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Saturday, 26 April 2014

Why This Mess Won’t Go Away

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The Pendulum By Dele Momodu, Email: Dele.momodu@thisdaylive.com

Fellow Nigerians, I have come with my lamentations again. I wish I could spare you this ordeal but something in me makes it impossible to do so. God knows I write not because I expect our country to change from mere writing. I know how difficult it is for a pen to achieve what we couldn’t accomplish under the barrels of guns. I’m not writing because I expect everyone to accept my views. Writing for me is therapeutic. I pity those who can neither read nor write. They belong in another world and no not what they miss. Just imagine how many eyes are reading this right now, everywhere in the world. Many are sipping in the points while some are cursing various reasons I won’t mention. It takes some magic to arrest their attention perennially while lamenting like Jeremiah. Nothing is more thrilling and fulfilling than being able to express your inner feeling. It reinforces your manhood. And preserves your legacy for posterity.
The writer is often an oracle. He sees what ordinary eyes cannot see. He says what fickle tongues cannot express. He defends the rights of man at greater risk to his own. He carries the sins of the world and bears the burden and scars alone. Many of the critics’ critics actually love him but pretend otherwise. Why read the so-called garbage week-in week-out if you’re not addicted to roughage? I will never waste my time to read what I don’t like. I can’t even imagine commenting on what I dislike venomously when I can write my own. But I love my readers, especially my perpetual faultfinders. They help sharpen my brains and thought process and prepare me for the next one.
Let me confess that it is not easy to write every week. I would rather spare myself the agony. But trouble is our country is in a big mess. That is even now stale news, if not an understatement. Those wishing for a miracle under the present arrangement are deluded day-dreamers. Please, feel free to quote me. I have come to the sad conclusion that our journey is still very far. And the roads are ominous, long-winding and bumpy. I will explain my pessimism in a jiffy.
I’m used to people saying we only grumble but provide no solution. That is not true. It does not require rocket science to fix Nigeria. We should stop making a fetish of nonsense. Every Nigerian knows the reasons for our intractable problems. It has been a vicious cycle without end. I will like to describe our collective folly like this to create a graphic picture of our woes. Just imagine your son or daughter in school for a course of seven years. The best facilities have been provided in order to create a good atmosphere for learning. He sits for his examination but flunks mercilessly. The indignant parents advise him to repeat it and try again. The result this time is even worse. The frustrated parents insist on yet another repeat but the result is more calamitous.
The elders gathered to discuss the way out of this monumental embarrassment to the family. Exam papers for the three sessions were requested and scrutinised. To their utter shock and befuddlement all questions were repeated verbatim on all occasions. So why was it so difficult to pass? Answer papers were also requested and graciously granted by the school authorities. The parents simply fainted. Their recalcitrant son had repeated same answers to same questions on all three occasions. They were saddened by the revelation that their son was such an incurable moron. How did he expect to pass when he never changed any of the answers that made him fail on two previous instances? Only a certified fool would repeat the same mistakes and expect different results.
That is the sad story of Nigeria. We knew why we’ve been failing woefully. We know we must change the answers to over-recycled questions for us to be able to succeed. But no one is ready to try what it would take to achieve this miracle. There is nothing new under the sun is a popular cliché we ought to imbibe. Too many countries are our seniors in failure. Some were even far worse than ours. We have many centuries of human existence and experience to learn from. All we needed was to dub their template and adapt it to our local temperament. That is the way to go in the absence of originality. That is it.
Our mess will not leave us soon for failing to submit ourselves to the best solutions. We can start from the simple to the sublime. The number one solution to our myriad of complexities is good leadership which I don’t believe will come easily.  The way Nigeria is presently configured makes it almost impossible to throw up the leaders that can speedily energise our nation. Everyone knows that any of Godswill Akpabio, Donald Duke, Aminu Tambuwal, Adams Oshiomhole, Babatunde Fashola, Rotimi Amaechi, Emmanuel Uduaghan, Nasir El Rufai, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla, Oby Ezekwesili,  Rabiu Kwankwaso and others would instantly catapult Nigeria to a greater height, but none of them is likely to be considered in the next Presidential election as a lead candidate. I’m basing my confidence in them on what they’ve been able to achieve in various places and dispensations. But the godfathers will never pick from the pool of our best fishes.
There are other impediments towards having some better leaders. Money is very crucial in fighting elections anywhere in the world. A good leader cannot rely on small donations from Nigerians like the Americans do. Our citizens believe politics is the exclusive preserve of those who have looted the treasury and are ready to blow it recklessly. Good leaders are not likely to have access to loads of cash. Most donors often prefer to work with the bad guys who won’t disturb the flow of their illicit business. The good man who compromises his principle in order to win election would also find it difficult to fight his patrons on attaining power. It would even be morally wrong to do so. This is the dilemma of a change agent.
