As if the hair-raising developments engendered by insecurity and corruption in many parts of the country are not enough, the past few days have witnessed another round of the theatre of the absurd unfolding without intermission in Nigeria. The pick of the pack is the recent shenanigans, which smack of political immaturity and lack of the spirit of sportsmanship, on the part of our elected leaders.
In his book, “The Trouble with Nigeria”, published some thirty years ago, the late master writer, Chinua Achebe, described the trouble with Nigeria as “simply and squarely a failure of leadership”. He added further that “there is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”
When the submission of Achebe is juxtaposed with the current spat, to put it mildly, among our Governors over the simple process of conducting an election, it would be fittingly appreciated that leadership has failed Nigeria as our politicians behave irrationally and it is little wonder that Nigeria is enmeshed in pathetic systemic failure at virtually all areas of development. They continue to prove Achebe right and his ideas ever-green. An electoral process involving as few as a maximum of 36 voters suddenly became a national crisis with respectable men exhibiting certain behaviour, including verbal diarrhea, unbefitting of their status.
The scenario is even worse than Students Union elections, which have gained notoriety for producing many Presidents at the same time, each backed by some power blocs, because in Students Union elections, we are dealing with hundreds and thousands of the electorate. In the case of the Nigerian Governors Forum, only 36 candidates are eligible to vote and be voted for but it has been demonstrated openly that those whose relevance is owed to democracy do not have the basic norms of democratic value system. The sing-song on many lips is from Geoffrey Chaucer in his “The Canterbury Tales”: “…if gold rust, what then will iron do?/ For if a priest be foul in whom we trust/ No wonder that a common man should rust…”
If Governors who are supposed to live by example say they almost fought (i.e. gone “physical”) because of a simple election as credited to Governor Olusegun Mimiko or submit that “God is a democrat, he does not support rigging but God approves those who rig and succeed” as credited to Governor Jonah Jang, who someone has uncharitably characterised as leading a “Jang-gang” (I think the rhyme is a bang if the person is far from the fang), the future is ominous. There is a pathetic failure in our polity.
Similarly, Prof. Is-haq Oloyede on this page once cited the complimentarity of politics and religion as espoused by the late sage, Obafemi Awolowo, but there is a systemic failure in that domain as well as was witnessed in Lagos last weekend in front of Ladipo spare parts market.
According to the report, a “man of God” had embarked on a preaching spree in a commercial bus from Apapa and was charging his audience with words like “if you wear trousers, you’ll go to hell! The Devil invented make up! Weave-on is from Marine Kingdom! If you have pre-marital sex you will burn in hell and your skin will peel!” The listeners were electrified.
However, as if the often harassed Devil wanted to have his revenge, as the “man raised his hand to cast the demons out of one girl…2 Durex condoms fell out of his Bible”, as reported at the beginning of the week. The immediate reaction was typically Lagosian as the passengers pounced on the preacher and almost lynched him, thanks for the timely arrival of the police. That was not an isolated case as similar instances inundate readers of Nigerian newspapers which all indicate that ours is a society that has lost its moorings with gold now rusting.
As the failure in the system cuts across the whole gamut of the society, the last example I will give was enacted last Monday in Ilorin by a trigger-happy police man who unjustifiably shot a student of Kwara State Polytechnic, Ahmed Dayo, in the leg, a development that led to the disruption of social and commercial activities by thousands of protesting students on Monday and Tuesday of this week.
Ironically, the incident happened while, through a conference organised by the Centre for Ilorin Studies, University of Ilorin, under the Directorship of Prof. Abdulganiy Oladosu, eminent personalities including the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Hon. Justice Alfa Belgore (rtd.), former Chairman of the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Hon. Justice Mustapha Akanbi (rtd.), a retired Professor of the University of Ibadan and Executive Secretary of the Muslim Ummah of Southwest Nigeria (MUSWEN), Prof. Daud Noibi and the Director of the Centre for African Studies, University of Ibadan, Prof. Isaac Albert, among other dignitaries including the management of the University and participants from all over the country, were discussing Ilorin, with its characteristic peace in spite of ethnic plurality, as a template for harmonious co-existence in Nigeria.
On account of that thoughtless shot, a reflection of the indiscipline on the part of the police, academic activities at the institution have been disrupted as the protesting students refused to cease fire and the school authorities had to shut the institution. The Police Public Relations Officer admitted that the police man had no reason to shoot when he shot, let alone the innocent student that was alighting from a taxi. Besides, the Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed, also had to change his plans when he wanted to inaugurate a road project and one of his advance cars got burnt by the protesting youths.
In all areas one looks at, as evident in the events of the past one week or so, there is pathetic systemic failure plaguing the nation. Unfortunately, those who should be laying good examples are busy playing dirty politics. Perhaps, in the reasoning of the protesting students, if our political leaders could throw caution to the wind and foul the pubic space just because of an election, why shouldn’t they disrupt the peace of the capital city of the State of Harmony when their colleague was shot at? That is the inspiration being given the youth in a situation where it remains incontestable that if our leaders lead by example, our society will be better off for it.