By Dele Momodu
Fellow Nigerians, please, permit me to say it as bluntly and categorically as possible, our dear country, Nigeria, the giant of Africa, is slumbering and snoring deeply. The Federal Government apologists are free to live in delusion and denial, but I stand by this obvious position. They can continue to deceive President Muhammadu Buhari and although he can continue to suffer under their hypnotic spell for a long time, he would one day wake up to appreciate people like us telling him the unadulterated truth. We were abused black and blue by the Jonathan guys in those days, but where are they today? Anyone who has eyes can see very clearly that we are not moving at the pace God allocated to us. We are inching like snails and millipedes when we are supposed to be speeding like bullet trains.
Nigeria is snoozing and sleeping. I’m not even comparing us to Europe or America. I have travelled sufficiently in Africa. Everywhere I have been, I saw nations at work. I wrote about Rwanda recently, a country that went through one of the most terrible wars ever known to mankind. The Rwanda genocide was gory and ghoulish. An entire nation was almost wiped out. I can see Nigeria has not found any lessons to learn from that atrocity against mankind. We are stoking the fire of ethnicity and stupidity that would never do any good to us. We are so close to the precipice, but we don’t seem to know or just don’t care. Meanwhile, those in far worse situations are busy doing progressive things while we backbite and backstab!
I was in Ethiopia a few years ago at the instance and invitation of Alhaji Aliko Dangote for the launch of his humongous cement plant and was pleasantly surprised this technological wonder didn’t have to invest so much in power generation. This is the same Ethiopia where celebrities were so shocked by the abysmal level of hunger that they had to come together to sing “we are the world.” I flew out of Addis feeling sad and melancholic. It was the same experience in Tanzania, Zambia, Senegal, Benin Republic (next door to us) and others. These countries are marching slowly, but surely, while we are busy fighting and wallowing over frivolities. Once you cross the Seme Border into Cotonou, the reality that hits you instantly is refreshing. Yet most of these countries rely and depend on Nigeria for many things.
The reason for my preamble is simple. Most Nigerians seem not to realise how desperate our condition is. Nigeria can no longer afford to recycle this madness, which Fela Anikulapo-Kuti called “demoncracy”, every four years, as if God has frozen time for us and we can do whatever nonsense we like. No please. Time is no longer on our side and we have over-experimented with saints and sinners. None has performed spectacularly. The essence of my sermon today is to drum it into our ears that we cannot continue along this path of foolishness and foolhardiness. We need all hands on deck desperately and urgently to rescue this country from the throes of imminent death. We have already fulfilled all righteousness by supporting our great incorruptible Muhammadu Buhari, in 2015, despite our avowed rejection of him in the past. It would have been unfortunate if we had not tried and tested him. We would have been lamenting, like the Biblical Jeremiah, from now till eternity, had we not tried him, thinking God was punishing us for ignoring our best solution and gift to mankind.
Now that we have discovered that it is a human being that is behind the mask, and not an ancestor from heaven, we should be bold enough and accept that we’ve misplaced our hopes in gods with feet of clay. What has now been corroborated, unequivocally, is that no one can give what he does not have. Of course, there are always exceptional cases but, unfortunately, this is not one of them. Staying at home, or on a farmland, for the most part of 30 years, would stultify anyone’s worldview without doubt. But I personally love the fact that God has made this day to come, to demonstrate to us that we should not bow before any idols, and we should never ascribe to mortals the powers that belong to God.
No angel is going to come down to save or rescue Nigeria. We must all join hands to do it. I think we are wasting too much time and resources on seeking a God on earth to run our affairs. The time has come to make use of the best brains among us in a united government, strengthen our democratic institutions, stop the charade of selective injustice, promote unity and religious tolerance. I weep every time I see young people insulting themselves on behalf of politicians who are all friends off-radar. They kill themselves for mere pittance while the children of the priviligentsia are living large on the sweat and blood of the proletariat. Those who have ears should please listen.
We need a new orientation. We need leaders who know their onions. We need modern leaders. What belongs to antiquity must be left where it belongs. Those who want this system to continue, understand the game well. They are in control when the leader is weak and cannot perform. It is not about loving the old man. They just want to govern from behind. They are the faceless and unseen cabal.
