by Tabia Princewill
IT seems that every time we tell ourselves that things could not possibly get any worse in this country, the forces of evil laugh at our naïve musings and purport to prove that when evil is allowed to continuously push events in one direction, without the counteractive weight of truth, justice and goodness on the other end, evil will surely win. Those with the power to restore the balance seem to watch idly or partake in the very corrupt acts, which keep our nation in darkness. It is even more fearsome that our leaders have admitted their confusion, incompetence and dismay by proclaiming that they are not ‘the architect of Nigeria’s problems’.
I believe it is time to remind our leaders what they came into office for. A President is elected because a people choose to put their trust in him above all other politicians. They believe that, if he is not the architect of problems, he will be the architect of solutions to those problems. The greater the problem, the greater the crop of men called to office to solve them, so it should be, in theory. Indeed, Martin Luther King Jr. said ‘the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy’. Where did our President stand while insurgency and unrest took over in some Northern states this past week? He stood in Brazil. This is a damning fact indeed.
The progress of this country will not happen by accident. It must be a conscious effort, an effort with a certain sincerity of purpose, which is lacking today. After all, far off Brazil, although a federation itself, is not a state in our Federal Republic. Our leaders’ prayers may be with us as we go through trying times but let us remember that God did not descend from the heavens to lead the Jews to the Promised Land. He sent them Moses. Where is our Moses, where is the architect of our own Promised land? In Brazil? I leave that to your discretion. Every step towards our goals of peace, justice and unity will only come about through ‘the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals’. Again, I quote Martin Luther King. He and a small group of passionate, committed individuals were able to galvanise and convince an entire nation, blacks included, that to be a second class citizen because of the colour of one’s skin was inadmissible. He did not create slavery, nor did he create segregation. But he knew his calling was to make an everlasting change. ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. It’s the only thing that ever has’ (Margaret Mead).
Let us call them ‘solution-architects’, these people who have earned a place in the history books. There are many throughout history, who did not create their countries’ problems but saw it fit to solve them. Most times, precisely because they were elected to do so. Indeed, a vote is a contract between leaders and the people. Let us put this in simple terms, can you imagine being paid money as a construction firm to build a house and reneging on your contract? Yes, you probably can imagine this happening because this is Nigeria and disappointing those who put their trust in you is common place in our country.
The systemic failure of our nation is perhaps the greatest disappointment. Our leaders seem incapable of taming this monster we call corruption, seemingly because the beast takes its root and strength from their very breast. I have quoted Martin Luther King, but I must now say that Nigerians are not searching for martyrs. Dead men are of no use to us in a country that has gone beyond honour to celebrate and embrace deceit and theft. So we are happy that our leaders are alive and well. So well in fact that they are able-bodied men who can stuff thousands in foreign currencies into their clothes and vests and make away with dirty money.
What is happening in Nigeria today? No vaudeville play, no comedy, no satire, could commence opening night with Nigeria’s story without provoking the incredulity and fury of the audience. We Nigerians of flesh and blood who are watching this play (for our leaders seemed to have turned our politics into a game) must not allow this to continue. Let the President implement the findings of the subsidy probe report. Otherwise what was the point of getting a probe done in the first place? Must we sit down and perpetually watch our resources be wasted? The task force that produced the report surely earns a salary for doing so. I doubt many of us reading this would be pleased if the contractor we paid to build our house absconded with our funds, leaving us with the plans for the building but not the completed house.
Public money is our money. The money in the upper and lower chambers is our money, us Nigerians, who pay taxes and work hard to provide for our families, not to provide a fancy lifestyle for those who have decided to sponge off our resources without providing us with service. So let the findings of the subsidy report give way to concrete and effective policy changes. Indeed, this report has proven that the subsidy regime is a scam. Finance Minister, Petroleum Minister, Mr. President, you were right. Nigerians now ask what you intend to do about it. Public office is about having the courage to stand by one’s convictions. Of course it is not easy. Which is why President Obama is now sporting much more grey hair and many more lines on his face than during his inauguration. A far cry from the smiling, contented and plump faces of our own politicians who do not suffer, yet we do. So many corruption cases and scandals are perpetually brushed under the carpet to be forgotten in the recesses of our politicians’ minds and the darkness of our people’s consciousness. Where are the former speakers of the House today? What happened to the police pension fund scandal? What will happen to our most recent scandal involving subsidy? Enough is enough.
Yet as I write this I wonder if enough is truly enough, so to speak. Are Nigerians fed up? Yes. But have we reached breaking point? I hope that we can survive it as a nation. I hope that we are not courting the ghost of a military coup. I hope that the Brazilians among us have the strength to keep us from what would surely take us another 20 steps back: the current instability and unprecedented levels of corruption do not speak well of the solidity of our democracy. However, it is true for most Nigerians, as French writer and philosopher Albert Camus said, that ‘in the midst of winter there was within me an invincible summer’. Nigerians are resilient, ever brave people. Our summer must come. Our leaders must be architects of our summer whether they are the architects of our winters or not. Sincerely or Sinceramente! as they say in Brazil.
This piece was written by Tabias Princewill and first appeared in The Guardian of June 26, 2012
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.