Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Segment III: RE-IMAGINING NIGERIA: Why a culture of engaged wakefulness is now the key to national selfhood!

Segment III: RE-IMAGINING NIGERIA: Why a culture of engaged wakefulness is now the key to national self-hood
Co-author of Let There Be LIGHT, Patrick Bernard, continues the dialogue on why the new generation Nigeria must be a top-down community of competence and conscious engagement. 

In view of the pivotal nature of this week in Nigeria’s political life, it seems most appropriate to break briefly from the trajectory of our LIGHT thread and congratulate all the election winners and those contestants who “will live to contest another day.”  We must also give kudos to all the voters, and indeed all Nigerians, for weathering both the election fever and the after storm that needlessly claimed both innocent lives and property. This inaugural week is a momentous point of new beginnings, a great season of new possibilities and a refreshing opportunity for national reawakening. Our hope of course is that with all the ‘mission accomplished’ celebrations and the ‘remember me in your new kingdom’ hugs and praise-singing, the real mission of national greatness and the more important invitation to get big things done are all still in front of us. 

As the new class of leaders take their seats and begin their contract with Nigeria, as the front-line stewards of the nation’s ship of state, we must wish them, and by so doing wish ourselves, concrete and lasting success this time. Having taken care of the needful, let us jump right into the prologue of Let There be Light and remind all the celebrants (not that they necessarily need to be reminded) of what the real picture looks like on ground for the average citizen. The reason for tabling these mission-critical issues right from the get-go is that the paraphernalia of leadership office often tends to shield those leaders with a dulled sense of mission from what the average citizen is grappling with on a day-to-day basis.

Here is a glimpse at the heavy burden on the citizenry that Nigeria’s new class of leaders is now charged with. Think of this as a set of clues on how the “mission accomplished” diploma will be earned upon the conclusion of the leadership-citizen contract being signed and sealed in this inaugural season. Here we go then!

Every minute another embattled Nigerian kid comes to the reasoned conclusion that the only life-affirming path to a bright future is to be found abroad, this bundle of promise is making a series of fundamental declarations:
  • I must leave now!
  • I must head out now so I can begin to seek the opportunities that would give me a chance to live fully.
  • I must take a leap, even if of faith alone, so I have a fighting chance to prepare for a stake in a world where dreams have no limits and no deadlines.
  • I must move on so as avoid being buried alive under the weight of the prevailing unconscious approach to nationhood, with all its revolving negative realities for the home front.
  • I must leave home in order to stand a chance to be trained and equipped to play successfully in a more inclusive and purposeful world.
  • I must get away to get ready for a new and vastly reconfigured Nigeria, as I have imagined it.

Every moment another Nigerian citizen, young or old, president or pauper must necessarily head for South Africa, Saudi Arabia, India, or wherever else, for routine and serious health-care needs, this troubled and possibly endangered compatriot is casting a deciding vote, even from a sick bed. Sorry, but what we have here is fundamentally a vote of no confidence. Consider this a vote against a wooly and tentative model of nationhood that no longer serves even the barest aspirations of the citizenry. The voter here may only seem to be momentarily terrified by the current dysfunctional state of health-care, but look again. He or she may in fact be acknowledging a deeper cellular disappointment. Here is what the ruling may read like. “Ours has proven to be a wasted generation to whom much has been given with so little to show for it, except perhaps the gathering contradictions of talking and living loud but saying pretty little, and making no meaningful difference at all.”
Does this sum up the unspoken verdict on Nigeria by a much larger percentage of Nigerians than is obvious? Who cares enough to find out?

Every second an expectant Nigerian mom heads abroad to welcome one more precious baby with a precarious future, this dainty daughter of Eve is psychologically hedging away from what her homeland has become, against her most modest hopes. First, there is the very practical need for the safe delivery of a new life; something now prominent on the long list of what Nigerians once took for granted. Sometimes though, heading abroad rises to being the very best investment a young mother can make in her child’s future. “In case the feverish frenzy lingers or even escalates, at least my baby will have a foothold where citizenship embodies a wholesome promise,” she reasons.

Every minute another investment dollar bypasses Nigeria and anchors elsewhere less predictable, given Nigeria’s enormous economic potential, or every instance a few more millions disappear from Nigeria’s public purse, or every moment another chunk of Nigeria’s oil revenue, or perhaps an entire oil tanker, vanishes into thin air in broad daylight, the message seems clear enough to the rest of the world. “The fundamentals could have been much more promising had they learned to ask questions and insist on sensible answers. Their captains could have done so much better had too many of them not chosen the easy but wayward path all too often.”

