Rebranding Nigeria -- Starting With Nigerians (Part One)
By: Franklin Otorofani, Esq.
December 14th, 2009
The material you’re about to read is a critical, gritty, down-to-earth, no-holds bared, undiluted, dispassionate and unapologetic examination of the essential Nigerian character make-up brought to the fore in the light of the ongoing Nigeria rebranding project, that might offend the sensibilities of many a Nigerian. In other words, you’re about to tread on a rather emotional ground that might prove provocative and therefore psychologically injurious or discomforting to you depending on your general outlook in life. You’re therefore reading this material at your own risk and the author assumes no responsibility whatsoever for any psychological injuries, pain, or discomfiture, whether remotely or immediately, directly or indirectly connected with or related to, or otherwise arising from the use of or exposure to the material presented in this article. Be aware that this material is an unflattering socio-psychological portraiture of Nigerians in the starkest form possible and it is guaranteed to elicit strong reactions from Nigerians possibly including you, the reader. If we are on the same page on the above disclaimer, you may proceed and get inside the kitchen with an open mind provided you’re also willing to take the heat contained therein in the bitter home truths presented in this material. On the other hand, if you’re lily-livered or not open to critical self-examination, you may quietly take your leave now, and proceed no further. Take notice, therefore, that the author is presently on a war path to do battle with all negative forces at home and abroad that have poisoned our national psyche and inflicted incalculable harm on our national image and self-esteem, and the journey from this point on, is not going to be pretty for those who cannot take the heat of critical self-appraisal. Let us proceed deliberately and deliberatively in earnest.
“Former United States permanent representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Andrew Young last Friday did a critique of Nigeria and her citizenry and concluded that Nigerians are their own greatest enemies.
Young spoke during the first convocation lecture of the Bells University of Technology, Ota, Ogun State.
Young whose lecture was titled What’s wrong with Nigeria? described Nigerians as a gifted set of people, all over the world but “ they don’t appreciate themselves or celebrate themselves’’
Practitioners of mental health and behavioral disciplines, backed by evidence-based empirical studies, have in general terms, contended consistently that there are two kinds of people in the world, who, presented with the same facts situation or conditions would come to two different, diametrically opposed conclusions based on their general outlooks in life. Put in metaphorical terms, there are those who would see a glass of water half-empty and those who would see the same glass of water half-full. The one is looking down and going down south into the doldrums and the other is looking up and going up north sky-high with unbridled optimism. While the former are generally regarded as pessimists, the latter are identified as optimists. In between both extremes are varying shades of optimism and pessimism held by individuals. These two extreme mental conditions are however important because they challenge and reinforce each other to form the mental North and South poles or, if you like, the positive and negative or bi-polar magnetic force fields of the human psychological constitution. Thus the optimist needs the pessimist to reassert and nourish his optimistic spirit by pointing to and acknowledging that which informs his optimistic bearing even when presented with what appears to be contrary evidence, real or imagined, by the pessimist. In other words he seeks to disprove negative conclusions by countering the evidence or what appears to be it put forth by the pessimist. The converse is equally true with the pessimist who needs the optimist to reassert and nourish his pessimistic outlook by pointing to and acknowledging that which informs his pessimistic bearing even when presented with what appears to be contrary evidence, real or imagined, by the optimist. In other words, he seeks to disprove positive conclusions by countering the evidence or what appears to be it put forth by the optimist. Thus while the optimist is actively searching for and finding what would inform, validate or revalidate and reinforce his optimistic outlook generally in life or in a given situation, the pessimist is actively searching for the very opposite, that is to say, that which would inform, validate or revalidate and reinforce his pessimistic outlook generally in life or in a given situation.
