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When ordinariness, mediocrity, small dreams drive politics

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As politicians are cocking their guns again to run for project 2019, I am fully persuaded that we need to sensitise our people to get cracking and freeze celebration of mediocrity, small dreams and ordinariness this time. The reason for this prayer point this week is not far to seek: the spirit of ordinariness and small dreams has been dominating public affairs in this country. And that is why we have remained a potentially great country. That spirit can’t take us anywhere near greatness. Nelson Mandela the legend and oracle saw the spirit hovering around us the other day and warned us to put our act together, lest we should be the last. That was why he said to us, that if we continued to celebrate mediocrity, we would not be able to lead the black race and Africa as we had been endowed to do. Madiba’s words often quoted here:

“The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence….”

The implication of this assertion is that Africa and indeed the black people of the world have been waiting for Nigeria to touch off issues in country and global competitiveness that will make the world to respect the continent and the black race. In other words, the iconic Madiba was eloquent in his warning here that Nigeria is the only source of pride and confidence for the black people of the world.

But sadly as I was saying here, our greedy, callous and mentally lazy dealers, sorry dealers supported by the passive elite corps members have been celebrating mediocrity especially from 1999 when we returned with what FelaAnikulapoKuti, the oracle called,dem don crazy we call democracy.I am deeply concerned that from the way we are going again, from the way even we in the mainstream media are covering up, instead of covering misdeeds and institutional corruption, Mandela’s dream of Nigeria’s leadership of the black race may be a mirage, after all.

Yes, we can’t achieve anything with our ordinariness and small dreams and long speeches without discipline of walking the talks – with execution, that is the spirit of getting things done. Remember T.D Jakes?He (as a spiritual man) often warns that miracles don’t just happen!
We cannot legislate greatness. We cannot be great by just ordinarily wishing it, praying for it without working extraordinarily.

No one understands the context of ordinariness more than a journalist. Newsworthiness is woven around the word, (ordinariness). Ordinary things hardly make news. Ordinary people, places and events can only be newsworthy when something extra (ordinary), unusual, odd, unexpected or bizarre occur to or through them. Just as it just happened to Leah Sharibu from an ordinary Dapchi village. No one would have heard about Dapchi till the end of age but for the evil ones who abducted their school children. Something extra-ordinary, odd, unusual happened in Dapchi, Yobe State. That was the only reason they instantly hit the front pages and primetime news slots.

In the same vein, even in global context, ordinary deeds are never newsworthy. Some people have asked why is it that when (African) leaders visit some developed countries, the local newspapers are unaware. They can only make news for some wrong reasons: something extraordinary, odd about them must have occurred to or about them, to make the news pages. But Mandela was a newsmaker, a difference maker any day because of so much extraordinariness about him. One of the extra-ordinary qualities that touched the world was his Christ-like attitude: he taught a continent to forgive. In a tribute to the great man published in The New York Times (Friday December 6,2013), John Dramani Mahama, then Ghanaian President noted, “His utilisation of peace as a vehicle of liberation showed Africa that if we were to move beyond the divisiveness caused by colonisation, and the pain of our self-inflicted wounds, compassion and forgiveness must play a role in governance. Countries, like people, must acknowledge the trauma they experienced, and they must find a way to reconcile, to make what was broken whole again…”

Mahama concluded his tribute this way: “It wasn’t just Nelson Mandela who was transformed during those years of his imprisonment. We all were. And Africa is all the better because of that”. Those lines speak volumes for the extraordinariness that still tickles the world for plaudits of the great man.

There is no question about this: we need to move out of the realm of small dreams, mediocrity and ordinariness in Project 2019. If we must migrate from the spirit called average, we need some sense of urgency to embrace young leaders who can inspire and moblise us with big dreams to achieve something extraordinary that the world will not fail to notice.
Just as the world cannot ignore Dubai, for instance, also an oil producing country with extraordinary dreams driven by purposeful leadership. Can the world ignore Qatar and the UAE because they are Islamic? Are they democracies? It is not about the form of government. It is about quality of leadership.

Development in the world now is not about indolent leadership that cannot read and think strategically about extraordinary critical infrastructure to drive development efforts that do no need noisy jamboree to commission. Nigeria certainly needs a new set of leaders at all levels, (not only in Abuja) who can build world-class teams to develop extraordinary civil service, yes public service that can drive development of excellent transportation infrastructure (including good roads) across the country.

