By Dele Momodu
“We must all wage an intense, lifelong battle against the constant downward pull. If we relax, the bugs and the weeds of negativity will move into the garden and take away everything of value.” – Jim Rohn
Fellow Nigerians, let me start by wishing our Muslim Brothers and Sisters Ramadan Mubarak. May we continue to see our fellow-citizens as children of one God, regardless of faith or race. May God give us leaders who would not divide us across ethnic and religious lines. Let us pray to Him to give us leaders with something concrete to offer other than where they come from or the religion they practise. The world has moved beyond those primordial sentiments that keep us rooted in the Dark Ages. Those days are gone when nations were ruled by bigots of all shades. The new world is governed by ideas. Those who hope to continue the use of base instincts to manipulate Nigerians must be stopped in their coarse tracks.
As a young boy growing up in the ancient city of Ile-Ife, I did not know any division between Christians, Muslims and Animists. We co-existed and shared in our pains and triumphs. The Muslims sent us ‘Eran Odun’, that meat of delicious rams while we retaliated at Christmas or Easter by sending our own ‘Eran Odun’, from the appetising turkey, to the fragrant meat of he-goat or some mouth-watering aromatic duck. We partook in the traditional festivals of ‘Odun Olojo’ and ‘Odun Edi’. We enjoyed the best of those moments and no one tried to cast aspersions on the other’s faith. On a personal note, my grandparents were Muslims while my parents were Christians. None forced his or her religion on the others. I grew up attending a Catholic school but my parents were die-hard members of a spiritual church called the Aladura.
It is such a shame that at a time the world is demolishing walls of superstitions we are busy erecting monuments to madness in Nigeria. The essence of my article last week was to demonstrate that our country is not a nation of idiots and morons. We parade some of the most brilliant human beings on earth but the evidence on ground tends to confirm otherwise and we are all culpable for not doing enough to stop the entrenchment of a culture of mediocrity. Our environment is being run down by dregs of our society who operate like the gnomes we hear and read about in ‘tales by moonlight’. I chose to move beyond the backwardness of this period to concentrate on a future we all know is possible but probably are too timid to actualise. I decided to ignite a debate amongst the most reasonable people of our community. I did not claim to have a monopoly of wisdom. The names I assembled were not those of Saints but that of Nigerians who have made some mark despite what may be considered by some as their personal failings. And the list was by no means exhaustive. I expected you and I to add and minus. But the important thing was to agree on the need to change how we do things at all levels.
We cannot expect our country to move forward when we refuse to make use of our best materials. Leadership is similar to the game of soccer. The team we assemble determines our performance in the field of play. The man at the midfield is expected to possess loads of stamina and vision as he distributes the ball to different parts of the arena. The leader of a country is a midfielder whose passes must be as accurate as possible. When he fails, the country collapses. Nigeria is failing because the people at the centre don’t seem to understand their roles. I have no reason to hate anyone. I’m not a failed politician. I’m a technocrat seeking the best for my country. I do not care what part of Nigeria the President comes from. I’m not interested in his religion. But I’m certainly interested in his mental capacity and physical capability to lead a nation as diverse and complex as Nigeria. I seek a man or woman who knows his onions. I crave a charismatic leader who can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the whiz-kids who are taking over the world stage. I’m tired of seeing aged, tired or old-fashioned leaders who hold on fastidiously to the ancient taboos and are not willing to move on with the progressive times. I’m impatient with leaders who need power to remake them instead of using their personal skills to remake power. I dislike leaders who see attainment of power only as a status symbol and an elevation to maximum comfort instead of as service to humanity and invitation to make sacrifice for their people.
The decision to write the first part of this piece was born out of acute frustration with the direction Nigeria is headed. The ruling government may continue to delude itself that all is well but reasonable Nigerians are totally mortified at our visible state of retrogression and our rapid descent into an unfathomable abyss. 13 years is enough time for a ruling party to have fixed most of our problems but not the People’s Democratic Party. Instead of abusing critics, would it not have been easier, and more rewarding, to simply tell us how much they collected in 13 years and what they did with it? I dare them to do that and wait to see if the entire world won’t weep on behalf of poor Nigerians. Let them tell the world how much they received and spent on roads and general infrastructure, power, airports, hospitals, education, sports, youth empowerment, Amnesty program, NDDC, security, and so on and show us the results. Nigerians have been grossly short-changed in all facets. Rather than attack critics, the ruling party should bury its head in utter shame and beg God for forgiveness, if it is not too late.
I’m neither a member of CPC nor ACN, but I’m reasonably convinced that despite the accusations of undemocratic tendencies and forceful selection of candidates, the ACN in particular has selected some of the best leaders Nigeria parades today. And their performance record is by far more impressive. In fact the ACN states are working hard to out-perform one another. Even PDP Governors are falling over themselves to applaud the professionalism of Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola in Lagos. This is what I want to see replicated at the Federal level and the other States of the Federation.
