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PMB and the role in search of an actor (7)




He was the man who defiled the world’s moneylenders by refusing to borrow money to finance the Nigerian Civil War.
If Awo thought that Nigeria’s conditions in 1979 were very serious, I wonder what his take would be about our present condition.

Except for their taking photographs with American presidents, which they can show their grandchildren, I do not see any benefit in these ungainful trips. In a similar manner, President Buhari should strengthen our embassies abroad to enable them deal with bilateral issues and sign valid agreements and stop his ministers junketing abroad like travel agents or international salesmen travelling first class, just to sign agreements.
A true leader must lead from the front. King David of the Bible got into trouble and provoked God’s wrath when instead of leading from the frontline, he was busy cavorting with another man’s wife in his own Aso Villa while Gen. Uriah was on the frontline.

The main business of a true leader is basically inspirational, that is, to set a goal, personal, family, political, national and inspire everybody to pursue that goal from the front. A true Nigerian leader must through his example inspire Diaspora Nigerians to willingly return home to save their country. Many of the medics attending to the Nigerian nouveau riche in American and South African hospitals are Nigerians. I understand that there is a Nigerian working at NASA in the USA whose life and innovative expertise is so valuable to the United States that the Americans would not take a risk of allowing him to come back home on vacation. Rather, they chose to import his relations to come visit him in America at the American government’s expense.

An essential part of the inspirational requirement of any leader is to interrogate our national leadership selection process. Why do we say that we are not interested in the best man, the most competent man for national leadership but mainly in his geopolitical unit of origin? Yet, when we assemble our national football teams, we do not determine that the team captain must be from the Middle Belt, the Goalkeeper from the North East, the Centre Forward from the South West etc. Can we name one single country that achieved greatness with the formula of – “It is the turn of the North; It is the turn of the Yoruba?

What is all this saying? There is a role looking for an actor.

In conclusion, we have to look at our past, present and project into the future. A people that have no memory of its past, is in danger of not just losing its present but also its future.
Talking to a not-so-young man, possibly in his late 30s a while ago, I casually talked about the Awolowo/Akintola crisis that precipitated Nigeria’s contemporary national problems.

To my consternation, the fellow who has a B.Sc, and M.A. and MBA did not know who Chief S. L. Akintola was and has only a hazy idea of who Awolowo was. At least, he did better than pupils of a secondary school at Ikenne – Just some 200 metres from late Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s house. They were asked who Chief Obafemi Awolowo was. None of them knew – but they knew Obafemi Martins, the footballer. These are the people in whose hands we have our future. May God help us!

If we do not teach our oncoming generations how we came to be where we are now our pre and post independence struggles, our civil war years time, the youths to be born after 2019, when asked about Buhari, could say that it is the name of a Supermarket in Daura and not that of a Never-Say-Die admirable Nigerian president.

I personally think this call for Biafra is because we have not taught all those born in 1970/71, who are now 40 years and above and qualified to run for president what our history has been. That together with the general disillusionment of our youths and their disenchantment that has led to their fascination with the Biafra mantra. How old was this so-called “Biafran”leader in 1971? What is the average age of the Biafran protesters. Yes, the Igbos may have a genuine case of possible marginalisation against the Federal Government – but these “Biafrans” don’t know what a civil war is like.

It is not Notting Hill Gate Carnival? How many of them have eaten lizards or gone without food and water and a bath for weeks? How many have seen their parents shot dead at pointblank range? The Nigerian Civil War is not African Magic. May be they need to watch a 10-hour documentary on the Nigerian Civil War to know what they are taking about. Lai Mohammed – are you there? That is what happens when we don’t let the present generation know about our past.

Some years ago, a Nigerian retired diplomat who had served in Asia told me of the “cram school” and the discipline to which Asian children between 7-11 were daily subjected. They were practically forced to apply themselves to their studies between 10-15 hours every day. They simply had no time for Arsenal VS Man U. They are being prepared to take over the world in the 22nd Century. We are already seeing the results in Korea, in China in Japan, in Hong Kong. Our young men gather every evening around DSTV Channels paying N50 to watch the Bundenslisa or the British F.A. Lord have mercy! I don’t care if Messi or Ronaldo can score a goal with their eyes closed. Our future as a country is now at stake.

There is a role waiting for an actor. Donald Trump, are you still there? ­Obama, a first generation American became President, while there were millions of 10-15th generation Americans in the country. In Nigeria, there is absolutely no way he would have been a local government councilor. If he likes, he could be more eloquent than Demosthenes whom Cicero described as “inter omnisunusexcellent” or biblical Tertulius. There is no room in 21st Century Nigeria for a president whose main qualification is his dusty birth certificate.

