Tuesday, February 6, 2007

The "Drunken Blunder" towards the Future

The following has been extracted from "The Sad Story of Nigeria" by Reuben Abati, in which he highlights the potentially damaging effects of the current nonchalant attitude to 2007's elections.
Is this a fair depiction of the attitude to the elections generally amongst Nigerians? As with yesterday's article, is it possible that the good accomplished by the outgoing administration has been overlooked?

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"The Sad Story of Nigeria" By Reuben Abati

It seems to me that as the Obasanjo government begins to wind up (I hope it is winding up) and as we prepare for the next elections ( I want to assume that we are preparing!), what we need is a kind of reality check. We, the people must begin to ask the hard questions about our lives. There are no easy answers, though. Our life as Nigerians is one long interim report, there is also no lack of knowledge about our problems, but the questions must be examined again and again. How for example does the world see us? What are the strengths that we possess, the weaknesses that tie us down? Are we serious at all? Do we know where we are going? Have we learnt any lessons? What do we have that we can leverage to achieve greater possibilities? When outsiders visit our country what do they see? What insights do we gain from an aesthetic distance and emotional memory?

Unfortunately, no auditing process is going on. Nigeria is about to turn a new page in its history (transition from one government to the other, the end of the Obasanjo era...); you would ordinarily expect that this would require careful planning and collective reflection, but oh no, the entire country is blundering towards that future, the election is taken as yet another festival, and like drunken sailors at a feast, there is so much ribaldry, cat-calls, rivalry and no meaningful stock-taking. If care is not taken, President Obasanjo will leave Nigeria in as much a confused state as he met it in 1999.

No country can make progress without its people. It is regrettable that we have spent eight years of democratic rule without placing the people at the centre of the reform process. Nigeria's greatest asset is its human capital but it is also its greatest burden. Nigerians are gifted, they have boundless energy, they want to do things, they love freedom, they want to express themselves; they are assertive, boisterous and ambitious. But like people in all societies, they need to be managed, their energies need to be channeled constructively; they need heroes who can define a vision for the community and a mission for the populace. We are a nation in search of such heroes. This is why every Nigerian is a product of self-help. Too many people are living in personal countries of their own, and so they belong only to the empire of the self. They are not part of any social process of agglomeration or aggregation. We cannot continue to have a country in which people prosper in spite of the country. Every country that has made progress began the process by developing its people: through education, through mission statements, through a sense of nationalism. What is the legacy of the past eight years: the thinking that the people do not matter; the belief that every man is on his own, the conviction that you should not expect government to do anything for you because the people in government are only interested in themselves; the widespread conclusion that government is irrelevant to the people's lives. If democracy must serve our purpose, the cynicism of the people must be brought to an end through due recognition of their relevance to the development process. Who will do this? Will this result from an evolutionary or a revolutionary intervention? Candidly, I do not know.

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Reuben Abati is Chairman of the Editorial Board of The Guardian Newspaper. Since 1999 he has written two weekly columns in The Guardian and is now one of the most prolific and respected newspaper columnists in Nigeria today.

The full article can be found at The Nigerian Village Square or at the NAS websites.

12 comments:

Bitchy said...

Hi everyone, and good morning. We've put up this Reuben Abati article because he raises some important (or not? you decide) points about the attitude we Nigerians have to our country's wellbeing.

At the bottom I included links to both the NVS and NAS websites where the full article can be found. As I'm something of a Blogger pro (teehee... just joking!) the links take you directly to the full article. Its definitely worth having a look at after you've read the excerpts.

Bitchy said...

P.S. The piece, in line with this theme, from the Reuters Fellow I mentioned yesterday, is on its way. The "technical glitch" has been fixed.

Misan said...

Hi People,

This article calls upon Nigerians to start being the centre of the reform process we would like to see going on. I think it's a good segue into the point that most of our members have made already...that deconstructive name-calling hardly achieves anything... if given the chance, you could find the list of grievances over our leaders could go on for days, however, as we begin a new year, a new era of leadership, we need to ask ourselves, what do we stand for as Nigerians, what does Nigeria stand for, for us, and for outsiders; what will we (or won't we) take from our new leadership; and how do we intend to start making the changes we intend to see, assuming the next set of leaders fail to deliver.
Some people say that good followers make a good leader; others say a bad workman blames his tools (don't know if these statements are analogous), what say you?

Nkemka said...

Mehn reuben abati is that dude. he really writes well. Also i would suggest Segun Adeniyi's articles to be put up. they appear every thursday on thisdayonline.com. very informative!!!

Jeremy said...

Last week, I asked a white British friend (an oxbridge triple first super high-achiever with a special passion for transformation in Africa) what he thought of Nigeria. He said it was almost at the very bottom of the worst countries on the planet, and then gave substantive reasons. He stopped himself mid tracks, and then started to talk about Fela and afrobeat and how he imagines the energy of Lagos (funky sweaty clubs playing rocking funky music). Then he smiled at the paradox he had just woven..

