Monday, August 24, 2009

The parable of the talents

THE ruling party and its sympathisers are not pleased with the frank assessment of the Nigerian situation by the American Secretary of State, Mrs. Clinton. While her presence in Nigeria was appreciated, her objective evaluation of our socio-economic and political situation is constantly irritating to the men in power here. To an average and patriotic Nigerian, it was a Daniel come to judgment. The Senate President feels that our sovereignty does not give room for unnecessary interference, that Mrs. Clinton's opinion was shaped by what opposition parties fed her with .

This recent issue and the usual comparison of our polity and fortune with Ghana's have been very unpleasant to the men of power. For instance the Minister of Defence was quoted as saying in an interaction with the press: "when you are discussing Nigeria, don't compare us with Ghana next time" because according to him "... the number of teachers that you have to pay salaries in the whole of Ghana is not more than (what you have in) (south) Western Nigeria )."

The big question is: why do our leaders manifest this attitude of looking at criticism negatively? Why not address the real issue in a very objective and rational manner? According to Shakespeare, before we know if a thing is big or small it must be in comparison. Also, the parable of the talent teaches us that it is not size but it is judicious application of resources available to one that he is judged. To whom much is given much is expected. A popular African proverb has it too that you don't flog a child and stop him from crying.

The tone of the American secretary of state in her town hall meeting was a deviation from what the Government is used to. Rather than eulogising the government that has been spreading poverty, she went straight to the point, to the heart and root cause of our woes. We are an independent nation no doubt. The Senate President and other Nigerians will not want anybody or anything to erode our sovereignty. But the issue is that, there is nothing in what was said during Mrs. Clinton's visit that attempted to do this. If independence and sovereignty mean the entire world closing its eyes while a few people subject the entire nation to unparalleled and unwarranted suffering, then there should be a better definition of sovereignty. It is a big irony that we look and yawn for aid, both economic and otherwise, from the western world and yet when they point out where we are going wrong that it is seen as meddlesomeness.

There is little doubt now that the world has dissolved into a global village and without the constant intervention and watchdog role of the western powers, a few powerful people in developing regions like Africa will subject the weak and the helpless to abject poverty and hardship. We want more of this type of foreign visits and bashing. The scenario is becoming very interesting. It is dubious and a disservice to humanity for the Western world to be silent in the face of the unbridled modern slavery that has crept into Africa in the name of government.

Leadership in this part of the world seems to be so intolerant of alternative views. Can this be seen as a feature of underdevelopment? Nigeria is the easiest place to rule on earth. We are so resilient and complacent. We make noise, shout, condemn government policy, outcomes of fraudulent elections. After that what happens? The whole noise dies down and life continues as if nothing has happened. Apart from a pocket of religious violence and the recent developments in Niger delta, Nigerians tolerate their leaders a lot no matter the way they are insulted.

There is nothing new as a matter of fact in what Mrs. Clinton said. The worry now is the source it came from. It is a common knowledge that a government is accountable to the people and promotes public good rather than personal aggrandisement. Do we have that kind of Government in place here? The answer is known, even to a most undiscerning mind. If we are victims of natural disaster or economic meltdown we can endure, hoping that what has a beginning will have an end . But the sad reality about us is that we have been exposed to this harsh reality for decades now with no signs of end in sight. It is the same story: promises to solve problem of water, energy, health, education, roads. At the end of each year, each dispensation, nothing changes. Should we be clapping at this development?

We have had a PDP government in control of the three arms of government for over 10 years now. This period of 10 years is enough to solve our basic problems and give us a good foundation to move ahead; but everything seems to be in disarray as we are beginners. We cannot be celebrating this ineptitude in governance. Even if the men in power decide to turn a deaf ear, it is necessary that all Nigerians and those who wish the country well raise their voices of disapproval to a bad experiment and deliberate abuse of a people's destiny. At least it will be on record that there were vocal voices when our nation was being raped.

It has been said for the umpteenth time that this is a rich country with poor people. This is a great fallacy. But mind you, the poverty in the land is class-structured. The powerful and those close to them are alien to the sufferings in the land. In fact it gives them sadistic joy to see millions of people who languish in poverty. It is an exercise in self-deception to hide under our 'large population' as the reason for the non-promotion of public good. Population has its problems, but if it is properly managed it is an asset in the evolution of any nation. If the interest of our leaders is in governance in the true sense of the word, they should learn to keep pride away, and learn from harmless and free advice given to them.