Every second one more unlikely candidate shoots into the puzzling list of Nigeria’s instant millionaires, straight from a few years in or around a high political office and with no known entrepreneurial investment of any substance, the conundrum compounds. What are we telling our children? That the overpriced champagne bottles popping open amidst the loud celebrations and brazen institutionalization of mediocrity is the path to a great nation? This beat goes on at the expense of a good percentage of 150 million trusting but weary citizens. As long as the orgy of self-indulgence lasts, millions of impoverished ordinary Nigerians simply needing a means of livelihood are further driven to an unparalleled level of servitude. How does a blessed nation continually create ‘unproductive money bags’ from its elite public servants but not jobs for its youth, not even security for the ordinary citizens?

Every piece of news that points to another homicidal incident or conflict deals another weakening blow to the Nigerian psyche. The operating trademark here is a worsening state of insecurity that continues to defy the logic of the 21st century governance priority. At the very least, any such dark drama makes the world news list as another bad publicity that Nigeria does not need. In the worst-case scenario, it sends badly needed investment capital fleeing across Nigeria’s borders in search of process sanity and operational stability elsewhere.

Every new tale of corruption comes dressed in the most devastating enemy gears. Such poor outings only serve to frustrate those respected Nigerians working hard at home and abroad to show a skeptical world what a violated beauty the largely untapped Nigeria really is.

Every new pronouncement from the political arena seems oblivious to the painful reality that ordinary citizens are getting the short end of the stick. Multiple factions of the same party from state to state, recycling tales of rigged primaries and main elections, endless and hurried jumping of ship from party to party, and lawsuits and counter suits, all with no underlying philosophy to moderate even the leading parties. Consider the challenge this way. Each person a nation elects, appoints or promotes to occupy a leadership position is immediately empowered to help raise or lower both the citizens’ quality of life and the nation’s brand standing. If the undisciplined and often-riotous contrivance that citizens are observing is the institutional arrangement for advancing Nigeria’s democratic principles, where is the hope for a great nation? How can political parties with very little institutional discipline create disciplined national leaders?

Every minute a new baby arrives in an impoverished Nigerian home, you can literally smell and taste the mixture of joy and sadness. All told, desolate parents seeing no light at the end of the twirling tunnel wish the odds against living and dying below the poverty line were not so strong. To whom do they look to give their baby a chance after all the years of twisted tales and disappointments? Who can they trust to fund the schools and motivate the teachers to help their child grow to play respectably in a rapidly transforming world?

Every point of decision that sees a foreign immigration officer deny the visa application of a hard working Nigerian, a much stronger statement of lack of confidence is made by our supposedly friendly allies than what is officially acknowledged in Nigeria. The idea that too many citizens are seen by looped-in nations as economic flight risks is a subtle vote of no confidence in our operating socioeconomic management model, one that churns the stomach most times. How is it that well-favored heirs of a rich heritage are decidedly running away from their own glory-land? Is this 'paradise lost’ ever to be redeemed and revamped, or is this all there is to the story?

Incidentally, every time one more ‘run-away’ Nigerian comes to terms with living in socioeconomic exile abroad, this person is forced to appreciate the age old saying that there is no place like home. But this moment of truth does not sink in and take hold unchallenged. This reluctant refugee of choice must also wrestle with one sobering reality – that home is anything but home until it becomes the place where weary bones can find rest and the heart can know peace, where the streets are safe and the eyes need not fear to stay shut while the owner sleeps at night.
This is the picture of Nigeria that is reality for much of the citizenry? The task for the new class of leaders is to take in the above challenges right from their point of swearing in, and begin to work to answer the below and similar core questions decisively:
  1. How has Nigeria been bankrolling this massive deficit-inducing national character?
  2. What manner of ship captains would be happy to draw fat salaries and perks from the public purse, while decidedly sinking their very own ship of state?
  3. Does this appalling performance not signal a self-fulfilling drama in which they too are being forced by the sheer inadequacy of their stewardship to hedge away from the results of their own actions?
  4. How is the fleecing and the capital flight to be summarily halted?
  5. When will the rundown and underpriced national estate be concertedly renovated?
  6. When will the precarious Nigerian socioeconomic space be remodeled and stabilized so it can dutifully serve the aspirations of its citizens?
  7. Will this new class of stewards exercise the socioeconomic astuteness and moral backbone to orchestrate the miracle that is now called for?
  8. How would this new class contain the mercenary culture that has created a colossal shadow economy where there ought to be only light?
  9. How can ‘we the people’ encourage and challenge our new leaders to get it right this time?

