We Are Ready to Rule the World By Dele Momodu

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Pendulum By Dele Momodu

The raging debate everywhere at the moment is if indeed there are no capable youths to lead Nigeria out of the present doldrums. My take on it is simple. We have thousands of capable Nigerians all over the world. None of our sit-tight elders went to a special school to learn how to govern a country. In fact, I’m beginning to think that our problems started from putting half-baked illiterates in power. The tragedy of half-education is that the recipient often thinks he knows everything, when indeed he knows not that he knows not, to borrow Chinua Achebe’s words.  And the deaf would continue to recite the last songs he heard before his hearing became impaired. If we had an enlightened leadership, we won’t be where we are today. An exposed person would have been aware of the word called shame. There is nothing to indicate that most of the crop of leaders we have own a dictionary. If they do, that simple word is missing in their lexicon.

Only a people without shame would fail to see that our airports are just too disgraceful. The putrid smell that welcomed us to Nigeria yesterday morning on our arrival from Ghana was out of this world. As we filed out of the aircraft, we were welcomed to our good old Lagos by the most unfriendly rug crying for replacement. It was dirty and damp. The heat that descended on us was as hot as those emitted by the angry lava in Iceland. As if that was not bad enough, there was a pool of water along the corridor leading to another corridor that takes one to the immigration section. None of the airport or airline staff deemed it fit to do anything about it. There were standing air-conditioners blowing furiously away, and mercifully donated by a bank, but its power was too little to make any difference.

I saw disgust boldly written on the faces of some Nigerians and foreigners alike. I could imagine their state of mind. If you thought that was just it, you are dead wrong. Another joker awaited us. If you had not used a gym for a while, don’t worry a lot. A keep-fit therapy awaited you as you meandered through the queuing rope that was also sponsored by a big bank. What is so difficult about having a flexible system that is adjustable? The last one was the icing on the cake. After waiting for what seemed an eternity, a polite airline officer announced that we were going to retrieve our bags manually because the conveyor belts had refused to cough into action. Some Ghanaian guests attending Dr Mike Adenuga’s daughter’s wedding today exchanged coded looks with me. What could I say? That’s what our leaders have done to us. They smiled. But the message was clear.

Our leaders don’t think we deserve anything better. I have no doubts that most of these professional politicians will never change their ways. They are too set in their selfishness and see nothing wrong with our squalid existence. There is obviously no respite anywhere we turn. The motorways are death traps. Writing about power and energy crisis in Nigeria is to sound like a damaged compact disc.  Yet our leaders insist we must continue along the same path of destruction. They often forget that you can only get the same results when you repeat the same mistakes over and over again. I hosted some members of the National Association of Women Journalists at my Accra home two nights ago, and they asked why we moved our production to Ghana, and many other multinational companies are moving away in droves. I explained that our main reason was the intractable and accursed problems of electricity.

No one has been able to explain why we cannot have constant electricity or a well-organised rotation of power supply like PDP and their zoning systems. If we can rotate juicy appointments, we should be able to rotate our misery. The decision to move part of our operation was painful. Now we have to collate our stories and pictures in Lagos, send the materials to our production centre in Accra, send the planned pages to our printers in London, send the magazine to our freight companies for distribution in Europe, America and Africa, and tackle the tough battle of clearing goods at our airports, and so on. It is a tedious process that could have been avoided if our situation was much better at home. By the time you are through with all the merry-go-round, all the profit is gone. You have to be a compulsive gambler to remain in publishing. We have to device all manner of ingenious means to remain in publishing and our leaders have not helped matters in any way.

We’ve already wasted 50-long years in the wilderness of Nigerian politics. It is very obvious that nothing has changed, and nothing is likely to change unless you and I wake up from our narcoleptic state and take decisive steps.  The godfathers are not going to give up their status voluntarily. There are all kinds of landmines being laid along the path of Acting President Goodluck Jonathan who seems committed to putting a few things right in our polluted climes. The hawks are too determined to keep us in our grovelling state so that they can continue to pummel us. It is not true that there are no capable youths to lead Nigeria in this 21st century but our elders are too selfish to allow them to function. They’ll rather maintain their analogue tradition in a digital age. And they are not in a hurry to partake in the miracles happening all over the world. They are happy to wallow in our daily routine of sadness and joy.

There is no point wasting our sleep over those who have decided that they’ll take Nigeria along with them to heaven. Our duty is to continue to work for the restoration of our dignity and pride as a nation. I’m encouraged by the new age awareness made possible by technology. Those who wish to scorn the advancement of science in the world today are welcome. Those who believe Nigeria will remain in this stagnant cesspool forever are wishful thinkers.

The tidal wave of change will blow them away sooner than they can ever imagine. The youths of Nigeria have been sufficiently angered.  I’m constantly on the move and we meet ourselves regularly. The level of awareness has increased monumentally. We are also beginning to experience the dividends of education. The wings of education are spreading powerfully like the eagle all over the country. The internet, as slow as it is in most places, has made it possible to reach millions of people at the touch of a button. I receive hundreds of mails from the remotest parts of Nigeria daily. I have not been able to catch up with the mails in my box. The more I try, the harder it becomes. I have never seen the type of anger being expressed on the net in the last week since the youths of Nigeria were described as never-do-wells.

I have tried to console our friends that we have nothing to worry about because facts are too sacred. We have sufficient proofs that we are not a useless and irresponsible generation. I have met Nigerians on virtually all the continents and have incontrovertible evidence that we are a great people with a glorious heritage. In all professions and careers, we are highly rated and respected.  Our foreign hosts often ask how come we have so many brilliant Nigerians everywhere but are saddled with incompetent and reckless leaders. One American psychiatrist even recommended some books to me recently that she thought might help me unravel the mysterious afflictions of our leaders. For example, how do you explain the desperation of septuagenarians wanting to return to power decades after leaving power? What makes it impossible for them to sponsor one of the great gentlemen close to them?

I know that General Ibrahim Babangida for example has a lot of young and brilliant friends. I have told a few of them countless times that the former President would be well applauded if he helps us to find and support new and credible people into positions of power. That is what he should do. I’m personally embarrassed on his behalf for the barrage of attacks he’s receiving. I just can’t comprehend why he went out to re-open old wounds. I pleaded with our mutual friends long before the public declaration that they should not allow a “whole” Babangida to be demystified by walking naked in the market place. Some of us had forgiven Babangida but can never forget the terminal mistakes he made or allow him to come back to take us on a fruitless ride again. Many of us will thank him profusely if he can do us the favour of sparing us the agony of his latest phantasmagoria. Contrary to what many of his friends are telling him, I’m writing out of a genuine belief that he tried his best but his best was not able to lead us anywhere. I doff my hat to his doggedness as he continues to explore every opportunity to return to power like General Olusegun Matthew Aremu Okikiolakan. Let me reveal the formula that made it possible for Obasanjo to return to power. Obasanjo spent quality time in jail and came back like most returnees as a philosopher king. Nigerians, in their collective wisdom or stupidity, expected Obasanjo to have learnt useful lessons in prison. Is Babangida ready for that type of expensive sacrifice in the name of wanting to return to power? Of course, no condition is permanent.  

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