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December 2, 2023

Can Nigeria be repaired? By Muyiwa Adetiba

Can Nigeria be repaired? By Muyiwa Adetiba

Muyiwa Adetiba

I was leaving the venue of a function when I spotted him and made a beeline for his table to pay my respects. He is one of the few politicians, retired or active, still worthy of my respect-everyday now unmasks our politicians including those who have supposedly retired from active politics. A smile lit up his face as I approached, suggesting the feeling of respect was mutual.

We shook hands and hugged. And as I was disentangling from his embrace, he asked, virtually into my ears,‘Can Nigeria be repaired?’. I really did not think he expected a reply given the time and place; with me on my way out and loud, party music making normal conversations impossible. But it is a measure of the man that the problems of Nigeria were still agitating his mind even at a social function and after it would seem, he had played his part in national politics.

However, if his intention was to plant a thought, he succeeded because the question stayed with me as I drove home. Given the seriousness of the question, and the experience and knowledge of the questioner, it was an issue I would have wanted to discuss extensively with him had time and place been more conducive because I believe I would have benefited from his insight.

Can Nigeria be repaired? I believe so. But everyday of continuous abuse; everyday of denial, raises the cost of repairs and pushes the country towards a total breakdown. I am obviously not a medical person but I believe almost every organ of the human body is paired except perhaps the liver and the heart. It is not a coincidence that both play vital roles in the body. But the liver is unique in the sense that it can repair and even revitalize itself despite years of systematic abuse and damage.

In order to achieve this however, the sufferer must first be concerned enough to go for a diagnostic check-up. He must then be honest enough to accept the extent of his liver damage. He must after this, be disciplined enough to embark on a complete lifestyle change which will not be limited to just swallowing pills however bitter. This would involve a new, strict lifestyle that embraces water instead of alcohol; rest and exercises in place of late night carousing and a general wholesome living that evaluates the consequences of every bite that goes into the body. To do otherwise is to be in an indulgent denial of a man who hopes for a miracle while he is in actual fact, sleepwalking into a slow, debilitating death. 

Like the liver in the human body, Nigeria is unique in the comity of nations. It has what it takes in human and capital resources, to repair and revitalize itself. But first, it has to accept that it is sick – it has been in an indulgent denial for too long. Then it has to correctly diagnose the nature of its sickness – no point treating ringworm when the disease is leprosy. Then it has to be disciplined enough to accept a course of treatment that will lead to a full recovery.

This course of treatment might affect the leaders and the led in a way that has never happened before because it should involve a total change in lifestyle which must be seen as a prerequisite for survival. The bitter pills of subsidy removal and devaluation will amount to nothing if they are not followed by a regime of fiscal discipline. Shopping for investors will also amount to nothing if the country doesn’t find out why multi-nationals left and are leaving the country.

Restructuring is a word that has been bandied about so much over the years that it has lost some of its urgency and even meaning. We must however realise that International prescriptions for economic recovery probably don’t work in Nigeria because its leaders lack the discipline to implement the whole package which will involve a restructuring of sorts -asimple change in lifestyle of importing less and consuming what we produce, is in itself a form of restructuring.

The road to recovery may be tenuous and arduous but it may actually be fulfilling given the resources at the country’s disposal if the right leadership is in place to turn the ship’s helm in the right direction. This leadership must lead by example. He will not be one to tell you to tighten your belt while his own belt and those of his cronies are loosened. It is always farcical when African leaders looking for money or debt relief, arrive in private jets and stay at the most expensive hotels while those they are supposed to meet for financial assistance, are less ostentatious.

The leadership must be more transparent with allocation of jobs and resources. It must enthrone justice and inclusion in its affairs without in any way sacrificing merit. I firmly believe that if the ship of State was steered in the right direction and each section of the operations manned by the country’s first eleven with knowledge and capability in an atmosphere of forthrightness, transparency, inclusiveness and justice, the nation would be on the road to recovery. The only other problem would be this pervasive sense of entitlement which has eaten deep into the country. It is a real problem which has led to sloth and corruption. Not unlike our new, warped value which worships inordinate wealth.

Will the road to recovery start with this administration? That has been our hope with every administration since independence. It is a hope that has been constantly shattered as virtually each government took us further away from recovery. Will Tinubu make a difference? Again, that would be our hope and I would want him to succeed for all our sakes. But I will not hold my breathe.

His morning seems to show the day and Tinubu has shown himself to be too much of a Machiavellian politician to steer the ship of State in a direction thatmaybe unpopular, but is disciplined and wholesome. And I am putting it very delicately; very diplomatically. The supplementary budget and its contents; the appointment of almost fifty Ministers are pointers to this mindset.

These, coupled with theantics of our Legislators and State Governors,show that the political class is yet to learn; it is yet to stop indulging; and therefore, yet to admit that the country is in need of repairs like yesterday. Our leaders, much like their followers who throng religious centers in search of solutions, expect a miracle.Rather, what is needed is a change in their attitude to governance. A change born ofscience and discipline – and hard work. I fear unfortunately, that we are running out of time.