Forgive them...they know not what they do. I was recently in the company of a group of mortgage bankers who were discussing the state of access to sufficient and affordable housing in Nigeria. One of the elder participants shared how he obtained a mortgage from the government as a young professional starting his first job; the same home he lives in till today.
A younger member made a passionate appeal for understanding of WHY? He was asking for the How and Why successors of those patriotic and humane civil servants, who worked so hard to bring affordable and plentiful home ownership to our citizens, were not able to sustain what they put in place. In those days, all that was needful to qualify for a mortgage to buy or build a house was a pay slip.
Of course, this same lament, ‘WHY?’, reverberates in every part of our lives that is reliant on a functioning government and watchful regulators. With that passionate and pained appeal in mind, I posed the question myself. Why?
I believe that one explanation is the mindset of the people who have been in position of leadership and influence in the public sphere over the last 50 years, and in the last 10 years it has spilled over into the private sphere too.
One of the most famous quotes from Abraham Maslow, the creator of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Development Needs is, “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.” I would like to believe that that is one of the major problems with our leadership.
In the run-up to independence from colonial rule, our politicians and community leaders were subconsciously indoctrinated with ‘Divide and Rule’ as the leadership tactic passed on from then governor-generals who were the available leadership role models. Our soldiers have always been taught ‘Command and Control’ as the necessary leadership strategy for managing troops.
Consequently, our leaders have been using those tactics that are designed for use against us, their people. We have been waging war against ourselves! Any other explanation seems improbable. Are we prepared to accuse the generals who were patriotic enough to lay down their lives for our country on both sides of the Biafran war of not loving their nation? I have not spoken to anyone who holds those views. They are the ultimate patriots. So, why was it under their rule that our educational system was decimated; that our traditional values and loyalties were warped?
Let’s look at the politicians. The great trio who led us into independence were, in fact, members of a pan-African movement comprising of great African men and women, including my personal favourite, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti. Yet,after 50 years of independence, why on earth is politics still being played along ethnic lines? If the British returned today, they would find the country operating almost under the same regional model they left us with.
The democratic and military governments simply stepped into the shoes vacated by them. They are still extracting wealth to be warehoused beyond our shores. They are still enshrouding themselves with cloaks of privilege and the trappings of wealth amassed on the suffering of others.
Harmful to themselves
“Forgive them...they know not what they do,” said Jesus, (a.k.a Isa to Muslims), while being crucified on the cross. Do we forgive our leaders for their willful ignorance,their criminal lack of awareness and their failure to act even in enlightened self-interest? What respect can we have for power ministers who have to resort to generators even in their own homes; or health ministers who shudder at the thought of submitting to medical treatment in their own hospitals?
Let’s not talk about petroleum or agriculture. They have not even made life better for themselves, not to mention for the rest of us. How many of them have true wealth by the time they are pushed out of power and in the years after?
Democracy demands tolerance for contrary opinion. There must be division of power,justice for all regardless of status and hierarchy and freedom of information.Divide and Rule, and Command and Control are not democratic leadership styles.Yet, they seem to be the only styles our leaders know. Just as the soldiers crushed any perceived ‘mutiny’ against their command without considering the merit of the challenge to their authority; just so, our legislators wish to self-perpetuate, all in our perceived interest to command and control party politics. It is truly ironic. Why does this scenario keep repeating itself?
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions” As Samuel Johnson is credited to have said, many a good wo/man has come to a bad end for employing unjust and dishonest means to achieve a good end. So our darling leaders, take heed. You are there to represent us, to protect our freedom even from yourselves and to seek justice for us. Have faith that if you do your job well, and if we elect a similarly responsible person to succeed you, that our country will develop and our lives will improve.
Trust in the system you are part of, and allow yourself to be limited by its structure. Avoid changing the rules of engagement half-way through the game. You alone, no matter how hard you try, cannot deliver what we all require. Only with three independent organs of government, regulated by the media as the fourth estate, with an engaged and active citizenry, and vibrant party politics can we succeed. How do you wish to be remembered - as a burden or as a welcome relief? The time to choose is now.