Change, Inspiration, Politics

Taking Nigeria Back

Newton’s first law of motion states that “a body at rest would remain at rest unless a force acts on it”. If this sentence does not seem simple enough, here’s a street person’s rephrasing: “a football would not move until someone or something (e.g. wind) pushes it”. Something must make a move. This is a simple rule that Nigerians have not learned. Nigerians can pray and hope for ten million years, but don’t forget that even David had to pick stones and face Goliath. Without some action, most prayers are useless. Yes, I said that, and I’m a Christian.

On October 1, my personal blog clocked two years. That’s two years of writing articles that sometimes seemed to be “poke-nosing” actions, putting my fingers in issues that do not “concern” me. Over the course of the last two years, I’ve tried to write about eight articles a month. Though that goal has been missed a number of times, it has never been this bad that I’ve written just two articles in almost a month. I never knew that running a MSc programme would make me beg for time. I guess that’s my not-good-enough excuse for not writing. There’s barely any inspiration nor time. But this evening, I just had to forget about Cranfield and engineering, and be like those not bothered by Navier-Stokes nor Gaussian distributions. So, I begin, properly.

Since October 1 when “The Platform” held in Lagos, I have been hearing about Mr Peter Obi’s speech at the event. Some tribe-minded persons around me said something about him being harassed for what he said because “he is an Igbo man, so they are angry at what he said”. I filed all the hullaballoo around me and online into a “for later” cabinet. Today, I decided to listen to the former governor’s speech, every single word of the forty-seven minutes. That speech was enough to provide the missing inspiration to write. I can bother about my academics later.

For anyone who hasn’t heard anything about the speech, here’s a brief summary. Mr Peter Obi is a former governor of Anambra State in Nigeria’s southeast. Presently, that state is among the extremely few financially stable states in the beleaguered Nigeria. In his speech, Peter talked about the financial crisis in Nigeria, and how Nigeria’s finances can be helped by plugging leakages and blatant over-expenditure in the government. Coincidentally, blocking leakages was one of President Buhari’s campaign promises. Although the speaker focused on his state, his speech can be applied to any level of governance in Nigeria.

He talked about wastages from government “customs”, things that successive governments continue to uphold. These wastages range from large travelling entourages, to the unconstitutional “office of the first lady” (also known as “wife of the [insert name here]”, to the expenditure of massive sums on multiple official cars (bulletproof SUVs), to the sums spent on maintaining such cars, and disposing of them in less than a year of purchase. The wastages also cover the construction and maintenance of numerous guest houses and liaison houses across the country, especially in Lagos and Abuja where virtually every state (36!) has one of such houses. These wastages go as far as sums spent in hosting personal guests on unofficial visits to government houses, and packages that accompany visitors on “courtesy call”. To get the full list of egregious expenses, please see the video on YouTube.

One thing that really got my attention in his speech was his statement that all Nigerians are responsible for the wastages. To the holy innocents, this would appear scandalous, but then, maybe we just need to look a bit closer. When have Nigerians risen against the glaring misappropriation of funds by people in government? How many Nigerians are not waiting for a shot at political office to get their “share of the national cake”? How many Nigerians pressured their leaders to save money during the oil boom? How many Nigerians are disgusted when a governor or other political leader visits them and leaves without dropping “something”? How many churches (populated by pious Nigerians) happily receive donations from people with no visible means, knowing that such funds are stolen? How many Nigerians would be willing to use locally assembled cars instead of glamorous foreign brands? Above all, how many Nigerians are willing to join the political process as contestants, campaigners or voters?

Mr Peter Obi’s point about taking back Nigeria is essential at this point in time, more than any other point in the country’s history. The statistics are saddening, yet we look on as sheep waiting for sense from above. The same Nigerians who know about the malfeasance of politicians would still sing the praises of criminals during electioneering campaigns and sell their futures for some rice or low-value naira notes. Taking back Nigeria is not a simple task. Without action by Nigerians, things would maintain status quo, and the only change we would see would be in newspaper articles. Hiding behind lengthy prayers would not help Nigeria. I haven’t said that praying is worthless. I’m just saying that even God would need human beings to make a move with their hands, feet, brains and mouths. Let me end with Peter Obi’s closing line: “I beg you to participate more in politics, the society we help them abuse today will take its revenge tomorrow”.


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