By Gbenga Olumekun
“Unless you are prepared to give up something valuable you will never be able to truly change at all, because you’ll be forever in the control of things you can’t give up.” – Andy Law
I really wanted to do a follow-up to one of my earlier write-ups which was to be titled “Armageddon revisited” but I just couldn’t avoid contributing my own to the din that is all over on the issue of change, in our nation. Interesting issues are cropping up by the day and for relevance I must add my own voice as the momentum gathers speed.
Anyone who is talking of change in Nigeria is only “copying” me because I have variously touted the need for change for too long not for any reason, but for the fact that when you go to other nations that are less endowed as ours, you will always feel a sense of incompleteness. This is particularly because others worldwide are doing for less what we spend our whole National GDP and all manners of efforts to pursue. Yet, the deliverables are minuscule, if not outrightly inconceivable and invisible.
I am not a clairvoyant neither do I have any crystal ball through which I can see the agenda needed for sustainable development but, like other appropriately minded persons, I had an inkling of where we should go in our quest for development. You don’t have to be a Joseph to know what dreams to dream about our beloved country neither do you need any ophthalmologic prescription to see what is absent. All you need is a sense of perception and an appreciation for what is good. This is why I get depressed every time I travel out of Nigeria and I see what others have done with their own natural endowments. It’s all the more depressing when you see that those nations do not even have any endowments, in form of natural and even human resources that are comparable to what we have. If I tell my readers that public bus stops in some nations are air-conditioned, it may take a lot of persuasion to believe, but it is true. If I say that one nation’s airport is bigger than the whole of Akure and its environment, some lesser minds may scream, EXAGGERATION! If I say that in some nations you need only a single ticket to travel by train, bus, tram and on the underground and nobody may accost you until nemesis catches up with you, many will shout “oje Marina!”
If we may come closer home, if I say policing in some nations has taken a different turn and people are more in tune with community policing, I’ll be “understood”. But these are basic truths to which any traveller to many of the small nations around us will testify. That is why it is advisable to traverse the nations to acquire experiences from other climes and seek to translate such into vehicles of development in our nation. It is unfortunate that the greatest travellers worldwide are Nigerians but this has not translated into positives for our nation. We spend weeks in Dubai and Seoul, enjoying all the perquisites that the vision of their leaders have created but when we arrive at Murtala Mohammed International Airport (MMA), it seems as if our brains become deconstructed to the extent that experiences do not count much, thereafter.
Examples abound on such basic issues as external conduct. A man will walk the streets of Doha and conform to all their laws but as soon as he lands in MMA, he jettisons all he has seen and coped with for weeks and reverts back to the bad old acts. It’s as simple as conduct on the steering wheel. The average Nigerian becomes explicitly law abiding as soon as the plane lands in Europe but by a process of deconstruction he looses every sense of dignity once he steps, not even on our soil but even in our atmosphere. You need to see that the Nigerian will be the first to switch on his phone when the announcer says “Welcome to Lagos, please remain seated and in the interest of safety, keep all mobile phones switched off until the aircraft comes to a stop”. It is then you will hear, “Emeka, I don land o. Tell Bobo Mukaila to come and pick me with the Range Rover Evoque. He should not bring the Jaguar Sport in the second garage because I am yet to install the Bang Olufsen entertainment system that Coscharis recommended last month, before I travelled on holidays”.
Trust Nigerians, we know how to pose but in so doing we expose our lack of sophistry. I would have expected us to imbibe cultures and traditions that promote development but development has a feature which drives it and it is none other that the much maligned word, “CHANGE”. For the past three years I have been applying to do a short course in Management of Change. It has been my perception that one of the issues that have been paramount in the development of any system is the ability to conceive, conceptualise, implement and perpetrate an attitude that can promote change.
My biggest problem is that we have not even imbibed the culture of mainstreaming generally established conduct let alone adopt the idea of forward-thinking. Unfortunately it is not profitable to insist on doing things that others have done when there are more grounds to conquer and more trails to blaze. I’ll take solace in Peter Drucker who said, “Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm.”
