Tolu Ogunlesi: Good ol’ days (YNaija Frontpage)

It is sad that Nigerians above a certain age spend so much time living in the past, lamenting how things used to work, such that there is no energy left to find any solutions. 

“Why is our Society so afflicted with the virus of corruption? Why does it appear that the average Nigerian is congenitally corrupt? Why should people who do not want to exert themselves enjoy the good things of life? Why should the indolent and the mediocre prosper at the expense of the hardworking members of the Community? Why do we place so much premium on wealth even when it is known that such wealth is a product of unjust and corrupt enrichment?”

Who said this, and when?

Those words were spoken by a certain Mr. Ayo Fasanmi in a speech delivered at the annual conference of the Association of History Teachers in Nigeria in, wait for this, 1972.

Troubled by the questions above, Mr. Fasanmi and a handful of young Nigerian men and women on May 29, 1971 formed an “Anti-Bribery and Corruption Committee.” 1971. Good ol’ days indeed. I could have sworn that those words above were uttered by Nuhu Ribadu yesterday afternoon.

One keeps hearing all this talk about “when Nigeria was good” – when angels roamed the streets and questionable wealth was kept hidden far from public view, and one naira could buy you a shipload of rice (apologies to Mr. B of Basi & Company fame).

The second greatest myth of this age, no?

I insist that the starting point for the transformation of Nigeria is the realisation that there’s no point lamenting that Nigeria is “getting worse.”

From all available evidence, Nigeria has always been “worse”. Our problems in Nigeria have never changed. At best, what they do is change name: the “Problem Has Changed Name (PHCN)” phenomenon, seen in the transformation of NEPA to PHCN, OMPADEC to NDDC, FEDECO to NEC to INEC; “go-slow“ to “bumper-to-bumper”; police-routing Anini to EFCC-routing Ibori.

It is sad that Nigerians above a certain age spend so much time living in the past, lamenting how things used to work, such that there is no energy left to find any solutions.

Acknowledging once and for all that things have never been good frees us up to focus on a more pressing task: that much-needed debate on why we are the way we are, and how we can break free from the insanity of doing things the same way and expecting different results.

It’s only fair though to point out that several generations of Nigerian intellectuals have expended several dictionary volumes in trying to come to terms with the baffling situation of their land; the Federal Conundrum of Nigeria.

“Very poor leadership appears to me as the black man’s greatest problem,” Areoye Oyebola wrote in his 1970s classic ‘Black Man’s Dilemma.’ “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership,” Chinua Achebe pronounced a few years later, in ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’.

Thinking about Nigeria’s leadership challenges I am reminded of the words of W.B. Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”

Might Achebe and Oyebola be right? Might our greatest problem be with our leadership, or even our theoretical conception of it: our propensity to endlessly recycle the past and the spent; our reluctance to give new faces and new ideas a chance?

Soon I shall be a fifty year old, gone past the life expectancy allotted to me by my country, my grey hairs nicely suppressed by the finest of dyes.

I will remember to tell my children, the leaders of a tomorrow I know will never come, of the “good ol’ days” of my youth; that innocent age long before Nigeria ‘spoilt finish’!



Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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Comments (2)

  1. To agree that Nigeria has always been worse is a frightful thought. It is discouraging and depressing. Because, if things have never changed despite the efforts from way back in 1971, then nothing will change tomorrow either.

  2. True what has been written only recently did I hear in abuuja phcn is nw AEDC but d point is we as a nation perculiarly our" leaders" need to stop seeing leadership as power as always used by evryone"ur nw in power wat do u want to do"and start seeing it as mre of a responsibility. So am in absolute agreement with ur opinion yes we lack real leaders

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail