👤By Dele Momodu
If we spend 20 years preparing for madness, when exactly are we going to manifest the full-blown lunacy? remains one of my favourite Yoruba proverbs. This statement is so profound and relevant to the Nigerian situation.
It seems our leaders have spent nearly 50 years perfecting their lunacy, and no psychiatrist is able to find a cure. In 50 years, we’ve been unable to produce a leader who can turn our country into Singapore, Dubai or China. Yet we are naturally endowed with everything we need. Professional politicians in Nigeria are like leopards. They have refused to change their skin. Like parasites, they have never been able to survive outside power. They are incapable of running any business successfully. Most of them carry suitcases from one ministry to the other. They lack the basic principles of life. And they have remained our biggest afflictions. Parasites must feed on preys. That is the way they were created Professional politicians survive every government.
They are clairvoyant, and can read the mind of every new leader. They can even think for him. They know what he wants to hear. And tell him lies a kindergarten should ordinarily disbelieve. Whenever they fly their kite of lunacy, it soon becomes reality. Who would have thought a man of Obasanjo’s native wisdom would ever nurse a third term ambition? Who would have believed it was possible for some adults to stand up in public and goad Abacha on to remain perpetually in power? Who would have expected a man as obviously weak as Yar ‘Adua to fall for the antics of professional sycophants who are deceiving him into running for a second term, against every wise counsel over his apparent ill-health? I still don’t know how Abdulsalami Abubakar managed to escape the evil grip of these professional politicians.
They were the same people who destroyed Babangida’s otherwise brilliant career. They convinced Shehu Shagari that they were capable of declaring landslide results during the 1983 elections, at a time most Nigerians were sick and tired of their atrocious profligacy.
Today, nothing has changed. The songs are the same. Some of the old actors are in their various stages of dilapidation. They are finally coming to the realisation that money can never be a substitute for the life we live. Many are sick and haggard. Most of them are even as poor as church rats, despite the manner they ravaged our treasury. But their successors have learnt no lessons from the pitfalls of the past. They are already beating their drums of war, and daring anyone to challenge them. The ruling party says it has foreclosed other members’ ambition since their capo wants to run again. What manner of democracy is this? It matters not if the president lacks the stamina to run the wheel of state at full throttle. The Nigerian electorate has no choice, and no say. We must vote for them even if not a single kilometre of road would have been tarred in our neighborhood by the end of their first term. It would matter not if our power outages have gone worse. Vote we must, as sacrifice to our tin-gods. But they are wrong, as they’ve always been.Herein rests our redemption. The failure of the Bush government to read the mood of the American nation provided the horsewhip with which Obama flogged the daylight out of the arrogant ruling party. The mood of the Nigerian nation today will be the waterloo of our ruling elites. The search for our own Obama has already started as a battle on cyberspace. It is amazing how Nigerians worldwide are warming up for the battle ahead.
They are determined to cause a bloodless revolution in their own country, and demonstrate that we are no donkeys. They are networking like never before, and discussing issues that can move us forward. The economic meltdown has been a blessing in disguise. Many Nigerians abroad now want to return home. But there is no good home waiting to embrace them. Our leaders think Nigeria will never change.
I laugh. Since they are incapable of gauging this mood, their cataclysmic fall will reverberate across the world. It would remain one of the greatest miracles of this century. But it shall come to pass.The strategy is simple. Nigerians must be brave. A bully only respects a bully. We must encourage good candidates to emerge. Our next president must be within the 45-55 age bracket. The problems of Nigeria require energetic leadership.
He/she must be ready to sleep fewer hours than the rest of us. He/she must be a great thinker and visionary, and must be prepared to sacrifice his/her all for our sake. He/she must be a man/woman who has made a success of his/her own life and career. He/she should need not be a career politician.
He/she must be charismatic. Another dark horse is out of the question this time around. He/she must be popular across our country and known to Nigerians worldwide for his/her good works and worthy causes. A good knowledge of international business and a sizable grasp of international politics would be of great advantage. He/she must be detribalized, and can come from any part of Nigeria. We have seen the abysmal failure of zoning in Nigeria.