What are the other options to explore? The good man is not necessarily a saint but a performer. He has his blueprint for development ready. He scans the existing political landscape but cannot derive joy and inspiration from most of the existing platforms. The idealist decides to form a new party like CPC or join supposed progressive party like Labour or National Conscience. I was under such illusion but soon discovered that Labour was radical in name but more ultra-conservative than even the PDP in reality. I had thought the party was controlled by the powerful unions and this would have served as a veritable springboard for launching a blistering campaign nationwide. But the Labour Party underrated its own potential and chose to be an alter-ego or megaphone to the ruling party. All the lofty dreams of linking up with the British Labour Party for expert advice and policy formulation which I had laboured to set up went up in smoke. My leaders were not interested in ideological excursions and adventurism. They were content with managing whatever the rat race had to offer.
I ran to the National Conscience Party that once fielded the great Gani Fawehinmi as its Presidential candidate. It is instructive to note that no man ever went to prison as many times as Gani did on behalf of the Nigerian masses. He broke in the class of radicalism. You would have expected the massive poor community he so fervently protected to support their greatest benefactor but that never happened. We tried our best against all odds to carry on from where other great party members had taken the party. We were proud to have another legal luminary, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, as our National Chairman. He was also a veteran of Nigerian prisons and gulag-archipelago. The great man almost spent himself blind to build the party. Yet the same people who cried for change did not mind us. We fought gallantly but our strength could not carry us far. Some people who did not appreciate the magnitude of the Nigerian problem sat in the comfort of their homes to throw darts at us. These emergency analysts knew those qualified to rule Nigeria and we were completely ruled out. Even some of our colleagues preferred to support the same recycled politicians and their proxies. Everyone was qualified –police officer, customs officer, teacher – but not a Publisher.
When people told me I had no experience in the last election, I did not take offence because I understood the language of politics in our clime. I was expected to have gone through the windmills of corruption, looting, profligacy, and cap it up with incompetence. It wouldn’t have mattered if I was a pardoned ex-convict. No one cared to lecture me on the brilliant achievements of their experienced and God-sent Messiahs. I simply concluded that we were not ready for credible change in Nigeria and that all the issues I’m about to mention below would continue to elude us for as long as we enthrone mediocrity. 
Once we find that leader of our dream, he/she knows what to do immediately. The first problem to face very squarely is how to develop and fertilise the minds of our youths in particular and the rest of us in general. A dead soul is worse than a dead body. Once the soul is alive there is hope for the whole body. These can only be done through quality education not the wishy-washy system we presently operate. Those who killed our education practically ruined the future of Nigeria. You need to go on social media or organise job interviews to see and appreciate the unacceptable level of the rot. Nigeria will never get out of this mess unless education takes priority over our current frivolities. Education is the ultimate leveller in the world today. It is closing the gaps between the poor and the rich. It is breaking down age-old barriers and walls of superstitions.
Education is too crucial to be left in the hands of hard-core politicians. By now one would have expected a serious nation to gather the biggest egg-heads and other stakeholders in the country to declare a state of emergency in education and come up with practical steps towards restoring order and sanity in that sector. But what we have at present is the same politicisation and continuation of our lukewarm attitude to what is clearly a terrible state of tragic proportions. One cannot see the sense of urgency needed to tackle the matter at all levels. At best the sector continues to haemorrhage to death while our politicians murmur their mumbo jumbo.
Who does not know that something drastic has to be done to reverse the ugly trend which has forced our kids to run in all crazy directions in search of good education? We have put many of these kids at the mercy of scammers while the best among them are voluntarily donated and permanently lost to foreign lands and territories. Who wants to tell me that the problem has endured because we don’t know what to do? No. The issue at stake is that politicians have decided to share and allocate everything including the future of our kids. That is why industrial strikes can go on ad infinitum and no one really cares.  
The second answer is wealth creation through provision of jobs, directly or indirectly by governments of Nigeria. Our students must acquire entrepreneurial skills as part of school curriculum. Everyone can’t be waiting for employments on Fantasy Islands. The time has come to put an end to being too picky about jobs. Why can’t we simply agree to see dignity in labour and accept the same menial jobs we do abroad at home? Why can’t we improve our technical skills and upgrade our vocational training? Nigeria is currently understaffed without any shade of doubt in my mind. The country is massive enough to absorb most of our youths roaming the streets today if and when we decide to put up our thinking cap. All it takes is to reactivate and rejuvenate all our dead sectors, especially in the area of agriculture, manufacturing and aggressive industrialisation.
The second is naturally dependent on the third which is power. I must commend the current effort of President Jonathan’s administration in this sector but he needs to do much more to ensure the gains are not frittered away in our typical manner. My palpitation is predicated on the way the discos are looking more like scenes out of Saturday Night Fever. Our businessmen are all running Yo-yo to acquire what they least understand just because they see it as the latest fad. We’ve now moved from oil to telecoms to discos. And the rat race continues. Until we tackle power, it would be difficult if not impossible to achieve anything tangible. Again our solution lies in the political will to take on the many demons that litter the path to our recovery.
Once we can get to this stage, the rest would be easier to handle. But tell me who will bell the cat.
If you know, please give me a shout.    
ThisDay

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