By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, I’m not about to discuss football or our ill-fated participation at the London 2012 Olympics. It is better not to write on what has brought ignominy and despair on a country of 160 million people or more. We should have known the outcome of this misadventure from the outset and it would have been less painful had we reduced our last minute investment to the barest minimum like Ghana did. The Republic of Ghana was more realistic and less wasteful by avoiding our unique type of jamboree, and spending little on a few athletes and sports officials. But that won’t happen in Nigeria.
It is not in our normal character to manage government money and resources properly. We often compete about who can outspend the other. Access to government money is usually seen as an invitation to treat. And our civil servants have perfected the art and science of manipulating the system for their own desired effect and needs. It is not entirely their fault. They always look out for a weak leader and cash in on his weak points. Our citizens assist them to establish such leaders. The solution is for us to upgrade our system by voting out those who have insufficient ability and capacity to rebuild a dilapidated Nigeria and vote in a new crop of technocrats who care less about primordial politicking. Something must give sooner than later.
It should be obvious even to the most rabid admirer, believer, supporter and defender of the Jonathan administration that this Federal Government, as currently constituted, is incapable of leading Nigeria out of the doldrums. I will try to be charitable by saying the President is doing his best but unfortunately that best falls far short of what Nigeria needs at this time. While many may argue, in their usual cliché, that the problems of Nigeria were not created by Dr Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan, we can also indict him for selling us the dummy that he had the capacity to give fresh air to Nigerians. A man should never promise what he does not possess. Only last year Dr Jonathan criss-crossed Nigeria in a marathon campaign and assured Nigerians of heavens and the earth if voted into power. Dr Jonathan’s spin doctors did their utmost best to hoodwink Nigerians into believing that the man had the magic wand to solve all our problems and many citizens swallowed their well-decorated hyperbole hook line and sinker.
It never occurred to those who bought the lies at a premium to look back and check the man’s pedigree or records of performance since he became Deputy Governor over a decade earlier. Today the expensive grandstanding has come home to roost and Nigerians are licking their wounds in various corners wishing this was only a bad dream, a nightmare that would soon evaporate once they awaken. Unfortunately, it is stark reality and we have to live with it for four agonising years since that is our electoral cycle. As for me and my house, we are already looking beyond the present debacle and only seeking ways to ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated by most Nigerians.
I’m convinced that it won’t take much to get rid of an incompetent government in the next election. There is, in fact, no better time than this period when many members of the ruling party are confessing privately, and some openly, that we’ve never had things so bad in our country. The government has been pathetically slow and indecisive in taking many actions that could propel Nigeria forward.
Its profligacy reminds one of those days of the National Party of Nigeria when politicians spent and wasted money as if it was going out of vogue. In reality, a country where its citizens need every basic necessity of life cannot afford the outlandish lifestyles of our rambunctious politicians. The only man who could have arrested this terrible waste of public resources is himself the chief culprit. I often wonder why it is impossible for an average Nigerian politician to have pity and compassion upon Nigeria. I would have seen a sign of hope if the President and his team had agreed to live by example and by tightening their own belts.
Unfortunately for Nigeria, the beat goes on and none of the big politicians is ready to make any sacrifice for the nation. I know that no country has ever made it without the love and patriotism of its leaders and citizens. President Jonathan and his team behave as if all there is to life is flying around like birds of passage. They are incapable of seeing the bigger picture of being presented with the rare opportunity to become great people of history. They are blowing away their chances at the altar of myopia. It is their lives to live and our duty to stop them from dragging us down with them. No matter how much we try to advise and admonish them, it is clear they have passed caring about building a solid future for Nigeria. They are in power to maintain the status quo for of decay for Nigerians but self aggrandisement for the political elite. It is their turn to partake in the cutting and eating the national cake. And grumblers like me should wait for our turn. Their vision is that small.
What is worse is that they even see the next election as mere routine and nothing can stop them from winning and completing a second term by hook or by crook. They refuse to understand that the people have the power to sack poor and ineffective leaders. Their assumption is based on the perceived docility of our people. Perhaps they were right to believe so before now but the times have changed. The level of frustration in Nigeria today is unprecedented and mass suffering is uniting the sufferers at the speed of light. Only the people benefitting from the state of backwardness would not see or feel the boiling anger in the land. If we can’t save them from themselves, we should be able to rescue ourselves from them.
