It is high time we got everyone involved. Using Buhari’s reputation is not enough. It is not everyone that would agree with him or his style. It is time we used institutions to get things done.
When you have been out of the country for some time and all you know about your native land are based on newspaper and other media reports, you almost feel like the proverbial fish out of water whenever you visit: You almost don’t fit in. There is the weather angle that one has to contend with (which no one has control over) and there are some other habits of which you were a part before your sojourn but which now feel awkward and out of place to be a participant in. Some are actually hilarious (or sickening) like the bold writing on the wall that could be mistaken for graffiti (or maybe that is what it is) pleading that people should “stop urinating here.” The seemingly lawless driving habits which Lagos and other drivers in the major cities do not see as a big deal, as might always seems to be right with some insult to boot! Two-lane roads within minutes just metamorphosed into five to six lanes with everyone being in a hurry to go first. A trip that should be faster and smoother if everyone keeps to the two lanes. Real unproductive use of time getting stuck in almost the same spot for hours for no reason. Fast forward to the night time with no electricity for the most part and everyone putting on the generator. Or could not put on the generator because there was no fuel and thus, you are forced to sleep in the dark and holding tight by the bedside, the flash lights.
The change mantra on the political front was not visible in people’s conduct as it seems like everyone is waiting on President Buhari to “decree” the change! I don’t know how Buhari, for example, would change the heart of the electronic retail trader who deliberately passes on and sells a counterfeit/fake product for genuine. Or let’s go back to the driver on the highway: how would Buhari be the one to enlighten everyone to obey the rules of driving. Or how would Buhari change the heart of the audio compact disc seller who bootlegs a copyrighted material and passes it on sale as an original.
The scary and mostly armed uniformed personnel of various shades with no agency designation nor name tags checking for “particulars” at hidden locations of vehicles would also probably need Buhari’s whip to fall in line.
A broad debate that seems to be missing, which some people have been writing about but is yet to make it into a national discourse is the question of what we stand for as a nation. We have been hearing of American exceptionalism. We have heard of the German ‘machine’. What do we stand for? For what do we want to be renowned? How do we go about it? It would definitely take more than the presidential symbol to bring about all of the required changes.
I heard the tale of a young boy who went to meet an elderly man reputed for his wisdom and clenched in his palm was a bird that could be heard chirping. The boy reportedly asked the old man if he knew what he was holding. Without hesitation, the old man said it was a bird. The boy asked the old man if the bird was dead or alive. The old man, knowing full well that if he said the bird was alive, the boy could squeeze it and snuff life out of it and present a dead bird. And, of course, he could not say the bird was dead when he was hearing its high-pitched sound. The old man’s answer was that the life or death of the bird was in his (the boy’s) hands. Nigeria’s survival is in everyone’s hands. It is good enough to have people in authority to blame for everything but it would be a good place to start if each person plays his/her roles as expected.
Institution-wise, and flimsy as it may sound, we could use the National Orientation Agency (I once worked with the agency in the days of MAMSER), which is currently seen as another bureaucratic arm of the state, as a starting point. There is a need to stack the place with exposed and idealistic young men/women for re-direction in every front. Either one thing at a time or multiple things at a time. Nigerian history is replete with idealistic young men and women who made things happen. Anthony Enahoro was twenty one when he became an anti-colonial newspaper editor and in 1953 was only thirty and a member of parliament, when he first moved the motion for Nigeria’s independence. Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart was published in 1958 when he was only twenty eight years old. Awolowo, Sardauna and their contemporaries were barely forty years old when they were participating in constitutional conferences and becoming leaders of government businesses. It is high time we got everyone involved. Using Buhari’s reputation is not enough. It is not everyone that would agree with him or his style. It is time we used institutions to get things done.
Jide Omotinugbon (email@example.com) writes from Louisville, Kentucky, USA.