I must admit that I have not been following up happenings in the campaigns for the upcoming American presidential elections which happens to be a keenly contested battle between incumbent Democrat and the first black president of America, Barack Obama and his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.
This sudden apathy is rather unlike me because the American political climate is something I find rather interesting, irresistible and in many ways, intoxicating. I remember fondly many years ago when I used to sit with my dad and watch CNN all day monitoring the progress of the build up to the presidential election between Republican candidate, George W. Bush and Democrat candidate, Al Gore. My dad and I would engage ourselves in serious discussions as to the possible outcome of the elections. We discussed the issues that led to the defeat of the Democrats after eight years in power under President Bill Clinton; the events that made the Republicans come out tops and more often, the political strategies of the various campaign trains, the ideologies of the dominant parties and the live presidential debates.
Anybody who happened to eavesdrop on our conversation would note with crystal clarity, our admiration for the robust American political system. Yes, politics is beautiful when you have a system that works. If I were born an American, I probably would fit perfectly as a career politician. The political intrigues would have been too hard to resist.
Fortunately…or unfortunately, I’m a Nigerian; a Nigerian with passionate love for my country. It always is like a fall from grace when after enjoying the beautiful and most interesting of political climes to wallow in the filth, uninspiring, detestable and revolting mediocrity that characterizes the political system in Nigeria. Its like from eating fried rice with coleslaw and perfectly peppered chicken to downgrade to garri (not even ijebu garri) with salt (not sugar) without ground nut. Yes, that’s what it feels like after listening to a presidential debate between George W. Bush and Al Gore, Obama and John McCain, Obama and Mitt Romney or just a speech on the simplest of issues by Obama; and then listen to empty speeches and infuriating media chats by our own president. He doesn’t even have the guts to go on a one on one confrontation with his political opponents. A thing that would certainly destroy your political credibility in America.
I digress. I recently joined the ever increasing population of angry Nigerian youths on the social media who vent their frustrations daily via twitter, facebook and various blogs about a nation that is most blessed and greatly endowed, but is fully committed to retrogression in all ramifications. After several ranting articles, I lost steam and decided to cool off on all things political because it appears the current administration in Nigeria is hell bent on breaking unbeatable records in ridiculously unbelievable mediocrity. I have however, continued to keep a wary eye on the events that occur in our political terrain; a heart-breaking challenge that has left me scarred and battered.
I woke up this morning and as I always do, I went online for more depressing news about my dear nation when I came across a buzz about a speech by the First Lady of the United States of America, Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention. I had missed that. I quickly googled it up and read it through. The emotions that overwhelmed me after reading that speech is indescribable. The glowing manner in which she spoke of the struggles of the everyday American, the pains and the gains, the patriotism, the fight for justice and equality, how far America has come as a nation and the purity of heart of her husband, Barack Obama, the current president of the United States made me wish that I was an American…even if just for the duration of that speech. I felt empathy.
Her speech was simple and to the point. It told of the struggle of her family, other families that have come tops from nothing in a nation where love and values shared and the principles of hard work, equality, social welfare and justice birthed what is now known as the “American Dream”. The American dream is a dream of hope and promise for a fulfilling future. This dream is the reason many a people migrated from their place of ancestry to a whole new world where the impossible is possible. A man can start out with absolutely nothing but by dint of hard work and perseverance, he could ascend to the pinnacle of achievement. No man better embodies this concept than Arnold Schwartzenegger. An Austrian who came to the shores of America and broke barriers by becoming Mr Olympia a record six times, had a successful career in Hollywood and crowned his efforts as Republican governor of the state of Carlifornia for two successive terms. It was obvious that this speech was a heart felt one. I don’t really care if she wrote the speech or not. I don’t care if she embellished a couple of details to make it more appealing, after all, we are talking about votes and the essence of such speeches are to appeal to the emotions of men and sway them to cast votes.
