I laugh a lot – and make people laugh – because I am not a very happy person.
Of course, it must seem to you like a contradiction of terms. But that’s just the truth. Every morning when I wake up and step outside my compound, and see streets that have no defined pedestrian areas, I’m saddened. That’s how most streets in Nigeria are. Cars, tricycles, and motorcycles, compete with pedestrians for the imaginary walkways between the “roads” and the gutters. I have a problem with seeing the gutters – the open, stinking drainages that also serve as trash collection troughs, and, occasionally, as toilets. I’m not sure if anyone else has a problem with that – unless when, occasionally, there’s the “mad” driver, whose rough manoeuvring scares you enough to dash across the gutter suddenly so you won’t be knocked down. You see, we are so used to it. But really, in a proper city, the street drainages shouldn’t be open gutters, and there should be litter boxes at reasonable distances, and there should also be well defined pedestrian walkways, which okada riders are not allowed to convert into auxiliary roads. Such “tall dreams” may not ever come true in Nigeria – because nothing works in Nigeria. Or, so we have been programmed to think.
I am Nigerian and I have to speak the truth but then it has often been said that truth is the first casualty in war. War is not only when one country attacks another, or when one deviant group incessantly carries out a bombing campaign on innocent people. In fact, war is more often a mental state in which our thought inclinations violently collide. Under such circumstances, truth is the first thing we dispense with. Most people would always claim to be truth-loving and truth-speaking, yet when you open a can of truth for them, they look at it like a can of worms.
One basic truth I would like to state here – for the records – is that I have a problem with the performance of the present administration. The other basic truth is that I have a problem with the manner people speak about the performance of the administration. Goodluck Jonathan is not particularly my favourite kind of person – I prefer leaders who are altruistic, which are a very rare breed world over, anyway. Yet I must say that Goodluck Jonathan is not squarely our problem in Nigeria. Every time we refer to him as “clueless”, it not only suggests that he appears indeed clueless, but it also shows that we are more clueless about the situations and about governance – that makes him King of the clueless nation.
Eighteen years ago, I bought my first copy of Robert Schuller’s Tough Times Never Last, But Tough People Do. I must have read it more than 20 times since then. It got to a point that when I start on any paragraph in the book, I could read the rest offhand with almost 90% accuracy. One of the best lessons I picked from that book is “put your problems in proper perspectives”.
Yesterday, at work, as I was flipping through the newspapers, I asked the rhetorical question – what really is the problem with this country? A colleague commented “Number 1, Goodluck Jonathan”. We laughed it over. But seriously, come to think of it, how is Goodluck Jonathan the Number 1 problem in this country? It’s not that I completely disagree with my colleague. I am aware that Nigeria has about 167 million problems, and that the Number 1 among us is the very Number 1 among them. Only in that wise, do I agree. But that means you and I are part of the 167 million problems too. You don’t have to agree with me.
Coming to cluelessness, and especially as it affects the Boko Haram issue; every time a bomb explodes, people rush to blame the Goodluck administration as “clueless”. You and I are also “clueless” too. See, terrorism is a very ugly monster. These “bombsters” are a sort of elves and fairies. If you know your enemy, it becomes easier to deal with them. Bombsters are these sort of freaks that don’t even understand their own selves; which makes it much more difficult for anyone else to understand them.
See, America and NATO were in Iraq – but in spite of the presence of more than 200,000 well-equipped and well-trained soldiers, backed up with high-level intelligence agencies from the most advanced countries of the world, suicide bombing has been sporadic in that country. Cut and paste – if you bring in 200,000 US and British soldiers into Nigeria to help manage the security situation, it won’t automatically stop the bomb blasts. If you sack our own NSA, and let the American CIA and FBI run the show here, it won’t automatically stop the bomb blasts. These are the versions of the truth we don’t want to hear because we are persuaded that we are being led by a clueless man. Yet these facts have already been demonstrated in Iraq.
Well, let’s get it straight – Iraq is not under military administration; it’s officially a democracy like us. And in case you don’t know, Iraq is higher up on the Human Development Index than Nigeria. In terms of population, we are 4 times the size of Iraq. But the Iraqi per capita wealth is higher than ours. It means that they have more money to spend on anything – including security – per person, than we do. Yet, the rate at which they record suicide bomb blasts is higher than ours. We don’t have thousands of American soldiers and intelligence here, they do.
Terrorist bombing is a challenge that catches even the most developed countries unawares. Last July, the building housing the office of the Norwegian Prime Minister, and the Ministries of Justice and the Police, was attacked by a car bomb. That was in Europe which is largely more advanced than Africa. It shows that when people with convoluted thinking go berserk, they can go after even the best equipped and well-informed police systems in the world. But for sheer heroic patriotism, the US Capitol would have been “plane bombed” on September 11, 2001, just as was the Pentagon – where there is the headquarters of all American military forces. Those bombings were not simply blamed on “cluelessness”.
So, now, let’s put our problems in proper perspectives. The suicide bombing issue in Nigeria is not the problem of one man – or one group of “clueless” people. In many ways, they may be clueless, though. Yet, my take is that the task of combating insecurity and underdevelopment in the country remains a communal one. The Government has a larger percentage of everything, no doubt. They take the larger percentage of the money; they make the larger percentage of the policies, and of course, they are entitled to the larger percentage of the blame. It is just right to blame them.
Notwithstanding, life is an interconnected stuff – everything affects every other thing, although not so obviously. The most salient point, however, is that you have to do your own part and do it very well enough. As for the “clueless” ones, very soon they will be dealt with.
In the meanwhile, churches and corporate organizations have to look inward and determine what measures they might take to protect themselves and their premises from this new type of threat. I have been in cities where most windows are just glass, with no iron bars behind them; and where most homes have no fences. If you would find fences at all, most of the fences would be at most 2 or 3 feet tall. But here in Nigeria, we have minimised burglaries with iron bars behind almost every window, and with very high walls topped with wires as our fences. It has helped to limit intruders. In a sense, we dealt with that level of threat. It is not the government that build those fences for us or put iron bars behind our windows. We do it ourselves.
In like manners, our churches and organizations have to assess how to rise up to these new levels of threats. That does not mean that Government does not have a role to play. It means we should do our own best for our own selves rather than just sit around blaming the Government.
It may sound like a joke; in a piece in which I was saying I was “dreaming” about things I would do if I were the president, I wrote this:
“As president, I would ask the Police to get a national emergency number, say 419 like the Americans use 911. It won’t be various numbers for various police stations. I saw some very long un-memorisable numbers on the website of the Nigerian police. How on earth do they expect anyone to know such numbers? The first thing most robbers do now is to take your phone from you so you won’t be able to call. How does the Nigerian police expect a traumatised robbery victim, whose phone has been taken from him, to remember a 10-digit emergency number? It’s rather ridiculous. I mean, we could instead have 419 – which is the most popular police code in Nigeria. If you are robbed, and your phone is taken, you can get to a call centre and just dial 419.”
Well, the policing and security system is already a 419 system. I won’t say more for now.