Both extremes of the psychological spectrum have direct consequences for individual growth and development as well as institutional and nation-building. Although pessimists are necessary complements of optimists and vice-versa as stated above, it must be pointed out nevertheless that it is important to maintain a healthy balance between the two as a preponderance of one or the other of both extremes is inimical to individual, institutional and national development. An overly optimistic people who look at every development in positive and optimistic terms would have extreme difficulties contemplating let alone delivering a change for the better for themselves. In the same vein an overly pessimistic people would have great difficulties recognizing let alone capitalizing on and taking advantage of positive developments around them to move forward because even the positive developments around them are either unseen or viewed through their traditional prism of pessimism and negativity, and thus miss the boat. As the experts of mental health disciplines have long concluded, optimism uplifts the spirit and promotes the health and mental well-being of a people while pessimism is a depressant that is fraught with health consequences. To put it bluntly and in stark terms, chronic pessimism is a form of mental pathology that requires a cure. Thus a nation that is inflicted with that pathology is urgently in need of healing. Excessively pessimistic people are doomed to failure and can never rise up in the comity of nations, held in place by their own chains. It goes without saying therefore that a depressed nation is, ipso facto, a failed nation, and a failed nation is, by definition, a depressed nation---the one begets the other in a relational symbiosis. That is not my wish for my country and that is certainly not my wish for my people. Therefore this article is largely informed by the need to articulate and provide a healing platform for the Nigerian nation and her citizens who have become the unwary victims of this debility. There is a great deal of disorientation out there in the general populace and amongst the disenchanted segment of the political elite which runs counter to certain observed traits of Nigerians in general.
In a recent published study that took many Nigerians by surprise and disbelief, Nigerians were rated one of the happiest peoples on earth amid the widespread disillusionment and hopelessness cruelly imposed and fostered by the suffocating avalanche of decaying social infrastructure, joblessness, corruption, inept and visionless leadership, and the mind numbing material, spiritual, moral, and ethical atrophies in the land. However, such a verdict would seem to suggest an indication of their optimistic attitudes to life in general which disposition was attributed to their overtly rambunctious and overflowing religiosity, which, by the way, has little or nothing to do with righteousness, moral or ethical conformity and life-styles within the mal-adjusted cadres of both leadership and followership alike. The attribution of the so-called “Happiness Index” in Nigeria to religion is understandable at that level. However it is a fundamentally flawed and grossly superficial measure that failed to reflect the inner state of minds of Nigerians in regards to their socio-economic conditions and circumstances. To put it bluntly but mildly, Nigerians are not a happy but an angry people. And they’re so angry at themselves and their leaders that many are prepared to declare their country a “failed state,” and many more would even wish their leaders dead including their own president currently on medical admission in far away Saudi Arabia, precariously clinging to life by a thread of hope. It’s a frightening scenario and pointedly un-African and wicked. One only needs to scan the blogs to detect the volcanic eruptions of pent up negative emotions of the citizens toward their leaderships at all levels in the country that was not reflected in the “Happiness Index” study. This, however, is not entirely surprising. The giddy promise of democracy ushered in with fanfare and fun-fare and further nurtured by the election of the first graduate “servant leader” and chief exponent of rule of law, who is seen more in Saudi Arabia than in Abuja tending to his fragile health in some fancy hospital, rather than the health of his fellow citizens that he swore to uphold, has since evaporated and replaced with despondency and extreme hostility and anger toward self and one another. This state of affairs seems to have been capitalized upon by those who would not ordinarily wish the nation well and always on the look out for any and every opportunity to rubbish her image and pull her down. It would appear, however, that the growing tribes of pessimists have gone wild and taken their craft to unfathomable and unacceptable extremes. Their rhetoric has gone beyond the pale verging on undue cynicism and abject lack of patriotism. They have run amok and taken over our nation and must be stopped in their treacherous tracks. Everywhere you turn in the Nigerian media, you’re confronted with negative and depressing stories and developments with seemingly no redeeming features. The psyche of the average Nigerian is daily bombarded with negative tunes that further depress and turn him into a mental wreck. The steady stream and drumbeat of negativities have taken a toll on the general population to the extent that many no longer believe in change and the capacity of their nation to make a change for the better. It has fostered a feeling of abject resignation and hopelessness. It would appear that positive developments in the polity are being deliberately and brutally shut out of the limelight and the populace fed with a poisonous menu of negativities. Unlike the supremely confident, self- assertive, self-advertizing, self-congratulatory and self-adulatory Americans and other nationals that I have come to greatly admire and respect, Nigerians have, in the main, evolved to become an abnormal species of homo sapiens imbued with self-pity and self-deprecation, who see nothing good in themselves, their government, and their institutions at all levels—a situation that prompted former United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, to declare that “Nigerians are their worst enemies.”
The Sun Newspaper, of all newspapers carried his remarks and the other better known dailies preferred to ignore his blunt, unflattering, yet friendly and uncritical assessment of Nigerians:
“You are endowed with both natural and human resources. What’s wrong with Nigeria?. God has done everything for Nigeria. God has given Nigeria abundant nutrition, we must tap it for the good our people. You have geniuses, yet you don’t appreciate yourselves, you don’t like yourselves. What’s wrong with Nigeria? he asked rhetorically.
