Changing the Nigerian Narrative

Changing the Nigerian Narrative

Monday, July 6, 2020 12:05 am

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha


By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Nigerians want a changed narrative in the national life. Our politics. Our leadership (rulership) style. The economy. They want a changing narrative. A changing narrative will give cause for hope. It will mean that something is indeed happening. They want the story of their country to change. The bad news about the economy. The bad news about official corruption. About stealing public funds in billions. About insecurity. About interethnic tension. Suspicion of ethnic domination. Seizing oil wells from the Niger Delta and donating them to persons who live thousands of kilometres away. About the big three ethnic groups selfishly and greedily controlling the narrative and the national patrimony. That once it is good for them the rest can go to hell. Nigerians want a change in the attitude of leaders to governance. Change in infrastructure development and maintenance. But how many Nigerians are willing to change their mental orientation about Nigeria?

            The story out there is no good. Social media interaction. There is intense frustration. Things are not changing. Things are not about to change. The optics are terrible. The perception is worse. The youth have no hope in Nigeria. And there are millions of them. Millions who are willing to do just anything to survive. To fit in. To guarantee a future. To enjoy the gleam. Get a car, a good car, live in a good place. Have a fat bank account. Do their things their own way. They do not connect with government. They believe the country has no plans for them. That government is a scam. That education is a scam because it won’t get them to the promised land. They see a recycled group of persons in the leadership class as part of the problem.

            There are too many conflicting images. Too many conflicting actions. There is no moral compass. Get rich in the dark? The dark is no longer dark. Their government officials get rich in the dark and nothing comes of it. So, why not get rich too in their own way through internet crimes and fraud. The country is a dump. A jungle. Anything goes. Some officials they believe make a show of arresting some people, of jailing some. But the underlying belief is that the so-called rich are all criminals. Bad men and women who never got caught. Or who are too powerful to be caught. Why can we build a nation on this shaky and immoral belief system?

            Yet if you meet the average Nigerian, both at home and in the Diaspora (especially the latter) they want a new Nigeria. One of the attractions of the pre-2015 Buhari machine was the emergence of a new Nigeria. A new Nigeria with a new sheriff in town. The Jonathan administration was portrayed as no good. PDP characters were perceived as despoilers who pocketed the national wealth at the expense of national development. Now people know better. There is no difference between the right and left ears of a horse, as Ola Rotimi says in The Gods are Not to Blame. The narrative has not changed. Under the Buhari administration, there is the perception of ethnic domination. Of an ethnic group being untouchable. Forests are occupied by men who kill and destroy their host communities while tending their animals. Yet, the government pretends all is well. The narrative must change.

            A changed narrative will benefit everyone. Both the ruler and the ruled. The rich and the poor. The COVID-19 pandemic shows that the narrative must change. We must develop our society. Build our institutions. Build our roads. Build up individuals. Expand the economy. Move away from dependence on oil. Embark on a programme of massive employment creation for the youth. Create a modern society. Build bridges across ethnic groups. Open the space for individuals to realise their full potential. Power generation and distribution must improve. Petty businesses must grow. Improve state and national security. That way we can withdraw all policemen attached to public officials. Once the land is secure there will be no need for individual protection using the resources of the state.

            The narrative must change. It must start from the leadership class. Positive words and actions are needed. When visionary leaders emerge and take over governance there will be a difference. I still wonder why in our history it was only military governments that were more successful in trying to forge a consensus at the federal level. In the First Republic the regional governments galvanised the people into productive ends. We cannot say the same for the successive civilian governments. It is not a good sign. It is not good for the unity and growth of the country.

            A changing narrative will include a restructured Nigeria. It is immoral and fundamentally flawed for States to depend on allocation of funds from Abuja monthly. Dependence on exportation of crude oil for national survival is part of the old narrative. No modern nation survives on that. A new narrative will create a people-centred government. Not a government that the people perceive as their own equivalent of natural disasters. And when we speak of a changing narrative, we do not mean resorting to a propaganda warfare, spinning bare-faced lies with insulting arrogance. It means getting down to do the real work. A government of the people, for the people and by the people. The real intent of democracy.  

 A changed narrative comes from a recognition of the fact that the current pathway has failed the people. Once proper leadership is provided the people must follow. In their own private lives, the narrative must change too. These days one cannot entrust petty cash or businesses to family or friends. Most of them invariably steal the business dry. Products are not properly developed or constructed. Cheating customers is a way of life. Life is considered as the here and now. Selfishness is deep. The common good is abstract. This must change. The change must start from individuals in any capacity we find themselves.

 Finally, if the leaders/rulers do not take steps to change the narrative, the people will be pushed to the wall and they will change the narrative. There are snippets of this already. And the government ought to take a cue. Evil or an evil system of things does not last forever. History and the worlds two major religions teach us this!  

 Professor Eghagha (who writes from the University of Lagos) can be reached on 08023220393

-Credit: The Guardian

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