2019 cannot come and go as business as usual. It won’t be funny. Are we so jinxed that we keep repeating the same mistakes? Why can’t we stand up to our leaders and demand excellent performance? Why can’t we see that the world is leaving us behind and adjust quickly? Truth must be told, as imperfect as our politicians look, they are the ones we must manage, and manage well. We cannot afford to waste another four years worshipping the gods who cannot liberate us from poverty, hunger, diseases, wars, backwardness, and general retrogression.
In summary, I will support Buhari’s government within my modest sphere of influence till 2019. That was my unwritten contract when I voluntarily offered my support, in cash and kind, in 2015. It is nothing personal, I’m just a patriotic and passionate Nigerian who believes we can do much better and there are millions of great Nigerians who can fix Nigeria without making a fetish of what it would take to achieve it. For me, Buhari represents the Mandela option. He has already served a useful purpose as stopgap between the known devil and the unknown. We have now seen that despite the blame games, there is really no difference between six and half a dozen. What is the point in a doctor killing the patient in the process of treating ulcer? That is the situation we have found ourselves. Perhaps, it would have been bearable and endurable if there was no obvious hypocrisy in the whole set up.
I beg, like Mandela, the world’s greatest statesman, one term is enough.
God bless Nigeria.
GOOD NIGHT, MRS WINNIE MANDELA
When I made my most recent visit to South Africa, somehow, it was as if I had a premonition of Winnie Mandela’s death. On my last day, February 3, 2018, I had a night flight to catch to Kigali, but I told my South African friends, Cebo and Malcolm X that I wanted to pay a courtesy call on Mrs Winnie Mandela in Soweto before heading to the Oliver Tambo Airport. Malcolm X was like a son to Winnie Mandela and he put a call through to her house. Minutes later, we bundled ourselves into my chartered car and off we went to Soweto. But the devil is a liar because just at the junction and turning to Mama’s house, we encountered horrendous traffic.
“What is this,” I exclaimed. As if by some conspiracy, it also started raining. Whilst we tried to meander through the horrible traffic, a call came through that Mama, as Winnie Mandela is known to those close to her, was being rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile, we were just stuck on one spot. We decided to hang out at a nearby popular Soweto restaurant as it was obvious that I was not going anywhere fast. Kigali was becoming impossible and the courtesy call to Winnie Mandela was seemingly ruined. However, I couldn’t believe my ears when the hospitalised woman called Malcolm asking to personally apologise to me for her inability to make the appointment. I was deeply touched. Despite her pain, she still had such human feeling, courteousness, consideration and civility in her. A truly remarkable Lady! She asked me for my hotel and promised to stop by if discharged early. This was getting too good to be true, a visit from the Mama of Africa would be too much. We rushed back to my hotel and waited with bated breath.
Then the call came. Mama has been discharged but was on sedatives and would not be able to come over again. But she said she would struggle to stay up for me. I packed my bags and we returned to Soweto. True to her promise, she stayed up. We were invited to sit with her in a small sitting room in her house and we chatted on for some time, despite protestations from her aides who had given us only a few minutes and had banned us from taking pictures.
We discussed Nigeria and she was quite knowledgeable about our affairs. She was curious to know the state of things. She asked of Buhari, Jonathan and Chief Gabriel Igbinedion. She had kind words for former President Olusegun Obasanjo who she described as a good friend and benefactor of South Africa.
Not wanting to waste this opportunity I asked if we could take pictures, she nodded approvingly. As a journalist, I immediately seized the moment and we just fired away. Such a simple and humble woman, she nodded approval and we took as many shots as we could in rapid fire motion. These were probably the last pictures of her taken by any foreign journalist.
We left her on a sober note considering how frail she looked, even though she had been most accommodating to us. Two months later, the sad news broke, on April 2, 2018, Mama had gone home to rest. My mind continually flashed back to the great session we had with her. I feel truly honoured and humbled to have been in her presence, particularly at such twilight period of her life. May her beautiful soul rest in peace. Amen.