These words bear repeating because they touch on the very ailment that assails Nigerians: “they don’t appreciate themselves or celebrate themselves.” In a nutshell, that is the psychological profile of Nigerians as rendered by a foreigner who happens to know Nigerians more than Nigerians themselves and was acting as their mirror, not in a critical as others might have done, but in a friendly, gentile manner. And it is not just the foreigners that have noticed the unhealthy disposition of Nigerians. Many Nigerians, themselves, have had cause to decry the negative attitudes of their fellow citizens which has now assumed pandemic proportions especially so since President Yar’Adua’s hospitalization abroad. The president of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations (NIPR) Mr. Muhammed Abdullahi, had this to say regarding the unhealthy attitudes of Nigerians toward one another, as reported by the Vanguard Newspaper, December 08, 2009, edition:
“…there is no country in the world where the president will be sick and some people will be asking him to resign. What kind of signal are we sending to other people?..It is not a good signal; it means that we have lost our mind…”
“We have lost our minds!” He is indirectly saying that Nigerians are sick in the head, because only a sick people exhibit such symptoms. I would put it down euphemistically, as psychological breakdown or mental disorientation. And there is more evidence yet of that debilitating ailment. It is a people lacking self-respect and sense of patriotism that would allow outsiders to come into their own country and lecture them as did Hillary Clinton when he took the EFCC to the cleaners in our face in Abuja recently. Nigerians are always quick to compare their leaders to the leaders of the United States and other developed countries, which is all well and good. But how about comparing Nigerians, not their government per se, with Americans and citizens of other developed countries and see how they stack up on the scale of patriotism and performance of their civic duties to the state? Governance is a joint venture or partnership between the leaders and the led. It is a two-way, not a one-way traffic with each side impacting positively or negatively on the other. When things go wrong or are not working as well as they should, it behooves both sides of the aisle to examine themselves and make amends, and get things done right. Therefore, the people cannot absolve themselves from blame regarding the conditions they’re complaining about. They’re complicit in bringing about such conditions through their acts of commission or omission or both because a people deserve the kind of governments they have. Political leaders do not come from another planet but from amongst the people, and if the people are messed up upstairs, it would be a miracle indeed to produce a leadership that is fundamentally different from them. That is the case with Nigeria and Nigerians. I therefore reject the notion that only leaders can bring forth change or that the people are helpless. The people themselves can demand and deliver change from the leaders if they’re not complicit in maintaining the status quo, as history has shown time and again in other climes. We cannot, therefore, just stop at comparing our governments with the governments of the United States and other developed nations or our nation with other nations without comparing the Nigerian citizens with the citizens of the United States and other developed nations. No, we cannot and will not, in all fairness, stop at comparing leaderships alone and give a free pass to the citizens. Comparing apples with apples and oranges with oranges would complete the comparative analyses and that brings us right back to the Clinton episode. The United States might be a great nation but it is by no means a perfect nation. And like every other nation it has its own shortcomings and failings. However, no foreign dignitary would dare to come to the United States to talk down and lecture Americans about their own affairs and shortcomings whether is about civil rights and police brutalities, crime and gun violence, poverty and homelessness, electoral irregularities, Katrina disaster in New Orleans, discrimination against minorities or racism in general, just to mention but a few. That would be the day that foreign dignitary would regret forever and the American press would be first to ask for his head. Anyone could mumble some grumble from across the Atlantic, but not on American soil in the face of Americans. Such in-your-face put down would draw appropriate and immediate responses and the heat and outrage generated over such condescension would drive that dignitary out of town with his tail tucked between his legs. “How dare you!” But what did the Nigerian press and the citizens do when Mrs. Clinton came to thumb her nose at them? I monitored keenly the reactions of the Nigerian press expecting to get some whiff of indignation in defense of country, but to no avail. That was in sharp contrast to the forceful push back Clinton received in Pakistan during her town-hall meeting when she tried her un-diplomatic assault in that country and that is a Pakistan that is living on US handouts! On the contrary, all of them ducked for cover, and characteristically, timidly turned their venom on the Nigerian government. And that was not all-- the press went to town with glee acting as the echo chamber of Madam Secretary of State. And the citizens themselves just couldn’t have enough of her national umbrage and literarily fell over them-selves; lapping it all up