By Morenike Taire
There is no piece of research that states that living in Nigeria is a science on its own, but it does help to find a manual.
In terms of complexity, it goes without saying that we live in one of the utmost in the world; with almost three hundred different ethnic groups and an uncountable number of religions. Current population explosion- which is not yet an issue on the front burner but ought to be- has ensured that resources appear to be dwindling, while numbers are increasing. Numbers of undocumented migrants are also rising, exacerbating the chronic security situation.
It appears that erstwhile Finance Minister Kemi Adeosun did not get the memo. Like many Nigerians who have spent long periods as part of the diaspora the idyllic Nigeria of their mind is a far cry from the Nigeria of reality. In their minds, Nigeria is this simple, backward place which is just dying for the diaspora touch. As far as they are concerned, the real problem is that of human resource; one which can be easily fixed by their benevolent presence.
In reality, the Nigerian socio political space might be about the most sophisticated in the world. It is in Nigeria that you can be addressed in the English language and you have no idea what the person who is addressing you is talking about. In fact, you might be insulted in the same language and take it as a compliment, or people might even be negotiating your sale without you being aware of it.
Likewise, there are ways of negotiating, articulating positions and estimating people that only a Nigerian knows. We know that there is a fine line between a lie and the truth. In Nigeria, in fact, there is not only one truth and there can be several.
A true Nigerian knows who to trust and otherwise. He also knows who to fear. He knows how to pretend both to trust and to fear for his own benefit. He also is highly aware of being trusted and feared and that, also, he will use to his benefit.
Emotional intelligence- now identified as one of the most crucial skills of the 21stcentury by top business schools- is one that comes almost instinctively from growing up on the Nigerian soil. With all their mostly superior education, diaspora returnees often appear deficient in this one critical aspect. It is also more than likely to be their undoing.
Strong as this factor might have been in the unfolding and end game of the Adeosun NYSC certificate saga, seasoned gender activists insist she was yet another victim of the famous banana peel left on the corridors of power in any hall that is occupied by a Nigerian woman.
Recent history upholds this theory in the strongest way: Nike Grange, Mobolaji Osomo, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla, Paricia Olubunmi Etteh, Arume Oteh, Stella Oduah-Ogiemwonyi- all brilliant and patriotic women who were mainly pioneers in their various endeavours, yet felled by scandals that could be considered minor compared to those their male counterparts survived.
As Minister of Finance, Adeosun was no bright and shiny star; yet there was every indication that she tackled the tasks before her with focus and patriotism. By all accounts she was not much of a stickler for due process, and is reputed to have once sacked a project associate in Lagos via a group chat announcement. Yet the same associates testify of her single mindedness and undeniable passion for getting the job done.
Now that she has let go of the big job, we are left with our contrived cultures and convoluted idiosyncrasies which all feed on one meal- corruption. We still have to decide whether we want to keep throwing stones in glass houses or we want to put our stones together to build a solid house. While we find loopholes within our systems within which to trap real and perceived enemies, we should rather look for ways to block the loopholes, lest we get trapped within as well.
In other words, a system that is designed to fail will fail, and will even fail its designers eventually.
Regardless of the circumstances, one thing that Kemi Adeosun has done right is to resign in the midst of controversy. It is commonly said that no Nigerian public office holder- nay, African-ever resigns without a fight. He is like a dog with a fat bone, who is kicked and has sticks thrown at it, yet would never let go of the bone unless, by some stroke of misfortune, a much bigger dog comes along.
The backlash that has greeted Adeosun’s resignation from office must be part of the reason why people never resign. While sprawled battle weary and defeated upon the floor, the Nigerian public has not hesitated to go ahead and kick her. Nevertheless, the fallen minister has shown tremendous courage, and history will be kind to her.