This time, as hands are raised in the pledge to serve, may it not be just another swearing in  'ceremony.' This time, please picture what is possible should we at least get the expectation bar to begin to point upward! Think of what heights are reachable should we really raise hands that will truly “serve with heart and might” and actually serve the citizens!
 Can you imagine what dreams may come true?

Good luck folks and May God Bless Nigeria!

Sunday, 22 May 2011


Segment II: RE-IMAGINING NIGERIA: Why a culture of engaged wakefulness is now the key to national selfhood

Co-author of Let There Be LIGHT, Patrick Bernard, continues the dialogue on why the new generation Nigeria must be a top-down community of competence and conscious engagement. 

Who owns this land?
In the first segment of this thread, we hinted that what Nigerians are beginning to acknowledge, albeit in that peculiarly accepting and “we that God, it could have been worse” Nigerian way, is that there is psychological famine in the land. Nigerians are starving for a nation of light, a nation of noble cause that is decidedly shooting for great and lofty heights.” So what message did Nigerians hint, first to President Jonathan and then to all the politicians out there? What do the recent election results say in essence? Here are some thoughts.  
To President Jonathan, it sounds like a huge vote of confidence, an astonishing privilege:   
“If you, Mr. President, are re-emerging with A Legacy of Greatness in mind, here is our mandate for you to heal our land from spiraling ineffectiveness and lead us to greatness. You have all of our trust now, and we ask that you give us all your light this time!”

Perhaps Nigerians have finally started to wake up to the fact that Nigeria is theirs and that from now on, they must participate actively in the redemption of their country from the “mental logjam” of both strategic and tactical ineffectiveness. Remember “Arise O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey?” Is that not a call to aim higher as a nation, a charge to put the country and its citizens way up above narrow interests and personalities, even the mighty and the seemingly powerful?

What do the recent elections hint to politicians and political parties in Nigeria? “You can be big or you can be small! You can politic and party all you want! You can balkanize and zone positions until you fully enthrone mediocrity and make complete nonsense of the idea of national brand enhancement and integration! You can recycle dead weights all you choose to! And you can plan to slice and dice the “national or state cake” and do your horse-trading all the way! But here is our message.”

“We (150 million of us) are gradually beginning to “arise” to the call for active citizenship. If you are clueless on what it takes to lead in this 21st century, you will do well to go fishing rather than seek or remain in public office! If you don’t put your conscience to the task, field competent and credible candidates and prepare to deliver respectable return on the investment we have made in giving you the privilege to serve, you are toast! You don’t get to take our votes and dreams for granted anymore. We will now only root for the welfare of our children and the greatness of our nation - no more votes for bags of rice, not for tribes and tongues, not for religious intolerance, and not for big egos!”

A time to run
Is the era of an Engaged Citizenry in Nigeria now under way then? If yes, what must follow quickly is for every Nigerian politician to take note, take a radically revamped oath to really “serve with heart and might” and begin the heavy lifting that will be required from every duty post. Thankfully, President Jonathan now has all of his own four years to complement this momentous up-scaling of citizen expectation with a conscious leadership regime in which the delivery of solid results must become the Acid Test for Legitimacy in every office, big or small.

This time, let national leadership upscale to exercising the Proprietary Courage and the Creative Clarity to expressly ask senior office holders for Time-Framed and Measurable Results in public office. Give people set goals and targets as they take up offices, and see who still wants to be, minister, commissioner, DG, or whatever. “When result-driven leaders ask their lieutenants for results, they can quickly tell who has something to offer the nation and its people and who just wants to tag along for the ride, of course at the people’s expense!” What are we saying then? That this is Goodluck Season in Nigeria, and we must not fail this time! This season begs to be stretched and up-graded to become the Good Luck Days of all-round Concrete Return on Leadership Investment. Boy! What a thrill! Isn’t this exciting? Now, let me take you into the thrust of Let There Be Light so you get a glimpse of why this book sees this as a new day for Nigeria. The charge goes like this. “Run Nigeria! Run! Run! Run!” Why run? You ask. Why not? The book returns. Every other serious nation is running! Here is how this is unfolding globally.

Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up.

