A wise man with a wide following was once asked by a devotee of his teachings to show him an apple from Paradise. A fruit, which he imagined in his mind, would be a thing of splendour to behold. Now being conversant with the wise man’s extraordinary abilities and, in particular, his unique facility in being able to transcend the limits and limitations of this space-time continuum; the devotee was confident that he would have neither difficulty with, nor objection to, his request. And more so because he was aware that the wise man’s preferred teaching methodology placed great emphasis on practical demonstrations of power as a means of entrenching ‘truths’ in the hearts and minds of his devotees. An approach, much in contrast to that of other philosophical teachers, who relied heavily on the mere repetition of words to convey their ‘truths’.
So, with effortless application, the wise man materialised an apple seemingly out of pure ether. But to the devotee’s astonishment when presented with it by the wise man, he noticed that it bore little resemblance to what he imagined one from Paradise would look like. For in its constitution, it lacked textural consistency. On one side it was entirely wholesome, but on the other it was ridden with blemishes. This left the devotee rather confused.
On noticing the devotee’s confusion the wise man took him aside to instruct him more fully. He began by explaining that within this space-time continuum, the apple he produced was the nearest he would ever come to apprehending one from Paradise. He explained that any attempt to introduce a perfect object into this imperfect space-time continuum, automatically sets in train a corrupting process which undermines the integrity of the object. Regardless of how perfect the object’s original origins may have been. For perfect things retain their perfectness only in their places of origin
He also explained to the devotee that an object is not considered to be perfect simply by reason of its intrinsic nature alone. An observer’s perceptual qualities are also important in determining an object’s state of perfection. So an observer must have the requisite capacity to recognise an object’s perfection. Since states of perfectness can only be validated by those who are themselves perfect.
Unfortunately, he noted that within this space-time continuum our perceptual organs, through which we engage with our environment, are by their very nature, flawed. Seeing, as they are innately disposed to distorting things in accordance with whatever preconceived notions have been fashioned by their experience or environment.
Perfect things require perfect conditions and as no such conditions exist in this space-time continuum, ‘apples from Paradise’ can only ever subsist in our minds as an idea or an ideal. A mere abstraction, capable of contemplation and conceptualisation, but never of concretisation. So, he counselled his devotee to preoccupy his mind with concepts that are comprehensible and consistent with his capacity for learning.
Thus, the wise man concluded his instruction of his devotee by declaring that:
‘Apples of Paradise’ exist in, and belong to, Paradise alone and nowhere else’.
Being thus instructed, the devotee departed from the presence of the wise man. Enlightened as to the futility of searching for the perfect amongst the imperfect. But, nonetheless, recognising that there was utility in pursuing the idea of perfection as an ideal to spur one towards progress in this space-time continuum.
By situating aspects of the above narrative within a Nigerian political context, it has become evident that in common with the curious devotee, President Buhari has also been involved in the pursuit of ‘apples from Paradise’, with regards to the composition of his cabinet. Otherwise, how else does one explain the length of time it took him to unveil his ministerial choices?
A rather puzzling delay, when one takes into consideration the fact, that the president’s underlying professional doctrinal training and operational ethos are founded largely upon the notion of military alacrity. A notion supported by a lexicon, richly interspersed with command-centred terminological phrases like – ‘with immediate effect’ – to underscore the desire for rapidity of action.
But judging by his eventual choices and the largely underwhelming reaction of many Nigerians to them, it is clear that his quest for paradisiacal apples was unsuccessful. Had he had access to counsel, similar to that of the wise man above, it is unlikely that he would have embarked upon such a quest in the first instance. For one, it is debatable whether he, or anyone within his circles or beyond, have the requisite capacity to identify or materialise paradisiacal apples. It is equally debatable and highly doubtful whether such paradisiacal apples exist in Nigeria at all. And if they do, would they not – to a lesser or greater degree – have become infected by that peculiar ‘Nigerian element? And thus diluting their integral essence and rendering them imperfect.
So in retrospect, the latter approach he adopted and by which he was able to identify a mix of ‘sourly-scented’ and ‘sweetly-scented’ rather than ‘perfectly-sainted’ individuals, turned out to be the more practical approach in the end. Nigerians are to a great extent a pragmatic people and will come to terms with the fact that the ministers whilst not ‘perfect’, represent a mix of proven and unproven abilities and which if harnessed properly should be sufficient to advance the cause of Nigeria favourably.
The truth of the matter, is that Nigeria can make great strides without its government being comprised of apples or angels from Paradise. As long as the government commits itself to high standards of performance in its undertakings and acts with fairness in its dealings with all sections of our diverse nation. And as long as it upholds the notion of aspirational perfection as an essential marker towards achieving and maintaining progress. In much the same way that sailors navigate their sea vessels towards the distant sun on the horizon. Knowing full well that it will never lie within their grasp. But they, nevertheless, sail on recognising that every movement in its direction is a movement towards progress.
‘Apples of Paradise’ though eminently desirable are ultimately unattainable in our space-time continuum. So in their place, one imagines, that progressive minded Nigerians will settle happily for the more attainable fruits of good governance like: Accountability, Purposefulness, Prudent and pro-active performance, Leadership, Ethical conduct and Sterling stewardship. Acronymic apples with which we can all be satisfied and which do not require the intervention or special abilities of a wise man to materialise for our collective benefit.