Its a shame that the people in charge of branding Nigeria (Leke Alder and co) are so fundamentally clueless they have zero ability to key into the few positives about Nigeria known to an international audience, and grow out from there. Fela is THE most celebrated Nigerian of the 20th century for non-Nigerians, period. And yet, for the moralistic evangelically-duped and hypocritical elite, he remains a polite embarrasment.

I know my blog turns into a rant at times, but anyone who is a centre-left progressive with ethical principles would be outraged at what Nigerians have allowed to happen to their country. The funny thing is, everyone (including Abati) complains, often articulately. The flip side is that no one (or hardly anyone) takes personal responsibility for their actions. Instead, they outsource to god, treat their house helps like slaves and the sad sorry show rumbles on. Outsiders who make critical comments (comme moi) are frequently called colonialists or told to go back home (this happens often to me). Pat Utomi is a noble and notable exception - he literally rolls his sleeves up and gets stuck in.

So, what is needed is a reality check - and an asking of the question: how corrupt am I? How humanely do I treat those who work for me? Is my publicly professed morality the same as what I do in practice?

The other side of the problem is that the influencers - the Nigerian repatriates increasingly flocking back home - are by and large economic migrants and philistines. They end up lording it over everyone else with their (often) hastily acquired janded or yankeed accents. I'm not sure we can look to this form of the diaspora for that much transformation. Like many business types, they haven't really thought their ethics and their politics through very much.

There you go- another loud mouth rant from naijablog! I do love Nigeria and Nigerians by the way..

Tokini said...

Trouble ti de! Hehe... WELCOME Jeremy! That was exactly the kind of thing I was looking for from you when I invited you. I'll send you an email in a couple of minutes to discuss something, because you are definitely on the same page as The Afro Beat. We're so glad to have you on board. What you've written, is what we are all about - Changing the way of thinking/mentality/psyche/ethos of the Nigerian, all the way through from the top to grass roots level.

Thanks so much for your post! I hope others will learn that you are here to provoke them too and not get annoyed at your sweeping statements. Lol xxx

Tokini said...

Dear Afro Beat members, please note that Jeremy has been "cautioned" for the slight naming and shaming that he engaged in when leaving his comment.

Please do not make such statements about named individuals on the Blog. That is not the purpose of why we are here. Jeremy is a "loud mouth" ranter :-) as he himself said in his comment, so we have excused him on this one occasion. He will be more careful next time.

Nkemka said...

its no fun if we cant name names :-) but regarding Reuben Abati, folks like him are actually getting in there and maling a positive impact. Remember we are still in those days of journalists getting arrested for "sedition" jus for speaking up on certain issues. We have a journalist who was killed last less than two months back and his family claim it was because of his beliefs. At least folks like him and Segun Adeniyi stand up and speak through the pen to oppose all these wrongs while an ex respectable journalist like Diran odeyemi is politcally romancing the Ibadan Garisson commanders. For the fact they write all they see and enlighten everyone through their God given talent, i feel they are playing their part considering they are still living in Nigeria as they write all this!!!

Misan said...

@ Kemka, you know I've always respected the power of the pen when used wisely, but the other day, was having a conversation with someone who thought that these journalists need to do even more with their power, in fact Abati mentioned this in one of his editorial on Sunday...Nigerians demanding that he's not doing enough...I honestly think that in taking the brave step of writing the truth (through their eyes) and setting the boundaries in the freedom-of-speech arena, that they are making a lot of headway, but i guess it was just interesting to hear that other side of the argument, hence why I brought it up.

@ Jeremy, I think honest self-evaluations around those questions will really begin the reform process Nigeria has been lacking these past 8 years. In terms of this generation of nigerians in the diaspora (lol at ur observation of the infamous janded and yankeed accents, which mind you, a lot of the culprits haven't ever left our fine shores), you're right, in that we're often misinformed about the facts (including those of us at home) and quite jaded in thinking things can change. But we really are all we've got, and can't wait around for another 25 years for generation Z to decide that they're going to be the ones to change things. Obviously, us trying to solve problems haphazardly, without being truly informed, will hardly get us anywhere either.

Olamide said...

I don't recall where I read this, and I apologize for being too lazy to do the research, but a prominent Nigerian figure, can't remember who (I'm awful), said (I'm paraphrasing), that in order for Nigeria to change, the NIGERIAN must change. I guess that makes sense eh?
But what about that old sociological argument that individuals are a product of their environment? That the Nigerian simply acts in response to a system that s/he is, fortunately or unfortunately, a component of can be argued. Now being the moderate-to-fascist guy that I am, I'm all for individual accountability but after being bullied and maltreated at work, it feels awfully o.k to do the same thing to my house-help.
Too bad the state has failed to draw the parallel between civil rights and socio/economic progress.

Misan said...

Hmm, i certainly agree that individuals are a product of their environment, but ever so often, pp now turn that on its head and say that the leader acts the way he does because of the country he has to deal with (e.g. Iraq made Sadam the torturous dictator he was). It's a tough call but there are merits of truth in both theories.

solu_e said...

jeremy makes a good point but like nkemka says, abati is doing his bit. we need people to inform, and others to execute. we need people like abati constantly nagging about our responsiblity to our country. i do wonder though if abati's articles haven't become repititive (in subject matter) and are losing their impact on the reader.