One thing I’ve come to terms with in the past few years is that the Nigerian is psychologically flawed in his general approach to things.
I have always posited that our problem is not only that of leadership but also a commensurate followership problem inclusive. That is why I feel that Professor Kingsley Moghalu appears to be the only person who understands where to start the campaign to salvage this country when he preaches the social re-engineering model. Cultural and social values are almost completely eroded, and many are even oblivious to who we have become as a people. Many are not even conscious of the fact that they’re guilty of the same kind of malfeasance and other ‘crimes’ they accuse politicians of. We are all ready to bend the rules, cut some slack, and look the other way for a crime to go undetected, yet bad leadership is our sole problem! Like those leaders came from the Netherworld.
I watched with amusement as people commenced the search for loopholes in CBN’s cash withdrawal limit policy. Everybody has suddenly become armchair financial analysts of sorts, explaining how kidnappers will circumvent the policy, how it will encourage the illicit trade in currency, and how generally it will not work.
Is there any policy that is 100% foolproof? And this is not about any particular administration or government, I approach this issue with every sense of responsibility as a citizen of Nigeria. We are all sadly allergic to basic civic responsibilities, which are naturally supposed to be catalysts for effective government policies. I don’t know so much, but I’m just rationalizing that what if, just what if we all decide to test any government policy by playing along? I mean, play along in the sense of simply refusing to see the (perceived) negatives, and play our own part as citizens by not engaging in acts inimical to the successful implementation of these policies?
We fondly talk about ‘saner climes’ like those places are annexes of the heavens, completely forgetting that the seeming successes of those climes are a combination of a socially responsible citizenry who have earned the moral right to constantly call their leaders to order whenever necessary.
Sometime around 2014 in Lagos, a fine policeman by the name Bayo Suleiman was the Commander of the Lagos State Taskforce. As a reporter covering the Governor’s Office and Lagos State Government MDAs (Fashola was Governor), I got a call around 6am on Saturday morning to cover some arrests made by the Taskforce. Back then, it was a regular occurrence, so I jumped off my bed, got dressed, and headed for Alausa. Getting there, we were granted access to those who were arrested for various offences in different locations. The one that caught my attention was a man in his mid-30s who looked quite affluent with the way he was dressed and the gold accessories on his neck and fingers.
When I interviewed him with other reporters present, he explained that he was a resident of Malaysia and was on holiday in Nigeria. He was stopped for driving against traffic somewhere in Ikeja, but he got aggressive and was resisting arrest until he was subdued and brought to the Taskforce office. The young man at this point was begging us (journalists) to help him appeal to the Taskforce Commander. We actually did make the appeal, and Bayo Suleiman asked the offender a simple question; “can you drive against traffic in Malaysia?” and chin down, he replied with a quiet “no sir”. When asked why he drove against traffic in the early hours of the morning when the roads were totally free of traffic, he said he felt that since he was in Nigeria and nobody obeys traffic rules…. I was shocked! He was sentenced to 2 weeks of community service, sweeping the roads where he committed the offence (law and order was a big thing during Fashola’s administration).
I ask nobody to agree with me, but these are just random thoughts and I claim absolute responsibility for this conjecture.
Finally, the earlier we all know this truth the better for us as a collective; if Angel Gabriel becomes President of Nigeria today, nothing will change! We are inherently flawed as a people, the way we think, act, and react is horrendously abnormal. How do we expect institutions to work when the people who are supposed to drive them are poised to be cogs in the wheels of progress?
We can shout true federalism, referendum, secession, marginalization, and many other tags we have gotten used to over the years. If we do not embark on a social re-engineering process, we will continue our macabre dance of one step forward, five steps backwards.
-Immanuel Odeyemi is a journalist