The God of all grace knows that Nigeria does not need any leader who will be celebrating 27 kilometres of roads in 21 roads in a big local government in 2ist century. We should also wake up to the reality that Nigeria should not celebrate a leader who could accept to commission a meretricious Bus Terminal in the country’s economic capital. This is a celebration of mediocrity and ordinariness. It is shameful in the extreme.

Nigeria of 21st century should not cast any votes for candidates and leaders who cannot lead or manage political party system and indeed manifestos that can drive development. Don’t get it twisted; it is not about federal leadership per se. This is a federation of 198 million people in 36 states and 774 local government councils. Why can’t we find even one governor who can be angry enough to invest extraordinarily in a good, yes world-class University with a first-class University Teaching Hospital as a reference point? Why would a governor’s sprained ankle in Kogi state be treated in Abuja and not in Lokoja, his state capital? Why do we have just ordinary, mere consulting clinics even in the nation’s capital? Since 1999, why haven’t we had an extraordinary reference point in development of critical infrastructure in the 36 states in this federation? When can we have a paradigm shift? How did we get here?

A nation that is destined to lead the black people of the world does not have even one world-class University where black people in the world can apply to do research? Have we not been celebrating ordinariness and mediocrity since 1999 when Mr. Democracy arrived here? Where really are the dividends of democracy? There is no security for the citizens. There is water, water everywhere but none to drink by the people from public water system. Some artful tax collecting governments even want to benefit from ordinariness of people’s patienceas they plan to tax people’s organic water system called ‘boreholes’. Where are the dividends of democracy? Some ordinary experts say freedom is the most critical dividend. Other extraordinary democracy experts argue that freedom and democracy are just often used interchangeably, but the two are not synonymous. They argue that democracy is just a set of ideas and principles about freedom, but it also consists of a set of practices and procedures that have been moulded through a long, often tortuous history. They say in short, democracy we have been flirting with since 1922 through the Clifford’s constitution should be no more than institutionalisationof freedom. But where is freedom in the country when it took almost 20 years into the democracy for the states to be told that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) should be applicable in the states? Where is freedom of expression when it is only permissible to call Niger Delta militants but not permissible to call Fulani herdsmen?

Democracy was generally believed to be the most successful political idea of the 20th century. The Economist(March 1, 2014) asked a question about why has it run into trouble, and what can be done about it? There should be different answers in various jurisdictions. But as for Nigeria, one of the reasons democracy has run into trouble is that we (the people) have tolerated Mediocrity, Ordinariness and Small Dreams from small people with little knowledge for too long! We need to wake up from our slumber and encourage big dreamers who have knowledge, social and executive intelligence to run the country at all levels.

If you do not know the effect of mediocrity in any governance system be it public and private, read this 2012 article titled, ‘Celebrating Mediocrity” by a Dutch journalist, Femke van Zeijl who has worked in Nigeria:

“I used to think that corruption was Nigeria’s biggest problem, but I’m starting to doubt that. Every time, I probe into one of the many issues this country is encountering, at the core I find the same phenomenon: the widespread celebration of mediocrity. Un-rebuked underachievement seems to be the rule in all facets of society. A governor building a single road during his entire tenure is revered like the next Messiah; an averagely talented author who writes a colourless book gets sponsored to represent Nigerian literature overseas; and a young woman with no secretarial skills to speak of gets promoted to the oga’s office faster than any of her properly trained colleagues. Needless to say the politician is probably hailed by those awaiting part of the loot he is stealing; the writer might have got his sponsorship from buddies he has been sucking up to in hagiographies paid for by the subjects; and the young woman’s promotion is likely to be an exchange for sex or the expectancy of it. So some form of corruption plays a role in all these examples. But corruption per se does not necessarily stand in the way of development. Otherwise a country like Indonesia – number 118 on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, not that far removed from Nigeria’s 139 – would never have made it to the G-20 group of major economies. An even more serious obstacle to development is the lack of repercussions for underachievement. Who in Nigeria is ever held accountable for substandard performance…?”
Need we say more?

How many candidates have we rejected at the polls for underperformance? This is the time we should take back our country from a generation of mediocre and too-ordinary small dreamers who should be regarded as locusts that want to eat our virtues again. 2019 should be for excellent, Big Dreamers who can lead us to be a Beacon of Hope of the black people in the world.


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