I want to see beautiful cities sprouting out of the ugly ones we have today. I want to see industrial estates springing out of our abandoned villages. I want to see our institutions of learning become centres of excellence and not breeding grounds for hooligans, kidnappers and cult groups. I seriously want to see leaders who would cut the waste and rot in public offices by not less than 80 percent. Intelligent public officers can make money without stealing public funds. At the rate we are going our children will one day spill into the streets like locusts and demand the reason some mindless leaders want to kill their future. This is not a threat of Armageddon but a powerful prophesy that Armageddon is indeed coming to Nigeria.
It is not too late for us to rescue the horrible situation. I don’t think it is a sign of weakness to admit our limitations in life. The present government and leadership cannot lead us into prosperity. Their confusion is palpable. Every day we read of eminent names being put on all manner of government-appointed committees but that is not the solution. Until Mr President is sincere about the difficult tasks to be undertaken and willing and ready to make the necessary sacrifice those committees will remain wingless and never able to fly. A President who is desperate about the ceremony and pomp of office can’t wake up a comatose country like Nigeria. A key ingredient of leadership is trust but if the truth must be told not many Nigerians believe the present leadership is to be trusted or that it is committed to doing what is needed to change our country for the better. That is the crux of the matter.
If the President and his associates think Nigeria has all the time in the world to go through the rigmaroles merry-go-round and the jejune governance they are offering us it is very tragic. This is why all men and women of good conscience must rise up to rescue Nigeria from those who obviously don’t think we deserve anything better. This is a clarion call to Nigerians across the political parties. The history of Africa is replete with instances of revolutions and pseudo-revolutions and we must do everything to avert such an ugly experience in our dear country. Former Ghanaian President Jerry John Rawlings once told us about the events that preceded the bloody revolution in his country; I believe Nigeria has quadrupled such rascality that caused the Ghanaian mayhem.
We don’t have to look far to assemble this dream team. This great idea, I must confess, is not original to me. I had approached Mallam Nasir El-Rufai to be my running mate in last year’s Presidential election. He politely declined but I gained something from the encounter. He was of the opinion that we should move beyond the fixation of I must be this or that and that people of like minds should come together and agree on who is best suited for this or that. This would help us work as a team that already has a master-plan and not as disjointed individuals and headless chickens.
I am so fascinated by the idea of a dream team and pray that the godfathers in the different parties would allow it to work. Let the godfathers remain kingmakers and present the best materials from their various groups. Just imagine the thunderous applause that would greet the decision to pick the President and Vice President from among any combination of us, not in any particular order, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Nasir El-Rufai, Donald Duke, Oby Ezekwesili, Adams Oshiomole, Fola Adeola, Seidu Malami, Tony Elumelu, Nuhu Ribadu, Pat Utomi, Rotimi Amaechi, Godswill Akpabio, Dora Akunyili, Tanko Yunusa, Florence Seriki, Abike Dabiri, Jim Ovia, Ngozi Okonjo-Iwealla, Aigboje Aig-Imoukhuede, Awwal Tukur and others who litter our fertile landscape. You can add or subtract as it pleases you. What’s important is to form a consensus. I have only selected a few names who have distinguished themselves in politics and governance, business and academia, media and public relations and organised labour. The Presidency is not the private property of anyone or group. And governance is no rocket science. It is about managing people and resources. Our priority at this stage should be a new team of big players in their chosen career. None should be above 60 in order to have five active years to the normal retirement age.
The dream team will assemble the best ministerial materials from all over the country. The search would extend to the Gubernatorial, National Assembly, State Assembly, and Local Government materials. It must be a total overhaul of our political system. We must put an end to political parties sending forth the wretched of the earth. Some people have warned that only a military administration can make this possible but I disagree.
With the magnitude of problems at hand even those in powerful positions are secretly expressing fears of a possible conflagration which can only be averted by all stake-holders, including those who ruined Nigeria, agreeing to put an end to this drift. If we all fail to act, none of us would be able to contain the holocaust. Our responsibility is for the majority to isolate and cast out the minority who would never know and see that the market is over. We can move beyond the day-dreamers who think they can sentence Nigeria to permanent servitude and continue to exchange the baton of stupidity. Yes, we can and it is not going to be a tea-party.
This is going to be a long haul but it is very doable. What I have written is only a tip of the iceberg. It is not just about selecting people to positions. We have to present a clean and fresh agenda, from a clear-headed manifesto and socio-political ideology in which we must spell out the dos and don’ts and sign a pact with our people.
This is not a joke but Nigeria is currently on auto-pilot and no one is sure that we’ve not disappeared from the political radar.