Former United States President, Barack Obama once said, “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions.” He said this when he visited Ghana and addressed their Parliament in 2009. While he addressed our West African neighbour at the time, his words are very instructive for Nigeria if she is to get to the next level.
Former Ghanaian president, Jerry Rawlings, puts it this way: “I am saying that we can vote people for their personalities. But what we need to do in this country is to establish a situation where even if it was the devil who should come and sit on top of us in Ghana, by virtue of certain procedures, certain practices, the devil cannot get away with doing whatever he wants, he would necessarily have to do what the people expect!”
I find it amusing that whenever some people travel to certain countries, they put on their best behaviour and rein in their uncouth idiosyncrasie. But once the plane touches down on the runway here, the same people revert to very interesting characters. In studying a bit about the psychology of people, I’ve discovered that humans generally want to be free – there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the primordial instinct of humans is also to defy. This is why countries have laws because the less consequences there are for actions, the more wantonness people will exhibit.
Perhaps, Nigeria, like most very religious countries around the world have developed a Messiah Complex. This is clearly evident during electioneering where we look for ‘good people’ to fill public offices but we don’t match that same energy when assessing the system we’re voting them into. Friends, a bad system will defeat the great intentions of a good person every day of the week and twice on Sunday!
Remember that ‘place’ you love traveling to for summer vacations but you cannot go this year owing to obvious reasons? That is the law working. When anyone breaks traffic laws there and that person thinks he or she has escaped by racing off, it’s not necessarily the law enforcement officer that comes for such person – it’s the system that does. The system has data on you, your car, your residence, has cameras, speed detectors, and other surveillance tech in the streets that empower the police to do their jobs. We need to do the same here.
When we read numerous stories of public funds being allegedly misappropriated, it’s just a sad reminder that there is a breakdown of those institutions. Strong institutions will fight corruption by strengthening due process because corruption is bigger than embezzlement, it’s first the breakdown of due process. Chasing of culprits is good but ensuring that the opportunity to commit the crime in the first place is eliminated or reduced to the barest minimum is the major key alert. That is Corporate Governance 101.
In the first scene of the movie, Black Panther, we’re given access to the private conversation between a much younger N’Jadaka (Erik Killmonger) and his father, Prince N’Jobu who was also uncle to T’Challa, King and Protector of the fictional African nation of Wakanda. The ever-curious son probes his ancestry by asking, “Baba, tell me a story, a story of home.”
Therein lies my concern. That, very soon, I am going to become a father, and my children, who I suspect will be more cerebral than their mother and I, will one day intellectually interrogate me about Nigeria. On the one hand, the easier option may be to take Nigerian Twitter’s advice and “resist the urge to shalaye”. But on the other hand, I’ll be compelled, as a responsible father, to educate them on their nativity. It’ll be an interesting discussion because I’ll have to find the delicate balance of history, honesty, and hope.
One story I am sure to tell them will be why the lion is the king of the jungle despite the elephant being the largest land animal. Maybe because of its docile nature, the elephant seems unbothered by the actions of others around it. Not the lion, if you mess around it, you won’t live to tell the story! For many years, we’ve been touted as the ‘Giant of Africa’ but I submit to you that it’s not enough to be large, it’s better to be a leader. That, my friends, is why the lion is king.
It’s Okay, Mfon, It’s Okay!
I sincerely believe that we’re that turning point generation. Anytime I think I’ve had enough, my friend, Josh, who is too funny says, “Don’t leave me!” Anytime I try to ignore this country, Nigeria whispers into my eardrums, “Mfon, don’t leave me!” What that voice has really been saying to all of us since 1960 is: “Don’t leave Nigeria like this, do something to make it better for those coming behind you.”
That voice is not trying to guilt-trip all the ‘Andrews’ not to ‘check out’. It’s okay to go and develop yourself where the opportunities exist. What that voice is saying to you is that “with great power, comes great responsibilities.” For someone like me, who has discovered and developed writing as one of his superpowers, it’s not just a gift to secure the bag but also a responsibility to write the right things. This isn’t something we’ll achieve in one, two, or three years but it will require a lifetime commitment.
It was that same voice that the late iconic civil rights leader, John Lewis, listened to and he vowed not to leave America the way he met it. As one of the ‘Big Six’ he contributed, in no small measure, to the fight for racial equality. The Black Lives Matter protesters who are demanding (and getting) ‘systemic changes’ are just riding that wave that was created many moons ago.
Today, young lawyers are fearless because of the work people like late Gani Fawehinmi put in telling Nigeria’s story and in human and civil rights activism.
This doesn’t mean you should become anti-government. People like us are apolitical but are strongly pro-Nigeria because that is the greatest political party we will ever have! You don’t have to do anything dramatic, Colin Kaepernick took the knee, the First Lady of Civil Rights, Rosa Parks, refused to give up her seat in a bus and we haven’t yet recovered from the powerful symbolism of her actions till today.
I just hope that like Tony Stark’s daughter, Maguna, our children will not jokingly accuse us of telling ‘horrible’ bedtime stories.