Vanguard News Nigeria

Metaphor of thief-catching president

By Ikechukwu Amaechi
TO the most strident supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari, the most important thing that recommends him for a second term is his much-vaunted ability to catch thieves.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari

To such people, if corruption is banished from Nigeria, the country will become an Eldorado, and, therefore, they are not worried if the president becomes a single-agenda demagogue.

He is so deeply out of the loop, a fact that has become evident to everyone else except those who revel in the animus that is the perimeter wall of the Buhari bubble.

Why would anyone who claims to mean well for Nigeria insist that Buhari’s tenure be extended beyond May 29, 2019?

I digress.

On May 12, 1995, Prof. Anya Oko Anya, one of Nigeria’s most erudite and eclectic scholars, delivered the Awolowo Memorial Lecture.

Titled, “Reinventing Nigeria for the 21st Century: Politics, Science and Development in Nigeria to 2014 AD,” the chartered biologist clinically dissected Nigeria’s socio-economic and political problems and made projections.

That lecture is reproduced in the Volume One of the book, Times, thoughts and ideas (Selected Papers of Professor Anya O. Anya), and I strongly believe it is a must read for anybody who wishes to understand why Nigeria continues to plumb the depths of anomie.

Leadership positions  have failed

“Those who have been in leadership positions have failed so signally because there does not exist at present a leadership class, responsive, and responsible with shared values, embodied in a shared vision of the society and its future,” Anya lamented.

“Rather, what we have are men (and women) with common vested interests amplified by their greed often locked in self-serving strategies and tactics of self-aggrandizement.”

The consequence was that: “The political, social, economic, cultural and spiritual outlook of the nation has never been gloomier.

“The social environment has never been more dangerous. Armed robbery, banditry, assassinations, lawlessness and the senseless parade of brutal force even by the forces of the state sworn to protect the citizens must give us all cause for worry. It is true to say that no Nigerian over 50 years has felt so palpable a sense of insecurity at any other time – in his or her life – as now and that includes those of us who were in the Biafran enclave in the period of the civil war.

“  The economic outlook cannot be more dismal … As incredible as it may sound, the quality of life of the average Nigerian in 1962 is an improvement on his circumstances in 1995.

“In the moral and spiritual domain of the nation’s life, there is an even greater evidence of collapse in our social and moral values. Integrity has been supplanted by mindless opportunism. Excellence and merit have given way to irredeemable mediocrity at all levels of our national life. Freedom and social justice are strange bedfellows as far as the movers and shakers of the Nigerian society are concerned.”

That lecture was delivered in 1995 when the late General Sani Abacha held sway as the maximum ruler.

Take away the date the lecture was delivered, the remarks speak to the Buhari era as much as it did to Abacha’s. The problem with Nigeria is that the more we claim things are changing for the better, the more they remain the same or even worse.

But the chartered biologist proffered solutions.

To reinvent a Nigeria that will be 21st Century-compliant, Anya said, to borrow the expression popularised by former U.S. President, Bill Clinton, it is still the Leadership, Stupid.

“Any strategies to hasten the evolution of a Nigerian-wide leadership, responsive and responsible must start from a vision of a more just and equitable nation of equal opportunities for its citizens. Integrity and credibility is vital for the individual as it is for the government.

“Such individuals with wide knowledge and experience must encompass a wide-range of formal, informal and inter-personal relationships which shore up their reciprocal mutuality of vision and interests as the national establishment incorporating the intellectual, political and economic elite.”

To prepare for a functional role in the 21st Century, Anya said Nigerians needed to jumpstart the polity and the economy. “We need to draw up a plan for re-entry and to pursue it with discipline and with the energies and skills of all our people, mobilised for the effort, their spirits raised and their hopes restored.”

Professor Anya delivered that lecture five years to the dawn of the 21st Century. He warned that if we insist on taking the forlorn road of self-deceit and mediocrity, which ultimately leads to the wilderness of abject poverty and misery, the consequences will be too horrendous to even contemplate. I agree with him. If the circumstances of Nigeria were dire in 1995, they are more so today.

Now, back to the present.

Today, we are almost two decades into that 21st Century and our circumstances are most dire with evident indications of cynicism, helplessness and hopelessness amongst the people.

If all the development jigsaws were to fall into place today, it will take the country well over a quarter of a century to turn its fortunes around.

For this to happen, the country needs a leader who is rigorous, yet quick-witted; a man who has the capacity to dream lofty dreams; a visionary who will not only be perspicacious enough to interpret those dreams but translate them into action plans. That leader must be imbued with the psychological, social and mental stamina for the race which is not a 100-metre dash but a marathon. He must be intellectually sagacious, a deep thinker who can conceptualise and articulate his vision in such a way that does not leave any member of his team in doubt. His roadmap must be clear enough, not hazy.

That is what the 2019 elections should be about. Who is that man that has the capacity to pull Nigeria out of the cesspit?

Capacities and capa bilities

When faced with difficult challenges, countries parade their best eleven.

Nigerians must know that the decisions they take next year may define the country forever. It is about the survival of the country and the solution boils down to the capacities and capabilities of the individuals who are aspiring to lead us.

The problems facing the country are huge. Who created the problems is not really the issue now because truth be told, there is no Nigerian leader, past or present, who can wash his hands off the problems.

What is important now is: who has the capacity to engineer the critical shift in the country’s leadership paradigm that will orchestrate the much-illusive Nigerian renaissance?

That leader cannot be a man described so unflatteringly by a foreign colleague as “lifeless.” The issues here are way beyond the ken of President Buhari. What Nigeria needs now is not a leader whose measure of fitness is ability to trek 800 metres.

The problems are so enormous and require skill sets that go beyond catching thieves. While it is important, for our collective sanity, that those who converted our commonwealth to family fortunes are made to account for their crime, that cannot be the sole agenda of a turn-around leader.

After all, is it not true that while President Buhari and his minders are busy flaunting his thief-catching prowess, Nigeria became the world capital of poverty for the very first time and the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reported in December 2017 that Nigeria lost 7.9 million jobs in the 21 month period under review?

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