Politics is likened to a basket of investment portfolio. As Investors focus on financial returns on their investments, so do political god-fathers expect some sorts of dividends for investing in a candidate. Culture, on the other hand is a creative character that forms the gestures and values embedded in our respective traditions. Over time, our cultural life has been refined and redefined by life experiences, education, technology, exposure and the urge for instant gratification.
Various schools of thoughts indicated that cultural transformation among people in most societies has been more aggressive, and more apparent than the dynamic events in the political arena. It is to be noted that, the philosophy and agendas of politicians, and their financiers have not changed, but politicians have evolved to be more powerful, greedier, more desperate, extremely illusive and insensitive to the plight of the people they govern.
In the ancient days, trade by barter was the first ever means of socio/economic interaction through which goods and services were exchanged. Not too long ago, the Nigeria socio/economic terrain began to change for more modern ideas. Foreign ideas crawled its way into our day to day lives; creating array of opportunities in all sectors, for all and sundry. On one part, there comes the emergence of a unique political class (military rulers and civilian politicians); as the reforms gingerly ushered in robust economy growth. The era of Kingsway, Bata and Leventis in retail sector in Nigeria cannot be forgotten.
Agricultural sector was accorded its share of prominence and attention by all the regional governments. Respectability, responsibility, accountability and discipline were integral part of our customer relation services at both private and public enterprises. There was confidence and trust in the profession of Police. Our electricity generating and distributing institution’s popularity was at all-time high. Travel visas were not needed to go to London, and the very few Nigerians in American universities enjoyed federal government scholarships. There exists the spirit of communal cohabitation, where neighbors were greeted as family members. Kids in the neighborhood come together at Christmas and Easter periods, throwing knock-outs till late in the night.
Growing up in the 70s and early 80s, I saw Nigerians opened their doors to strangers as brothers and sisters, and neighbors accorded warm greetings with open harms. Love and affection were deep in our culture, while stress and financial desperation were the list of our concerns. It was easy for individuals to approach private car owners and solicit for free rides on the federal highways without fear or distrust. Student’s curriculum included social interaction without prejudice. Vacation periods were like Christmas in schools. Student cried and hugged each other for the period they will be away from each other. For those that experienced broaden life, students of all grades accepted free travel rides right from their school gates to their respective destinations, and they were guaranteed safe trips. Most neighborhoods were safe for children and hardworking parents, as everybody watched out for the community’s interest. People with nefarious activities were treated with disdain, and often cascaded into the dungeon of disgrace.
The strained political structure of this country began its downward spiral in the first republic, when the politicians began a pile of toxic waste in form of thuggery and hooliganism in the ship wrecks, tattered over the countries delicate fragile fraternal geopolitical structure. The new breed of rogue politicians exploited the goodness and kindness of Nigerians, and ran the country like ‘moolue bus’. They consolidated their grip on the power and resources of the country, and introduced a scare tactics to force a compromise on our integrity. They ensured divisions in our calm communities, crushed our humanity and forced the progressives to take refuge outside the country. They succeeded in weakening our rich cultures, and introduced assassins and bribery as alternatives. The good citizens were clogged with stiffen conditions, left with the option to either join them or continue to wallop in poverty.
The disconnect between the political class and the populace began to show its real ugly face after the 1983 elections, where elections were openly rigged and people of no substance closed in as political appointees. The god-fathers turned their residencies to mecca, where indecency became the norm. Actions classified as abomination in our old culture were now glamourized and embraced by the handicapped progressives. Survival of the fittest became the order of the day; putting a different face to our respected culture. The hard working mentality began to give in, and everybody yearned for attention seeking politicians, in the sake of having a piece of the national cake. The institution of love and passion that have worked so well among friends and families for years are now gone.
The 33 years of military rule, excluding the short lived 2nd republic had emboldened the politicians and their god-fathers, and weakened the progressives and the populace. The second spell of democracy in Nigeria had the progressives and masses unprepared for the brutal force of the day-light-robbery and social rape the politicians are now bludgeoning on Nigerians. The people keep their faith in religion; fasting and praying, and hoping a messiah will be born.
Time has come for people to wake up and be realistic of today’s challenges. Nigeria politicians are some sets of opportunistic people, who lack grace, elegance and class. They are little people with no conscience and leadership qualities. Whether Nigerians like it or not; a day of reckoning is not far away. The oil money currently feeling the little gaps is under treat from innovations and ideas. Many European countries are working really hard on finding biofuel products in order to reduce their oil consumption. Brazil and a host of other countries have successfully build cars that can survive on sugar cane and corn products. Tesla – an electric car company in America is revolutionizing the car industry – expect Honda, Toyota and a host of other car manufacturers to follow suit.
The question calls for the reason why Nigerians continue for follow the visionless and clueless political class. It is easy for a politician to secure a front row seat in Nigerian churches, and receive special recognition than for a God-fearing visionary to find a place in the House of Representatives.
Political class and their agendas will never change. The challenge is whether the progressives have the will and courage to come out of their caves and balance the equation. Nigerians are resiliently smart, and very resourceful. They have excelled under various contingency conditions, inside and outside the country.
The people have a role to play, come together and revolutionize the landscape, focusing on constructive changes and staying away from disruptive agendas. We have the ability to drive aggressive reforms without being violent. We can be political activists and not political militants. We can agree and disagree for a just course. We have the option to speak in one progressive voice, dismantle the tall walls we have around us that have impeded progress for long, and tune down our selfish rhetoric. There are values in our traditions, and we can revert back to the rich culture we had in the 1970s. Getting to this dream land should not require the expertise of a rocket scientist; we just need to appoint and anoint visionary people, full of energy and willing to serve the country and not special interests.
‘E go better’ is not a progressive slogan. Like-minded people have had to come together in good faith to move mountains. Nigerians spent their precious time procrastinating on impossibilities, and ignore the idea of finding solutions. I have heard people chanting the missing pieces; lack of leaders, curse on Nigeria, lack of institutions, demons and so on, but no one has for once identified the Power of the People. The people should be giving and taking away mandates.
A couple of years ago, people of Lancashire, and a small city in the North West of England approached politicians and private investors for assistance on fiber broadband services. After so many failed efforts, a group of people decided to DIY (Do It Yourself), knowing that sitting around moaning and gnashing their teeth are not viable options. Every member of the community chipped in financially and through manual efforts. Today, their achievement is a model for other neighboring communities around Lancashire. Also, the people of Wallingford, a town in New Heaven County, Connecticut, with a population of fewer than 50,000 decided to put their fate in their hands when they chose to provide their citizens services like electricity and water, winning a popular fight against a political lobby group who have supported the interest of the big corporation. Now there are more than 20 cities in the state of Connecticut that have followed suit.
As long as oil money is out there, the politicians will continue to strength their base. The time has come for the emancipation of grass root politics. There is no way around it. It takes one community to set the pace, and changes will begin in earnest. The model is simple, but the commitment must be steadfast. We have to bring back the culture of love, trust and selfless agendas. We should be active in local politics through our respective demographics; landlord associations, religious associations, workers associations, community associations, student associations, online informative groups, professional associations and so on. These efforts become our major cushion to begin to influence the local politics – familiarizing ourselves with the office of the local government, establishing channels of communication with traditional rulers (where applicable), engage state representatives and local politicians, and ensure they have the awareness of association’s existence.
Great things happen, and are sustained not by accident but through a thoughtful and well planned strategy. Some leaders are made and some are born. We owe ourselves, our children and children unborn the fight for a life of equal opportunity for all. Enough of all the insinuations and doubts, and let the change begin. It takes a man and a woman to have a baby, but it takes a whole community to raise the baby.