like hungry dogs as if they had been looking up to an outsider to stick it up to their leaders. It was a national show of shame that was unbecoming on a country the size and geo-political influence of Nigeria. The press and the citizens ought to be told in no uncertain terms that the defense of the fatherland from any form of external aggression, whether military or verbal, demands an immediate and forceful pushback from both the government and the civil society alike. Attack is an attack whether verbal or non-verbal, and that is the way other countries see it and react accordingly. This has nothing to do with the truth or validity of the verbal attacks, and in this case, on the EFCC. That EFCC had backslid after the exit of Nuhu Ribadu, is no news to anybody in Nigeria, but it is not in the place of an outsider to tell us that to our face, because it is none of her business. Nigerian is not the 51st state of the United States. It is a sovereign nation that does not live on handouts from any country including the US, but delivers handouts to others. Is the EFCC lax in the prosecution of the anti-graft war since the controversial ouster of Ribadu? Of course yes, and Nigerians know it and have severally voiced their concerns. But, does it fall on Secretary Clinton to dress down a national institution like the EFCC on Nigerian soil? Absolutely not, and her action was not only un-diplomatic, but impolitic and the Nigerian people, not just the government, should have made their feelings known to her that such condescension was unwelcome. Outside Nigeria and Africa these diplomats are quick to observe diplomatic niceties, but once they touch down in Africa, they usually free to haul insults on us and we clap for them while they are at it. Lacking self-esteem Nigerians are ready to lick the ass of any white man or white woman or some other colored foreigner who shows up on our shores to dump some garbage on us. That is why Sony Corporation could afford to put out a despicable advertisement depicting Nigerians as fraudsters and almost got away with it if not for the strong reaction from the Federal Government that compelled it to pull out the advert. The rebranding project must therefore begin with Nigerians if it is to have any meaningful impact. Nigerians must do away with their timid, self-deprecating complex, and forcefully and politely assert themselves and their values before others in appropriate situations. A situation where the Nigerian press constitutes itself into the echo chamber of outsiders who come to attack us in our land calls for serious concerns. Until we learn to respect ourselves and our institutions no one will respect us and that’s what Ambassador Young was hitting at in the quote above. Clinton cannot even lecture the governor of a state or local municipality in the United States let alone a sovereign country like Nigeria. I’m sure she took her cue from President Obama who is fast gaining the notoriety of talking down on African-Americans at home.
Nigerians generally lack self-esteem. And that’s hardly surprising because a people who exhibit no self-confidence before outsiders and would rather look down on one another, their government and their institutions, could not be expected to have any self-esteem to begin with. Therefore, anyone anywhere could easily take them for granted in their timidity, and scold them like babies in their own homes, as did Hillary Clinton in Abuja. And it is not just Nigerians who exhibit this symptom when standing side by side with foreign dignitaries. Africans in general, are suffering from it and that’s why they would allow President Barack Obama to come to Ghana and talk down on African leaders while he runs around Asia and the Middle East bowing before their autocratic and despotic kings, and kissing their feet to complete his pacifist, “Kabieyesi Diplomacy.” As mentioned above, Hillary Clinton took her cue from Obama because she knew better than to talk down on African Americans back in the United States. But Obama, who had all the diplomatic channels to put across his concerns about corruption and good governance in Africa, preferred instead public reprobation of African leaders and thus gave her the leeway that she seized upon to carpet Nigeria’s EFCC after getting her briefings from the so-called civil rights groups in the country. I can tell you authoritatively though, that Obama’s speech in Ghana did not go down well with prominent African Americans in the United States who view his statements as an extension of his condescending remarks on them at home too knowing full well that he has been running around the globe bowing before and kissing the feet of dictators elsewhere in the world in the name of change. It is the same attitude that propels electoral losers in Nigeria to make periodic pilgrimages to foreign embassies, shamelessly beseeching their home governments to intervene in our electoral debacles as if the nation has no electoral dispute resolution mechanism. It’s like an estranged housewife inviting neighbors to intervene in her domestic dispute. This is the attitude of a people that have no iota of self-respect and self-esteem. If you asked the average Nigerian to blow his country’s own trumpet instead of those of other countries, he would impetuously reply you that he had no trumpet to blow and would challenge you to show or give him one. Yet there are so many good things going on in the private and public sectors of the country that any patriotic citizens should be proud of. Who, for instance, would not be proud of the nation’s achievements in the telecommunication