What is important to me is that Michelle Obama’s speech was hardly about utopia. It was the speech of someone who had conviction about the good their nation can do, the good it has managed to do and the men who have made genuine sacrifices to carry out that ideal. Men who have maintained a connect over the years with the populace to actually know what kind of changes or policies would be effectual and beneficial to its citizens.
When I think of my nation Nigeria, there is nothing but a radical disconnect between the government and the people. There is a wild difference in the reality of the average Nigeria and the elite that throng the halls of power. Apart from this disconnect which seems to have been deliberately created, Nigeria lacks men of integrity, vision and will in public offices. No writer could write a glowing speech about any public official in Nigeria with such conviction; not even their wives or arse-kissing Special Advisers on Media and Publicity. No, not one!
Even worse, Nigeria appears to be a rudder-less ship manned by a captain without a compass, going as the wind blows, no definite direction or plan of execution in mind. Our motion is not guided by any form of motivation, value or idea; it is just motion for the sake of motion itself. What happened to the spirit of nationalism? The spirit that fostered our independence from colonialism at the hands of the British; how did it die?
It breaks my heart everyday when the government announces one harebrained policy or the other which is either the result of cluelessness and idiocy on a massive scale, or a calculated attempt to completely emasculate the masses, to entrench servitude or some form of slavery. Justice is a concept treated with disdain; a man who stole a loaf of bread because he had no job and couldn’t feed himself or his family resulting from the massive unemployment rate could be slapped with a harsh jail term while a politician who has looted the public treasury with reckless abandon could be patted on the back and told to go and sin no more. In most cases, such riff-raffs are celebrated like kings, making one wonder about the bastardized mentality of the average Nigerian from years of abuse.
Or is it the fallacy of the re-introduction of coins into our currency? Re-denomination of the naira to make #5000 as the highest currency without regard to the attendant difficulty it could impose on the common man; the rate of inflation that would spike in our already sinking economy that is still grappling with the ripple effects of the increase in the price of petroleum products and power tariffs. It wouldn’t be a bad idea in a stable of economy but in the classic manner of successive policy makers, the cart is put before the horse. Did not anybody learn anything when the former CBN governor, Prof Charles Soludo tried to bring back coins? Is it rocket science to understand that Nigerians and indeed any rational thinking human would naturally be averse to the use of bulky and valueless legal tender? What is all the yapping about putting the faces of women on the naira? Will that give it value?
This is a direct consequence of when a nation is without ideals or values; when a government is without integrity. A government that makes use of institutions put in place for development as conduits to siphon the wealth of the nation to the accounts of a few scoundrels. A government that encourages militancy by paying humongous amounts of money it would not spend on job creation to ameliorate the pathetic levels of unemployment, to militant warlords. A government that pays lip service to anti-corruption while it directly and indirectly aids and abets blatant heights of corruption unknown in annals the of Nigerian history.
After long thoughts on why we are the way we are, I am led to believe that our problem is the generation of men in power. The popular saying that the youths are the leaders of tomorrow has no bearing in Nigeria. A place where a man over sixty years of age could be appointed as a youth leader. The irony is laughable.
What Nigeria needs is a complete overhaul of the redundant political class and its replacement with the vibrancy of youth that will correct the structural defects of our political and economic clime with honesty of purpose, unshakeable ideals, indefatigable will and visions of a glorious future. Yes, there are many of such young men and women in Nigeria; intellectuals and professionals. Not those self-seeking, disgruntled, deluded and out-of-favor politicians masquerading as agents of change who have taken to the social media to seek political relevance and have sadly begun to command a growing followership.
Only when we replace these vermin, this cancerous perpetuation of mediocrity can we hope to feel again the true spirit of nationalism; patriotism out of love for a system that works and leaves a legacy for generations unborn. A system that evokes a consciousness in the heart of every citizen and moves him or her to words of passionate love for the idea called Nigeria.
Follow Mr Malcolm on twitter @saymalcolm