I watched a campaign video for Nigeria’s President, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan. The main focus of this advert was the fact that Dr. Jonathan had triumphed over adversity, rising from an impoverished background to his present status (specifically he had no shoes and no school bag), the President of Nigeria. The message of this promotion was clearly that if Dr. Jonathan can become the President, then anyone can.
I would like to focus on the fact that there was curiously no mention of any sort of policy; There was no Poverty Alleviation scheme announced, no Schools Programme mentioned…there was merely the hope offered that if you took your vitamins and said your prayers, you could one day hulk up and become President, just like that aptly named Goodluck Jonathan.
On Youtube, it was entitled “The best Nigerian Political Ad Campaign – I am Goodluck Jonathan.”
This is an alarming title as it suggests that this campaign might appeal to everyday Nigerians. The mere fact that their greatest ambition should be to become Goodluck Jonathan is worrying and not because he is not a great man but rather because they’d want to be him for all the wrong reasons…jealous reasons. They’d want to be him to have his success and his rag-to-riches story rather than to create policies that could better Nigeria for future generations.
This is the type of mentality that has held Nigeria back since the days of independence. However this is not a mentality that has ruined merely our politics, it has wormed its way into other facets of our culture too.
The other day I was at Murtala Mohammed Airport and went into the Economy waiting area toilet. It was lavishly decorated, the faux gold, silver plate, and fake marble wouldn’t have looked out of place in a Palace in Ancient Greece. It must have cost a fortune, which is odd given how derelict the rest of the waiting area looks. It was as if the airport had been built at the behest of a bathroom salesman who wanted a showroom for his wares. Even to the most inexperienced flyer with no prior expectations it would appear that the airport spent 90% of their facilities budget on the toilets and 1% on the waiting area (with 9% mysteriously, but not unexpectedly, unaccounted for).
I tried to understand the logic behind such a move until it hit me that perhaps there was none. Well no long-term logic anyhow. The powers that be wanted the toilets to look fancy because other countries have fancy airport toilets and if they could do it, so could we! I assume that it was not until after the completion of this lavatorial masterpiece that someone realised that the rest of the airport looked even more like a derelict wasteland in comparison. The problem is that there seems to be little desire to make real, long term change…it all comes down to impulsive jealousy of the me-too kind.
Even music, our most esoterically valued export, suffers from the “if you can do it, we can too” mentality. Nigerian musicians of today see rappers like 50 Cent flaunt their wealth and assume that if he can do it, they can do it too. They post pictures on Instagram, flaunting their thousands of dollars (not even Naira…the shame!) and, in turn, young impressionable Nigerians look at them and think that if they can do it, we can do it too. Perhaps this is why, to this day, there has never been another Fela Kuti? All the aspiring musician of today sees is the short term goal of delivering a predictably populist beat in order to make millions of Naira, just like their idols, rather than opt to use music as a platform to express themselves and make real change
How can we, as a nation, say we’re truly independent if we’re forever stuck chasing after someone else’s lifestyle? How can we expect change if we’re obsessed with becoming the same? Dreams and hopes shouldn’t be born from jealousy but rather they should emerge from a desire to do even better and go even further than those before us.
Rather than say “I am Goodluck” we should be asking ourselves why we can’t be better than Goodluck. Goodluck did well for himself by emerging out of poverty but we should be challenging ourselves to go one better and get whole communities out of poverty.
I am not inspired by the “I am Goodluck” campaign simply because it represents more of the same. I don’t want another person to become Goodluck and make himself rich, I want a leader who will come and bring about change to the status quo.
Let’s not aim to simply become another Goodluck! Let’s aim be ourselves! Let’s aim to become independent not just in name, but in thoughts and deeds as well.
Watch the ad here:
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Wavebreakmedia Ltd