Posted May 11th, 2007

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Critics, Cynics, Skeptics, & Pessimists

By Franklin Otorofani

Recently a national news daily, Thisday, published a report by the ADB/Word Bank on the current economic status of African countries, and concluded that Nigeria, Egypt, and South Africa are leading the continent's economic growth, which has recorded 5.5% annual average growth rate this year; the highest economic growth rate ever recorded by the continent.

It was further projected in the same report that the Nigerian economy would attain over 7% growth rate in 2007, that is, this year, and this, by the way, has been the range of Nigeria's economic growth rate in GDP in the last several years. Now, if this not progress, both at the national and continental levels, I don't know what is. But I know in all my failings I'm still able to recognize progress when I see it.

It's pertinent to observe, however, that this report was presented by the ADB/World Bank, and not by the Central Bank of Nigeria, which figures are usually subjected to unnecessary disputations by armchair critics and cynics in Nigeria. That Nigeria is one of the big three countries leading the economic growth on the continent of Africa is a clear vindication of those of us who believe this country has made tremendous measurable progress in all sectors of macro-economic indices in the present democratic dispensation although the tribe of cynics, skeptics, and pessimists would have the world believe otherwise.

That said the overwhelming evidence contained in this and similar reports that paint a good present and a bright future for the country would not change the negative mindset of the pessimists and cynics who would still find a way to deny the positive success story embodied in this and other reports because cynics and skeptics, by their very nature, look and sniff for failures only not successes and would even find failures in successes but not the other way around. There brains are wired to recognize only failures not successes.

These are the people who scout for, find, and embrace every doom and gloom scenario and negative reports painted and presented by prophets of doom and those in the West who do not wish Nigeria well. It's a serious mental pathology and the sufferers have our sympathies even though they depress the spirit of the nation by their gloomy outlook.

And, so you ask: what is wrong in criticism? What is wrong in cynicsm? And what is wrong in skepticism and pessimism? Of all these isms only the first two, ie, criticism and cynics, have some potential values but only if carried out with an ultruistic, noble, and constructive motives, rather than for selfish, or destructive agenda. Nigeria, as developing country, is dire need of constructive critics and you know a constructive when you see one. He is one who would criticize when there is need and praise when there need also and not a professional critic. Unlike literature there is nothing like professional criticism in politics and even the opposition in mature democracies give credit sometimes to the government in power for what's done right while at the same time lambasting the same government for what's done wrong. That's mature, civilized, politicking!

All human beings; their institutions and processes, are necessarily imperfect and therefore require regular critique, critcism, that would lead to self-examination and re-examination to gain improvement in themselves, their institutions and processes, in their private and public affairs. That is why all political systems, other than autocracy, are structured in a such a way that there is an active opposition to watch over the ruling party or government and offer criticisms on government policies and programmes as well as provide alternatives solutions to such policies, where necessary. That is one of the major values of constructive criticism that an effective opposition could bring to bear on the political processes. When criticism is offered or motivated by ulterior considerations, however, it loses its intrinsic value.

While criticism is an active form of opposition to the status quo, however, cynism, on the other hand, is passive resignation to the status quo with no suggestions for improvements by the cynic whatsover. Tthe cynic neither criticizes nor offers suggestions for improvement but would at the same time deny that any improvement is capable of being made. In other words, it's a passive denial in the change of the status quo. The cynic does not believe the status quo can ever be changed and is reluctant, even resistant to the suggestion that there is any positive change to the status quo. Yet he would readily embrace any counter suggestion of the deterioration of the status quo. To that extent therefore, cynicism is more dangerous than even destructive criticism because it passively or actively in denial of reality.
Skeptcism is a milder form of cynicism or better defined; a cross between criticism and cynicsm. A pessimist is one who with a negative outlook to life generally and sees nothing good in anything, including himself.

Nigeria is now enveloped in the corrosive atmosphere of cynicism and pessimism produced by the tribes of cynics, skeptics, and pessimists, in our midst. I call it the Syndrome of Pessimism that is, sad to say, fostered and nurtured by the press and the political opposition and, which the government of the day, has, it would appear, been unable to counter successfully.

There are those in the pen profession dedicated to the propagation of despair, hopelessness, and pessimism in the land and that psychological virus propagated by pressmen has infected every stratum of the Nigerian society such that it would take a miracle to shake off and exorcize the demons from our body politic, even in that face of positive reports as this.

Sometime ago an international agency was reported to have conducted a survey on the happiness or comfort levels of Nigerians and the verdict was positive; meaning Nigerians generally have positive attitudes than their counterparts elsewhere in the world, including even some developed countries like the US.

The verdict was not surprising given that Nigerians are a hyper religious people always hoping on upon hope for the best in personal, community, and national affairs. Hope is the very essence of their cultural and religious essence and to that extent therefore the outward manifestation of positive outlook is understandable as no one wants to wear and advertise his woes on his face for those who do not necessarily fare any better.

