It’s Easter Sunday. I am taking a brisk walk around the serene estate in the part of Lagos where I live. I am listening to the music of the pan-African revolutionary singer, the man whose peculiar brand of music has had the most profound influence on the mind and psyche of his countrymen, more than any other artiste in Nigeria’s contemporary history!
I am listening to BBC, by the Afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, on this blessed day, a day that marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Ah, Fela! For a while now, I have fallen in love all over with his music, savouring his golden hits like Palava, Water No Get Enemy, Beast of No Nation, Look and Laugh, among over 100 hits.
I met the legendary musician several times in the course of my career, many thanks to our editor, Mike Awoyinfa, also his devotee, who found in him an irresistible newsmaker and sent us to interview him on a wide range of issues, which made the cover of Weekend Concord, the father of Saturday journalism.
Fela was always engaging, always fun to be with, always inspiring. Simply unforgettable!
As things degenerate in our country, Fela comes to the rescue as a sad reminder that he had seen and foreseen the happenings in our country.
In my forthcoming book, THE BIG INTERVIEWS: HOW TO GET NEWS ANGLES AND SUBJECTS THAT MAKE THE HEADLINES, featuring over 20 top Nigerians I have interviewed, great Nigerians like President Muhammadu Buhari (who I interviewed thrice in the past), Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. TY Danjuma, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Senator David Mark, Chief Emeka Ojukwu, Gen. Victor Malu, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, Adams Oshiomhole and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, among others, Fela is featured defining what interview means: “enter and view.” His inimitable way with words!
THE BIG INTERVIEWS is a book about Nigeria’s history, told by the major actors in their own words, in the course of my encounters with them. Please, watch out!
Sorry for the digression. I was talking about BBC, by Fela Anikulapo-Kuti. Sorry, BBC is not British Broadcasting Corporation; BBC, in the words of Fela, is ‘Big Blind Country.’ It is a great song that mirrored his frustrations at the profligacy that characterised the Second Republic, and Nigeria’s leadership generally. He was also talking about the African penchant for imitating the Western way of life. It’s a song you should listen to. It could be direct and raw, but you won’t miss the message: Accountable leadership, responsible leadership and responsive followership.
At Easter, the song sends its own strong message to me: Leadership as bane of the Nigerian nation. All nations rise and fall with the quality of leadership and followership. Leadership, I believe, substantially galvanises followership. But some would argue that a vibrant followership can compel the kind of leadership it desires. That is a debate for another day.
Now, at Easter, shall we talk about the leadership style and thesis of Jesus Christ? Shall we commend it to those who lead at different strata of our country? If we did so, would our country not be better off?
Jesus served his followers rather than the other way round. He washed the feet of His disciples. He served at the dining table. He was the good shepherd, who cared for His flock. That is where I believe the concept of servant-leadership evolved.
When his disciples squabbled over whom among them would be leader, Jesus was quite categorical: The leader should be the least of the lot. Matthew 20:25-28, quotes Christ as telling them: “You know that rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give His life as a ransom for many.”
Do we have servant-leaders in Nigeria today? Do we have leaders who slave for many like Christ? Not many. That, essentially, is the crisis of leadership in our country and Africa.
My humble view is: If we get our leadership right at whatever level, our nation, our states, our society would work again. Nigeria would rise again. It’s not rocket science. It’s about honesty and sincerity and dedication. It’s about all of us. It’s not just about the president or governors or local leaders. Leadership is also about people who occupy positions where they can influence the direction things should go. If they do wrong, things go wrong; ditto, if they take honest decisions.
Can we fight the spirit of ethnicity and tribalism, corruption and looting? Can we put in our best in any endeavor we find ourselves, for the sake of the fatherland? Can we love Nigeria even when many of those who lead us give us little or no reason to do so? Should we surrender because things have gone so bad, what will the future be for our children and their children’s children? Tough questions!
This is Easter, season of hope, which the resurrection of Christ symbolises. So, I preach hope for our nation, even amid pervading hopelessness, where insecurity is rearing its ugly head fearfully. At Easter, many have been slaughtered in Zamfara and Kaduna states. When will this nonsense stop? Who will call these blood-thirsty guys to order? Like I canvassed here last week, our security chiefs should sit up and do the needful. No excuse is good enough for the loss of many innocent lives. Too many Nigerians are dying in avoidable and gruesome circumstances. Things can’t continue this way.
Minimum wage: Kudos, President Buhari!
The news of the signing into law a new minimum wage of N30,000 (thirty thousand naira) by President Muhammadu Buhari is one piece of news that gladdens one’s heart. The reason is obvious: Nigerian workers live in abject poverty that dehumanises them. Their take-home pay can hardly take them to the next bus stop, not to talk of their homes.
Before it got to N18,000 (the last increment), it was a tug of war. With killing inflation and a stifling economy dictated by the oppressive, all-powerful dollar, the Nigerian worker had become devalued and pitiable.
The back and forth debate, fire and brimstone by labour leaders, as well as the fireworks in the National Assembly made it look almost like a task impossible. Then the cheery news that President Buhari had done the needful. A big relief. A worthy Easter gift to workers.
Of course, there are fallouts from the increase in the minimum wage. First, how many states, out of the 36, will be able to comply and pay the N30,000 when many have several months’ arrears they are owing their workers, even when it was N18,000? The second issue: With the increase and attendant rise in costs of goods and services, would it not make nonsense of the increase?
My response: It is still good news, no matter how it is viewed. States must find ways to pay it. No excuses will be acceptable. Let states look inwards, increase their IGR, cut cost of governance and identify areas of waste and profligacy, and plug them. They can meet this new obligation; where there is a will, they will find a way.
On new wage and inflation, there is nothing anybody can do about that. The law of demand and supply will take care of that. Let us start from somewhere. We can’t begin to build obstacles even before the journey begins. Let the workers savour the joy of the good news. Take a bow, Mr. President!