Our “Achilles Heel” is that several of our public figures have demonstrated that they are patently incapable of good governance but, like a mad man who values his collections of rubbish so much, we keep them in positions of relevance where they take decisions that affect our collective future. Our National Assembly is like a repository of failed administrators. Even former President Obasanjo was decidedly not effusive in his assessment of most of the characters that determine our direction.
In my avid search for an apt description of what we need, I was lucky to discover the saying of Rob Siltanen who in his brief said, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do”. This tells us what we should be looking for and it reminds me of the fact that deal makers and purveyors of progress may be slightly eccentric, unconventional and non-conformist in their approaches and ideas but they’ll liberate us from the drudgery of the past.
I don’t wish to be in President Buhari’s shoes. They will be oversized and basically discomfiting, particularly when the distance to our destination is still a long way off. He came aboard because all Nigerians had been fed up with the system, especially with the people who have been in charge. This is not about party politics but a national malaise. Everyone recognised there was need for change. So we all chorused and voted so. Why then are we afraid of change? Could it be that the pain and the uncertainties constitute a discouragement? But how about the rewards? Nobody can put it better than Niccolo Machiavelli who said, “There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.” On this premise I really wish our President success in the battles ahead. I am hopeful that he is aware that change is pervasive and everyone on the change platform must look deeply inwards, without exception.
THE UPCOMING AMERICAN ELECTION
I have always supported Democratic candidates in the US just like I have always voted Labour in my years in the United Kingdom. If I were an American voter, I still won’t change my political leanings for now. I have scoured the Republican field and apart from Ben Carson (maybe because my daughter was a fan of his) I have not been able to identify a candidate on whom I could waste my vote.
If I were the betting type, I sure will make a killing, no matter the odds because the coming election is a done deal. Mrs Clinton has already won except she gifts victory to another Democrat. If possible, I actually would have supported Obama to go for a third term. If not for his indiscretion on gay rights, I would gladly seek to violate the American constitution to ensure he wins. Regardless of his shortcomings, I still love him because of his elocution and the mastery of the art of communication, brilliance etc. He has transformed the American landscape and the hitherto loathing we had had for America worldwide has depreciated while the economy has rebounded. The Poor Folks are now being remembered although some die-hard capitalists are already complaining that America is never a Socialist country and that this black man has done so much “damage” to “Uncle Samism”. For me, the fact that he is a black American (after-all he is more white than black) doesn’t even come in.
I see several clowns in the GOP line-up and I am pleased. If not for some late glitches, several opinion polls have touted Donald Trump as the best candidate. This shows how far they have been decimated by “Obamalitics”. They are far removed and ostracised in their cosy Republican enclaves that they forget what the average American wants. He wants his job intact within America, his taxes reduced, his health taken care of and a Social Security system that is sympathetic to poor folks. Fox Television and their capitalist proprietors don’t see any better but do I blame them? They are the establishment.
I am miffed by the fact that the Republicans do not have quality candidates which would have ensured an interesting contest. I particularly find it difficult to understand one of them, Donald Trump, let alone find sufficient reason to like him. I really believe that his policies are rather calculated to create ill will or resentment or give offense and my dictionary has a simple word for an act like this: invidious.
In all my attempts to understand political minds, I have never come across a man so nauseatingly critical of what men and women of goodwill will term decent conduct. It beats me how the American Republican system can have such a character as a front runner in any serious contest. Maybe he still sees America as one of those contraptions he concocts when he needs amusement in one of his casinos. American image has been straightened by Mr Obama but it’ll only take a man of astigmatism just a few proclamations to do permanent damage to the American society and international image. I don’t want to think that such a figure will be charged with the responsibility of securing the American Nuclear Code.
I trust American voters though, they are far too sophisticated to hand over their leadership to men and women who revel in creating amusement rather than govern. The whole world must be watching as some leaders may drink sour grapes only for all our teeth to be set on edge.