We are again in that season where all sorts of salacious diagnoses are made to chart a way out of our national disease of underdevelopment. The impression is often given that what Nigeria needs is a superman, superimposed from above like a Deus-ex-machina device to wave the magic wand and transform the country into a land of plenty. .
I don’t think we need a superman/woman. What we need is an ordinary Nigerian statesman with extraordinary pan-Nigerian vision. Once we get this kind of person elected, the way government business is run will change for good. Even the way we perceive each other will change when we see that our common Nigerian identity is what defines our relationships, not tribe, religion or old school ties.
I heard on social media that newspaper analysts are naïve dreamers. But what would the world be without dreamers? If it is true that some dreams turn into nightmares, shall we say that we will no longer sleep for fear of having nightmares? In the same vein, under the pretext that society is too bad for the contemplation of “naive” analysts who have no blood on their hands, will we abandon the field to people without dreams, without vision, without ideals?
I have a video clip of a “dreamer” who predicted 45 years ago that in the near future a phone and a diary would be combined into a device small enough to fit in his jacket pocket. Many people laughed. Some joked that it was all just a sci-fi stunt. Today mobile phone is not only a telephone but also a diary, diary, mailbox, television, telegram, camera, alarm system, stopwatch, calculator, library, dictionary, personal assistant, etc. The possibilities open to the holder of a mobile phone with the required applications are so wide that the question can be asked, what is a phone NOT?
We cause incalculable damage to ourselves when we make the art of government seem alien to our shores. For God’s sake, some of our kingdoms exchanged ambassadors with European countries centuries before insatiable greed turned the white man into a human trafficker. We had the equivalent of statesmen in our various realms and communities who embodied the Ubuntu philosophy, “I am because you are” – an affirmation of our unity and common humanity.
If you only pay attention to the agitators who have been making the rounds in the media and polluting the air with political discourse lately, you would think that we are a land of perpetually antagonistic tribes caught between the Middle Ages and modernity. You would think that we were unable to rise above our primordial feelings to group our collective interests and strive to pursue them.
If you look at the kind of system that the military has left us, where you require a college degree to get into a company at the lowest rank but you may not even have a high school diploma to become president or governor, one would wonder what the drafters of these requirements smoked. But take a trip to this beautiful underperforming country and you’d be amazed at the number of politically savvy figures you’ll meet.
It is time for true statesmen to stand up and be counted. Nigeria is now demanding that some of its most gifted children take over. We cannot continue this retrograde saga of movement without movement. There is enough blame for everyone if we want to engage in the blame game. The idea of a rotation of power between the North and the South is splendid because it will help national cohesion. However, we have reached a stage where we must insist that the door be closed to anyone who wants to vilify the presidency for the benefit of their tribe and their cronies.
A statesman is defined as “an important and experienced politician, especially one who is widely known and respected”. He is so trusted that he can be a catalyst for monumental change in his country. He can, if so endowed, build a nation on the platform of his character.
The next president must be truly pan-Nigerian. If we have a president who wants to avenge what he perceives as his predecessor’s narrow-mindedness, what moral height would he stand on? If a president can’t rise above narrow micro-nationalism to pursue a truly national agenda, what makes him better than the bigoted owner of public service television advertising who would never praise his house to “people from Akamata”?
We need a president who views the whole of Nigeria as his main constituency, the same way Nelson Mandela, against all odds, fashioned a rainbow country out of an unjust apartheid system . The kind of political savvy Mandela displayed in using rugby, the game identified with the oppressive white minority regime, as a tool to bind disparate peoples together is the stuff of which legends are made.
Mandela had bigger goals in mind when he decided to use rugby to make his point. Many black people were shocked that he could patronize the game of oppressors. But Mandela had risen above petty bitterness and decided to use his presidency to unite the country rather than avenge the wrong done to black South Africans by the apartheid regime.
“We have adopted these young men as our boys, as our own children, as our own stars,” he told the nation during a visit to Springbok training camp shortly before the start of the Cup. of the rugby world. “The country is entirely behind them. I have never been more proud of our boys than I am now and I hope that pride we all share.
In the final match between South Africa and New Zealand, Mandela wore what a black critic might have called the hated green jersey of the ‘Springboks’. The effect: “All of South Africa burst into celebration, the blacks as jubilant as the whites,” wrote Martin Meredith in his biography, Mandela. “Never before have black people had to show such pride in the efforts of their white compatriots. It was a moment of national fusion that Mandela had done much to inspire. No wonder team captain Pienaar would later say “When the final whistle sounded, this country changed forever.”
Imagine a Nigerian President who really wants to bring the Nigerian people together through sports. The lowest fruit is football. But have we already exploited it correctly? Aside from opportunistic calls and promises when our young people are about to achieve something beyond our imagination, have we ever devised a systematic set of steps to use sport to unify the nation like Mandela the done with rugby? Nigerians come together of their own volition when the Super Eagles play. If a state president can make them feel that way about him, his job is done.
There is nothing remarkable about the horde of saber-wielding tribalists hiding under the cloak of region and religion to negotiate a place in the sun for themselves and their families after 2023. check out many of these self-proclaimed regional loudmouths; they are appointed professionals. They must be sure of the next meal after the current administration. Their noise is just an old trick.
This is the more reason we need statesmen to stand up to be counted now. When nations are in crisis, statesmen come together to chart the way selflessly. It doesn’t take too much engineering to unite Nigeria. However, only statesmen can rise to the challenge, not professional politicians who specialize in lobbying or blackmailing for juicy appointments.
We are on the move again. This time we all need to be involved, top and bottom. However, this time around, we insist that real statesmen take center stage and run the show. I prefer statesman consensus to elite consensus, even though the two terms seem to coincide. If I can describe the kind of leader we need in prosaic terms, we need a man who believes in living for others.
Such a man will be a hero here and in the hereafter. As the inspiring lines of Pope Francis attest: “Rivers do not drink their own water; trees do not eat their own fruit; the sun does not shine on itself and the flowers do not spread their fragrance for themselves. Living for others is a rule of nature. We were all born to help each other”.
So I ask: will the true statesmen stand up, please!