This is the main reason I have been thinking hard and came up with my dream team. What Nigeria needs today is a government of the brightest Nigerians regardless of political affiliations. We must begin to de-emphasise politics and elevate leadership to its rightful position. Most countries are pushing their best men and women forward for leadership positions and sacking incompetent leaders. Ours cannot be different. We have endured this pain for too long because we have been bullied by the godfathers into accepting their choices of some of the worst candidates. There is no doubt that we have what it takes to make Nigeria a true giant of Africa. All we have to do is dismantle the present structure that makes it impossible for good people to thrive in Nigeria.
I dream of a day we can install our most vibrant people at the centre. They are people who have established themselves before coming into government and not those who would need government to transform their lives. They must be great visionaries and not men of tiny dreams. This is obvious in the works of a few of our leaders who have sparkled or dazzled in power today.
I fantasise always about having the likes of Babatunde Fashola, the Governor of Lagos State in whatever capacity at the Federal level. This perfect gentleman has demystified how government is run in Nigeria. His mien and performance are up to international standards. I pray he would be encouraged to carry his service of excellence to Abuja in the foreseeable future. Nigeria would benefit immensely from his wealth of experience in Lagos which is a microcosm of Nigeria.
I doff my hat always to Donald Duke, the former Governor of Cross Rivers. Only a strange political party like the People’s Democratic Party would not know how to tap into the humongous talents of the great Donald who transformed Cross Rivers into an African wonder. I would love to see Donald play a centre forward role in the Government of National Unity I envisage soon for Nigeria.
Say what you will, Nasir El-Rufai is a man who has earned my admiration over the years. This power-packed technocrat is in a class of his own and he amply demonstrated this when he took on the task of sweeping the Federal Capital Territory clean of human vermin. Although he has some enemies, even they acknowledge his brilliance and big vision. I cannot wait to see him return to power to play in the big league and return the glow to governance.
Please, step forward my dear Sister, Obiageli Ezekwesili, the shining star of Africa otherwise known as Madam Due Process. I imagine what would have happened if you were allowed to complete the reforms you started in Education. Nigeria desperately needs you now than ever to help inject life into our rudderless youths. It is a shame that we allow other nations to gain from your superlative talents while we suffer from your absence.
Someone should please find me Pat Utomi, the Professor of Utopia. Many find you theoretical but Nigeria can make do with cerebral theorists who can generate positive vibes and transmit such in a manner that would energise and reinvigorate our weather-beaten compatriots. We need big dreamers like you in that powerful company of agents of change.
Anyone who has been to Akwa Ibom State lately would marvel at ethereal transformation of Uyo into a near-American wonder. I would have wished President Jonathan could do half of what Godswill Akpabio has done in his state. I strongly recommend that we need a man of Akpabio’s stupendous energy in that dream government we crave.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the meticulous planning of a Rotimi Amaechi who has taken his time to produce a new masterplan for his Rivers State of Nigeria. By the time his vigorous vision germinates and begin to blossom all knees shall bow. He’s one of the hopes of a new Nigeria we expect to materialise before long.
I love the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal, who has elevated himself beyond party politics to place the nation first. It is rare to find such politicians who cannot be bullied by the almighty rulers in Aso Rock. We need more men and women like him to ensure the sanctity of the legislative arm of government.
I nearly wept when Dr Mrs Dora Akunyili was made the Minister of Information and Communications by the Yar’Adua government. I had expected her to be posted to the Ministry of Health to use her boundless energy to cleanse the place like she did at NAFDAC. This brave amazon still has a lot to offer Nigeria.
I strongly recommend that most of our current Governors emulate what Bukola Saraki did as Governor of Kwara State by picking a pet project and sticking to it. Saraki has etched the name of Kwara into the Hall of Fame as the best agricultural state in Nigeria.
I have compiled names of Nigerians who can rock this great nation positively and we shall be discussing more of them again in the near future. Clearly these men and women are mere mortals. There will be chinks in some of their armour, exposed by the nature of the administrations that they have served in. However, they have done positive things and demonstrated that they can do greater things given the right environment. The idea is to throw up a healthy debate about the future of our country.
We can’t afford to give up on this sleeping giant.