However, this religious/cum cultural trait belies a deep-seated predilection towards cynicism, negativism and hopelessness. When you scratch beyond the surface of religiosity and the façade of contentment worn as proud labels on the faces of Nigerians, all you find in the layer beneath that is acute sense of cynicism, pessimism, and hopelessness. The average Nigerian does not see any good in anybody else except himself and his buddies. And, he does not see any good in his country and its leadership, either.

At the root of this psychological malaise is the abject lack of self-confidence in themselves. In truth, Nigerians have no confidence in themselves, and this is externally projected into their lack of confidence in their government, in their institution, and in their country. Nigerians would gleefully dismiss every new government project or program as a failure already even before it’s started and proceed to undermine it every step of the way to arrive at a self-fulfilling prophesy.

They are the people who deliberately cause traffic chaos in our roads by shunning traffic regulations with reckless abandon and turn around to curse out the government; they are the people who go out to snatch ballot boxes and brazenly rig elections and turn around to blame the government; they those who vandalize our bridge railings and NEPA poles, cables, and transformers, including oil pipelines, and turn around to blame the government; they the people who go to judges and buy them up to win cases and turn around to complain about injustice; they are the people who encourage their kinsmen to steal government money and bring it home to their villages and towns, and turn around to complain about corruption; they are the very same people who lined up the street to welcome rogue fugitive governors Alamieyesegba and Dariye back from exile and did everything to protect them from the long arms of the law; they are the people who buy examination papers for their children and even engage others to write examination papers for their children and wards and turn around to blame government for falling standards of education; they are the people who dig up roads and turn them in sheds for hawking, creating dangerous driving conditions on our roads, and then turn around to complain about potholes and bad roads. I can go on and on, folks.

We are arguably some of the most lawless people in the world and the most difficult to govern because we take sadistic delight in breaking simple rules like queuing up or taking turns. And, that's why our road traffic is in utter chaos! You cannot bring a Nigerian crowd into a hall from the outside without creating a serious scene that could even lead to total breakdown of law and order!

Nigerians have nothing positive to say about their country but have inexhaustible reservoir of complaints, complaints, and nothing but complaints. Amid the complaints galore, however, there are lots of good stuffs happening in the country presently to talk and crow about.

For starters, Nigerians are enjoying, (some would argue abusing) unprecedented freedoms of movement, association, and expression with the most vibrant, even though professionally shallow, press in the world, to go with; yet the enjoyment of those freedoms, which only a well practised democracy confers, cuts no ice with the average Nigerian.

That Nigeria has remained a democracy this long is not by accident but by design and somebody deserves credit for the long spell of democracy the country has enjoyed so far, and if you don't want to give nobody credit for that then you can at least thank and give yourselfand the country a pat on the back because it is a huge achievement in and of itself;

Nigeria might be conquering the home movie world in less than a decade after its real commercial take off to the extent that it now rated Number Three behind the US and India in terms of size, creating in the process hundreds of thousands of jobs, directly and indirectly, but that huge success story cuts no ice with the average Nigerian;

Nigerian agricultural industry might have been booming with the country’s premier cocoa production and exporting position restored; cassava exports fast assuming the status of the white gold set to give crude oil a run for its money; yam production at its peak with Nigeria now regarded as the world’s largest producer of yam; poultry production reaching export levels after the ban on importation of poultry; and our strategic grains reserves bulging at the seams, but these success stories cut no ice whatsoever with the average Nigerian;

Nigeria’s GDP might have been growing at between 6-8 percent and our country rated BB- by the highly regarded world class rating agencies as the Fisher and Standard and Poor; and our foreign reserves bulging at the seams, but these success stories that would write the name of the government that brought them about in gold in other countries, mean nothing and cut no ice with the average Nigerian;

Nigeria might have paid off her huge foreign debt burden that was breaking our backs and freed us and our children from the crushing eternal slavery; and freed huge resources otherwise committed just for debt servicing, for developmental programmes, at all levels of government, but that success story which every true Nigerian ought to celebrate in the streets, cuts no ice with the average Nigerian;

Nigeria under Obasanjo might have increased Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in all sectors of the economy, which has recorded and continues to record, as the report has shown, annual growth rate of 60% between 2004-2006 as further shown in UNCTAD report for developing economies, but that success story cuts no ice with the average Nigerian;

Nigeria might have become the leading the space exploration nation in Africa; in fact, the only country to have launched and maintain satellites in space on the African continent with the consequent huge socio-economic benefits to the country; industrially, scientifically, and technologically; but this monumental achievement cuts no ice with the average Nigerian;

