By Tolu Ogunlesi
Much of Nigeria’s private sector success has taken place in spite of the government. Her success stories, e.g. Nollywood and our music industry, have written themselves without government support. This has created a “Yes We Can!” mentality that believes that, with or without government support, we (young Nigerians) can achieve anything we want.
But the truth is that government matters far more than we think. The global meltdown has further highlighted the importance of the government – bailouts come from the state; the policies and laws that drive nations, or grind them into dust – are created by the state. Big business is good, billion-dollar-earning banks and corporations are good, but government will always remain in the driver’s seat.
So, because government matters, we cannot continue to abandon it, at any level whatsoever (local, state, federal governments), to our second ‘eleven’. For every one visionary (young) person seeking to conquer the entertainment industry, we must have one or two with an eye on the political space, seeking to take politics and governance out of the mediocrity and mindlessness to which they have been consigned.
Wanted: Heroes (Angels need not apply)
The land has for long been cursed with a rapacious breed of caretakers; persons who gather in the ‘kitchen’, serve themselves and their descendants to the third and fourth generation, then pack the kitchen up and disappear, as if the kitchen existed for them, and not the millions of people gathered under the banner of Nigeria.
Listen to Nigerians and you’ll understand they are not demanding leaders who will not ‘eat’(in fact it appears that Nigerians don’t mind having leaders who ‘eat’) – all they’re saying is ‘Eat Responsibly’, and ensure that the bulk of the ‘food’ gets to the people to whom it belongs in the first place.
Yet, despite fact that our politicians & so-called statesmen have set the bar so low that you need only minimal effort to become a hero – the supply of Nigerian heroes remains frustratingly low.
Questions are as important as answers:
A lot of my writing is an attempt to make sense of this country called Nigeria. This quest often manifests itself as a relentless questioning. I think the duty of a columnist is less to answer questions than to articulate them, on behalf of a larger public. My questions are as abundant as Nigeria’s gas reserves: Why do all our politicians (sooner or later) act the same way – irrespective of their level of education? How did a James Ibori rise to rule one of Nigeria’s richest state for two terms, become presidential kingmaker, become Nuhu Ribadu’s nemesis, and get a High Court created in Asaba specially for him?
How did a seemingly urbane Gbenga Daniel manage to turn Ogun State into a stronghold of fear and intimidation? Why are Nigerians so materialistic (and I have no apologies for this generalisation), creating a land where you are judged solely by the size of your pockets.
Why does political power turn the most intelligent, rational, radical Nigerians into bullshit-spouting zombies. How come no one seems to realise that Nigeria will continue going in circles until the power situation improves noticeably, or that the definition is Insanity is this: attempting to transform Lagos in the absence of a mass transportation system that can efficiently move thousands of people in multiple directions at high speed.
The supremacy of common-sense:
While former President Yar’Adua was away in Saudi Arabia, common sense demanded clear-cut evidence of his ability to lead the country. The question buried amidst the frenzy was the simplest of all: ‘If our President is getting better, why can’t we see him?’ But in the face of the fervent scheming of the cabal, a questionable BBC interview, the summoned clerics, and planted stories of a jogging President, the small, still voice of logic was forced to take a retreat.
Therein is a lesson that we indeed wisdom is often to be found bound up in the simplest premises. What does this mean? The next time the government issues another bunch of enthusiastic statistics, about skyrocketing GDP and plummeting inflation rates and all that ‘macro-economic’ bla-bla, the question to ask is the simplest and most logical of all: “So why is there still so much poverty in the land?”
Talk is cheap:
Talk is cheap (though you’d have to ignore the pricing packages of Nigeria’s telecom companies to agree with me on that). Columns are useless if they don’t inspire change in some way. In a little over a week this column will be two years old (it started as a blog months before it came into print). Unless they’ve brought illumination in some way, or moved someone to action, those two years of ‘talking’ – satire, history lesson, rant, soliloquy, questioning – are not worth two days of real action.