#Project-2023 and our contaminated moral environment
Again, I have looked into the seeds of time and I have seen a very ‘contaminated moral environment’ where men no longer have chests. I mean real men who can stand up for the most populous black nation on earth. All we can see now are smooth talkers, great orators and little doers – for Nigeria, our Nigeria. There are so many aspirants to high offices where they can spend without accountability, without checks to balance them. All some of us can see are men without milk of human kindness. All we can see are men in power and office who have lost their humanity.
Men who count losses of money only on the graves of our fallen sons and daughters we lost to curious insurgencies and terrorism. All we find these days are lamenting representatives of the people in our National Assembly. Not even one of the 36 State Assemblies has convened to debate the state of this failing nation. Only a few members of our wonderful National Assembly could open the chambers to read a few lines from their book of lamentation and go home.
None of the members of our National Assembly could build the only democratic weapon they call consensus on how to discuss a failed and incompetent presidency within the context of what they have appropriated for defence and security in the last seven years. No special sessions! From the nation’s capital where all the top military, defence, intelligence and security chiefs report to the commander-in-chief, a mass transit train was attacked on its way to the political capital of the North, Kaduna where the president actually resides out of power. The attack was a few hours after terrorists reportedly passed through the only airport in the same Kaduna and left in their trail tears and blood. And the same terrorists returned to attack the same train a few hours after the first attack and fled safely to block the only road from Abuja to Kaduna and behold there are no reported consequences for all these dereliction of responsibility. This is a time when silence should not be golden, in any case. This should be a time of consequences even if all our institutions of governance including the National Assembly have let us all down as they enjoy their undeserved perks of office. Nobody has been queried in Buhari’s Nigeria.
Doubtless, we now live in a dangerous, expensive, very stressful environment without any glimmer of hope of a better tomorrow, the only comfort we can give to a weeping child. Our country’s leaders can’t fulfil their primary responsibility anywhere. Their primary responsibility can’t be buried in the debris of what they claim is un-justiciable: ‘Security and welfare of the people shall be the primary responsibility of government’.
Our leaders have failed Africa’s most populous nation in the last 23 years of locusts and specifically the last seven years of waste and anomie. And here is the time we can recall the metaphor of our significant daughter and artiste, Asa who gave us this classic even when it wasn’t this bad in 2007:
Worry, oh, oh
There is fire on the mountain
And nobody seems to be on the run
Oh, there is fire on the mountaintop
And no one is a-runnin’
I wake up in the mornin’
Tell you what I see on my TV screen
I see the blood of an innocent child
And everybody’s watchin’
Now I’m looking out my window
And what do I see?
I see an army of a soldier man
Marching across the street, yeah
Hey, Mr. Soldier man
Tomorrow is the day you go to war
But you are fighting for another man’s cause
And you don’t even know him
What did he say to make you so blind
To your conscience and reason?
Could it be love for your country?
Or for the gun you use in killing?
So… there is fire on the mountain
And nobody seems to be on the run
Oh, there is fire on the mountaintop
And no one is a-runnin’
Hey, Mr. Lover man
Can I get a chance to talk to you?
‘Cause you are fooling with a dead man’s corpse
And you don’t know what you do
So you say you have a lover
And you love her like no other
So you buy her a diamond that someone has died on
Don’t you think there is something wrong with this?
Who’s responsible for what we teach our children?
Is it the Internet or the stars on television?
Why? Oh why? Why? Oh, Why? Oh!….
Yeah, there is fire on the mountain everywhere in Buhari’s Nigeria and no one seems to be on the run. Buhari is tired. Even our elders and our icons are tired. There seems to be that same Buhari in most of us. Even columnists and public intellectual are tired despite the fire on the mountain. Only our National Assembly presiding officers see ‘Buhari as a moral compass’ at their party convention in our ‘contaminated moral environment’ Vaclav Havel hinted it in January 1990.