All over the country there is abundance of evidence pointing to the establishment of huge industrial undertakings like the Obama Cement Factory commissioned only yesterday by President Obasanjo, such as the Tinapa miracle, Omoku Power Project, NBL gigantic brewery in Aba, the numerous free trade zones being established, the dry dock projects, revamping of the erstwhile moribund steel plants at Aladja and Adjaokuta, the explosive growth in airline industry, pharmaceutical and power plants, and all kinds of industrial and recreational projects being commissioned virtually every passing month throughout the country, but these success stories cut no ice with the average Nigerian;

Nigerian banks might have been conquering the African financial world and now spreading to Europe and America in the aftermath of the reforms carried out in the banking sector by this administration and the Nigerian Stock Exchange witnessing quantum and phenomenal growth in this dispensation, with the largest capitalisation ever in its history, but these successes stories that turn competitors green cut no ice with the average Nigerian;

Nigeria might have witnessed telecommunication revolution in recent years and rated the fastest growing telecommunication country, virtually in the entire world, but that singular success story cuts no ice with the average Nigerian, and;

The country’s secondary and tertiary educational system might have witnessed exponential growth in recent years under this administration with scores of brand new private universities that would move the nation to the next level of human development springing up all over the country bringing the total number of universities in the country to an unmatched number of over 78 universities, and still counting, in Africa. Unfortunately, these successes cut no ice with the average Nigeria. Now, if the above cited items sound to you like a catalog of successes in this dispensation they are, indeed. And, who wants to deny they are not? Only the incurable pessimists and cynics, off course, and they abound in Nigeria; the land of critics, cynics, skeptics, and pessimists!

In this dispensation we have heard the outstanding performance stories of many of the governors attested to even by the otherwise pessimistic press such as Governor Attah of Akwa Ibom state; Muazu of Bauchi state; Yar’Adua of Katsina state; Odili of River state; Duke of Cross River state; Saraki of Kwara state; Nnamani of Enugu state; Daniel of Ogun state; Egwu of Imo state, and many others. Their records of performance testify to the fact that they have made a huge difference in their respective states in this dispensation, but their success stories cut no ice with the average Nigerian.

What it all boils down to is that Nigerians will never appreciate anybody’s success even when outsiders do. There has been no development upsurge in the history of the country as we have today in the eight years of civilian administration. A huge revolution is taking place in the country in all spheres of human endeavor but Nigerians do not see it and would hold tenaciously to their legendary negativism and pessimism.

My country men and women have become willing hostages to the debilitating cocktails of cynicism, pessimism, and hopelessnes actively promoted by the press that sees nothing good in its country.

I am to warn here however that a people who have no confidence in themselves, their country, and their insitutions will never rise above mediocre levels in anything they do. It takes pride, supreme confidence, and can do spirit to move the world, even if we make commit errors in the process. Perfection comes with doing one thing over and over again over a given lenght of time. It does not come with just one or two tries. Those questioning our abilities to conduct perfect elections must understand perfection does not come cheap and even the established democracies have not achieved perfection till date in their elections even though they have been holding elections regularly for over two centuries, how much less Nigeria!

I am therefore calling on my fellow compatriots to shed the toga of negativism and pessimism and embrace hope and confidence in themselves. True, there are enough failures to go round amid the successes but why dwell only on failures and sweep the successes under the rug? An optimist would prefer to see the bottle half full than half empty. The same thing viewed differently by different people. It’s all a matter of attitudinal orientation. Let us give our religious/cum cultural traits of hope and optimism some meaning, depth, and content by recognizing progress when we see one and exhibiting pride in our country and her institutions and confidence in ourselves. And we don't have to be pperfect before we do so, for not country or institution is perfect anywhere in world; they still have their own issues, failures, and incompentence in the developed world that the average Nigerian doesn't generally get to hear about in Nigeria.

There is a new dawn in Nigeria and I can see her taking her rightful place in no distant future to lead the black race to the promised land! It's her manifest destiny and she has no choice but to take it and face up to the challenge righfully imposed on her by virtue of her history, size, population, and resources. There is no running away from the heavy burdens placed on the broad shoulders of Nigeria to lead the black race from Egypt to the Canaan.

And, Nigeria, the pride of the black race, that liberated blacks from Apartheid South Africa; freed Zimbabwe and Namibia from white rule, and restored peace to Liberia and Sieraleone, amongst other feats, from the jaws of of imperialist grips on the continent, has got what it takes to deliver as an economic military, industrial, and cultural superpower on the face of the earth and the PDP, like the communist party in China, will take us there, if no other political party is ready yet for the big league in Nigerian politics. Those muchroom pretenders running around as midgets with no grand vision or mission looking for their daily bread in Nigeria, would not take us there. Only a party with the vision and the mission well articulated programmatically, as has the PDP, will get us there.

Long live the Federal Republic of Nigeria!!

Franklin Otorofani is a Nigerian based in USA

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