What really surprised me was how much the governor missed the memo. He failed to understand the call for change did not mean his generation should step aside.
I am an unashamed member of the Free Readers Association, and will always cherish those discussions at Man Must Wack’s newspaper stand during my undergraduate years. Over the years I’ve unsuccessfully tried to shake off the habit of reading newspapers, books and journals without paying for them. So, I was not surprised this “shameful” habit led me to the TFA Symposium for Young and Emerging Leaders last week. I could not resist the chance to obtain a FREE copy of Chinua Achebe’s The Trouble with Nigeria. Apart from owning that book without buying it, the event was an opportunity to learn from the experiences of those who managed to work for the Nigerian Government unscathed.
Before I could lay my hands on the book or listen to Aunty Oby’s (Obiageli Ezekwesili) lecture, there was the small matter of an address by Port Harcourt’s First Son, Rotimi Amaechi. The Governor came out with guns blazing, ripping into the young Nigerians present at the event. He suggested the youths who yearned for change only wanted their turn to “chop” and didn’t love Nigeria any more than those in power at the moment. It was interesting listening to him deride young “elites” for being no different, if not worse than his generation of leaders.
He deployed the oft used strategy of mystifying government, alluding to a “system” unreceptive to change and confrontation. His linkage of governance challenges with the economic struggles of the citizenry was clever, as was his insistence that real political change could not happen with an improvement in our economic conditions. The summary of his message was clear; we were doomed with his generation of leaders, and from what he has seen so far, our generation was only going to complete the obliteration of government coffers.
I agreed with a lot of the points made by the Governor. Many of the young people in government hardly instill confidence in the populace. There are several examples of young people actively redressing the pious mistakes of their parents, and ensuring their offspring would avoid the modest upbringing they suffered. From Alausa to Garki, the trend is consistent; age is not the primary determinant of performance.
Though it is arguable that economic advancement is a precursor to political maturity (stories from Kigali suggest both can be accomplished concurrently), Governor Amaechi’s assertions resonated with the depravity exploited by politicians, especially on Election Day. Above all, I agreed with his point that government cannot be changed from a keyboard, even if I struggled with his chosen platform to effect this change.
But what really surprised me was how much the governor missed the memo. He failed to understand the call for change does not mean his generation should step aside. After all, age is only a biological time stamp, why would it be the primary reason for choosing our leaders?
The call for change is a message for greater accountability from our leaders, not an eviction notice. Rivers State, for example, is bequeathed with over N20 billion every month from the Federation Aacount. We are not fussed about who manages it; if it’s Rotimi Amaechi or Okey Equipment. Our concern is simply about how that huge allocation is managed.
When the time came to show off projects in Rivers State, he chose to talk about the model schools his administration built. I don’t believe a governor should boast about brick and mortar; such tasks should be left to the foremen who supervised the construction. He failed to understand we were more interested in an educational policy that developed the appropriate curriculum and produced the right caliber of teachers. It was a reminder of our entrenched culture of showmanship, favouring form over substance.
As he stepped down from that stage, I did not need to read Chinua Achebe’s book anymore. Right there, for over an hour, I had just listened to the trouble with Nigeria.