The Time Is Now


Humans are very peculiar. A lot of things we say, we cannot do. My Graduation song told me “Things never go the way they are planned”. Words could never be more accurate. Whilst in school I used to boast that I would be a millionaire at 18. I turn 18 very soon and I cannot say I have come any close to this dream/ambition. How this relates to the points I have in mind I don’t know but keep reading and you will get the drift.

Nigeria’s greatest curse has been bad leadership. Reputable names who sought to end this curse – Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Gani Fawehinmi and Obafemi Awolowo –and who were widely viewed as capable of making significant difference were not given the opportunity to do so.

Gani and Fela were similar in the sense that they favoured radical change. They saw the leaders in power as the cause of the problems and did all the things within their power to end this trend but like all Nigerians who had tried to effect that change, they were lacking in the support department. Gani and Fela were probably the most vociferous human rights activists the country ever witnessed. Most of today’s lawyers address Gani as their main inspiration and Fela is seen as probably the greatest African entertainer of all time. He was described as ‘the people’s President’. The Kuti brothers (Femi and Seun) have helped in keeping the legacy of their father relevant.  Femi, like his father before him, is a huge critic of the Nigerian ruling class.

Obafemi Awolowo is addressed as the greatest President we never had. Awo introduced free health care for all till the age of 18 in the Western Region during his tenure as Premier. He also introduced free and mandatory primary education in Western Nigeria. Although he was unsuccessful in the 1979 and 1983 presidential elections, his policy on Free Health and Education were carried out throughout all the states controlled by his party UPN. His legacy was kept running by loyalists such as Bola Ige, Adekunle Ajasin and Bisi Akande. Almost every aspiring south western politician claims that they want to implement Awolowo’s manifesto. They all claim to live by his ideals and promise to implement them upon reaching power. How many of them live up to this promise? I leave you to do the Maths. (It’s quite easy).

Nigeria’s problems are well known and documented. Yar’ Adua, our late leader, came to power with the promise to challenge these issues. Another set of false promises.  The thing I find most amusing about Nigerians is that we have this unique ability of having a solution to every problem. Have you ever read the comments on newspaper websites when the big pieces of news are broken? Have you ever listened to men having conversations centred on politics while drinking beer as the sun sets? Visiting the beer parlours and barbershops and listening to things there convince me that the most able people are not in power. If they were we wouldn’t be where we are, would we? Brilliant things are said in these places. But how come they never get implemented?

There is only one answer. We are a nation of followers. We all do follow-follow and talk about how different things can be done but no one ever wants to take the risk of putting their funds and efforts towards the change they talk about.  No leaders. Everyone has his solution to issues but how many of us take the required step towards implementing them? We all say how we need the right leaders, how many of us actually make an effort towards supporting the candidates? Donald Duke did a job worthy of emulation as Governor of Cross River. Calabar, its capital was described as the cleanest city in the country. He developed Tourism with the turning around of the Obudu Cattle Ranch, the Annual Cross River Christmas Festival that has brought the likes of Grammy nominated artists Keri Hilson and Akon to the country and the TINAPA resort. The Obudu Ranch International Mountain Race grew to become one of the most lucrative mountain running competitions in the world under his stewardship. He had the desire to be President and was rumoured to be short listed as an option for Vice President but was waylaid by Obasanjo’s dodgy political deals. If we genuinely saw Duke as the answer to our problems we would have supported him and ensured, even when he did not get the PDP nod, his political ambition would have been directed at a more viable option and it would have gotten the required support.

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Pat Utomi was seen as probably the brightest aspiring presidential candidate during the 2007 elections. How many of his so-called supporters built armies of electoral observers to stifle the threats of electoral violence?  How many of them spread the word to their neighbours and friends and ensured they marched to the polling booths and made history?

I do not think many of them did because if they did their actions and efforts towards heroism in this money worshipping society of ours would have been documented and appreciated by people like you and me. Why can’t we all march like Martin Luther King did for Americans to protest the injustices of our Nigerian government? No violence, my people. That is not the answer. Why can’t we all rally behind the right political aspirants with the clear manifesto and ignore the moneybags that have oppressed us for as long as I can remember?

Why are we all scared to try something different? The only thing we can possibly lose is the idea that we broke down a fifty year old inefficient tradition. ‘Nothing ventured nothing gained’ goes the saying. We have kept alligning with the same people for the past 50 years so we have nothing to lose by going for change this time. The wonderful thing about tradition is that new ones can be created everyday. The greatest sacrifice we can make as a people is to follow our inner feelings and fight for what we know is right. The end would justify the means. I am sure Martin Luther King smiles from heaven knowing that despite losing his life in the process his efforts are appreciated and celebrated by millions more than forty years later. His children and family benefit from this goodwill.

It is natural that over the course of reading this article you will question the fact that no possible suggestions are made. Donald Duke and Babatunde Fashola embody the ideal politicians of these times. Well educated, understanding the needs of the people and able to implement decisions that might not have been popular but have favoured or in Fashola’s case will favour the greater good of the population. For the record, I am not suggesting that Fashola leaves his work in progress in Lagos and turns his focus to the country. Rather, if more people would emulate his footsteps you would not have to read this type of article every day.

If we all rally behind people like these we know that our country is in safe hands.  These, my people, are the sacrifices we can make.  Let us all rally behind the right people and fight for the change that would make Fela, Gani and Awo smile from heaven whilst showing the likes of Duke, Utomi and Fashola that their daring to be different in this dangerous political clime was documented and served as inspiration. The passive resistance has to come to an end. Someone has to step out and make a difference. Someone has to be willing to take a risk. We all have to rally and fight this abuse of privileges by our leaders. No more talking in bars and barbershops. The time is now. We are the only ones who can make the difference. No more talking. Action speaks louder than words.

•Oluwamayowa Idowu is a student of Market Rasen De Aston School, UK.

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