Silent But Not Dumb!

Silent But Not Dumb!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 9:44 am

By Lai Babatunde

As the February elections draw near and the fever of efforts to ‘capture power’ at various levels advances to its peak, I wonder were Nigeria, as mother, to have an opportunity to assemble her more elderly and not so elderly children, who as trustees, have had the opportunity to manage our collective patrimony, for an account rendering session, would she be grateful to majority of them or a few or be full of tearful and bitter lamentations? Would she accuse us all, of collectively shirking our responsibilities towards her in various degrees, by complicity and looking the other way?

What would she say to those of her children, that she sacrificially clothed, housed, fed and trained but on reaching maturity, knowingly set brothers and sisters against each other, using tribe and religion as weapons in order to feather their own nest? Those who have stolen her blind and almost rendered her naked, rendering her a laughing stock in the comity of respected nations!

What will she say, to those children who even deny her existence, but travel around the world bearing her stolen wealth and carrying her travel documents (passport )? What will she say in particular, to those who have stolen and continued to steal the children’s portion, regarding health, security and education among others? Indeed what will she say to those who ate and are still eating her children ‘s future? What would she say, to those who are unable to account for her over two hundred children who were supposed to be in school, but have neither been found nor heard from for over two hundred days? What about her children who were murdered, while on national assignment to conduct elections and those unemployed and in search of jobs assembled unto death, in stadiums by those mandated to care for them, but with no one called to account?

How come that with some other children of other nations, the life of each child is so valuable that the leaders go all out to protect them, while in her own case, the life of her helpless and hapless children count for nothing? Why is her territorial boundary shrinking, without collective action to regain it? So many questions I suppose Mama Nigeria would ask!

Nigeria has been unfortunate to bear some powerful children who are like poachers, plunderers and marauders, converting our collective patrimony into personal estates. These are children whose God is their pocket and the centre of their world is material acquisition, even if gathered on the altar of the blood of the innocent! Some of these ungrateful children, are again seeking to lead the homeland at different levels.

However, we need to make it clear that we might have been silent, but we are neither dumb nor stupid. This time around, we should rise to protect Mother Nigeria and our collective future, using our votes, in spite of our obviously limited options.

Those who seek to divide us, based on religion, tribe and the like are yet to start their campaign. This time around, we should resolve to actively assist them to fail at the polls on account of their indolence and lack of purpose. The prevalence of poverty and continuing attack on our collective honor, should inform us to say ‘not anymore’, to politics of divisiveness and deceit. The coming elections, should not be about religion or tribe, but ability to deliver on our expectations .

These elections, should be about the future of our country, her territorial integrity, our collective safety and welfare. For those who have been there before, it should be about their track record and what they bring to the table for the country to move forward. For those seeking to replace those who are there, we need to be convinced about the expected deliverables , within realistic timelines. We should brook no excuses, refuse to settle for story telling or sheer sloganeering . Our country is in such dire straits, and we live daily like a bird on the line.

No one therefore, should get our votes, at least not mine, based on primordial sentiments, intimidation or by marketing sheer insults or pretending to be under siege or being a tribal or religious warlord.

The collective war against insecurity and corruption, compounded by dwindling resources, does not brook story telling by those who seek to lead or are leading us already. The aspirants and their managers, should better be alive to this reality, if they seriously desire to have our votes, at least my vote!

The basic needs of man are common to all of us, irrespective of tribe or religion: from security (including food security), health, housing, good education, sustainable environment, infrastructure, gainful employment, civil liberties, etc. It is my belief, that those who say what they don ‘t mean or fail to understand the issues dear to us, should not stand a chance. It is good manners to discriminate against them with our votes. While it may be true that our electoral process is evolving, still we must vote wisely.

Those who know the problems, but prescribe no workable solutions, should be ignored at the polls, while those who seek to divert attention from themselves and their manifest inadequacies, should get a well deserved red card, with ‘mba!’ engraved on it! We should say an unreserved ‘NO ‘ to violence , even verbal violence and their apostles. ‘NO’ to politics of intimidation.

However, there is no gain saying that whoever becomes president , surely has enemies to confront and defeat on our behalf. In my estimation, the three principal enemies waging war against Nigeria and her many children, old and young today, are insecurity, corruption, (which had led to mass poverty north and south of Nigeria) and a volatile monolithic economy.

The economy obviously is on life support and requires bold and effective intervention. The economy requires more than sermonising and hollow promises, to bring it alive in our homes and on the streets. Now those who want to lead the war against them, must demonstrate why we should trust them to lead the battle . We need to see and evaluate their respective war plan before 14 February 2015.