sector with Nigeria overtaking South Africa in a spate of ten years as the biggest and fastest growing telecoms market in Africa and the Far East? And who would not be proud of the global business forays of Globacom, a Nigerian telecommunication giant, which was voted as the most innovative and fastest growing telecoms company in Africa and the only telecom company to lay a cross Atlantic fiber optic trunk cable connecting African countries to the outside world? And who would not be proud to find Nigerian banking brands in Ghana, Benin Republic, Togo, Britain and the United States? Yes, Nigeria has problem of leadership, but who would not be proud of the purposeful and innovative leadership unfurling in states like Lagos, Cross Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Jigawa, just to name but a few? Yes, Wole Soyinka dismissed his as wasted generation but who would not be proud that the only academic Nobel Laureate in Africa is a Nigerian and the very man who dismissed his generation as wasted? And who would in all seriousness dismiss as wasted a generation that produced such academic, literary and professional giants as the Achebes, Soyinkas, Obis, Williams, Awojobis, Lambos, Okadigbos, Okigbos, Ganis, etc? Oh yes, Nigerian has not gone to the moon, but who would not be proud of Nigeria’s sons and daughters like Emeka Anyaoku, Drs. Okonjo Nweala and Oby Ezekwesili at the apex of the World Bank and other international organizations, including the Commonwealth of Nations doing Nigeria and Africa proud? Yes, we have been told that Nigeria is a “failed state” by failed politicians at home, but who would not be proud that she has been elected as a member of the United Nations Security Council? We have bad sports administrators, but who would not be proud of our eaglets and our own Nollywood? Oh yes, the Nigerian police is corrupt and ineffective but who would not be proud of the Nigerian armed forces for keeping the nation intact and protecting her from external aggression? Other countries in Africa and elsewhere have disintegrated including a whole superpower in the former USSR, but Nigeria remains one, thanks to our armed forces. Who would not be proud of their exploits in international peacekeeping missions that have won world-wide recognition and praise? There is no question that the nation has experienced and continues to experience acute electoral challenges and difficulties at the federal, state and local levels since her independence, but who would not be proud of the fact that she has successfully transited from military rule to civilian rule and further on from one civilian government to another in a democratic dispensation? Military dictatorship is a thing of the past today in a polity that was rife with the rule of the jackboots a few years back. If that is not progress, at least, politically, then tell me what is. For every negative that anyone can point to and shout from the rooftops about Nigeria, there is a positive that remains unsung, buried below the depths of public consciousness. These are some of the things and intangibles that make a great nation, not just roads and bridges built of concrete and asphalt. But I’ve got news for you: the people that would not be proud of these achievements are not Ghanaians, Togolese, Britons, Americans, or South Africans or other nationals, but Nigerians themselves! Yet, they’re the very same people who just a few decades ago nearly brought down the roof on the nation when a serving minister goofed about telephones not meant for the common man.
As I was putting finishing touches to this part of the series I got a call from a Nigerian who was at the New Ark International Airport to ship some packages home and decided to use some low quality packaging material to lessen the weight and the material was falling apart. When she expressed concern that her packages might be pilfered at the Nigerian end she was told that things had changed at the home airports and her packages would not be touched and would arrive safely because the airport authorities in Nigeria are cracking down hard on luggage theft and pilferage. She was relieved and happy about the changes for the better. All over the country there are positive changes taking place in big and small measures that deserve acknowledgement and celebration. These are the things I want to talk about, not complaints, whining and the negative effusions of failed and desperate politicians and their hirelings seeking to get into the system they attack ceaselessly by any means necessary and painting the nation with tar to further their own ends.
It is reassuring though that many discerning Nigerians have come to realize the damage being inflicted on the psyche of the nation by failed politicians who are at the forefront of declaring Nigeria a “failed state” in cohort with the press even as they seek to preside over her affairs. Here is what an incensed serving state governor, Dr. Ikedi Ohakim of Imo state, had to say concerning the negative attitudes of a “frustrated, tiny, aging political elite, whose past activities messed up the country,” again as reported in the Sun Newspaper, November 25, 2009, edition at the launch of “News Digest International” which the major newspapers blacked out, obviously due to its critical posture on the Nigerians press:
“It will be necessary to remind all those who are busy ridiculing this nation that there are also Nigerians out there – our armed forces-men and women, who have placed their lives on the line to protect us, I think their sacrifices deserve to be appreciated and respected”.
