Trudging on, Bitter Lessons and All

By Okey Ikechukwu

As if addressing the current political situation in Nigeria, especially the diverse submissions of prominent leaders about democracy and the way forward for Nigeria, the philosopher, David Hume said: “There is nothing which is not the subject of debate, and in which men of learning are not of contrary opinions. The most trivial question escapes not controversy, and in the most momentous questions we are not able to give any certain decision. Disputes are multiplied, as if everything was uncertain; and these disputes are managed with the greatest warmth, as if everything was certain.”

While it is in the nature of things for disagreement and diverse points of view to emerge in human affairs, while it is also true that politics and democracy always go hand-in-hand with competing interests, and while some of them are altruistic and others are not, we must admit that disputation cannot be an end in itself. The endless thrashing about is becoming tiresome and too uninteresting to bear further endurance.

Again, let us remember the words of David Hume in his Treatise on Human Nature, where he admonished philosophy and philosophers thus: “NOTHING is more usual and more natural for those who pretend to discover anything … than to insinuate the praises of their own systems, by decrying all those which have been advanced before them. …. ‘Tis easy for one of judgment and learning, to perceive the weak foundation even of those systems, which have obtained the greatest credit, and have carried their pretensions highest to accurate and profound reasoning. Principles taken upon trust, consequences lamely deduced from them, want of coherence in the parts, and of evidence in the whole, these are everywhere to be met … and seem to have drawn disgrace upon philosophy itself…even the rabble without doors may, judge from the noise and clamour, which they hear, that all goes not well within.”

Hume’s words resonate so strongly with our present situation, does it not? Everything is in dispute, including the time of day and the condition of the weather. 

One year into the Tinubu administration, the nation and its people stand perplexed and too worsted to even still articulate a clear complaint anymore. Yet, in the midst of it all, those who have any voice at all in the wider political landscape are screaming as if they are really sure of what they are saying. Thus, it is not just raining, but pouring down everywhere. The doubly irritating babble adds avoidable befuddlement to everything. Besides the regular grumblings about almost every measure taken by the government on any issues whatsoever, the opposition has not demonstrated any clear trajectory in its thinking and carryings on. And one year has rolled by.

On July 7, 2023, this column took a preemptive strike at those who were most probably warming up to celebrate President Tinubu’s first 100 days in office. The submission then was this: “…before his handlers prance off, in a frenetic pace to make a good impression and show off their superstar, they should first answer this question: Does this government need to organize a State Event, complete with government officials, snivelling crumb-crunchers, genuine stakeholders and the president’s party members all lined up to reel off his specific and general achievements? I think not. We have had more than enough of such charades over the years. Tinubu can create a new precedent by putting an end to it. Tinubu must keep his eyes on the ball. Let us begin to do things differently.”

The article further said, concerning the celebration of 100 days in office which this column did not want to happen: “Now we need to move on, as a serious people. This pointless national engagement has cost the nation hundreds of billions of Naira in perfectly avoidable expenses for decades. Past governments at all levels have put too much energy, funds, fanfare and needless floodlights and festoons around it. And to what purpose? To tell Nigerians that the person they elected had been working for the first three months after being sworn in? Really? What else was he supposed to be doing? Why was he elected in the first place?

So, let us show some sobriety and maturity here; knowing that the money to be thus squandered can be put to better use in these days of starving citizens, abominable inflation, unaffordable automotive fuel and much more – including trekking under the sun because of high transport fares.

Tinubu should, instead, let his foot soldiers do more work of explaining and justifying all the moves he has made so far. Some of them are clearly unsettling for many people. Even the supporters are unable to present a coherent narrative. Yes, whoever must make an omelette has to break some eggs; but the government must avoid a situation wherein the perception is that eggs are being broken just for the heck of it. 

The Federal Government’s current decisions, actions and policy initiatives are foundational measures on which it is expected to build. They will make or mar Tinubu’s tenure. That is why their intent and purport should be simplified in the public domain.”

