Now how does one blame Nigerians for being unruly in an environment in which the administrators have themselves refused to create any incentive for order?
Now the Olympics are over. The Ghana-Must-Go bags we shipped to London for the purpose of ferrying medals back home will be coming back empty. As expectedNigerians are taking this latest display of non-greatness with philosophical calmness. A Blackberry Messenger broadcast currently going around reads something like this: “A good name is better than silver or gold.”
What cannot be explained away that glibly, alas, is the reality that Nigeria keeps inventing new ways of demonstrating that it is not a great country. We have just done it again, breaking, with Boltean certitude, our own impressive records of under-achievement. #London2012 is merely the recycled icing on fifty-year-old cake.
TELL Magazine, in its July 30, 2012 issue, has a must-read story on the state of sports in Nigeria, and how the government seems to be a mission of destruction. The piece quotes an analyst as saying that the average tenure of a Nigerian Sports Minister, post-1999, is 12 months. It also disclosed that the funds meant for the preparation of Nigeria’s contingent weren’t released until April 2012. And then the New York Times published an even more fascinating story – a profile of Nigeria’s Olympic basketball team. From that article we learn that the coach, against a backdrop of government abandonment, was “[team] coach, general manager, insurance agent and travel secretary” all rolled into one.
Criticshave of course tried to put the blame on Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi, which I find rather unreasonable. When the man became acting Sports Minister in December 2011 I reckon Nigeria’s colourless Olympic performance had already been cast in stone. The Minister was merely unfortunate in that instance, as are many other Nigerian public servants who have the misfortune of being appointed to make a difference at a time when, to rephrase the words of Jesus Christ, “[the] sickness is [already] unto death.” (There are of course those who argue that if good luck had brought a medal or two Nigeria’s way, the Minister would have claimed credit – but that is a debate for another day).
However, unlike the case of winning Olympic medals – which requires lots of long-range range planning and funding and coordination with hardly any guarantees for success – I like to think and say that most of Nigeria’s most biggest problems are not of the very complicated variety.
Let me try to illuminate with what I call the Mr. Biggs phenomenon. When last did you enter a Mr. Biggs outlet (or any other Nigerian Quick Service Restaurant for that matter) in Nigeria and spot a queue; the sort that is more or less part of the furnishing at the McDonald’s and Starbucks of this world? Everyone files into these Nigerian joints and instantly seeks a space along the counter. The idea is that the customer with the loudest voice wins – i.e. gets served first. Now how does one blame Nigerians for being unruly in an environment in which the administrators have themselves refused to create any incentive for order?
Now transpose that confusion to larger areas of national life. Everywhere one turns one finds the basic chaos of a QSR magnified a million-fold. Yesterday morning I listened to Omobola Johnson, Communications Technology Minister, on Channels Television. She said that it currently takes 18 months for networkoperators to obtain an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) approval from the Ministry of Environment, and that she’s working with them to reduce this to 90 days. It’s probably not rocket science – a pint of political will and a dollop of technology will make most of the difference.
Listen to Agriculture Minister, Akin Adesina in a recent interview, (also from the July 30 issue of TELL): “When [Nigerians] think of local rice, they say it smells, it has stones, they say it is broken. That is not rocket science. It is a technology issue… What we have done as a government is that we have taken a decision that we will have industrial capacity to mill international grain quality rice in Nigeria.”
And that’s where it starts – with that “decision” to implement change. Which is where Mr. President comes in. It is his duty to compel his Ministers to set specific greatness-compatible targets, and to monitor their actions towards the attainment of those targets. I have sadly heard rumours that Mr. President is often unavailable to several of his ministers, apart from the Wednesday contract-disbursement bazaars. That, if true, is the sign of a government that is not serious about greatness.
I’ll leave you with these profound words from the English humorist Douglas Adams, and shared on Twitter yesterday by Dino Melaye, a former member of the Federal House of Representatives: “Anything that, in happening, causes itself to happen, happens again.”
In other words – if we do nothing about our tendency for self-sustaining failure, failure will continue to be our portion, as assuredly as success is Usain Bolt’s portion. You don’t need to say Amen.
Those Amens say themselves.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.