Laying the blame squarely at the doorstep of the Nigerian media the paper further reported Ohakim as “Lamenting over the way the media has been copiously used to propagate self-immolation of its own nation.”
“When you ridicule the Queen, the symbol of the very essence of the United Kingdom, they show you that you have stepped out of the line…”
Further evidence of the negative disposition of the Nigerian media to anything Nigerian can be gleaned from the reports just coming in from Brown University, Chinua Achebe Colloquium taking place in Providence, Rhode Island, USA. In reporting the contributions of the distinguished presenters, the Nigerian media chose to dwell exclusively on the negative remarks on Nigeria by former US envoys, and promptly headlined those negative remarks.
Here is one headline from the so-called “Flagship” The Guardian Newspaper:
“Nigeria Becoming 'Worthless, Irrelevant To US -Ex-American Envoys”.
“Three former American Ambassadors to Nigeria abandoned diplomatese and attempted calling a spade a spade regarding Nigeria's current global status, and their conclusions are not flattering at all: Nigeria's so called strategic importance to the US can no longer be taken for granted.”
What is calling a spade a spade? That is not a report, but an opinion of the Guardian. That line alone, without more, betrays the negative disposition of the Guardian toward the country, Nigeria. Now, The Guardian chose to ignore or downplay the remarks of the Special Adviser to the Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Eric Silla, at the same event, who stated pointedly, that the US "is not about to turn its back on Nigeria." And how can, when the United States depends on Nigerian crude? How can, when the United States depends on Nigerian to get things done in Africa? Tell me which other African country can the US depend on to handle flashpoints in Africa, including Sudan and Somalia, or any other war-torn country, for that matter, now and in the future? Which other nation on the continent, can it and the UN depend on to do peacekeeping operations in other parts of the world? Eric Silla, knew better than to concur with the remarks of the retired envoys that the Nigeria media celebrated with screaming headlines, and promptly rebutted those negative remarks, for the records.
Ordinarily, the remarks and positions of sitting government officials should carry more weight in diplomatic circles, than the remarks and opinions of ex-government officials who are no longer in government and in no position to dictate to the government of the day. But for reasons best known to the Guardian and other Nigerian newspapers including, The Punch, it chose to give prominence to the negative remarks of retired diplomats about Nigeria. This is the character of the Nigerian media.
Dr. Ohakim couldn’t be more right. Nigerians are engaged in sundry acts of self-immolation by selling their country short before the outside world. It would appear, for instance, that only when the Nigerian judiciary returns an electoral verdict in favor of an opposition candidate like Adams Oshiomohle of Edo state that the Nigerian judiciary is applauded and hailed to high heavens as the “last hope of the common man and democracy.” The same judiciary is lampooned and tarred as the agent of the ruling PDP and a “threat to democracy” when, for instance, Chief Alao Akala of the PDP, is declared by the tribunal and Appeal Court in their concurrent findings, as the rightful winner of the Oyo gubernatorial election. And it would appear also that only when a candidate is “imposed” by the PDP to contest an election that we hear cries about “internal democracy” as if it is the business of the people how parties select, nominate or elect their candidates, but mum is the word when opposition parties do the very same thing in the most blatant form, as for instance, when Senator and ex-governor Bola Tinubu brushed all other contestants aside, including his own deputy governor, to impose Tunde Fashola on his party, or when General Muhammadu Buhari literarily rolled over other presidential aspirants including the cerebral and highly regarded Dr. Chuba Okadigbo and Chief John Nwodo, to become the ANNP presidential flag-bearer in 2003. The list goes on and on pointing conclusively to troubling tendencies of double standards in our national assessments and sense of judgment. There cannot be one standard for the PDP and another standard for the opposition parties. The nation must be governed by one and only one standard and we must insist on that