To illustrate how critical leadership, disciplined leadership is crucial to a nation’s future, we can ask – What if Winston Churchill had not been the wartime Prime Minister of Britain. The British would have become a German colony. What if Lee Kwan Yew had not been the Prime Minister of Singapore? What if Washington had not been the first President of America? What if David Ben Gurion had not been the First Prime Minister of Israel? What if Sheik Makhtoum had not been the ruler of Dubai? What if Mandela had not happened to South Africa?

For 10 years plus, Mahatiar Mohammed as Prime Minister prepared Anwar Ibrahim his protégé to take over from him. However, a year or less to handover, he heard rumours that his beloved protégé and successor-in-waiting was possibly a gay. Believing that any man with such a possible character flaw could or would be habouring other character flaws and it could be dangerous to entrust the destiny of the 35 million Malaysians into such hands, Mahatiar fought his “political son” with a frightening jaw-dropping ferocity. Who are the people in charge of the destiny of 170 million Nigerians? How many of them have concubines? How many of them are even possible transgenders? The future of the 700 million Nigerians in 2050 is already in the political loins in Buhari in 2016.

We simply cannot go on like this. President Buhari and his team must lead from the front. It is however necessary to understand that the present challenges confronting Buhari are the result of decades of governmental rascality and irresponsibility and it would be an escapism to hang it all on Buhari’s neck.

A country that spends $100m drinking champagne in 2014 paid for with official foreign exchange and in addition received 1,100,000 bottles when close to 3,000,000 of its countrymen were in IDP Camps, whose average life expectancy is 42, which is saluted as the 10th most corrupt country in the world.

(Currently there is an issue between a South-South parliamentary speaker and the head of a state parastatal over the allegation by the state official that the speaker asked for N1 billion upfront bribe before considering his budget. That country possibly needs a 1983 edition of Buhari.

The country simply cannot afford to spend N2.7 billion feeding Buhari and the Vice President yearly on TuwoShinkafa and Ijebu Garri and Ewedu. They must lead from the front.
If we are to be taken seriously as a nation, we have to stop as individuals and as a nation, stop living hypocritical lives and deceiving ourselves. We have to totally change our values. As of today, the only item of value is money and nothing else. Period! Not honour. Not virtue. Not education. Not wisdom. Not honesty. Our national philosophy seems to be – Seek ye first the kingdom of Naira and every other thing – Power, Titles, Fake Honours, M.O.N, C.O.N, Chieftaincies, Doctorates, Senatorial and Gubernatorial, Judicial even ecclesiastical positions (sans anointing) “would be added unto you.”

There is something wrong with a country that would humiliate late Prof. J. Ade Ajayi, one of the very few world authorities on African history and a two-time Vice Chancellor to sit under a tree, day after day, as he was photographed years ago waiting for his pension at the University of Ibadan. That was one of the saddest days of Nigeria.

I wish now to end with a return to the prodigal son syndrome. The bible says that the Prodigal son “came onto his senses,” the parallel of which is that while the Malaysians have used our “borrowed” palm oil seedlings to transport their country into the twenty-first century, we are still wallowing with the swine.
With the greatest respect to Buhari, I want to say that a Nigerian president living in Aso Villa while up to 130 million Nigerians are living on less than N130 a day and whose country is No 152 in the Human Development Index and the 10th most corrupt in the world has to beware of a Prodigal son’s syndrome. Do we realise that the electricity bill of Aso Villa for one day can possibly set up an SME?

A Nigerian president habouring nine or 11 private jets in his garage has to beware of a Prodigal son’s syndrome. A Nigerian President who wishes to spend N2.7 billion a year on Tuwo or Ijebu Garri has to beware of Prodigal son’s syndrome.
I hear there are plans to build another residence for the Vice President. Thank God for Prof. Yemi. I can close my eyes and say that he will throw the proposal out faster than Hussein Bolt can run 100 metres.

In conclusion, we have to ask – Is President Buhari our Gamal Abdel Nasser or Mustapha Kemal Ataturk or Ho Chin Minhi or Herr Ludwig Erhard or Park Chung Hee or Deng Chiao Ping or Suharto or Mahatir Mohammed or Lula da Silva? Are you the expected actor or as John the Baptist asked – “Look we for another?”

Ogunsanwo, one-time presidential candidate, is a former editor of Sunday Times

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