“I did not go to school (so) that I vote individuals because they come from my ethnic group. Tell me the agenda on health, the agenda on agriculture, so that if I vote for them, it would just be coincidental that we come from the same ethnic extraction. You have been allowed to elect and you elect hyenas to take care of goats and when the goats have been eaten, you wonder why.” – Prof. Patrick Lumumba
This electioneering season is undoubtedly the most exciting in Nigeria’s modern era. More exciting with the unravelling of elements once considered the vanguards of good governance. Thomas Sowell aptly summarised it when he said, “intellectuals may like to think of themselves as people who speak truth to power but too often they are people who speak lies to gain power”. Our very own Nobel Laurette, Prof. Wole Soyinka, corroborates this imperative particularly in his book, The Beatification Of Area Boy: A Lagosian Kaleidoscope. In a previous essay cum tribute to his legacy in literature, I referenced how Soyinka, in that book, calls out the complicity of these faux intellectuals; their unholy alliance with those who flourish on the blood, sweat and tears of the masses. He points out with finesse the conspiracy of those in power and how they orchestrate events to further their selfish interests.
Trent Kimball, CEO of Texas Armoring Corporation (TAC) gave all of us a masterclass in experiential marketing by showing us first-hand how confident he was with his product. He sat in one of his company’s weaponised vehicles bullets were unleashed at its windscreen. Afterwards, he came out of the vehicle unscathed. Over here, particularly for political ends, people double down on selling products (persons) they don’t even believe in themselves, wouldn’t want their children to be mentored by nor would hire to manage their private interests. Isn’t it wild that some people won’t tolerate house helps stealing from them but they don’t mind voting in leaders whose criminal history is well-documented? Do you think these guys would hire someone who sounds like Opie from Family Guy to run their multi-million dollar corporations?
These children of the corn live in a country where a skinny kid with a funny name can become president but for their own country, they don’t think the most competent candidate should be elected simply because of religious and tribal bigotry. This is why many separatist agitators don’t want to be part of a country that is not built on justice, equity and fairness because anything that is put on a fundamentally flawed foundation will be a charade. We will find ourselves having to force national unity down people’s throats in the name of ‘one Nigeria’.
We all watched the greatest World Cup ever in Qatar which has the same oil as ours. Between 2012 and 2022, its GDP grew from $186 billion to $258 billion. During the same period, ours, from $464 billion is still under $500 billion. Good governance na your mate? It’s very clear from the turn of events that a Nigeria that works is a threat to many people; the idea of a country where the child of nobody can become somebody without knowing anybody scares the hell out of them. Hence, when all propaganda and monetary inducements fail, here comes the kitchen sink – good old bigotry. However, for right-thinking Nigerians, the 2023 elections typify a faith in simple dreams and an insistence on small miracles. We stand at the crossroads of history and the good news is that we have the power to forge a different future. When we get it right this month, we might just start calling ourselves the giant of Africa without feeling like frauds.
The king of fables, George Orwell, in his classic, Animal Farm, amongst other things highlighted the dangers of outsourcing your thinking to others who may not have your best interests at heart. Boxer, the farm’s dedicated and loyal worker who other animals admire for his work ethic, allows his blind loyalty to Napoleon to mislead his fellow comrades. Squealer, who is Orwell’s metaphor for propaganda machinery, weaponises this ignorance and knowledge gap of governance – making Boxer adopt a naïve mentality such as “Comrade Napoleon is always right.” Eventually, Boxer collapses from overwork, ends up being betrayed and sold off by the very pigs he trusted to the knacker’s yard to be slaughtered, whilst they buy drinks from the proceeds of his sale. This is how Boxer didn’t get to enjoy the perks of being the strongest and most hardworking animal because he almost literally put a gold ring in a pig’s snout.
This is what happens when you take something as precious as your vote and cast it for evidently incompetent candidates; you will work very hard but end up poor because the system will steal your wealth via inflation, economic terrorism and predatory policies. As a young person, when you cast your vote for an invalid, you will put a lot of creative energy into your studies but it will take you six years to graduate from a four-year course. As a person of faith, voting for sons of perdition means your sufferhead’s prayer points will increase because you will keep disturbing God to do what a serious government should handle. Learn from Boxer; don’t take that gold ring and put it in the snout of a pig. It’s akin to being a handsome or beautiful person without discretion.
The reason why some of us have coconut heads is that we don’t internalise propaganda, we interrogate it. I talk a lot about critical thinking because anyone that robs you of that has effectively made you subhuman. So whenever I see a bat moving funny, I want to know whether it’s a bird or a rodent. I don’t equivocate or conjecture because determining its true identity is critical. Otherwise, such an animal will carry me to where I don’t know. Fela was in his bag when he declared, “animal talk, don start again!” Right-thinking Nigerians cannot be finessed again with sleek rebranding and packaged leaders; our eyes are on those who think it’s a privilege to serve – not those who arrogantly assume that it’s their turn to rule.
Bigotry is nothing but an elite conspiracy to obfuscate the real issues; if your religion preaches hate, instead of love, then it’s a cult. These are the issues: N77 trillion national debt, epileptic power supply, a comatose economy, moribund refineries, unholy subsidy payments, monumental crude oil theft, pervasive insecurity, record inflation, record unemployment, ASUU strikes, Twitter ban, crypto ban, over 20 million out-of-school children, poverty capital of the world, border closure, exorbitant rents, religious bigotry, devalued naira, unprecedented corruption, naked nepotism, insurgency, kidnapping, rubberstamp national assembly, human rights infringements, ineffective judiciary, food insecurity, fuel scarcity, mismanagement of our diversity and a litany of other terrible indices wey just put everybody for reverse.
You owe it to your legacy to be on the right side of history. The idea of institutionalising insensitivity in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society must be frowned upon because our sensibilities have been constantly assaulted with reckless abandon in recent years. Recognizing our diversity and responding to such with intentional inclusion is sacrosanct. It’s tomfoolery to shift the goalpost whenever it’s politically convenient. Nigeria belongs to each one of us; not on our watch will any demography become second-class citizens in their own country – that day will not come. Mahatma Gandhi puts it succinctly, “whatever you do for me, without me is against me.” You can’t decide for me when I am not in the room and claim that it’s in my best interest.
If dem wan to knock your head, na from back. African-American author and poet, Audre Lorde warns about the dangers of indifference and the complicity of silence in her book, Your Silence Will Not Protect You. I described it as the silence of the lambs by those who should speak up but chose to bury their heads in the sand at critical moments: “…the deafening silence of some of your faves and brands? When it’s convenient for them, they jump on every conceivable trend and try to spin it in their favour, but when it comes to what directly affects you, they are MIA. A great part of communication is listening to what is not being said. Their silence means they don’t rate you as much – they chose their brand over you, you’re only a statistic for their business models and you’re just a prop for their brand expansion.” Just like Avatar Aang, when the world needed him the most, he vanished. The same attitude is rife as we approach the elections; I am familiar with their game.
Don’t let this flop, else, everybody go chop breakfast last last.