Truth, Reconciliation And Salvation –The Path From Despair

Pat Utomi

It feels so like deja vu; the gut hurts. All motion no movement. The country of great prospects pushing its people to the brink of despair.

Many who can pack and leave. The poor and more vulnerable bear a disproportionate share of hunger, and disease burden like cholera and malaria that could be avoided, while self centered people of power wallow in self deceit and send attack dogs after foreign media too far away to be infected with rabiess yet can worsen things by communicating that the place is unhealthy to do business. But wisdom is not central to pursuits when the target is the emotion of those at the base of support of power.

As we have seen before,  those who huff and puff end up in the dung heap of history more worthless in the esteem of peers than used toilet paper.

Have I seen this before. It appears that I have. A familiar road.

Pini Jason of blessed memory who found his columns from twenty years back seemed fresh and current,  named his book: A familiar Road

On this familiar road I have been called names but lived to see their Marxism or activism disrobed and uncloaked  as excuses for grabbing and misusing power for self aggrandizement often in thoughtless process that divides people, embitters many and takes away from society the cohesion enabling of the advance of the common good and significant human progress..

Yesterday’s. pro- democracy people have now joined the ranks, neither caring for democracy nor free speech. So the world continues to mock us.

This familiar road began from very early as I returned from graduate school in 1982.

At the time the fire was Marxist rhetoric. I challenged that we ought to focus on creating wealth, fighting injustice, especially those against the poor and vulnerable, governing well by assuring opportunity for all and a social safety net for the more vulnerable. They called me names. One Marxist so called thoroughly frustrated as I went toe to toe with logic against his rhetoric declared me a bourgeois  apologist.

Not long after,  one of the rank, Dr Iyorchia Ayu,  became Senate President in the Babangida transition.

We had become friends. So he asked that I unveil him before the corporate titans. I obliged with a huge reception at my home. Just before I stepped down to welcome him and the guests I quickly glanced at a journal piece I was reading titled Marxism: the apologetics of power. It was a book review by K R Minogue.

As the guests began to leave I teased the Senate President  about short cuts to power. In truth many of the more agigitated left wing radicals that entered public life showed little care for ‘the people’ and were readily co-opted and became among the most corrupt. Meanwhile the country of prospects hemorrhaged. Hope waned. But power does not notice because it appropriates a lion share of wealth not created but usurped from the gift of nature to all,.

In the seasons of uncertainty opportunities abroad beckoned. Medical professionals joined the exodus to Saudi Arabia as  those who came back to build a nation returned to  the land of their education.

I watched it play out in 1984 and in 1994 and now in 2024. 

We have walked a familiar road again. The mood and mode becomes recursive for the economy and depressing for the citizen. Shall we just throw up our arms and lament? Grit in pursuit of the different must be the patriot’s loin cloth. But what shall we do. How should we seek salvation?

Disputed power grabs often leave a country divided as Nigeria currently is. Deep freeze comes between friends  that despoils bonds thicker than bloodlines, and the legitimacy needed by public authorities to execute the common cause runs dry making governing far from optimal in effectiveness.

Those who are wise find truth in reconciling contentions, creating new shared values and inspiring new leadership more broadly appreciating of how to solve the problems confronting all, in ways considered just and fair..

Those who play raw power games and glorify realpolitik scorn talk of healing and renewal but their harvest has continued to be underperformance and Nigeria being the laughing stock of the world.

Those who thought differently have as their legacy the post- civil war reconstruction, rehabilitation and reconciliation and the scattered growth spurts of our national journey.

Five tracks of varied  experience provide the templates and philosophy of the path of healing.

They come from Bob Marley, politics elsewhere, the Bible, leadership admonitions from founders of the Sokoto caliphate and studies in the Neurosciece/Psychology nexus.

Bob Marley sings ‘woe to the downpressors. They eat the bread of sorrow.’ And that until the philosophy of injustice  that considers one group ‘inferior  and another superior’ or fit for hate is ‘completely eliminated and abandoned; everywhere is war’. Is everywhere in Nigeria not now war?  So Robert Nesta Marley returned to Jamaica and brought together Michael Manley and Edward Seaga who would serve as Prime Ministers of Jamaica and calmed marauding gangs. Who will still the storm of our bandits. It will be intervention  beyond government.

In Malaysia, Mahathir Mohammed  as Prime Minister would see clearly enough to adopt LBJs mantra that it is better for everyone to be inside the house pissing out than for some to be outside the house pissing in.

In the collection of Leadership thoughts of founders of the Soloto caliphate edited by Hammid Boboyi Sultan Bello repeatedly urges the things we are failing to do and yet hoping for growth and development.

Again, In 1956, a Spanish Catholic Priest in Rome, synthesizing scripture,  urged the foundation of reconciliation as how to build to last and a heart of love as pillars of social infrastructure, what John Paul II would call a civilization of love.

Even easier to consider are advances in Neuroscience since Daniel Goleman  brought Emotional Intelligence (EI or EQ) to everyday conversation.

Social and cultural Intelligence have become imperatives of leadership effectiveness .

Why is their supply so low to the powerful in Nigeria, causing their watch to deliver so much misery. The same leaders who use emotion to mobilize support over reason and rational public conversation,  the meeting of democracy and modernity, cannot turn to the same emotions that created the chasm between us and them to heal and elevate human solidarity. I guess this is a new problem for centers of moral cognition.

The bottom line is that it is the weak who assume they are strong  and are digging in with typical fascist methods. What the truly strong should be doing now in Nigeria is to stop pretending that things are good  or can be managed.

Not to act with courage now may leave anarchy as our heritage.

The cost of doing nothing is too high to play the Nigerian game with

*Pat Utomi is a Political Economist and Founder of the Centre for Values in Leadership

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