in our reactions and commentaries to events and developments in the polity no matter whom or what is involved. Keeping mum when opposition party lords are subverting their own constitution and democratic tenets and crying blue murder when it is the ruling PDP, portrays us as an unserious people lacking elementary principles of fair play and common standards in public affairs. The same conduct cannot be bad for the PDP and good for the AC, ANPP or, for that matter, the PPA led by ex-governor Orji Kalu. There is something called fair-play and fair is square. We cannot afford to cherry pick whom to judge and whom not to judge and give a pass for similar conducts on the basis of ethnicity, religion, or political affiliations. Why is the judiciary reviled as being “timid” and “compromised” for refusing to rule in favor of an opposition candidate and hailed as “bold” and “courageous” when it rules against the PDP? Or, for that matter, why would any citizen who had the slightest regard for our judiciary still trumpet the notion that Yar’Adua did not win the 2007 presidential election but was imposed on the nation by OBJ and INEC even in the face of concurrent findings to the contrary by the two highest courts in the land—the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court which held that Yar’Adua was validly elected by a majority of lawful votes and thus fulfilled the requirement of the electoral law and the constitution? On what factual or legal basis do some people still question President Yar’Adua’s legitimacy when those who challenged his victory in court failed woefully to produce any or convincing evidence that he was not validly elected, and their cases dismissed? In civilized climes when the highest court in the land has adjudicated on any matter that is the end of it and it is accepted as a given. Why is Nigeria different? Why is Nigeria labeled a “failed state” by failed politicians who find themselves outside of the system only to turn around and call Nigeria a “great country” and “African giant” when they later find them-selves back in the system? Or, for that matter, why would opposition politicians describe the ruling PDP as the “great Satan” that is about to collapse only for them to turn around and troop back to the same party and hail it as the “largest party” in Africa that would rule Nigeria for the next 60 years? The more you observe Nigerians from a distance the more perplexed you get. Naturally you’re forced to ask: what manner of people are these? There is something fundamentally wrong with our people that outsiders have since identified of which we are collectively in denial. Something is definitely wrong or at least different with a people who do not pay taxes to the state and perform their civic responsibilities but yet expect to enjoy efficient social amenities provided by the state like citizens of the United States and other developed nations who take their civic duties seriously and take pride in paying their taxes in return for the protection of the state and their enjoyment of efficient social services? How could you not pay income taxes and still expect to enjoy efficient social services like citizens of other countries who perform their civic duties dutifully? How? Tell me how! I know someone somewhere would point to VAT or petroleum taxes collected by the Federal Government on behalf of the people and call those income taxes. Sorry, VAT and petroleum royalties are not your personal income taxes that the state is entitled to in order to defend and protect you from both external and internal aggression, as well as provide you with social amenities such as good roads, water, hospitals, schools, electricity, postal services, etc. As things stand today, only public servants pay income taxes and that is grossly unfair to them because they’re bearing the burdens of others who ought to put in their fair share. But they don’t yet complain the loudest. The question then is why are Nigerians different from other nationals? That is ultimately a question for sociologists and psychologists to grapple with, but is clear even to the layman that the people are fundamentally disoriented and therefore incapable of addressing issues rationally. They’re ridding emotional roller-coaster and reason is made to take the back burner. Suffice it to say however that a people ruled more by raw emotions rather than reason have no place in the modern world of science and rationalism. They belong instead to the field of anthropology and archeology as bygone species of human evolution.
