We deserve our leaders, don’t we?

You and I know them. We are, followers and leaders alike, a floundering people, like leaves in the wind, not sure how we got in the wind…

Funke Egbemode

Nigerians are an interesting people living in a place called Nigeria, which is not always a positively interesting place. In fact, sometimes some of us are not too comfortable about what many of us do, but then what choice do we have in the matter? We weren’t asked if we wanted to be Nigerians at creation. So here we are, stuck with one another, in this colourful place with so much daily drama you sometimes wonder if we aren’t just another movie channel on DSTV. Think of it, is there a day we are not woken up by one drama or the other, tragic or comic, or a week that is not ushered in by one tragedy or comedy, with a promise of more to come?

If you do not want to watch Boko Haram bombing mosques or churches, you could fast forward to killer herdsmen killing reverend fathers. If the channel showing snakes swallowing millions of naira is not to your taste, you can try the ones showing billions buried in septic tanks or wells. If you are bored with the El-Zakzaky narrative, you can try Operation Python Dance. You also have a choice between ritual killers and kidnapped royal fathers.

There is now a 24-hour service channel showing pedophiles, rapists and fathers-from-hell doing the unimaginable to their daughters. And as we grow as a reality TV kingdom, we are now a veritable goldmine of content for the international media on one- thousand-ways-to-die in the Mediterranean. We not only produce pregnancies in Nigeria as raw materials for future Canadians and Americans, our land is full of half Libyans. Note that I have not touched what our politicians do to us or what we encourage them to do to us. When they are not scaling fences or defecting, they are making promises that they know they can’t and won’t keep. When we are not hopping on buses to be in their crowd scenes on their live broadcast, we are asking them for ridiculous amounts of money for our souls; our future and even our children’s future.

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Every day is a new episode, a new season. And each time you thought the curtain has been drawn on a series, there is a season finale or final showdown, which in itself will give birth to another series. You know, sometimes I wonder if we are from where other creations are from, blessed beyond measure, damaged beyond compare.

Tell me you don’t wonder and worry why brilliant Nigerians fade away here and flourish elsewhere, even in Yaoundé, a few kilometres off our shores. Tell me you don’t worry why we drive past millions of acres of arable land and never think of cultivating them; why we have virtually every solid material in the world, (except maybe diamond) and we are not making tons of Euros from them.

Why do we keep falling into the same set of pit all the time? Why do Nigerians do the things we do? Do we need a shrink or what? Or at the very least, do you not wonder why Saudi Arabia is oil-rich and its people are rich and why oil-rich Nigeria has poor Nigerians? Why are we a people who think nothing of the future or believe the future will simply take care of itself, always saying ‘we’ll cross the bridge when we get there,’ not sure if the bridge is there or not, not making provision for life jackets in case the bridge had collapsed. We built 100 classrooms in 1960 and expect them to last forever. We have been rebuilding same roads and awarding and re-awarding same contracts for same highways and bridges for two decades! I’m not mentioning names or making a list. You and I know them. We are, followers and leaders alike, a floundering people, like leaves in the wind, not sure how we got in the wind but believing the wind will take us somewhere, anywhere. No plans, no strategy. Just happily drifting along, somehow thinking we are headed for Eldorado or Promised Land. What sane person does that, please? Who doesn’t know that the natural way to impregnate a woman is to take her into the boudoir and thoroughly know her? So why, are we a people who think smiling at a beautiful, fertile woman will impregnate her?

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I know some people are itching to take me to task on the culpability of the average Nigerian in all these floundering and drifting leaf in the wind but wait a while. Who are the people who listen to the lies politicians tell every four years? Who are the people who accept the silly, demeaning, insulting paltry sums politicians bring on election day a la vote-and-cook soup? Who are the people subjected to poverty and promoted to penury but still listen to old rhetorics and re-elect their oppressors and traducers? Is the simple reason why prostitutes are still around not because some men love to pay for sex, prepaid or postpaid? If you put yams by the roadside and nobody buys them, won’t you think of another line of business? Not in Nigeria, the politicians repeat the same promises they have never kept (or are our lots better?), the voters reward them with more years of blaring siren, gun-totting escorts and wealth. Year in, year out, we go through the motions. The government houses budget for cooking and catering utensils every year and we do not ask them if they eat crockery along with their meals in there! We just let them do as they please with us. Are we culpable or even worse than our leaders or not? If a man has raped you once and you keep shoving your cleavage in his face and twerking your backside in front of his nose, what is the randy fellow supposed to do?

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What kind of people are we, leaders and followers? I’ll cite two events reported in just one day that answer the question. Do not take the stories lightly or literally. Do not consider their face value. Do not get emotional over them, just use them as a gauge and guide of the kind of people we are.

Nigerian pilgrims in Saudi Arabia have reportedly been defrauded of their hard earned foreign currency, the funds they saved for years to be able to fulfill one of the tenets of their faith, while trying to fix gold and silver teeth, the fixing of which is not a tenet of any faith. Gold and silver teeth, do they chew better, do they make you live longer? Do they guarantee paradise? Are they even business investments, like, can you sell your gold teeth when you are broke, trying to pay your daughter’s school fees? So why do Nigerians who save for years to go on pilgrimage stake their funds on gold or silver teeth? My answer: the deeper meaning is we are a people who prefer the frivolous to the important.

Second story

The candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in yesterday’s Bauchi South Senatorial District bye-election said his sole reason for wanting to be a senator is to ensure President Muhammadu Buhari is made life president. His name is Lawal Yahaya Gumau, who is currently a member of the House of Representatives, representing Toro Federal Constituency and has been for eight years. Here’s what he said last Thursday.

“I, Lawal Yahaya Gumau, want you to know that the mandate that will be given to me on Saturday (yesterday) is to go and protect Buhari’s interest in the senate having fulfilled every other mandate in the House of Representatives for eight years. By God’s grace, we will amend Nigeria’s constitution to allow Buhari to be President for the remaining years of his life. He will only cease to be President when God takes his life.”

Right? What else do you need me to add except that if Hon Gumau becomes a senator, his people richly deserve him. He’d be their choice. He said he’s done with doing anything else for them, except to make Buhari a life President. If his constituency gives him the go-ahead, who can they blame for their choice if he remains senator for another eight years? Again, do not take the story at face value. Hon Gumau represents what most of our politicians do. They always have an agenda. That he got elected at all represents what we the followers do in Nigeria: quick sex, wham-bam and ooh, thank you dear…

Shallow leaders, undiscerning followers.