ANGER, like some virus is spreading and, if you haven’t felt it, you are probably insulated behind air conditioned cars with tinted glasses. But take a brisk walk in your neighbourhood and feel the heat of the anger in the land. We are gradually going from the happiest to the angriest people on the continent. The other day, I counted only five people actually smiling – and even then it looked feigned.
The rest of the faces were a sea of frowning, scowling, very upset lot. No doubt, almost everyone “dey vex” to use our popular line. What remains now is for the nation’s handlers to appoint anger managers, who can properly control and channel the passion before it
boils over. As I write this, the whole planet appears to be exploding in anger. From Brazil to the United States and elsewhere around the globe, angry protesters are trying hard to challenge authority and change situations. But we shouldn’t get to that point back here. We can begin to do something to manage this anger. First, the National Anger Managers (NAM) must identify, classify and sort the immediate and remote cause of the anger. Now, not all anger is worth noting because some people have no serious or genuine reasons to be angry. When you are angry because you have no access to dollars; or can’t take your kids to school overseas; or you no longer afford expensive flights for some exotic vacation destinations; or you can’t pick the latest fancy car; or sign up to play golf in Bahrain or some other place; or can’t afford that presidential suite at the Transcorp Hilton; these to me are not any serious cause of anger.
I’m speaking of the anger you find in the back sides of the big cities: Men and women caught up in the vortex of the current hardship. Citizens harassed by the scarcity of fuel, bad roads, lack of electricity, lack of all kinds, insecurity and a certain despondency. Now, that’s the kind of angry folks the NAMs should be wary of. And there are many of these angry people, swarming the country, waiting for the slightest irritation to blow up. And although they are silent now, watching cautiously, fidgeting and brooding, we must act fast to stop them from erupting.
The anger managers should also be aware that many angry Nigerians are not really sure who to be angry with. I know a category that is angry with the past regime, which they blame for all their woes. If only that regime had done the right things, they reason, we all won’t be where we are today. Beyond that, they are still annoyed with all the big players of that regime, who allegedly did nothing but steal the country blind. Each time they are confronted with blackouts, they automatically blame the former government. When they bump into bad roads, they know whom to blame – the last helmsman. Even the insecurity in the land is still the fault of the past leader. Didn’t he steal all the money meant for fighting insurgency? Didn’t he buy out-dated weapons? In fact, did he buy any weapon at all? For this category of angry people, the former leader is the only object of their annoyance. They have absolved the current leadership of any blame. So, there is much anger against the past. But there is also anger about the present.
This category of people believes the current nation’s helmsman is not fast enough, not industrious enough, not creative enough. They expect him to clear out the Augean stable in record time. They thought that by now the bad roads would have been fixed, electricity would be stable, the insurgency would have ended, the naira would be stronger than the dollars and everything would be fine. Although they are in love with the man, who promised them change, they are nonetheless mad at him. Any attempt to explain to this category of angry Nigerians that the current leadership is still dealing with the huge pile of dirt they inherited, always goes limp. Their anger is hinged on the promises they have been made during the campaign.
And the regime has been trying hard to tell its side of the story to no avail. One of the excuses is that the current crisis has a global dimension: That the oil economy the world over has tumbled; that insurgents elsewhere are fuelling the crisis here; that certain matters are beyond the president’s control; that corruption of past leaders has further put us in the hole; that change is a gradual process after all; all these excuses are falling on deaf ears. The anger just keeps building up. Even the effort of the regime to show that it has its heart in the right place is being mocked each day. The president’s trips are being questioned; the budget has become the butt of many angry jokes; the cabinet is getting knocks and the main spokesperson of government is getting quieter each passing day. No one is interested in his explanations anymore.
Are Nigerians justified in their current angry mode? My answer is both yes and no. Quite frankly, some of the anger is misplaced. I don’t want to sound like an apologist for the current regime but, hey, the president is no superman. And I meant it! Some of the troubles, quite rightly, have got some international roots. We as a people, irrespective of our leaning, must be realistic about this. Take the dwindling price of oil. Now, this is not something you may wish to blame on the government. Of course, the government should be thinking of creative ways to get other revenues; the government should be thinking of how to cut cost; it should be thinking of how to woo investors rather than scaring them away.
It should be doing all of that but to blame them for the crash in the international price of oil or to blame the regime for the rise of international terrorism is taking the blame game too far.
But I can also understand the anger of citizens, who believe their leaders are still short-changing them where this is the case. Their anger is justified when the government is really behaving as if it has no clue. They are entitled to their anger when all they see is a flip flop in policies. They are eventually vindicated when they see a pattern of making a promise and then denying it all together. Above all, they are entitled to their anger when they think we are only dancing in circles and that there is actually no cogent, seriously thought out plan to bring us out of the hole we are in. So, now tell me, who are you angry with?