By Tabia Princewill
A recent New York Times survey showed that 43% of Americans think President Obama is Muslim. Some people just can’t be helped. Some people, for all intents and purposes, will remain ignorant and perhaps that’s just the way of the world. Some people will continue to judge others based on gender or ethnicity. Some people will think political appointments “maketh” the man or that having someone from your village at the helm of affairs will necessarily translate to your betterment (although it’s yet to truly happen).
Some people revel in conspiracy theories and fictitious agendas. Maybe there’s nothing anyone can do about this. On my worst days, this is my train of thought. On my best days, which sometimes coincide with a Serena Williams win, I think quite the opposite: watching her joy as she does the splits to celebrate, or jumps up and down, makes me feel that I too can do anything or that outsiders in any game, can be victorious.
The system in any country, or what Americans would call “the man”, is a complicated set of rules which only allows or guarantees wins for certain well-connected (often morally corrupt), entrenched people.
When outliers don’t just break in but beat the system, it’s a day of celebration for all other outsiders, people with dreams and ambitions that the system cannot accept or recognise for fear of the rules of the game being re-written. Muhammadu Buhari is a very particular outsider: he knows the game and its players. He is feared and hated by the establishment because he promises to break the cartels and cabals which keep Nigerians jobless and insecure, in order to establish a level playing field. What better face for the outliers, than he?
Unfortunately, his fellow outsiders, the Nigerian youth, do not fully know or understand him. Many don’t have the capacity to do so, due in part to the dumbing down of our popular culture. Besides dancing to meaningless hit songs and idolising actors and actresses with little to say for themselves besides the pursuit of expensive cars and handbags obtained by “friendship” with governors, the average Nigerian youth has little to no political conscience.
How do we breed sentient, aware young people who take deliberate actions beyond “catching a husband” or engaging in exam malpractice? There are various deep rooted reasons why Nigerian girls feel they can only exist or be recognised by society if they can attach the “Mrs” title to their name, and there are many reasons why some parents choose to encourage and help their children to cheat during exams.
Nigeria has become a country where quick wins are the preferred option, where hard work is shunned: so why not just aim to marry a rich man? It’s easier than professing independence, as if marriage (to whatever sort of partner) and independence are mutually exclusive.
When the President said we needed to kill corruption before it kills Nigeria, it was because corruption is the fundamental reason why one cannot live a decent, honest life and hope to be successful in Nigeria.
At some point, Nigerians are called to compromise on their ethics and principles without which progress is often impossible. So, young girls accept to be the third or fourth wife of a geriatric degenerate who might believe defiling young girls is part of culture and the law accepts his vice masquerading as a cultural peculiarity so that he too, looks away from its sins, such as the inability to protect those who cannot speak for themselves. Or worse, those who cannot always think for themselves. Who is going to rescue Nigerian youth, trapped in a culture of quick wins and cheap fun where the depth of personality and focus is sorely missing?
Upon all of our excitement over the growth of Nollywood as a would-be industry, I wonder if there is much to be excited about given the strange messaging contained in the average Nollywood film. Even reading interviews granted by the would-be heroes of the Nigerian youth is worrisome: warped values and skewed mind-sets abound, all gobbled up by young people who never learned, due to a broken educational system, how to think critically and analyse rather than absorb unthinkingly.
From new age TV channels to dubious “on-air-personalities” with puerile ideas on serious issues they know nothing about, young Nigerians lack mentors. Those who portray themselves as mentors are often guilty of enslaving the youth by not training them for succession or giving them opportunities for growth. They also don’t know how to speak to young people, to gain their interest or trust. Nigerian youth bemoan their situation; yet, many till date haven’t seen the link between their political disinterest and their disenfranchisement within society. They might have found a willing guardian in President Buhari but they are yet to find their voice, the young man (or woman) who will translate for them what the “ogas at the top” are all about and who will end their banishment or freezing-out from public affairs.
Interestingly, about 80 per cent of the Nigerian population could be categorised as “outsiders”, simply because most of that number would be comprised of people under 30. Why aren’t there more names of brilliant, focused young people being bandied around in the lists of those called to assist the President and to serve Nigerians?
Talented young Nigerians don’t dream of becoming civil servants (or journalists for that matter) and this is worrisome because then, who will reinvent Nigeria? The average Nigerian’s attitude is anti-government: too many politicians believe their role is simply to attack, leaving Nigerians desensitised and civil servants devoid of direction. We need to create simpler ways for talented young people to get into government and incentives for them to do so, beyond the idea many politicians’ offspring seem to have, which is that government is a birth right where money unilaterally flows. It is simply put, time to bring Nigerian governance into the 21st century by allowing brilliant young minds to chart a new path and destiny for Nigeria.
She’s back to set a dangerous precedent. A few weeks ago, the former minister got a court order restraining the EFCC, the Attorney General of the Federation, the Inspector General of Police and the Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission, ICPC, from arresting her or even inviting her for questioning.
Where does one begin? There is no other place on earth where a court would be able to stop someone from being investigated. It goes against the idea of the law itself which is to protect all wronged parties not just the accused, as is done in Nigeria.
Would an ordinary Nigerian be able to stop the police from either arresting or investigating him? Definitely not. So why make excuses for some, simply because they have the necessary funds to make justice (or their idea of it) go their way?
The immediate past Minister of Works, Mike Onolememen, was accused of taking four unidentified people to an international conference in 2011. The former minister’s wife also apparently travelled with him. We all know how necessary it is to have one’s wife present at a business engagement.
The minister defended his wife’s presence, saying ministers’ wives and “top female ministry officials” were included. This attitude to public office where wives, friends and often family were invited on official trips for unjustifiable reasons is just another reason why the sheriff must be allowed to pick his ministers carefully.