Baseless Optimism Will not Change Nigeria

by John Iteshi

The dominant reasoning of the majority of those who commented on the article, ‘Pat Utomi for Which Nigeria?’ caused me great worries about the mindset of some educated Nigerians. All that was said was that Nigerian electoral system is too fraudulent and that Pat Utomi stands no imaginable chance of manipulating his way. An attempt was made to offer some insight into how elections and manipulated and how being the best candidate does not count at all. It was also suggested that rather than people like Utomi aiming at the presidency which they realistically cannot achieve in the present situation of things that they should rather begin from their respective locations or their home state s to build that Nigeria of their dreams. The fact that most of the comments received centred on attacking the person of the author (not the issues raised) as being self defeatist and pessimistic was deeply shocking because it  suggested that majority of educated Nigerians are terribly ignorant about the situation on the ground.

One has now stronger reasons to shift further away from the popular belief that Nigeria‘s failures have been caused largely by poorly educated people at the helm of affairs. The seemingly unanimous belief  among Nigerians that once you have grabbed chains of PhDs, you are ripe for leadership positions has to be quashed as a better view seems to be that one hundred and twenty million Nigerian PhD holders cannot change Nigeria without basic understanding of relevant issues as well as some unity and sincerity of purpose. It is most imperative for ‘genuine’ educated Nigerians to change their psyche first and foremost and recognise the need to trade ideas rather than words and primitive self obsessions. Going through the websites and Nigerian newspapers, it was apparent that what attract the attention of educated Nigerians most are personality discourses or issues pertaining to one ethnic group or the other, rather than ideas that could change Nigeria. Hence, articles bordering on ethnic groups or individuals associated with politics attracted far more reactions than those on ideas that called for serious thinking and debating. Compared to the barrage of comments including some highly offensive attacks attracted by the article, ‘Igbo Presidency for Who?,’ and the one or two comments received from the widely published article, ‘Audio-Visual Voting Method’ by the same author which bothered on how we can evolve a genuine people oriented democracy through a transparent, fool proof elections, one is forced to think that we are far from being ready for change.

Some of us seem to believe it is reasonable to cross our fingers and be saying only positive things even when it is blatantly obvious that the situation is bleak. Prominent democracy activists in Nigeria, ever since the inception of what we call democracy in 1999 had ample opportunities to change Nigeria, but the lack of the essential ingredient of sincerity and unity of purpose have hampered our chances. It is hard to understand why a person like Wole Soyinka would be very outspoken and almost militant against General Abacha’s regime, but has under the present civilian regime refrained from serious criticisms of the worst administration in Nigeria‘s history. Is it the killing of political opponents, police brutality or economic hardship that has not ten folds, surpassed Abacha’s to warrant his international campaigns against bad governance? Sometimes one thinks that people like Wole Soyinka and the host of other celebrated Nigerian intellectuals and activists usually speak to attract media attention rather than to influence any concrete changes on the ground.  The unprecedented state of corruption and bad governance in Nigeria since 1999, at all levels (despite the global lies in media about reforms) and the shameful lack of serious criticisms among those who have voice, clearly says it all that our problem is not about whether it is military rule or democracy. Neither is it about the ethnic group or religion of whoever is president as we have now seen the worst under a southerner and a Christian.

We are now knowingly sleep- walking into darkness because we refuse to listen to one another. One wonders how reasonable our respected intelligentsia are if they cannot come up with common fronts whereas, the semi-illiterates and the dubious individuals who determine what happens in Nigeria have always organised themselves to exploit us all. The ludicrous thinking of promising individuals like Pat Utomi and Olisa Agbakoba that merely running for presidency is the only way to influence change is disheartening because they are abdicating the more important job of mounting civil pressure to ensure that a more transparent electoral or voting system is put in place. After all, it would be more genuine for anyone who thinks himself genuine, to seek to have a better system put in place than to strive to benefit from a fraudulent system even if he intends to change it. It is also common sense, that chasing the presidency of Nigeria without being in the fold of the political gangs that matter, is tantamount to chasing the wind and no amount of optimism can change that fact especially where majority of educated Nigerians have never seen Nigerian ballot papers let alone a pooling booth.

Time is running out on the majority of genuinely concerned Nigerians to organise themselves and trade ideas on the way forward. Enlightened Nigerian communities both at home and across the world should stop sycophanting around Nigerian government(s) for selfish interests and organise themselves to discuss the Nigeria of their dreams. Lack of indigenous ideas and debates on fundamental issues seems to be a greater problem than lack of PhD holders among Nigerians. We need urgently to begin debates on the impending disaster of 2007 general elections for instance. The fact that majority of educated Nigerians appear not to have sensed the incompetence and obvious dubiousness of Professor Maurice Iwu of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) beggars’ belief. It is not just about being a Professor of Pharmacy who lived in the States and has no experience of elections conduct in Nigeria, but his ploys to use expensive electronic gadgets knowing fully well that Nigeria is predominantly illiterate and moreover has predominantly communities inaccessible to electronic equipments requiring electricity. Perhaps, most of us are intimidated by his academic credentials to imagine he could be wrong, but the real issue is that no society of people genuine about making progress would have allowed Professor Iwu as INEC chairman. We must wake up to the facts that local ideas rather than foreign text book theories will save Nigeria. Ideas about the best ways to organise and build a successful society cannot be an exclusive reserve of whites and other non-Black races. We have only not given ourselves the opportunity to develop our own ways of doing things. There has never been any visible international or imperial obstacle to self righteous Nigerians organising themselves towards national development. Let our Cardinals and Bishops; Professors and other significant opinion leaders and activists who profess genuine concerns get together first without government influence as a starting point towards developing common ideology for a new Nigeria.  2007 may b

e too close, but not too late for the majority of well meaning Nigerians to stand up against blatant fraud for the sake of our future.

Fooling ourselves in optimism not bring any change to our country, never!

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