Thirsty for Progress: Mr President, Let’s Have a Palm Wine Summit

by Sheyi Oriade

Far be it from me to impute or imply or cause others to infer from the title of this piece that the president of our federal republic is anything but a religiously observant teetotaller – who is not and perhaps has never been – in violation of his doctrinal creed’s injunctions and prohibitions regarding the use, misuse, and abuse of fermented juices – be they the fruit of the vine or the fruit of the palm. Intoxicants of the bottle, barrel, gourd, or keg do not feature on the president’s list of real or imagined indulgences and weaknesses. All things considered, this ought to be a good thing.

For the natural corollary to one not being susceptible to intoxicants or subject to episodes of intoxication, is that such a one is often sober and possibly of habitual sobriety. On this basis, therefore, one can easily deduce or even conclude on the strength of the president’s drinking habits – or more accurately – his non-drinking habits that he is a man of habitual sobriety. But being a person of sobriety is not nearly as straight forward as it may first seem. For sobriety implies awareness and knowingness. It connotes a sense of responsibility and self-control in much the same way that habitual intoxication denotes irresponsibility and a lack of self-control.

Since our president’s abstemiousness is a fairly well acknowledged fact, can one then impute to him a sense of knowingness and awareness in his administration of the nation? If one can, then it is something of a puzzling paradox that the nation over which he has executive and political charge appears to be staggering – without poise and without compass – in a state of drunken convulsion. Moving as it seems without pause or discrimination from flash spot to hotspot and without a proper consideration or resolution of the underlying causes of these troubling spots.

This then leads one to wonder how broad our president’s purview of Nigeria really is. Is he aware of the level of disaffection amongst the people about the state of the nation and government? Is his presumed sobriety sufficient to bring about the necessary corrective action and positive change that the nation urgently requires at this time? Is he in a position to wean many of the ruling political elite off their drunken addiction to corruption? He will do well to provide answers to the people on these and other pertinent issues affecting the nation.

Only a stranger to some of the strange going-ons currently ongoing in Nigeria will be ignorant of the fact that our national cooking pot is stewing to the point of overheating and desperately needs to be brought to simmer. Not many seem to know what recipe is being followed or whether its culinary outcome will be palatable to the national palate. But more than a few people seem to be aware that the ingredients at stew in the national cooking pot are of a nature, consistency, and texture – that in their combination they make for a very potent mix. The serving and ingestion of which, is guaranteed to leave the collective insides of the people in a state of constipated upheaval.

The uncontrolled release of such an unsavoury constipated outpouring upon the nation is better imagined than experienced. For the sheer immensity of such a lavatorial outpouring will pose an enormous challenge to our largely non-functional or non-existent national sewers. And in such circumstances, as can easily be imagined – that which does not flush will float and the more which floats in the nation will simply add to the pungency of the prevailing national stench of corruption affronting the collective nostrils of Nigerians.

As a man of presumed sobriety the president must realise that in order to avoid such a lavatorial outcome, it is in his interest to spearhead a programme of controlled release and relief for the people. He will need to rise from the repose of his opulent and fragrant surroundings – to promote and lead proactively – a national deodorisation campaign aimed at fumigating and refreshing the national atmosphere; ridding it of its oppressive stench of corruption, thereby allowing the people to breathe easy for a change.

But in order to do so, he will first have to free himself from the viselike grip of those among his advisers who specialise in telling him that which they think he wants to hear, rather than that which he really needs to hear. He needs to begin to think outside the box of his rock of habitation and get out and about familiarising himself with his populace and the destitution in which many of them live.

Nigerians are thirsty. They are thirsty for change and for progress in their affairs. And this thirst will only be quenched by a constant flow of good governance from the nation’s taps. The president must begin to prime the national pump and get it flowing for the benefit of the people. In this regard, it will serve him well to organise a series of ‘meet, greet, listen and sip Palm Wine Summits’ with ordinary Nigerians from across the different geo-political zones in order to understand their issues and to work with them to resolve them. The everyday ordinary people who are ordinarily excluded from the decision making processes which often impact their lives unfavourably.

Regardless, of the president’s non-drinking habit he will realise that the Palm Tree thrives in our soils and brings forth its luxuriant fruits and derivative by-products in season without fail. It is also a symbolic and powerful reminder to us of its productiveness and also of the fact that it is home grown. It points to the fact that many of the answers to our myriad problems can be sourced internally. For quite often that which we seek afar, often stares us in the face.

These ‘meet, greet, listen and sip Palm Wine Summits’ between the president and the people should be allowed to evolve into a national convocation of the different nationalities and ethnicities in Nigeria. So that they can discuss the present state of things and determine the desired way forward as a nation. As our jubilee anniversary approaches next year, it is best that we begin this process of national dialogue now. It is said that the best time to fix a broken roof is when the sun is shining. Our national sun has been beclouded for too long and occluded from sight by the many unresolved issues affecting the nation. It is time we let the sun shine through once again.

Much better that we employ kegs of palm wine, rather than kegs of gunpowder – to help us on our way in this regard!

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