Yet another ritual without content

The Editor of the Guardian, Mr. Abraham Ogbodo

October 1 every year has become a ritual without spiritual or even social content. The nation gathers in commemorative celebration to relive the day the Union Jack was lowered, I think at Tafa Balewa Square, Lagos, to hoist the Nigeria’s Green-White-Green flag. And for 58 years, by tomorrow, it has remained a hollow annual celebration and chest thumping. Steadily, the country has been on retrogression such that citizens are perpetually yearning for the past. Somehow, our yesterday has always counted better than our today.

It means we have not moved forward after 58 years. We are also stuck in stupid rationalisation when we say greatness does not evolve overnight and that it had taken the great nations of the world centuries to get to where they are. There is the consolation that even without moving an inch, we shall get there in the stupid believe that value comes with the mere passage of time. Value comes with vision and a corresponding strategy to deliver same in concrete terms. To live in an existential void and hope for things to build up to a determined purpose is not only illusionary but absolute stupidity.

In fact, in Nigeria, stupidity is high statecraft. There is always something soothing to say to mitigate embarrassing failings in high places. When we fail to source national leadership outside a colony of clowns that has plundered this country since the demise of the founding fathers, we say ours is a teething democracy and developing economy that needs time to mature.

We talk as if the principles of development that have been successfully applied elsewhere need to be reinvented because we are in Nigeria. An indeterminate local colour and content are always introduced to explain why we cannot go the way of other progressive nations. There is always a Nigerian way of doing things. When leaders think that way, they do not think beyond their nose to deliver a sustainable national vision. Instead, they think Nigeria is a vanishing heritage and as much of it as possible should appropriated for personal use before the obliteration finally occurs.

It is in Nigeria that just one man in Lagos and elsewhere can count billions in dollars and will still be counting humongous resources that have not arisen from any creative combination of the factors of production but unhindered access to public office and funds. The leadership is weighed down not by the mechanics of production but consumption. When a leader manages to add value it is to himself, he adds wife and children who must be empowered to continue the dynasty of public thieves.

In that state of near absolute philistinism and cut-throat competition for self-aggrandizement, statesmanship is buried. Patriotism ceases to be a virtue as primordial sentiments surge violently to the fore. But because we are very optimistic, we still hope to get better with time in this state of sustained devaluation. Great countries in the world did not wait on time to take them forward. They started when they should start and gained traction with time.

But we stay on a spot and wait for time to drag us forward. Time does not replace effort in development. It is effort that gives value to time and the utilisation of time without corresponding effort, as it has been in Nigeria, is the exact definition of indolence; sloth which is calibrated in moral circles as one of the seven cardinal sins of man.

It is therefore safe to say we are a sinful people because we have rejected the imaginative power to enhance the endowments of God upon us. We are defined by the moment without consideration for tomorrow and so we can eat all of our tomorrow today. If the average age of the current crop of political players is put at 50, it means none will be tenable, in absolute terms, in another 50 years at the most. But Nigeria shall not cease to exist in another 50 years or 100 years. This at once exposes the stupidity of building the future of an entire country around a concentric circle of political predators, buccaneers, dealers parading as patriotic leaders and who do not want to let go.

These people shall expire but Nigeria shall continue. Their expiration will not mean the end of time. That is the way the universe is designed. It functions outside the whims of its components including man and a great deal of the catastrophe, social and natural, that attends the operation of the universe is actually caused by man’s attempt to reverse universal laws.

Today, the central issue in the politics of Lagos State is the desire of one man called Ahmed Bola Tinubu to have things his way. Having remained on the ascendancy since 1999 when this democracy started, he feels he has attained enough to approximate the voice of God, which is often expressed through the voices of the people. He is saying until he is sufficiently appeased like sango, the Yoruba god of thunder, the road to the re-election of the incumbent Governor, Mr. Akinwumi Ambode adjudged by majority of the people as doing what he was elected to do, shall be very rough.

Such is the tragedy of the moment. Every instinct to put the nation and the people first is blunted as the personal appropriation of the national heritage continues with renewed intensity. The personal view point of leaders is much stronger and more forcefully expressed than the national view point. Whatever they cannot get for themselves is also not good for the nation despite evidence to the contrary. And so, after 58 years of so-called self-rule, we are still in a Nigeria where the barbarism of winning election at all costs attracts higher premium than the sacrifice to strengthen the institutions for nation building.

As a Christian, I am usually guided by the Bible, which says there is no profit in it for a man to gain the world but lose his soul. And I ask: how much profit is in it for Tinubu to win all the elections and lose democracy and even the country in the end? The Faustian deal can never be good deal by any description. With all its instant benefits, a transaction with the devil would appear marvellous in the short-run but it is always unable to swallow in the end.

Put differently, lucifer is not Jehovah Who gives without attached conditions. Lucifer is also not merciful. However, to be fair to him, he has a way of meeting his own side of any bargain and expects the other party to do same. That is fair enough but the real devil will be encountered in the details. And I can tell that in this current deal with the devil in the name of winning elections, the details are ugly and largely unknown. At the appointed time, the devil shall return with the details and also ask for pay back. He also does not believe in renegotiated terms; it is time when it is time!

And so, Like Dr. Faustus, Nigerians shall ask for a little more time from Mephistopheles to balance the accounts properly. He shall refuse and insist on having his pound of flesh even with blood gushing out. I am saying a nation does not grow by living in perpetual self-denial; by cutting ugly deals with devil and say they are investments made in heaven. When cocoyam is sowed at planting season cocoyam and not yam is reaped at harvest time. We elected a dictator in 2015 and hoped to reap democracy in four years. There is no better definition of insanity.

In the build-up to next year general elections, one phrase has kept ringing across party lines and contenders: restructuring of Nigeria for efficient performance. It is not a new discovery. Restructuring of the polity had formed big content of both the PDP and the APC manifestoes in the last general elections. The latter won the presidential polls but three and half years down the road, President Muhammadu Buhari, the party leader, has only increased his resistance to the idea of restructuring the country to throw up the best in human and material resources.

Yet the truth, which is being resisted remains that Nigeria in its current structure cannot go far. Everybody is talking as if truth now yields to different interpretations. Truth is truth and it is indestructible. On elections for instance, INEC, the political parties and security agents may continue to hide the truth in sophistry but in the fullness of time, the truth shall manifest and perhaps at a time Nigerians will be least prepared to face it.

For now, it may sound convenient to subordinate winning of election to the true practice of democracy. Our current crop of politicians should be reminded that Nigerians, living and dead that are called national icons are not necessarily people that can be identified with the most wealth. Good name is the defining index which comes only with the pursuit of public good to the exclusion of personal interest. If Pa Obafemi Awolowo had sunk ethics of leadership and democracy into the Lagos lagoon in order to win elections, his name would not have been golden across the nation and even the globe today. Greatness comes by fitness not by favouritism or manipulation.

After tomorrow, and if our ways do not change, I am afraid, October 1, every year shall continue to remain meaningless. For now, I shall be consoled by the fact that October 1, 1960 only marked the beginning of a great national journey. It wasn’t a destination as it has become manifest in the last 58 years. It is still work or walk in progress and how fast we get done with it and achieve real independence in a restructured Nigeria depends on how willing we are to be driven by higher ideals.

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