The Sun News

Hunger, anger and Buhari’s optimism

By Percy  Owaiye

IT is conventional wisdom that a hungry man is an angry man. I am hungry, but not angry. It is indeed time for some of us who believe in the manifest destiny of this country to come out of our closets, and speak out.

To be sure, we campaigned and supported the Buhari candidacy all the way, to victory in the 2015 elections. And, so far, we are not disappointed, contrary to what the “Wailers”—apologies to Mr Femi Adesina –would have us believe.

The situation in the country can be likened to that of a farmer who had a rich harvest but instead of saving some for the next planting season, rather ate up all his crops. When it was time to plant again, he had no seeds to plant. Realising his bountiful harvest and failure to save enough seed for the next planting season, he goes – and nothing captures it better than the biblical expression – a sorrowing and a borrowing, blaming everyone but himself for his foolishness and inability to see beyond his stomach! Excuse the usage.

The foolish farmer faced with imminent starvation goes begging for seeds to plant in the barn of the wise farmer. What seeds do you think he will get? Every wise farmer knows that he must save some of his best seeds for the next planting season. No successful farmer eats up his harvest with his seeds. It is the way of nature: There shall be a planting season, and then, a harvest season. After the planting season, comes the harvest season. And what you sow, you reap. Simple!

What has Nigeria sowed since the whiteman transferred power to her over 50 years ago at independence? Plan-less-ness. Vision-less-ness. Strife. Bigotry. Hatred. In the end, foolishness. Otherwise, how can one country and her people so blessed by God squander such monumental riches?

It was late Benjamin Adekunle of the Black Scorpion Civil War fame who told me a story many years ago. I had gone to him on the recommendation of his childhood friend to see if we could finally unearth his biography. In a moment of introspection, he likened the fate of Nigeria to this analogy: Lucifer tired of seeing God at work almost forever, finally summoned the courage and walked up to ask if He did not ever relax. God was stunned at the question and asked The meddlesome one to follow Him to a window. He opened it and told him to look down. “You see those people? They have everything, but no head. Any time I am bored from work, I just open the window and look  at them!”

Now, think of it! When you have everything, but have no head; you indeed have nothing. So, is God to blame for our deplorable situation?  Like all of his creation, he gave us heads too. Just that we have refused to use our own. Yes, rightly.

And it is this same crass Egyptian mindset that is still at play even now: We are hungry. We are dying o. Buhari, give us food! Yes, indeed we are hungry, but can’t we pause for awhile and think? Why are we here?

The biographers recorded that young Bill Gates was in the habit of locking himself away in the basement room for days, avoiding any interference, and whenever his mother interrupted him thinking that he might need food or any other requirement, he would shout back asking if she has ever tried thinking before?   I like the contrast here between one kind of thinking and another kind of thinking. The one the young Bill Gates was talking about was clearly different from his mother’s.

Nigeria, it is time to put on the thinking cap. And the good news? The thinking we require now goes very well with hunger! When we do this, we will realize that the present challenge is indeed a lifetime opportunity–the opportunity to do things differently. It was Chinua Achebe of blessed memory, in one of his writings, who said: It is only a foolish man who continues on a beaten path. We must not be too old to change our foolish and unprofitable ways.

Nigeria’s problem, as has been fairly well demonstrated is leadership. Only now, compounded by a fouled followership. This is where we must begin, in my opinion, to retrace our steps. Luckily now, we have Buhari at the helm in Abuja. Buhari is neither an angel nor a magician. But we can use his integrity, patriotism and courage to begin to rebuild our country.

For too long, we have not had sincere leaders. A man is only as good as his word. We had leaders who will say yes in the morning and no, the next moment. We had leaders who will lie to us at every opportunity. What are a people supposed to do with such leaders?

That is why the most profound assessment of leadership you will hear from the followers today is that: They are all the same! What that means, if you check very well, is that let those who are there today have their turn (at reaping the nation apart).  Who knows? I may have mine tomorrow! It is the worst form of abdication and future justification that a people can ever put up with.

That is where we are. That is why many in the polity today cannot see the positives in Buhari for our country. Or even want to consider them. And Buhari is both a reality and a metaphor for our present and future Nigeria.

At least, most are agreed and following from his record of service, that Buhari would not take a kobo that does not belong to him from the public till. He would not allow anyone– no matter how close–if he knows, to take. Again, this is a good place to start because Nigeria for ages has been stolen blind by the very people in whose custody she was kept. That was a very sad irony.

Yes, Buhari may not be the greatest thinker around. And indeed, ideas still rule the world! But we can be grateful that he is determined to get the basics right. The challenge of Nigeria today as I see it is not to put a man on the moon. No. It is to fix and establish basic infrastructure: water, roads, power, health centres, schools, houses, railways, aviation, waterways and the like. Basic things that the developed world take for granted.  The Buhari I see is determined to fix the infrastructure. When we have done this, then we can begin to dream.

Owaiye writes from Lagos


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