It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed.
 Every morning a lion wakes up.
 It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it would starve to death.
 It doesn't matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle.
 When the sun comes up, you better start running.

To run, it turns out, is one thing we must begin to do now in order to stop both the renegades (within and outside) from either eating our lunch or possibly even eating us for lunch. The world is running on all fronts – employment, technology, education, health care, infrastructure, leadership, rule of law, safety, ease of doing business, you name it. Sadly, in too many cases, the fast upgrading world has left Nigeria far behind. Give this some thought and decide if you see any semblance of running for miles in our approach to the welfare of citizens or any aspect of our national affairs. Merely think about it!


Segment I: RE-IMAGINING AND TRANSFORMING NIGERIA: Why a culture of engaged wakefulness is now the key to national selfhood

Why a culture of engaged wakefulness is now the key to national selfhood

Co-author of Let There Be LIGHT, Patrick Bernard, explains why the New Generation Nigeria must be a top-down community of competence and conscious engagement.

Is this finally the homecoming?

Just in case you are in a hurry to go face-book a friend or tweet away from these pages, this is A Case for Light; Yes, that degree of light in the public space that every purpose-driven nation needs to begin to develop or emerge from “underdeveloped” or developing into the global loop of national greatness. The executive summary of this presentation is simply that:

“No nation seeking to grow and go great should fear the challenge for deep reflection and self-examination. What we must fear is our urge to avoid this.”

Let me tell you the whole story then. Well, not really the whole gist - I take that back. Let me give you as much of the summary of the whole story as can fit neatly into a few pages. Once upon a time, there was this rather understated but smart politician who, despite having known a childhood without shoes for his feet, was now the fortuitous CEO of a big country. Amidst the rants and oversimplifications of opponents who mostly seemed to want to be handed the CEO seat on a platter of gold, this man a very bold statement. The statement was of course hard, if not impossible, to believe. “The coming elections for this seat and all others will be free and fair,” said this low-key leader of a 150 million people nation of the proud and gregarious black man. “Free and fair elections here? Ha, ha, ha! We hear that all the time,” echoed the skeptics – an overwhelming number of citizens for whom the national project had become more like a circus of recycled but uninspired and uninspiring clowns. They no longer saw reason for optimism on the national project front. So the all-too-familiar pushing and shoving “for survival” and for chunks and crumbs of the “national cake” continued. Keep in mind that all this was happening in a blessed, even if underserved and undefended, land that was not and, thankfully, is not at war - except perhaps with itself. Then he named his chief electoral officer, one with a strong reputation for no-nonsense credibility. Still, citizens stayed preoccupied with their existential issues - such as light, water, security and bread for the children - the import of his move understandably failing to register or sink in. The accumulated cynicism of the years would not let most take note. Then it happened. President Goodluck Jonathan said elections must be real and fair under his watch, and Professor Attahiru Jega and his team pulled it off. But wait a minute! What again? Must we witness that familiar but dreadful sign of a national project still starving for collectivity and singularity of purpose once more? In a bizarre protest against a ship that had already set sail, the street soldiers of a fundamentally flawed and outdated bloodbath approach to nationhood, an approach we must now banish permanently to the past, resurfaced. They spilled their brothers’ blood, ostensibly to reset the clock, “In order to move Nigeria forward,” they claimed. Please people! Please stop! Stop trying to get to heaven by unleashing hell on earth! This bloody “kill and burn” war against innocent neighbors is at least 50 years outdated. We are adults now and we are racing to the loop of common sense and decency! No more shedding of others people’s blood so as to make shortsighted and perplexing political statements.

                                                                 Seeds of a Nation                                                                     
                                                “Shoeless” but pregnant with possibility!

                                                                President Jonathan 
                                                           From “shoeless” to president!

Decoding the people’s message
Nigerians have gone to the polls, and they have voted both their conscience and their hopes for a nation with eyes on the prize. That prize is a nation of light, a nation of “noble cause” that is decidedly shooting for “great and lofty heights.” Nigerians have voted in the man Goodluck to lead the charge – this time, with a solid mandate and a seal with his name on it. But there is a message in the bottle! To make it clear that their votes are meant for Goodluck the man and the idea (not necessarily for his party and his friends), and for Good Luck for their land, Nigerians have also done something that past election results suggest that they have not typically done. They turned left and right and voted in some other men and women that hold some promise, even where it meant voting out the president’s party in some surprising cases. What message did Nigerian’s send with their votes this time? Think about it!