By Segun Ige
BARACK Obama seems to have nestled and egged up his ideal “promised land,” without much hatching, when he says “to have that rare chance, reserved for very few, [and] to bend history in a better direction [is] the point of it all.”
The Obama notion of “rare chance” underscores, to me, the fact that the American politics, together with its peculiarity and particularity of colourisation, de-culturalisation and de-identification, could be threaded and needled to accommodate and assimilate people like himself – nay, the African Americans!
And to “bend history in a better direction” is, in fact, to put a question mark to the dimensions and dynamics of “slavery,” which Abraham Lincoln actually didn’t find easy to dissect in his dictum of “ultimate extinction” (if he ever did). Yet even with such a trial to end systemic racism, one would have expected, subsequently and supportively, that the projectile might have at least reached some level of the “escape velocity” as it were.
In a flight of fancy, I do not want to believe, however, that Obama may not have presupposed that America has by and large been some “wasted land,” in one way or another, but that because of the “audacity of hope,” he’s advocating, indeed anticipating, “a promised land.” And since we cannot measure the size of this so great a land, there sure seems a certain level of uncertainty in the principles and parameters surrounding its existential possibilities and probabilities.
Even more important, I sort of become hopeful that this “rare chance” – again which is “reserved for very few” – is achievable if and only if we’re able to “bend history in a better direction” in Nigeria. In the case of the #EndSARS protest, this “rare chance” could be taken to mean, on the one hand, youth participation in politics.
To be sure, the Nigerian political spectrum is a mind-numbingly roundabout one, which in the meantime could be admitted to be the causal consequences of the reverberations and repercussions of the movement, here and there. Were this “rare chance” being politicised or democratised, long, long ago, I believe such extremely disheartening Lekki Tollgate crackdown wouldn’t have to be a horrific history in our “current affairs.”
To mention just a few, we have the likes of Sanna Marin, world’s youngest serving 35-year-old Prime Minister, who has since 2019 been the prime minister of Finland after her being selected by the Social Democratic Party to take over the country’s leadership; New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, 40, herself a woman, is promising, particularly with her visionary enterprise and esprit de corps in nation-building and national development; and Ukraine’s 36-year-old Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk, and El Salvador’s 39-year-old President Nayib Bukele.
Each of these visionary minds is considerably enviable and exemplary of the hallmark and benchmark of leadership. That’s it!
Coming to the idea that it’s “reserved for very few,” on the other hand, is not a strange fact. Well, ours is not a situation where we discriminate between what’s clearly “white” or “black.” But even so, I’d rather succumb to the impression and conviction that our words are “black” but our actions are “white.” And in the world we live, actions speak much louder than words.
By the way, someone always tells an always sorry-for-what-I-did person: “Don’t say you’re sorry. Your actions don’t match your confessions. You’re a good orator but a bad actor.” The voice is a female’s, you guessed right. But by the same token, we seem to be black when contesting and canvassing in the black holes of electoral poles, whilst we diametrically become white in the conundrums and corridors of power.
Reserving positions and portfolios for “very reserved few” is fundamentally detrimental and dire. It’s extremely dangerous. And that’s the history we have been nourishing and cherishing, even in the 21st Century! The appearances and appurtenances of exes in the ministerial districts and senatorial assemblies of the country do double-down on the numerous delinquencies and deficiencies of the Buhari administration.
I’m distraught that privatising revenue-generating resources that would have immensely contributed to the growth and sustainability of an import-oriented country could still be, economically speaking, the penchant, passion and purpose of certain apotheosised apparatchiks – even at the face of a woebegone Buharinomics. Even more disturbing is the deliberative faux pas displayed by ideologically ‘detained demagogues,’ especially with respect to the allocation and appropriation of pros-and-cons bills and budgets – which, interestingly and sadly, they are not unbeknownst of.
So we need to “bend history in a better direction” to avert the underlying premonitions of our apparent “Entscheidungs problem” of leadership. What kind of leadership do we need, to start with? Really, we need a leadership of frankness and vigour, as President Franklin Roosevelt would say. How do we successfully do that? In other words, the decision problems of leadership start with the leaders in my opinion. We ought to ask, instead, what kind of leaders do we have? And, what’s more, what schools of thought have these leaders emerged or graduated from? Very important!
Show me a non-conformist citizen and I’ll show you some non-conformist leader. Show me some enfant terrible and I’ll show you some leader unhinged in statu pupillari. Show me a bedraggled country and I’ll show you a leadership system bereft of ‘people knowledge.’
Yes, it ought to be told, in the era we live leadership should be people-centered – prompting questions like: What’s the mind of the people? What’s the opinion of the people against/for so-and-so and/or such-and-such? Leadership, really, should be invertedly pyramidal, such that what fosters, and not falters, democracy would be of utmost paramountcy and priority: People!
That’s why Lincoln says democracy is the “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” You see, “government of the people,” and so, in reality, it’s the people that governs. Not technically the leaders. Ultimately, a government that is “by” – er – ‘manufactured’ by the people – is undeniably “for” – er – ‘produced’ for the people.
And what is this “promised land?” I think it’s a land flowing with milk and honey. It’s a land devoid of gains of oppression and suppression. It’s a land which, ideally, the freedom-fighters fought for. What kind of land? A land of peace and unity. A land where truth, humanity and justice would reign. A land where, practically, we become free from imperialism and neo-colonialism.
A land where we can independently govern ourselves without running helter-skelter, hither and thither, and hodging-podging. The land where, in President Roosevelt’s words, “on my part and yours we face our common difficulties.” And together, we build back better the Nigerian Dream. That’s “the point of it all.”
Ige, a social commentator, wrote via email@example.com