The rebranding project must, therefore, start with ourselves before we can sell it to outsiders. It must seek to remake and reinvent the Nigerian man or woman. These then are the perfect times to turn the tide of pessimism and hopelessness for our nation and for our people. These are the times to step forward and bring forth a message of hope, inspiration and aspiration for our nation and our people. These are the times not for the pessimists but for the optimists to strut their wares. Who would step forward and seize the gauntlet? It is not the politician who is busy looting the state treasury while promising undeliverable “dividends of democracy” or the clergyman who is busy robbing his congregation blind while in a “power prayer” mode with their eyes closed and speaking in tongues--in the name of Lord. It is not for the Minister of Information and Communication either, the very likeable Professor Dora Akunyili of the NAFDAC fame and the author of the Nigerian rebranding project, to set the tone, because she is an agent of a despised and unpopular administration and her message might not resonate with the suffering masses despite her personal approval ratings. And it is not for hired guns in the public relations business to do the job for us, because they’re paid agents of the state doing a purely commercial job that carries no personal conviction on their part. Rather, it falls on ordinary Nigerians and patriots with the conviction and belief in the country, to change the tone and the tunes of the times. This writer might not exactly fit the bill in this all-important matter, but he will attempt to essay why all that dims is not all dross and all that glitters is not gold either in the best tradition of the incurable optimist. That’s right. There is a crying need to reflect the broad canvass of opinions of patriots and nationalists, whose voices have been drowned out by the drumbeats of pessimists. Yes, there is a crying need to respond forcefully to the negative chimes and jingles of the naysayers, who see nothing good about Nigeria and her institutions of state. I am not here to defend or sanitize the corrupt and inept leadership that the nation has been saddled with at all levels. However, while there are difficulties and challenges, which cannot be wished away or glossed over, it is important that, we do not as a people, allow a free reign of the swine flu of pessimism to infect the present and future generations of our great nation. Therefore, it behooves us to inoculate the present and future generations of Nigerians against the rampaging viral load of pessimism in our body politic by injecting into the bloodstream of the nation, significant and healthy doses of inspiration, optimism, hope and aspiration for a better future that is worthy of our pride and ownership as the hope and anchor of the black race. That is a huge responsibility for the entire black race imposed on us by nature that has no place for self-recrimination and defeatist attitudes and tendencies. The destiny of the African continent and the black race is in the hands of the African country with the greatest population of blacks and endowed with the greatest quantum of human and material resources that has used those resources to liberate the continent from the shackles of colonialism and the mental and physical subjugation of the black man in his country and continent. I looked around in search of that African country and it was not Congo, Ghana, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Kenya or Togo. And it was not Tanzania, Niger, Cameroon, Algeria, Egypt or Sudan. And I kept searching still and it was not Botswana, Morocco, Sierra-Leone or none of the rest. But undaunted I kept on searching. And the last time I searched, I finally found the country, a beautiful nation tucked in the heart of West Africa. It has a name and it is called “The Federal Republic of Nigeria” or “Nigeria” for short. South Africa, Angola, Zimbabwe, Liberia and Sierra Leone, all owe their present statehood to Nigeria. A country that liberates failed states cannot itself be a failed state, because the blind cannot lead the blind nor can the dead wake up the dead. Without mentioning her other exploits in the international arena, that singular achievement is enough to hold my head high in the international community as a Nigerian because I see and feel the respect my nationality elicits from fellow Africans in the Diaspora and that’s why nothing gets done in Africa until Nigeria signs on to it and moves it on to fruition. That’s right! Nothing moves in Africa until Nigeria moves it and that is not an overstatement. It is the law of physics and nothing moves in the world until the big boys move it in international diplomacy. Africa can count on Nigeria to get things moving. I don’t know about Ghana, Togo or South Africa or any other on the continent of Africa. The rewards are two term chairmanship of the AU and a non-permanent seat in the UN Security Council as the crown jewel. Yes, the reward is the appointment of Nigerians into the highest echelons of the World Bank and other international agencies. Who says Africa and the world have not noticed and appreciative of Nigeria’s contributions to world peace and development? Let the one raise up his hand. Nigeria is a giant under the sun but she is dazed and stupefied at the moment and only needs to be awoken and shaken up vigorously to clear the fog from her eyes to partake of her manifest destiny. When I project into Nigeria’s future I see not a failed state but a rising power destined to lead and lord it over other nations in due course. All the ingredients are already lined up with the stars and it is only a matter of time in our lifetime.
And I am, indeed, honored and proud to be a Nigerian. You too can if you quit listening to the antics of failed politicians. Yes you can. If not now, then wait for part two of this hard hitting series. By now you must be sick and tired of all the acidic and corrosive bellyaching and bad blood in and around you. Aren’t you? When you walk yourself through this series, your perception of that great country will change for the better and your life will never be the same again, because there is power, hope, inspiration and aspiration in the spirit of optimism. And why wouldn’t you believe in this message? I am just an individual like you with no ties to the government past or present struggling to make a living just like everyone else outside the shores of our country but full of hope and optimism for a brighter future for our great nation. And I have to tell you this: despite a few success stories here and there that took decades of hard work, grit and sheer determination to build, the grass is NOT all that green everywhere else outside of Nigeria. In fact, it is either outright stark brown out there or browning out, and you’ve got to see and feel it to believe it, for, those who wear the shoes know exactly where they pinch. Do not fall for appearances, because the substance of it might be different from what you thought real. Change your perception in life and you will change your life for the better. That’s all it takes, baby!
May God bless Nigeria and heal our people of the spirit of self-doubt and self-immolation.
Franklin Otorofani, Esq.