Zoning is an invitation to treat. It is a veritable source of corruption. Each zone tries to steal more than the other, as if there are awards to be won by the biggest thieves. Our next president must be civilized and urbane. He/she must be able to jump on the road in his/her jeans and shirt, and lead our men and women in our state of emergency.
He/she must be truly fit as a fiddle in the real sense of it, and not by the recommendation of former-governors-turned-ministers-and emergency doctors-looking-for-what-next. He/she must be a role model and worthy ambassador to the youths, and must be media-friendly, like Obama. He/she must be God-fearing, but not a religious bigot. He/she must not be a member of any group that may compromise him and truncate his vision. He must be assiduously committed to nation-building. Our president must be a man or woman who can command instant respect from Nigerians and friends of Nigeria.
Our Commander-in-Chief must be able to inspire members of our armed forces, and instill discipline in our law enforcement agencies. We’ve had such people in various positions all over the world. There are many of such people around. We expect that a few of them would be bold enough to come out soon. We must be ready to embrace them. We may not have saints around us, but we must guard our angels very jealously. When such angels emerge, we must settle for one with the best cross-over appeal. The young people of Nigeria deserve a new lease of life. They are tired of the over-recycled adults whose appetite for poor governance seems insatiable. They are sick of leaders who fly abroad at every opportunity but forget to replicate the same modern facilities back home.
They are ashamed of leaders without shame. Those leaders who thrive in filth and squalid conditions; the visionless leaders who see nothing wrong in our misery in a land overflowing with milk and honey. Every Nigerian knows that our ruling party has done nothing to warrant their latest chest-beating as the so-called biggest political party in Africa. Our new Obama would have to run an efficient campaign. He/she can count on our youths to donate generously to his cause. Every Nigerian I know wants change. Even members of the privilegentsia are complaining behind the scenes. They are fed up with living in expensive ghettos. They have had to live behind high security prison walls, and drive bullet-proof cars. And crawl around the streets with a battalion of antiriot police in peace time. Their children and wives are targets for daredevil kidnappers. They desperately want change.The army of our unemployed graduates is waiting to vote out our incompetent leaders. For them, it is time for vengeance.
Our ruling elite are incapable of performing any magic in the next two years. The poor students who have been forced to sit in classrooms without window panes and desks are also waiting in the wings. The bitterness in the land shall produce the sword of Damocles, and chase away the slave-drivers. Out of the hopelessness of our situation, shall emerge this new Obama to give us a fresh breath of air. Our new Obama must work hard on his/her blueprint. He/she must produce a powerful manifesto, very similar to Abiola’s Farewell to Poverty. He/she must study the failure of the past, and restore the hopes of the future. He/she must clearly elucidate his priorities, as no one can do it all. The priorities must include an all out war against power failure; an end to award of contracts without results; a goodbye to crime without punishment. A total drive for employment generation must be part of it.
We must find out how the public works department worked in the past. It provided employment for thousands of labourers nationwide. My father was one of them. He rose through the ranks to become a road overseer, and was an important man in his own right. The PWD as they were called cleared the drains, built new roads within the townships, and rehabilitated old ones. They provided emergency services where their works were needed. They turned up in their impeccable khaki uniforms and motorbikes.
These days, politicians are only interested in award of hefty contracts, running into billions, which are never executed. The contracts exist only on paper while the politicians execute the payment incognito.The new government must encourage partnerships with the private sector to undertake ambitious projects all over the country including road constructions and housing projects. New townships must be developed and provided with modern amenities, like electricity, water, good roads, shopping malls, hotels, a good transportation system, in order to discourage the present influx of all manner of people into mega cities like Lagos and Abuja.Education is the bedrock of life today.
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There is an urgent need to overhaul our system. Unfortunately, the gains of the recent past have been virtually reversed. Most classrooms are without windows, chairs and tables. There are no libraries not to talk of adequately equipped laboratories. Sports facilities are dead, and yet we expect to produce Olympic stars. Teachers are no longer willing to await their treasures in heaven. They want it here and now. Nigerians have to send their kids to schools abroad, where they are forced to pay the kind of money my mother never dreamt off. Those who cannot go to Europe and America have since settled for schools in Cotonou, Togo and Ghana. Just imagine. The few good schools here are definitely beyond the reach of the ordinary man. (To be continued)