“Planning is bringing the Future into the Present so that you can do something about it.”– Alan Lekein
Of all the dances that I have known and even attempted to try, the Tango is the most complicated. It is typically a dance of two intertwined gyrating bodies. The usual two to tango is complicated enough let alone having three to tango; it is easily conceivable that all the three pairs of legs will get in the way and, if care is not taken, some of the legs can detach from the rest of the bodies in mind-crushing pains.
The three dancers in my metaphor are,
1. The ruling class and their politicians
2. The arsonists and their financiers
3. The peaceful protesters on behalf of the younger generation.
Let us examine these in detail.
The ruling class and their politicians
Any ardent reader of my columns will by now know that this crop of people seems to constitute the biggest part of our nation’s problems. They are the original sinners. One might argue correctly that most of the original sins were developed by the military, having been in government for more than 50 years. But it is equally true that these erstwhile military rulers have morphed into modern-day politicians without the uniforms. The nation had unwittingly groomed military politicians to perpetuate the military in power, which in essence means a continuous flow of military dictatorship that makes for our quasi-democracy.
The arsonists and their financiers
This set of people has always been there lurking around and waiting like hyenas, ready to serve the nefarious interests of the highest bidder who engages their services. They do the bidding or whatever acts their clients, which in this situation could be anyone from the politicians or should we say “politrickians” to their enablers lurking in the shadows. The arsonists also could be any jobless miscreant (who is actually a creation of the politicians) to the erstwhile disbanded SARS officials and obviously lawless police force. A sad, intriguing observation about these arsonists, however, is their level of coordination and connection, which seems to spread all over the nation in a whirlwind fashion from Benin to Lagos, to Abuja, to Asaba; Ibadan to Kaduna, to Katsina. The list of their reach is inexhaustible.
The peaceful protesters on behalf of the younger generation
These constitute my favourite team right now, with most of them in their 20s and 30s. they are majorly unemployed university graduates and university undergraduates who, having peered into the future, see nothing but hopelessness and despair. They see a combination of purposeless governance and a nation adrift with very little or nothing to offer. It, therefore, was a no-brainer that they stood up to loudly protest their stolen future.
Having identified the dancers, we can see how easily the tango of these three bodies degenerated into a deadly one during the recent #EndSARS peaceful demonstrations across the country. The #EndSARS protests are indeed a movement started by our youths whose future we have stolen. All they want is for us to talk to them and for us to listen to them. But what did we do? As politicians and dictators, we went into self-preservation modes, unleashed the arsonists with their financiers to cause mayhem and discredit the peaceful protesters. And thus having given the well-behaved dogs (protesters) a bad name, the ruling class unleashed the forces of dictators, the military (the same military that spurned them) to mow down our children who came to engage us in peace.
Peaceful protests are the hallmarks of democracy. As it is being done all over the world, it is an accepted civilized way of demanding changes in, or support for, policies. The right to protest stems from the right to free speech, which is a fundamental human right. An adage in my place says “you cannot beat a child and deny him the right to cry.” Those who the gods want to kill are first made to run mad. Instead of listening, our politicians are choosing to be tone deaf, sending soldiers to kill our children protesting the police killing machine that was SARS. Think of it: they sent the instrument of war funded by our taxes to kill our children who were protesting the death of our children at the hands of the police funded by our taxes. What other action has the ingredients to empower a movement long overdue, yet, very much needed like the #EndSARS movement? As is bound to happen, the government has been steeped in denials upon denials; they have once more miscalculated.
In my over 80 years of professional, traditional and social interactions, I have come to accept that Nigerians are the easiest people to govern. This stems from the average Nigerian’s natural ability to sacrifice, endure, improvise, tolerate and exercise extreme patience even in the midst of little or no visible progress. Nigerians are a highly and overly optimistic bunch. We even go as far as providing basic amenities for ourselves, instead of waiting on the government. While these acts draw praises and accolades to the philanthropists in our communities, these cannot be right, and it makes me even more worried because it lets the government of the day get away with thievery and incompetence, even much more than they already do.
A striking example of this was when, in 1974, I was invited by the World Bank to give a lecture on the topic; “Water for Every Nigerian”. This was a lecture backed by very detailed research on a programme that was earmarked to be sponsored by the World Bank. This project was to ensure that, by the year 2000, every Nigerian would have access to potable drinking water. The lecture was one of my pioneer public lecture experiences, so I gave it my absolute best, leaving no stone unturned in canvassing the need to have the project succeed. Alas, it is really sad to note that 46 years after, there is absolutely nothing to show in the quest for water for every Nigerian. This is just one of many failures that show the utter lack of accountability in our leaders.
In this 21st Century, Nigerians have to resort to harvesting underground water and acidic rain, which in many parts is seen as pure water but more like poisonous water with health and ecological consequences. Such realities make for intervention engagement, which was what, in my opinion, the younger protesters were hoping to achieve.
It is very saddening that things have to get to this abysmally low level. However, this just goes to show that the majority of the ruling class and arsonists have given no thoughts to reading my weekly columns, which have been published in one of the most widely circulated newspapers in this country for the last three years. I strongly emphasize that this crisis would definitely have been avoided, if they read my writings, because, not only did I predict this, I also took the extra step to proffer workable solutions, based on years of experience and study of history, many times risking my life to do this.
Moreover, I have, over the years, very judiciously and conscientiously engaged for mentorship young men and women who I have been able to teach what real leadership is about as against the winner-takes-it-all syndrome currently prevalent in our political culture. Sometime ago, I selected a number of the younger generation to participate in a Desert Warrior Reality Show. We travelled to the desert in Niger Republic, where they were subjected to endurance exercises for weeks. I have seen the difference such a programme has made to the participants. For these values, we insist that young people must be a part of the change and, if ignored, should stand up to demand that they are listened to, as well as demanding accountability from the federal, state, and local governments. They should not be afraid to ask very detailed and tough questions on anything from education, health, constituency projects to the jumbo packages of the NASS members. They should let the NASS members be aware of the power of sanctions against their members who engage in the misuse of public funds and abuse of power.
For us to document recent developments into our history books, we must listen to the music being played from all corners of the country, examine the legs of the dancers, learn from each other, then, gracefully disengage the three tango dancers because of the complications that may arise with this dancing. Only one of these three dancers represents the Future of Nigeria and we the people of Nigeria must not kill the Future of One Nigeria with the Death Dance.
As always, the art of understanding history as the first step to solving any problem cannot be overemphasized, we have to rise to the present challenge and offer solutions. My key solution is this: For the country to heal, there must be a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to review the atrocities we have done to ourselves since 1960. This is preferred and will most likely yield better results than the otherwise suggested judicial enquiries, which, if we have learnt anything from history, will go the same way as others before, achieving little or nothing.
Furthermore, for peace to reign and for tangible progress to be made, two of these three very powerful groups must shed their nefarious halves, then all three must form a platform where no one is bigger and better than the other. Then and only then can they tango together, with legs far apart and respectful of each other. The Tango is, after all, a peaceful, graciously beautiful dance of love in twos. A threesome tango, therefore, requires a very complicated understanding between the three persons with the right type of music and the understanding pairs of the dancers’ legs.