On January 1, 1990, Vaclav Havel, the playwright and freely elected president of Czechoslovakia made a new-year speech to the nation, which summarised what he saw as the moral and economic issues it faced. The speech we need to pay attention to in this place now:
MY dear fellow citizens, for forty years you heard from my predecessors on this day different variations on the same theme: how our country was flourishing, how many million tons of steel we produced, how happy we all were, how we trusted our government, and what bright perspectives were unfolding in front of us.
I assume you did not propose me for this office so that I, too, would lie to you. Our country is not flourishing. The enormous creative and spiritual potential of our nations is not being used sensibly. Entire branches of industry are producing goods that are of no interest to anyone, while we are lacking the things we need. A state, which calls itself a workers’ state humiliates and exploits workers. Our obsolete economy is wasting the little energy we have available. A country that once could be proud of the educational level of its citizens spends so little on education that it ranks today as seventy-second in the world. We have polluted the soil, rivers and forests bequeathed to us by our ancestors, and we have today the most contaminated environment in Europe. Adults in our country die earlier than in most other European countries.
Allow me a small personal observation. When I flew recently to Bratislava, I found some time during discussions to look out of the plane window. I saw the industrial complex of Slovnaft chemical factory and the giant Petr’alka housing estate right behind it. The view was enough for me to understand that for decades our statesmen and political leaders did not look or did not want to look out of the windows of their planes. No study of statistics available to me would enable me to understand faster and better the situation in which we find ourselves.
But all this is still not the main problem. The worst thing is that we live in a contaminated moral environment. We fell morally ill because we became used to saying something different from what we thought. We learned not to believe in anything, to ignore one another, to care only about ourselves. Concepts such as love, friendship, compassion, humility or forgiveness lost their depth and dimension, and for many of us they represented only psychological peculiarities, or they resembled gone-astray greetings from ancient times, a little ridiculous in the era of computers and spaceships. Only a few of us were able to cry out loudly that the powers that be should not be all-powerful and that the special farms, which produced ecologically pure and top-quality food just for them, should send their produce to schools, children’s homes and hospitals if our agriculture was unable to offer them to all.
The previous regime – armed with its arrogant and intolerant ideology – reduced man to a force of production, and nature to a tool of production. In this it attacked both their very substance and their mutual relationship. It reduced gifted and autonomous people, skillfully working in their own country, to the nuts and bolts of some monstrously huge, noisy and stinking machine, whose real meaning was not clear to anyone. It could not do more than slowly but inexorably wear out itself and all its nuts and bolts.
When I talk about the contaminated moral atmosphere, I am not talking just about the gentlemen who eat organic vegetables and do not look out of the plane windows. I am talking about all of us. We had all become used to the totalitarian system and accepted it as an unchangeable fact and thus helped to perpetuate it. In other words, we are all – though naturally to differing extents – responsible for the operation of the totalitarian machinery. None of us is just its victim. We are all also its co-creators.
Why do I say this? It would be very unreasonable to understand the sad legacy of the last forty years as something alien, which some distant relative bequeathed to us. On the contrary, we have to accept this legacy as a sin we committed against ourselves. If we accept it as such we will understand that it is up to us all and up to us alone to do something about it. We cannot blame the previous rulers for everything, not only because it would be untrue, but also because it would blunt the duty that each of us faces today: namely, the obligation to act independently, freely, reasonably and quickly. Let us not be mistaken: the best government in the world, the best parliament and the best president, cannot achieve much on their own. And it would be wrong to expect a general remedy from them alone. Freedom and democracy include participation and therefore responsibility from us all. If we realize this, then all the horrors that the new Czechoslovak democracy inherited will cease to appear so terrible. If we realize this, hope will return to our hearts….
I hope our political dealers and facilitators of the second coming of Buhari who are also curiously campaigning to succeed him without addressing the grave consequences of the ‘contaminated moral environment’ they have created, will study (not just read) the import of the new-year speech of Vaclav Havel who drew attention to the moral and economic issues his country faced at a time such as this. Can we get angry, bold and brilliant aspirants that would look at the scoundrels in power and the business elite who helped in ruining the nation like this and tell them: there is fire on the mountain and all of us need to be on the run to say: enough is enough to the lying liars who want to lie to us again.