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Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Pretending All is Well - by: Ayisha Osori



"It is disheartening to hear from the lips of so many who work closely with government or around government, that ‘there is no hope. What is the scorecard for the soul of the country?"

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it”- Aristotle

It makes perfect sense that the President and his team would score themselves high in their review of the last 2 years. It is symptomatic of the type of people we have become in Nigeria. We are people who all complain about corruption, squalor, poor maintenance culture, general lack of integrity, disunity etc. yet none of us admit to being guilty of or contributing to these things. It is always ‘they’ or ‘some people’ but never us. We have learned to excuse the inexcusable and explain away the unexplainable; there has never been a thought or idea too low for us to attach ourselves to especially if money, ethnicity, religion and loyalty can be somehow be woven into it.

Try as one might, it is impossible as of the time this article was being written to find an electronic copy of the President’s mid term score card. It would have been ideal to read it as part of the material reviewed but it is also instructive that this article can be written without it. Considering that there was time enough to have the scorecard prepared, printed and bound, then there was time to have it uploaded unto several websites. Alternatively, the considerable talent managing the media and image of the Presidency could have circulated the scorecard amongst online and print media. Such a document, a campaign tool of sorts, should be freely accessible on the Internet for all Nigerians. Yet, neither the Presidency’s website nor any of the relevant ministries e.g., Information, have an electronic copy available for millions of Nigerians at home and abroad who don’t have access to the print report.

The scorecard was reportedly about things that can be measured: rates, funds, meters and megawatts but in a country where hiding information is the norm and obfuscation has become an art form, what is one supposed to believe if what you hear differs so much from your existence? It is all well to focus on some tangibles (and ignore others), but what about the soft things that cannot be easily measured? Are they any less important in rating the overall performance of a government? What is the scorecard for the soul of the country?

We cannot pretend all is well. There might be things, which for balance sake we admit seem shaped like progress such as inflation rates dropping to single digits but that is cold comfort when Ramadhan and the prospect of increased food prices looms. It is hard to keep hearing that our foreign direct investment is increasing and yes, maybe these are things which, by their nature, we can only appreciate in the future, but if people are still looking for jobs three, four years after graduating from school is it wrong to ask ‘what about now?’ What is it that we can see, feel and touch that is better today?

Materially, many seem to be worse of than they were two years ago. While the price of land, accommodation, goods and services steadily increases, salaries and benefits stay the same and access to funds, even in the non-profit sector is shrinking. Professional and amateur begging has increased and so has crime with a lot more stories of car jackings and home robberies. Kidnapping has taken the place of research and development and the yields are reportedly even more fantastic.

Spiritually, as the noise directed upward increases with the proliferation of churches and mosques on every street, Nigerians are getting meaner and meaner to each other. Acting godless in the name of religion and being spiteful and un-neighbourly every chance we get, the louder we chant and pray it seems the further we are away from the Almighty’s mercy. Men of God who have become rock stars and men in office who abuse power with supreme impunity, with the weak and oppressed finding absolutely no succor - not in the houses that men have allegedly built for God nor in the temples of governance maintained by our taxes and collective wealth.

Mentally, our best are exhausted and being bled of all hope. It is disheartening to hear from the lips of so many who work closely with government or around government, that ‘there is no hope’. Those who took roles in the public and development sectors in order to contribute to building a nation we can all be proud of, are quietly resigning, finding jobs in the private sector or abroad and leaving. This is how we have so many excelling all over the world where merit and integrity are valued and how the country continues to sink beneath the suffocating weight of mediocrity and unbridled greed. The young see clearly that the game is rigged and many are pushed to take the decision to join in.

Collectively, our union has never, not since the end of the Civil War, seemed so fragile and frayed. Calls for secession are as common as pure water sachets on a parade ground and nothing, not even transportation policy can be discussed without religion and ethnicity somehow finding a platform to participate.

What has this got to do with government? Everything. Fear, anger and scarcity is the best way to keep people divided and distracted while those who plunder can work in peace. Those who crave access to office at all costs routinely play on the insecurities of Nigerians slowly but surely creating a wedge that many think is now too wide to bridge. A government that is genuinely interested in long term sustainable development would act and sound a lot different from the governments we have today.

It is great to be positive and to see good in every situation but it is also necessary – like a person fighting an addiction – to admit to a problem in order to solve it. All is not well and a mechanical scorecard with no words to salve the many wounds on our collective soul is simply not good enough. No one needs a marking scheme to know that.

Leadership

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