At fifty-one, Nigeria is definitely is old; old enough to deal with some hard facts of life regardless of how unpleasant or mind numbing these might be. If Nigeria were human and a woman, at this age her prospects of finding love and conceiving children will belong to realm of tales and miracles. If Nigeria was a man, at this age, his prospects of achieving his boyhood dreams of playing for the national team will be based on a misconceptions of what happens in the Eagles camp.
Even though most Nigerians are not fifty-one, every Nigerian citizen has the duty to reason like a mature adult that has seen life in its fullest and must be ready and able to deal with civic realities devoid of myths and unrealistic hopes.
In the last few days, a lot has been said and written about the challenges facing the country and how people’s expectations have not been met. In the face of all the well documented painful and irritating challenges the people of Nigeria are facing I am however bewildered by how even some fine minds continue to perceive and judge our governments and those in power. There is an accepted tendency to blame those leading the country for all the woes of the country and a general expectation for them to do better. Just like their counterparts across the globe, Nigerians expect their public leaders to be patriotic, committed and accountable to their people. You might be tempted to say yes, of course, but any assessment based on real analysis or built on of functions of real variables as mathematicians love to say, will quickly reveal that a lot is missing in such assumptions.
When Nigerians lament that their public leaders are not building and managing good roads and schools or hospitals and efficient power stations or cannot secure their lives and properties like other leaders do elsewhere in the world we tend to forget to ask why. We tend to forget that those leaders elsewhere in the world were shaped and are powered as leaders by their people. In those democratic countries where leaders work tirelessly to tackle unemployment and genuinely worry about economic growth, infrastructures and security, they do so not because they are particularly noble or generous, rather they do so simply because they know that the unemployed and users are of bad roads are those that fund their campaigns and vote for them hence their real masters and makers. They do so because they know that if they don’t please their citizens there will be rebellion. They don’t loot their country’s wealth because they live in fear of an irreverent press ready to disgrace them and an independent judicial body eager to jail them.
Under the military, our public holders used their guns to get into power. In this democratic Nigeria, they self fund their way to power, many of them get there without or even against the consent of their people. Once in power, everyone treats them with undue reverence. It is not rocket science to understand that if those that get to be in charge of everybody’s wallet and the right to use force do not owe allegiance to anybody but themselves and maybe the very few that got them into power then the rest of us should expect very little from them.
At fifty-one, Nigerians should all be able to deal with the fact that we cannot reap where we did not sow. By now, we should be mature enough to understand that given how much each private Nigerian has invested in the Nigerian project those that are milking the system to the detriment of others have actually invested more time, money and energy into the Nigerian project and that they owe it to themselves to deliver profits to themselves and their few backers.
At fifty-one, we should be able to deal with the fact that in a system wherein people don’t write letters of complaint, petitions or demand that public holders do their duty rather the poor take money from politicians and the rich stay at home to complain it is out of their generosity and nobleness that Nigerian public leaders even bother to anything at all for the country. Think about it, if they don’t what will happen?
Unlike other leaders in the world who live in fear of their people and constraints of the law, Nigerian leaders are free to do what they like so for the very few good they do Nigerian leaders are the best in the world.
Dr. Anthony Kila is professor of Strategy and Development. Heis currently Director of studies at ECAPS Cambridge; the European Centre of Advance and Professional Studies.