When someone suggested the other day that Nigeria needs a prolonged holiday in order to get its acts together, everyone assumed the suggestion must have come from a highly deluded man. The suggestion was based on the disorganised nature of the country, the indefinite absence of the president on health grounds, the self-serving resolutions passed by the National Assembly, the endless calls for reorganisation of the country, the growing demands for independent states within Nigeria, the inability of the government to tackle economic hardships spawned by the recession, poor state of infrastructure exposed by recent floods, and the general feeling of ennui among the population. At the moment, no one can identify the direction in which Nigeria is headed.
There is clearly a leadership problem, not minding that the Acting President has been working very hard to hold the government together. Despite his presence, his whistle-stop visits to cities across the country, no one can escape that nagging feeling that something is wrong with Nigeria. How can the care-taker government of Yemi Osinbajo focus on the challenges of governing when the president is on an indefinite medical leave that no one knows when it would end? The temporary government is being distracted by regular confrontational decisions made by the National Assembly.
It is ludicrous that a disagreement between the legislature and the executive should stall activities in other areas of government. What manner of men and women do we have as legislators? What manner of care-taker government do we have? Surely, one day one side has to stand up and demonstrate to the other side that it is more mature, more understanding, more willing to compromise, and more determined to make the government work.
Commentators and journalists who point out these anomalies, including the lack of national direction and the cacophony of voices within the government are abused, demonised, and ridiculed. They are referred to as enemies of the nation, adversaries of the government and antagonists of the Nigerian people. Some people in the Presidency have shown inability to cop public criticisms of the government they serve. They will not brook any form of critical comments directed at the president or the government.
It amazes me how people whom we assume to be reasonable could afford to dig their heads into the sand and argue the government is operating normally, unblemished and unimpeachable. How can the government be operating effectively when there are so many areas and problems that have remained unattended? How can everything be sailing smoothly when, in fact, everything is disorganised? It is a case of the three monkeys that choose to see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil.
Surely, the suggestion that Nigeria needs a holiday is an admission that things have reached a point where Nigeria now looks like a country without a government. Of course, a long-term holiday must appear out of character in the present situation of the country, even though many overworked people would be pleased with the notion of a vacation. A nation that is going down economically should not entertain the idea of a holiday. It is a defeatist idea, it is unsophisticated, and it is a wrong way through which any country that is undergoing adverse economic conditions could work its way out of trouble.
Yet the notion of a holiday should not be rejected completely because it has some merits. Those who govern and those who make laws for the nation would find that a holiday could help to reinvigorate and finetune their minds. A vacation could instil into political leaders the wisdom that has eluded them for years. It is quite possible that a holiday could help to inject into political leaders the energy they require to govern more effectively.
Let me be clear here. The idea of a national holiday should not be comprehended in a literal sense. It is a figure of speech representing the state of affairs in the country such as despair by the people, lack of foresight by political leaders, and collapse of the economy. It is not an exaggeration to say that the nation is facing socio-political, economic, and cultural implosion. At the moment, no one can identify the direction in which Nigeria is headed.
There is a pervasive feeling across the country that many people are exhausted, thrashed, and have lost faith in themselves and the government. It is a feeling of hopelessness. It is something that makes you feel the entire world is collapsing on top of your head. There is nowhere to go. Those who have jobs lack the energy and drive to continue to work. Those without jobs feel the state has abandoned them and they must continue to grapple with the elements. Both groups of citizens are united in one area: They are weary of listening to dubious political leaders, who serve them endless lies garnished with high-flying promises. These citizens want an end to continuing political chicanery, an end to political dishonesty, and more responsible and accountable leadership.
What is at stake is the ability of the government to stand up to govern in the interest of the people, and to provide for the basic needs of the people. Whether the government is in a care-taker or permanent mode, it must serve the people, listen to people, and work in collaboration with the people.
Unfortunately, double standards have become the government’s approved way of conducting business. Officials of state promise many things and achieve little or nothing. Ministers appointed to serve the people take delight in being served by the people. It is a despicable reversal of roles. When ministers and other officials of state say they are committed to enhancing the welfare and wellbeing of citizens, what they actually mean is that they are committed to using the citizens to achieve their selfish objectives. They deplete state resources, impoverish the people, and misappropriate funds allocated to their ministries and departments.
We live in a society that is determined to hit the bottom of the valley.
Ours is a society in which people who deride and violate our laws are respected and those who observe the laws are belittled. Our lives are ruled by contradictions. We have laws that are designed to simplify the operation of our society but many people work very hard to make our society ungovernable.