Nimi Wariboko urges Nigerians to pursue the good by seeking a predetermined outcome
In Nigeria, the pursuit of perfection or excellence is almost a crime. You have heard that it has been said by the wise men and women that the perfect must not become the enemy of the good. But I say unto you, the perfect must be the enemy of the good. Nigerians, let the perfect become the enemy of the good in our country. Nigerians, who has bewitched you that you should not trust in the perfect and you have turned your backs to the perfect in the hope of acquiring the mediocre, false good.
One of the major problems of this country is the belief in the good as the avoidance, if not, the destruction of the perfect. When there is a problem, whether at the personal, local, or national level, we are too quick to settle for the “good.” The so-called elders, wise men and women, will tell you not to aim too high, to compromise your ambitions, fudge on your goals, and settle for what is below your genuine expectation. We have made a habit of settling for the “good” because we do not want to shake things up. And where have we ended up after nearly 60 years of independence? We have a broken country: an economy that destroys our potentialities, a political system that is dysfunctional, health system that kills, an educational system that miseducates, and roads that behave like angry blood-thirsty gods.
Until a people are willing to imagine or see the perfect, they can never know if any of their actions is good in the sense of it being a successive approximation to the perfect, which is always to come. Until we demand for the impossible from ourselves, our systems, and our nation, we can neither do the possible nor actualise our full potentialities.
You should no longer listen to anyone who tells you to go for the good—especially if you are young and want the best for yourself. The good in Nigeria is a predetermined outcome; a grotesque being that usually crawls out of the morass of mediocrity to destroy potentialities, eat fortunes and destinies, and quenches the fire in our souls. Nigerian young men and women, do not think that you are getting the good when you compromise your ambitions, your drives for excellence, or settle for less. Do not give up on your dream.
What is called the good in this country is actually a privation, a loss. In the Nigerian context, good is the deprivation of the perfect. The good is the mere absence of the perfect, or its corruption or diminishment. The good is the loss of the drive toward the perfect. So, you can accumulate all the “goods” you want, bit your efforts will not lead to the realisation of your full potentials. You will always be mediocre like my generation and those before it. My generation listened to the stupid “do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good” and see the kind of country we are bequeathing to you. My generation, arise and help your children. It is not too late. I know there are still some of us who have not settled for the “stupid good” as the politically correct solution.
The good in our country is often a “political solution” that accents instant gratification and denies any sacrifice for the common good. What we call the good is never the common good of the country. It is always, at best, a half-measure. The good is the how-I-for-do option: a disposition that is not open to transforming potentialities. But the perfect is a process that not only sees, but also opens up possibilities for human flourishing. Until as a people we can go for the option which exceeds what the present order of realities offers there will be no avenue to break out of our national woes.
The good is only the push and pull of our broken system’s determination of our collective fate. The perfect is that which will bring creative change and fulfillment, transcendent potentialities and transformations to our goals, experiences, and suffocating national reality. What our so-called wise men and women celebrate as the good is the poverty of ideas and the ideas of poverty. The perfect is the abundance of ideas and ideas of abundance. The good is about making peace with ongoing impediments to national progress, but the perfect is about initiating something new amid ongoing social processes, doing something new in our communities.
The good in Nigeria is a “doctrine” that functions to exclude enlargement of vision and opportunities for citizens. We should avoid it as a plague. If you are young and you hear “do not let the perfect be the enemy of the good” run. Na dem; the people wey dey destroy future don come for you be dat. Run, my brother and my sister, run! If anyone tells you that you cannot be better than the youth in America, Europe, China, or Japan because you were born in Nigeria, leave that person and shake the dust off your feet. If your rulers or leaders do not tell you how you can be better than them or their children, they are the enemies of your progress. If you work very hard and diligently for any person or institution and you are offered less than what should be equitably due to you, outrightly reject it. The denial of equity is the rejection of the perfect; do not devalue your worth for any person or institution. To accept anything less than equity is to bow to the vicious gods who have held Nigeria down.
We have been searching for the devil in the supernatural realm when all the time he is with us in the guise of all those who are destroying our youth’s future. Nigerian youths do not let the bankrupt generations before yours use religion or ethnicity to divert your attention from the perfect and confuse you. From this day forward, let the perfect be the enemy of the good in your life.
*Wariboko is a Professor of Economic and Social Ethics at Boston University, USA