It seems the zero hour that Nigeria hoped against is finally here. In my unpublished material for this space last week, I had called on the authorities to do everything within and without their powers to stop what was then only a little fire. Unfortunately, things had since gone out of hand. The ensuing anarchy, which has midwifed the looting, destruction or torching of public, private and business places, speaks to a lurking escalation.
Rather than the panicky, transactional governmental reaction here and there, which the citizenry have dismissed as a typical Nigerian political trademark, the times demand verifiable honesty, tact, fairness, empathy and courage both ways. Government at all levels and the people must understand that the current nationwide migraine cannot be wished away by name-calling and finger-pointing. Nigerians are not only angry with government across all strata, Nigerians are also angry with Nigerians. And, incredibly, every tier of our government is also angry with the people.
Look at the monumental disdain, the yawning disconnect, the annoying arrogance displayed by most of our leaders, some of whom took what looked like forever before managing to concoct a public reaction to the ubiquitous protest. Most of these men and women of power think they do the people a favour holding political office. Someone should, please, wake them up. We are in 2020, the year that marks the beginning of the end of citizen apathy in Nigeria!
The beyond-every-reasonable-doubt proof of this dual bitterness (that is, against the establishment and selves) is embedded in what is happening to government and private buildings and business premises. Internecine and silly as that might be, it speaks to my number one lesson from this whole chaos: no one is immune; no one is safe. This lesson is the reason everyone inside and outside government must arise and join the search for solutions! By the way, it is important not to mistake this as sorely a battle against government by the people. It is not. This is a battle against all of us by all of us. This is the mindset that can engender quick resolution and progress.
Lesson number two: never be carried away by your crowd or any cacophonous standing ovation. Most of those cheering you on are not with you, physically and spiritually. While some don’t like you deep down, others don’t understand you. Far too many are with you because it is convenient and suitable and profitable, or there exists no other option. The day that convenience, suitability, profitability or choicelessness expires, you are on your own. Therefore, beware: become intentionally circumspect and conscionable. Learn from our former holders of juicy political offices: their very aides who sucked most of the juice all those years of plenty turned against them the very month free harvest stopped. Learn also from incumbents: the moment they took office, they became and have remained strangely and poisonously different.
Learn from serving lieutenants, as well. No, don’t imbibe the lousy traits they evince. Instead, understand their ways so that in your time none of your subordinates can con or undermine you. Most power holders are messed up by own team; but who hired the team?
Furthermore, EndSARS protest 2020 has taught me as a Nigerian never to die for anything or anyone; not even for myself. Dear Nigerian, don’t die or swear for the country, the people, or government or you shall have died or sworn in vain. Whimpering patriots may wish to mention one martyr past or present whose death we didn’t politicise. And, while at that, protest all you can but stay alive because in Nigeria every essence is lost in death.
Ours is an odder than odd world. The people for whom you die, swear or fight are in bed -or shall at some point be- with that same enemy. Most helpers, activists, supporters would commit suicide if we knew our courage or sacrifice in defending or supporting someone was being regarded as foolery by such a one and the few others who know what we don’t. Goodness is a prey!
A similar lesson gleaned from the goings-on is that the giver should not always be generous just as the taker should not always be greedy. Don’t be deceived, generosity can hurt you: an innocent gift might be consciously misconstrued and maliciously used against you. Henceforth, whenever in doubt, allow such risky needers to ask first. And, all takers please gather here: always look left, then right and left again before crossing the highway of your conscience to collect even the most discreet godly gift!
Plus: take nothing for granted even when you are in full custody of all the aces. Tables can turn: they almost always do. One plus one is two: agreed but, sometimes, it can also be one or eleven. Bestie today can be worstie tomorrow and vice versa.
So, be on the safer side every time. Live peaceably with all men. Be fair to all concerned. Don’t judge too hastily nor too harshly.
Also, be careful of every fire, no matter whether it was started by you or by your powerful friend or by an insignificant enemy. Fire is fire: fears nobody, respects nothing, consumes wantonly. The little flame sparked by kindling can grow into an inferno if ignored or wrongly managed. This special nugget is for those who play God or who think they are too rich, too powerful, too connected to care.
The poor have nothing to lose. The fear of falling is for the person up, not who’s down. Most of our young people are hopeless, they have been so for too long. They are now desperate that time is running out, it is true.
Desperation may not be a cogent excuse for the frightening scenes recorded all over the country, but this ought to be a wake-up call because of what might follow. Our leaders need not toy with what we gave them for safekeeping. Leadership being akin to the parable of the talents in the Bible, the leader, when tenure ends, hands over a jurisdiction that must necessarily be much better than inherited. There’s an evergreen reward for that, the same way there’s a permanent curse for handing over a charred version. Since space is screaming for me to round off, I need to hasten to the to-do list. Nigeria needs to reset its value system. Nigerians can do with less hypocritical sanctimony (emphasis mine). Let’s eradicate systemic lies, which look to choke the country to death.
Government cannot spread injustice and hardship but expect the populace to stay silent forever. Up close and personal, the people cannot also play the shameful role in the leadership recruitment and performance processes but expect magic from our mediocre choices. How much genuine support do citizens offer leaders in this country? We squander all the time and energy on demonising, insulting, duping, distracting or fawning them.
The current set of public office holders may not have delivered enough dividends to lift us out of poverty but blaming five, six years for decades is tantamount to playing to the gallery. I have no grouse about holding leaders accountable or forcing them to perform better and faster but to -in the process- destroy the few signposts of progress made is a no-no. It’s okay to end things that mess us up but not to mess with stuff that can end us. We shouldn’t inject religion, ethnicity, politics, hate, criminality let alone what I call over-ambition into genuine efforts of change.
Finally, every government must immediately carry out town hall meetings with the emerging tigers of the population and agreements diligently enforced. Our problem is not one particular person or group or security agents. Let government be open, fair and firm. Let the masses know we need love and time and diligence and unity and prayers to redirect our country.
God bless Nigeria!