The above three paragraphs were penned some ten months ago. The spirit of it still applies today, as the government clocks one year in office. As was also said, then: “A leader is supposed to lead, is he not? This leading means, first, designing a comprehensive engagement strategy. It means thinking through the appropriate policies for dealing with various problems. It also means finding and deploying the right type of human capital for implementation. The criteria here must include competence and sensitivity to the existing, and subsisting, socio-politicalrealities; two paradigms on which Buhari performed disastrously and delivered miserably. “

If things are not going as well as we all expected, that is partly the results of a subsisting national problem of a deeper nature; beyond the actions and inactions of specific governments. The nation has been a complete riot of political gymnastics for some time now; having acquired a political reputation that is peculiarly its own since the return of democracy in 1999. Party lines exist in name only, while political loyalty is mostly contrived. Political godfathers are still all over the place. 

The opposition politicians, threadbare as their template for effective opposition is in real terms today, are still too self delusional to accept that they are probably bungling much more than those they are complaining about. Everyone believes he is right, at least as far as he/she is concerned, in all matters concerning what is good for the Nigerian state today. 

It is all so very reminiscent of the crisis among the early Christians of the Church of Antioch, mentioned in the Bible. It was like a congregation, or fraternity, that was cheerfully affiliated to Bedlam. Nearly everyone had his own prophesies and visions. The Doctrine of Grace suffered diverse interpretations. Greek and Jewish converts, as well as those who came from Jerusalem to sort things out, nearly became the greatest enemies of the new faith. 

Their behaviour was peculiarly their own. Their diverse views filled many otherwise interested and intelligent observers with misgivings. Thus, “Church of Antioch” became a metaphor for confusion, doctrinal inexactitude, apostacy heresy and arbitrary self-inflation. That seems to be the texture, and tenor, of our national politics today.

The damage done by Buhari to the APC, to national cohesion, to service delivery, to leadership sensitivity, to equity, to natural justice, to genuine democracy in a plural society, to the very idea of leadership and to the long-term interests of the north is incalculable. Everything that spoke to a better, and greater, humanity, suffered shipwreck under Buhari.  Nigerians lived for eight years with a president who did nothing, knew nothing and who was bothered about nothing. 

It took Tinubu’s predecessor six months to appoint ministers. It took him practically one year to dissolve the Governing Boards of MDAs, and more years to reconstitute them. He retained most government functionaries for eight years, thereby forcing many carrier officers to either stagnate or retire without deserved promotions and fulfilment. 

Has Tinubu set out new paradigms for leadership and statecraft? Is there a framework which, whatever it may be and in whatever way it is conceptualized, runs on the path that will eventually lead to lasting economic recovery, equity and holistic national cohesion? Is the government making the right type of investments that would lead to national development, instead of merely recording expenditure on all manner of projects; with neither positive impact nor tangible benefit? It is beyond hitting the ground running, or rolling out several decisions in a hurry. It has more to do with sustainability. The Tinubu government has much to make good, and for several reasons; as we trudge on; bruises and all. 

Concerning the Banex Plaza Imbroiglio

It has been in the news for about a week now. The drama started with some controversy over a telephone handset that was returned to the original seller by a buyer after some weeks of us MIage. The customer’s desire to take a new phone, instead of allowing the seller to resolve the identified battery problem, led to some disagreements. The fact of two soldiers getting involved in the matter, and the invitation of the plaza police to quell budding hostilities between the parties, was the next stage of the eventually unpleasant drama. 

Then came further escalation of the disagreement, following consequential verbal hostilities, and the subsequent attack on the soldiers by some people around the plaza. 

The plaza has been shut dy, following the incident, with the Director, Army Public Relations, Maj-Gen Onyema Nwachukwu, calling on the traders and managers of the plaza to identify and bring out those who attacked the soldiers. 

A trending video in the media on the beating of two soldiers gives very bad optics. It looks like the National orientation Agency (NOA) has a job to do, in getting Nigerians to understand the near-sanctity of the military uniform.

All things considered, we have been told that the presence of the two soldiers in the plaza at the time, their involvement in a phone dispute and the circumstances under which they were laid hands upon would be thoroughly investigated and the plaza reopened for business. 

The lesson for the genuine traders at Banex plaza, and other malls all over the country, is the need to get rid of Ndi oso afiawho do not own any shops; but who hang around markets and malls, to mislead and harangue innocent people into paying more than they ought to for goods. They would pretend to be part owners of shops they see anyone walking into and then swoop in to announce inflated prices.

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