We the voters are the foot soldiers and we should not follow any deceitful or ill equipped commander to battle, lest we all perish. Anyone aspiring to lead us must accept that he seeks to be father of all Nigerians, irrespective of tribe or religion. Seeking to set our house on fire, in the search for power, on the altar of tribe and religion must be resisted by all well meaning Nigerians. The consequences of allowing such a free reign to wicked divisiveness, will be calamitous, explosive and unpredictable. Indeed it will be too devastating to contemplate.

Shortly before our unfortunate civil war broke out in 1967 , I was in Kano as a primary school pupil, and saw the carnage in ‘Sabon Gari ‘ under the guise of ‘Aware’ ( let us divide ). Part of the reasons for the carnage, even before the shooting war began, was that some thoughtless, if not irresponsible people, opened their mouths too wide, particularly in the market place, condemning one tribe or religion while promoting theirs and denigrating certain individuals held in high esteem locally.

Some were so thoughtless, as to parade otherwise sensitive and provocative pictures in crowded markets. I have an idea of how the unguarded statements of some boastful renegades provoked such bitterness that occasioned death of several innocent people, inflicted not by soldiers, but by civilians against civilians. Such statements and pictorials-sometimes laced with threats and messages of fear-are beginning to show up again. In some cases, they were from people feeding fat or have at one time or the other fed fat on government patronage or otherwise privileged to be in government or are cronies to those in government. Sometimes, these divisive and abusive statements and threats emanate from or are otherwise tolerated by unexpected quarters.

The leading aspirants, particularly presidential candidates, must, for the sake of our country and children yet unborn, call their followers, supporters and paid agents, to order before it is too late. Nigeria cannot risk another civil disturbance not to talk of tribal or religious war. We will all be losers on the long run, were we to succumb to taking this route. We have enough security problems on our hands already. We demand issues focused campaign and nothing less.

There are enough sundry issues that should occupy the parties and their candidates, particularly the presidential candidates. Apart from the broad tripod of evil plaguing our country and identified above, these issues are : provision of power, business development, equitable tax administration, qualitative education and building of local capacity, unemployment and obvious skills gap, foreign relations, management of our God given resources for the benefit of all, promoting indigenous technology, equitable framework for foreign investment that does not make the local businessman regret his status, judicial reform and equitable justice delivery and health.

Others are transportation and our grossly inadequate infrastructure, land administration, agriculture, diversification of our economy, stemming rural/urban migration, constitutional reforms, more workable federalism, public service reform, care for the elderly, the weak and disabled, developing sports beyond constructing stadia, stemming environmental degradation, restoring the dignity of the ‘ Green Passport, etc. These deserve qualitative attention, especially as to why and how to meaningfully address them within a short time.

Now, can good health be good for a particular tribe and bad for another, good for adherents of one religion and bad for the other? Is it ok that the adherents of one religion are fed while others starve? This also applies to qualitative education and gainful employment and the like. When we get caught up in debilitating traffic on the Lagos Ibadan expressway, does the inconvenience discriminate between adherents of one religion or the other or tribe? If our sky is unsafe, does it spare adherents of a particular religion or members of particular tribes when things go fatally wrong ? What makes the circumstance of a hungry and unsheltered Christian different from that of a Muslim or even an ‘unbeliever’? Would a crippled southerner find it easier to move anywhere in Nigeria than the crippled northerner ?

Let no one deceive us or divert our attention. We are better off uniting against the problems that beset us and hold us down, than aligning with agents of strife and division. If any candidate is unprepared to face the challenges of how to mitigate the stress of our daily existence and alleviate our sufferings, he might as well rest his or her ambition.

Thankfully we have very good yardstick to assess the two leading presidential candidates. One by his record of performance over a period of six years (where we are or could have been having regards to the promises made on issues germane to our lives), the other, also by his track record as Military head of state and what he brings to the table as evidence of being father of all, and perceived ability to stem corruption and insecurity under a democratic government.

The least of our problem today, is the tribe or ethnic group to which any candidate belong by sheer accident of birth or faith which is personal. This election is an opportunity for Nigeria to rise and take her rightful place, in the comity of nations; or at the least set the stage. May it not turn to ashes in our mouths. As always, I wish Nigeria the grace to be where it ought to be!

– Layi Babatunde is a Senior Advocate of Nigeria

Join The Conversation

What do you think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.