebrated, given awards for feats they could not have accomplished if not for the corrupt nature of our country and I think to myself, where are the authentic leaders Nigeria needs?
In Europe and America, the leadership crisis is of a different nature: parties, popular votes and sentiments often select leaders based on their charisma rather than their character. If only it were so in Nigeria.
The average Nigerian politician is quite simply terrible at public speaking and seemingly has little to no real grasp of public policy beyond the hastily scribbled notes his or her aides feed him or her minutes before a public appearance. When one looks at the names of those on the boards of government agencies or parastatals and questions their antecedents, one sometimes wonders what recommends them to this or that post beyond political connections.
It is no wonder then that Nigeria is still so underdeveloped if we imagine the business of running a country can be done by just about anyone. Beyond this, we don’t just select the wrong people to lead us, very often, we are wrong in our behaviours ourselves. Nigeria today is a country of short sighted, pleasure seeking people whose “short-termism” has devastating consequences: we are all so obsessed with the spoils of leadership, the trappings of power that four years often go by without much work being done besides naming committees and beginning enquiries which lead to nothing.
How are elites made or recruited in Nigeria? Our political and business elite is nothing more than a circle of cronies, where clientelism or the practice of recommending a brother or friend to a post rather than widening the net and enabling outsiders compete for it, is a lifestyle we all hold dear. What institutions discover and recruit new talents, giving them the opportunity to serve this country in whatever capacity?
Do our business schools enable those who are not so well connected to access the capital they need to innovate? Are there still universities capable, in Nigeria today, of not only churning out tomorrow’s leaders but also connecting them with real opportunities to work on our nation’s policies? In Nigeria, one is considered a member of the elite or of the establishment either because one was born into that class or because one was thuggish enough to bulldoze one’s way in. In other climes, higher education and passing top civil service exams prepare brilliant young minds to lead their countries and to chart a way forward. How mobile is the Nigerian society today? What are the chances or the odds of making it from the bottom to the top?
Depending on your race in America, statistics show the odds might be stacked against you. African American children born into poverty have more chances than any other group of dying in that same income bracket. What are the odds for our ethnic groups in Nigeria? Is life fairer or easier in the South West in comparison to the South East? Where are the success stories if any?
I’m not talking about governors telling stories of how they used to be motor park touts and implying they used motor park ways of cunning and aggression to see them through. I’m talking about real, impactful progress; that is, people who have risen through hard work, not profiteering or rascality, those who made it out of poverty and are hopefully doing something to help others up the ladder.
The combination of wealth and secrecy in Nigeria is hugely problematic: the rich, however they make their money, whether through business or politics (it’s often the same process) hoard opportunities and make sure their prospects or advantages are not democratised or thrown open because many of them know they and their children could not survive in an open playing field where everyone could contest on talent or merit alone.
So I worry about change: beyond party politics, many of us do not want the system to change as we owe our jobs or livelihoods to some uncle or benefactor who himself feeds off the chaos. I don’t envy the President: the poor or middle class whose interest it is for reforms to occur, whose interest is best served by his success, are manipulated by his detractors who fear the prospect of change.
What is this about a Northern agenda? There is no ethnic agenda, only one of corruption, which slants all activities in Nigeria in favour of a few. Nigeria desperately needs an antidote to its leadership crisis. We must allow authentic leaders who can make important differences in our world, to rise. It’s the only long term solution to our political dysfunction.
Alleged plot to arrest Senator Ekweremadu
Whether the plot exists or not for me isn’t the issue. We live in a country, supposedly of law and order, so arrests or attempts to try anyone should happen based on facts and evidence. As I always say, those with nothing to hide will never have anything to fear.
I find it interesting that everyone in the history of Nigeria whose arrest has ever been attempted (by the way, what happened to Buruji Kashamu, Farouk Lawan, Patricia Etteh, Dimeji Bankole etc?) either claims it’s a case of mistaken identity or that their life is at stake. How come abroad people simply surrender themselves for questioning and are released with no harm done if indeed they are innocent? So many questions, so few answers because in Nigeria, the more you look, the less you see.
Chief Bisi Akande
Former Interim Chairman of the governing party (I wish we would all stop saying “ruling” as Nigeria isn’t a monarchy), Bisi Akande has come under fire recently for telling us all some hard truths. I dislike it when public discourse is tainted by ethnic politics but I realise that not many among us have a “pan-Nigerian” view of things. Some members of the APC believe the North (and the PDP) are trying to hijack the party, they might not be wrong.
There are enemies within: some wish Buhari to fail because he represents an ideal the man on the street is rooting for. Don’t shoot the messenger, or Bisi Akande, who is merely pointing out a danger concerned Nigerians should be aware of. The catch here is that without the financial support of the now turned “enemies within” the President might not have won the election. Change is complex indeed: don’t hate the player, hate the game.