Sailing onwards, failing forward

After the 2023 elections and the shocks they generated, there are two major categories of Nigerians: those who are happy or satisfied with the outcomes and those who are sad or bitter about the results. There is also the category of those who sit on the fence or are indifferent based on their conviction that Nigerian politicians are all the same. They may be entitled to their opinions but they are not relevant to this essay.

For those who are successful or satisfied, the important step for them now is to sail onwards with determination to take Nigeria to the shore of all-round development in education, economy, health, security and necessary infrastructure. The journey ahead is still long and there are strong winds and icebergs on the way, given the problems already on ground. But there must be a strong resolve to sail onwards despite the challenges because Nigeria cannot afford to be static while other countries are racing to the future.   

The winners should be magnanimous in victory and appreciate that elections are over. What remains is the arduous task of nation-building and transforming the lives of the people with policies, projects and programmes. Politics should give way to governance and all leaders should keep their eyes on the ball as four years is just about to come when Nigerians will still cast their votes to retain or remove them from their offices based on their performance.

However, for those who are aggrieved about the outcomes of the elections, one way or another, they should appreciate that in any competition, there would be winners and losers despite the opportunity for redress. Rather than resort to violence and gimmicks to discredit the entire outcomes, they should learn to fail forward. There is always a future to look forward to after every election because no failure is final. In other words, they should learn from their mistakes and build on their strengths to guarantee a brighter electoral future.

In his 2000 book, “Failing Forward: Turning Mistakes into Stepping Stones for Success”, (2000) author John Maxwell used the example of Singapore, which he considered “the most modern country in the world”, to illustrate how to snatch success from the jaw of failure. He recounted how Singapore was fraught with so many problems at independence in 1959 to the extent that Singaporeans decided to attach themselves to Malaysia, which they did in 1963.

However, Malaysia considered Singapore a liability and just after two years, she severed the relationship. Realising that they were on their own, Singaporeans summoned the courage to address what was wrong and focused on themselves, rather than blame Malaysians. Leadership is important and there was Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, the man with the right skills set for the job of guiding the nation.

According to Maxwell, Singapore brought in industry, created public housing, sent people to school, set up a banking system, encouraged international travel and before long, things started to fall in place as the country represents “what it means to fail forward” (Maxwell, 2000 p.188). As to fail is to actually make a first/false attempt at learning, with the need to make a second or true attempt foregrounded, as the case may be, the author indicates that FORWARD means: finalise your goal, order your plans, risk failing by taking action, welcome mistakes, advance based on your character, re-evaluate your progress continually and develop new strategies to succeed.

We have to move in that light FORWARD now that the elections are over. It must have been clear that exploiting region, religion and ethnicity in a plural country is not the best approach and that what is needed is to build bridges and consensus across board. Another takeaway is that there is a limit to believe the antics of those who claim to receive revelation from God as a way of validating their sentiments or those who think dominating the almighty social media is the only sure ticket to victory.

Finally, Nigerians should identify and contain those who shook the jar and polarised the people. Mark Twain once said that if you collect 100 black ants and 100 fire ants and put them in a jar, nothing will happen. But if you take the jar, shake it violently and leave it on a table, the ants will start killing each other. Red believes black is the enemy while black believes red is the enemy when the real enemy is the person who shook the jar.

He added that the same scenario is true of the society, men versus women, black versus white, young versus old, etc. Before we fight each other, we must ask ourselves: who shook the jar?