Friday, penultimate week, all through to Tuesday last week have been exciting days for me. One would think that with the lockdown and its attendant inconveniences, a few coins may have dropped on my path, accounting for some kind of joy. No, it was really not about that but something much more. In life there are things worth more than gold, and knowledge is one. I love intellectual outpourings, it is the precursor to sound and sustainable development, and trust me, it came tumbling from Arise Television in the series of engaging live interviews the station had with those I would pass as the authentic eminent citizens of our country.
Professor George Obiozor and Peter Enahoro were among the stars that paraded during the period. Believe me, I saw knowledge, wisdom and fire of nationalism brimming from their nostrils even in what many of us would term their relative advanced ages. I was not only inspired further, the expositions left me wondering what my generation was doing about the massive developmental challenges facing us as a people, a country and as a race.
Truly, I was ashamed of my generation, I admitted we are yet to live up to our responsibility, before we can talk of meeting expectations. If these men I listened to are still fighting even after they ought to be in retirement, then what are the young ones doing? What mission(s) have they identified and how are they responding to it or to them.
It has been said that all it takes for evil men to thrive and bring society to ruin is for good men to stay in an attitude of conspiratorial passivity, do nothing but just watch. This is a common phenomenon and we all acknowledge this, but what has not received explanation is the cause of the effect we know and commonly acknowledge. Why would capable men be around and not see reason to struggle to empty themselves before they transit to greater glory? Big question! In it lies some answers to our nation-building efforts.
I believe the answer is not in our fate as many erroneously think and neither is it hanging somewhere in the sky. It is right here with us in the system. Colin Powell, retired American Army general tickled my fancy recently when talking about modern America. He said: “We have come to live in a society based on insults, on lies and on things that just aren’t true. It creates an environment where deranged people feel like they are empowered.” General Powell would have made far more greater sense if he had our country in mind while he released those verbal bullets. It fits much more appropriately.
In our case persons of less tutorship have seized the space and in the manner of buccaneers, they capture the land and share the spoils; it is all about themselves and their cronies, any other person is a prey to be hunted down or scared far away. They have rendered the atmosphere hostile to gentlemen and sane minds, fouled the soil with so much sulphur, so massive that good plants can’t grow here. This is the main reason quality men run very far from public service, preferring to stay in safe distances and feel contented just mouthing that “politics is a dirty game.” Is it?
Back to the issue at hand. I know Obiozor closely, he was a friend to my cousin, Dr Stanley Macebuh, with whom I lived in Lagos. Each time they met it was a feast of intellectual harvest. I enjoyed those sessions so much; what is more, the subject was always around the trouble with Nigeria, our country. In the latest outing, Obiozor spoke on COVID-19: “ I will not talk on the medical side, am not a doctor, but I can talk on the politics. The pandemic has political and economic sides to it and the first thing to look out for is which country has become more prominent from it and which has benefited the most from the fallout? If you understand this, it shapes your reaction and policies. China’s economy is growing at a time everyone’s else is going down.
“China has been coming up strong economically in recent years. One of its initial strategies towards Africa was that of friendship and cooperation. So China was willing to give scholarships to Africans to study in their country. They built projects in different parts of Africa and gave generous loans. Then they wanted us, it is no longer the same. They are up and have no need for Africa. So they can afford to behave anyhow. They have done some terrible things to Africans and what is required of us is creative leadership and political will to tell them the truth. They are giving loans, but our leaders should know there are no free lunches anywhere. It is now purely business. China is in it because of her economic and political interest. We should be careful.”
Let me talk a little on this point before the last issue he raised. In the midst of the threat of COVID-19, Chinese authorities in some parts of the country branded blacks as carriers of the dreaded virus and uncharitably went after them both on the streets and in their residences. They were maltreated and to the surprise of the watching world not a one African leader raised his voice to protest. Was it a coincidence or tactical move? When our foreign Minister spoke, it was tongue in cheek, in fact he almost exonerated the Chinese.
We were on this when the federal government dispatched a plane to China to ferry to the country Chinese “health” experts, this was in spite protest against the move by citizens. The Chinese arrived and from that point we began to be assailed with contradictory official statements. Height of folly was the going off radar of these unwanted guests. Few days ago a Chinese construction company told us they were in their custody,even our Minister of Internal Affairs said they are no longer medical experts but construction technicians to help construct isolation centres. Which sane society runs her affairs this way? Am certain even the Chinese would be laughing their hearts out at the behavior of black people. If you are not traumatised by this, I am.
Obiozor hailed the appointment of Prof Ibrahim Gambari especially in light of his quality credentials and experience. He said the challenge facing him is uniting the country. Hear him: “There has been tension arising from inability to effectively manage diversity, it is time we know no one can conquer others by intimidation.” He thinks Gambari can reverse the trend. Am in the middle, Gambari has credentials quite alright but his antecedent doesn’t raise great hope that suddenly we can see progressive politics from him.
A survivor of the holocaust in Germany said perpetrators were highly educated men, the experience left him wondering if education could indeed change men. An analyst said it would depend on what use one decides to put it. Gambari didn’t come out well in the past, now that I consider him the President”s exit strategy it is possible we might be in for a surprise. And that for me is the challenge before him, to surprise in the positive direction.
Finally we must learn to use our stars, it shouldn’t matter their age. What should matter is what they have upstairs. Energy is great but experience and hindsight one can’t buy in the market. We need a blend of the two. What I got from the men I was privileged to listen to are knowledge and experience you cannot find just anywhere. Side by side with this should be institutionalization of merit. We have been long in the jokers stage and it is turning to be very costly. True!