Steve Jobs, a man whose creations are in the hands of at least over a billion people around the world, said these words as he told the story of his life during a commencement ceremony in Stanford in 2005. He talked poignantly, almost presciently about how his decisions (dropping out of university) and decisions made for him (getting fired from Apple) led him to where he stood before the listening audience – one of the most successful humans on earth. There was no way of knowing then, when the events were being decided upon, what the ripple effects would be, it was only when he looked back that he could say how the dots of his life (decisions, events) all came together to make sense. What Jobs did not say though was how looking back at the connected dots can give us a sense of what the future holds.
As Nigerians look forward to 2013 – as a much-needed improvement to 2012 and in light of President Jonathan’s promise that 2013 will be better, what do the dots of 2012 tell us about what to expect in 2013?
2012 has been an eventful year for Nigeria – packed right from January 1 – it has been a year that has not stopped giving and taking. And many just want it to be over. 2013 beckons tantalizingly, a new slate, renewed hope, the time for feverish personal resolutions but is that enough for
Nigeria? The current state of abject abuse and disintegration of every sector, save a few shiny beacons of hope piercing feebly through the smut, calls for drastic implementation of simple solutions, but there are no men and women with the will in the places that matter.
From the New Year gift purportedly removing the subsidy on PMS, to the crippled House probe on fuel subsidy, Nigeria got FaroukOtedola Gate and many committee reports all of which, as yet, have done nothing to move the nation forward or solve the problem of corruption in the petroleum sector. However that single action by President Jonathan in January resulted in several
Nigerians giving their lives to demand good governance and deepened the impoverishment of the majority for whom the cost of goods and services increased when the price of PMS was raised by over N40 per liter. Then Kano, Damaturu, Maiduguri and Gombe erupted in a wave of violence, the repercussions of which are still being felt with real and opportunistic Boko Haram as well as
the JTF using the insecurity and inattentiveness to wage a war of terror on mainly innocent Nigerians. Most of the North, save a few states, remains in grip of our special strain of terrorist violence with spastic sporadic eruptions every few weeks. According to the northern rulers, it will take over 20 years of sustained investment and development for some of the worst hit cities to recover to their usual state of underdevelopment.
The most stupendous ire numbing details of corruption and banditry have dogged the country the entire year and these are merely the stories that have floated to the surface of the cesspool. There is a lot more going on in the states, local governments, civil service, agencies and departments that we know nothing about.
Then we have the deaths – almost 12% increase from 2011 data on fatalities on Nigerian roads, the 153 killed by the Dana plane crash, Aluu 4 killings, Mubi massacre, countless bombings nationwide, thousands more lost to the violence of government and non-government terrorists and faceless nameless more dead due to the ineptitude and disregard of those responsible for providing infrastructure and services. In here we can throw in the recent deaths of Yakowa and Azazi which merely prove that in Nigeria power and money cannot secure anyone from the dangers of our diseased system and culture of lax indolence.
In the political arena – the reviews are mixed. While all the things which do not belong in good governance continue to flourish i.e., sycophancy, violence, compromises to further personal agendas in conflict with the greater good, using public office as a means to personal enrichment; there have been some positive developments. The Edo and Ondo gubernatorial elections seem to
indicate, for better or worse, for as much as the eye can see and the head can reason that the people can make a difference. INEC is beginning to show a depth which has been lacking so far and providing us with a better view of its weakness – the inability to co-ordinate the logistical behemoth that is our general elections.
“Nigerians know the major dots that blight the landscape and the future: corruption, nepotism, violence and insecurity, lack of infrastructure, the death of rule of law, and greed… it will take over 20 years of sustained investment and development for some of the worst hit cities to recover to their usual state of underdevelopment.”
Nigerians continue to do well in areas that are largely insulated from government interference and regulation such as fashion and entertainment. The raw creative talent radiating, especially in the face of the general adversity to entrepreneurship means that we could do a lot more across all areas if we had a more conducive environment. The ability to use comedy and parody – as evidenced by Blackberry, Twitter and Facebook – to generate political and social discussions and change means that our problems are so familiar and close to us that we can laugh at ourselves.
Nigerians know the major dots that blight the landscape and the future: corruption, nepotism, violence and insecurity, lack of infrastructure, the death of rule of law, and greed. What remains blurred is our understanding of the interconnectedness of these dots. The dots connect to each other so closely that the dots have actually become one cancerous mass and this mass is pressing on the major nerves of a better future.
The congealed dots tell us that praying and fasting into the New Year hoping in abstract for a better year in 2013 with no attendant changes in government and citizen accountability and responsibility is a waste of time.We can only realize systematic sustainable change when we realize that dealing with the problems piecemeal is our undoing…the dots are all connected – we need a lobotomy in government and we have the means to do it. Citizen action is one opportunity – a march on Abuja demanding for a list of impeachments and arrests and constitutional and civil service reforms would make a difference. The ongoing constitution reform process is another opportunity we should not ignore. The 1999 constitution is not a “peoples constitution” by any stretch, but it is what we have and it can be improved on with citizens’ input and ownership. We
need to inject the constitution with the right spirit – in our case a series of ‘never again’ from the lessons our connected dots teach us. And last and by no means the end, if the majority of Nigerians take individual decisions to be honest about the state of affairs and our contribution i.e., truth telling outside the frames of religion, ethnicity, gender, family and friendship ties, agendas, forced complexities et al then we will also begin to create the dots and connections for a better 2013 and beyond.
However, if we choose to just take the dots and connections as they are without looking at what they tell us about the future, then as we look forward to a better, happier year in 2013, Nigerians must realize that the dots of 2012 tell us 2013 will be no different if government and the people do not change.