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December 29, 2018

Empathy over Politics

Empathy over Politics

Atiku and Buhari

By Morenike Taire

Not many knew there could be a strong relationship between poetry and the economy until   Nigerian   Poet,   Dike Chukwumerije gave his outstanding performance at the 23rd  Nigerian Economic     Summit in Abuja last year, with which he exposed our ethnic hypocrisies as a nation while criticizing other peoples about racism.

Atiku and Buhari

In the United States for instance, the relationship between emotions   and governance has long been established and exploited   as one of the nation’s strongest points.   The inaugurations of their presidents are often heralded by great poetry or musical performances.

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In politics anywhere, the man who is able to whip up the most or the strongest sentiments is likely to win elections, particularly in the executive. If a politician is able to connect to those parts of the people’s brain which makes them happy, sad, angry, afraid or hopeless/hopeful, that politician has got their heart to manipulate or use in any way he deems fit. The same applies in business.

The salesman who is able to connect to the buyer’s heart or the one with which the buyer identifies in an emotional way is likely to sell more. Yet we have failed to formalize the relationship, for the most part, between emotions and the things that matter the most to us- politics and the economy.

In the years leading up to the 2015 elections, Jonathan’s handlers thought it would be a brilliant idea to include Nollywood in the presidential campaign and it might have worked, had it been based on the correct premise. Rather, the Actors’ Guild was granted hundreds of millions of naira which apparently vaporized into thin air, even as the industry deteriorated and yielded market share to Africa Magic: from South Africa with not-so-much-love.

It was therefore a great development to have a poet open talks about money with talks about love and unity. Fela Durotoye, one of Nigeria’s new generation Presidential candidates for 2019 has spoken about changing Nigeria by inspiring its citizens, and opposition laughed at him. Yet, there is nothing Nigeria needs at this time more than inspiration.

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There is a joke making the rounds that even if there are sounds of gunshots in the market, a man of Igbo extraction would first go and close his shop. This might or might not be the fallout of the now very famous words of vice-Presidential candidate and Former Anambra Governor Peter Obi, who had, during the BON presidential debates, made the analogy with a man leaving his shop open while chasing a thief who had stolen from him; as a metaphor for the incumbent Federal Government’s style of tackling corruption.

As it ought to have, the metaphor had aroused laughter, but it had also aroused a good amount of animosity, arising from the ethnic extraction of the individual who made it. We have lost a great deal of all the things that made us great as regions and as a country_ the value of our currency, the strength of our universities and education standards in general; the peace and stability that ensured that we operated as one sovereign country peopled by different ethnic nationalities. The one thing we cannot afford to lose is our sense of humour and the ability to laugh at ourselves.

After France took home the World Cup this year for the first time in twenty   years, celebrations erupted all over Africa as we appropriated the Western European country’s victory as being an “African World Cup”. Not finding this funny at all, French sports officials debunked this claim, pointing out that the 12 Bleu finalists of African descent were actually French in their totality. We thought the joke was lost on them, but actually, it was lost on us.

Just as Chukwumerije postulated in his spoken word piece referenced above, we are quick to own the international achievements of the Igbo Phillip Emegwali, the Hausa Jelani Aliyu or the Yoruba Adebayo Ogunlesi, regardless of which ethnic group we lay claims to. Yet, when it comes to politics we are only too quick to desecrate our nationhood while claiming injuries on matters we should be laughing about.

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And while we claim that our incredible diversity is a plus, we are quick to sacrifice this universally perceived advantage on the altar of tribal politics. Little by little, we have developed a general apathy which has made us immune to the sufferings of other Nigerians in other parts of the country: Environmental disasters in the South South as a fallout of oil exploitation in the region, which has gone on for decades; Mudslides in the South-East, which has exacerbated the pressure on land in the region; Boko Haram in the North-East; Ethnic clashes in the North Central and Ethno-religious crises in the North-West; as well as the Apapa Port catastrophe in Lagos. Our indifference to what we gauged as ‘other people’s problems’ has gradually turned us into a crisis ridden nation overall.

It could get worse. Once topping the list of the happiest people on earth, we are gradually turning ourselves into a sad, politics-crazed lot. Most definitely, we cannot afford to become a country devoid of emotions.