Dialogue With Nigeria At 57, By Peter Esele

“So sad you have all become a country of one liners. All talk and no substance. Instead of taking responsibility for the inability to confront challenges holistically, you took the path of least resistance – an escapist word – restructure. Is it the lack of restructuring that is responsible for 7,000 megawatts of electricity for 180 million people, including your village?”

“Happy Independence Day my dear Nigeria. Now that you are 57, what next for you? Are you okay?”

“How dare you say I am 57 years old? Before your colonial masters came, was I not here? They merely carved out a part of me and called it Nigeria. You and the 180 million others who live within my space are the ones that are 57 years old.”

“You can be angry for all I care – you have grown too big like a butterfly forced out of its cocoon. Too big to fly with oversized wings – colourful, but no substance. We have decided that only restructuring can save you.”

“Restructure who? You all never cease to amaze me! Between you and I, who really needs restructuring? I am good with all the abundance of resources needed to make life worth living. You can find these in the North, South, East and West, or your various new political gerrymandering – the South-South.”

“We will name and do whatever works for us for the sake of national peace and tranquility. If restructuring will get us there, so be it.”

“You are still using that word?”

“Yes oh! It is the master-key to our Eldorado.”

“So sad you have all become a country of one liners. All talk and no substance. Instead of taking responsibility for the inability to confront challenges holistically, you took the path of least resistance – an escapist word – restructure. Is it the lack of restructuring that is responsible for 7,000 megawatts of electricity for 180 million people, including your village? Is it why your education sector is mired in problems? What of your healthcare system? Please don’t let me hear anything about restructuring. Your inability to structure your thought process towards positive and tangible development in the last 57 years is responsible for your wahala. I will be blunt – your leaders are suffering from intellectual laziness and a chronic lack of imagination. That’s the truth. I’ve said it.”

“How dare you say that about our leaders? These leaders have sacrificed their blood for this country, leaders that we pay comfort allowance. I didn’t come here to have you insult our leaders. Please, watch your tongue, or I will ask God to recall you.”

“If you can’t stand the truth, we can stop this dialogue here. A country is as good as its leaders and its followers. If it is weak, the people are weak. Can you plant cassava and expect to reap cocoyam? Apologies to Majek Fashek. Everything politicians said they will do in the 1960s, 70s, 80s, 90s and 2000s are still not done. The buzzword is now restructuring. Is it responsible for state emperors, sorry…ermmmm… state governors…not paying salaries after collecting Paris club bailout refund? How many state governors, serving or past, can genuinely account for their budgets?”

“Hmmmmmmmm! you are talking too much. I only came here to say is time to make you better and now you are sounding like Harry Song’s latest single ‘Arabanko.’ I didn’t come here to dance.”

“Who is dancing here? I want to be better. You definitely can’t lift when I am on a higher pedestal than you are. Is it not true that in the last 19 years of civilian rule the cumulative average budget implementation is about 40 percent? Is it not true that 70 percent of Nigerians live on a dollar a day or less? You produce over two million bpd of crude oil, yet there is no agreeable figure by the relevant institutions. After over 50 years of crude oil discovery, the DPR has department of metering, yet no meter. Seriously, do you need to restructure to correct that?”

“Okay! My body, my money na your own oh!”

“Here you go again! Now, you sing Davido’s song, except that you didn’t add the (N30 billion for your account)”

“So, you listen to music too?”

“Yes, I do for amusement and it equally reflects your lack of values. How you exaggerate N30 billion in your account, forgetting a child might be listening “

“Please leave Davido alone. We love him like that. Is it that you are against restructuring?”

“Far from it. You must identify what is working and what isn’t. Then you reboot or change your hard drive with an application that is flexible, nimble and adaptive to current trends. The word ‘indigene’ must be abolished from your…”

“But my dear, aren’t you also guilty? Are leaders not a reflection of the people? You are not taking responsibility and admitting that you might also be compliant in creating this mess. It is easy to preach…”

“Agreed! But, here is the thing…”

“No, you listen Mr. Critic! I will tell you the thing. The thing is you are just as culpable. You were a leader and here you are running your mouth about weak leaders. I will agree with you on one condition.”

“I never said I am perfect. Okay, what condition?”

“That you refresh your premise and place responsibility on everyone’s doorstep. We, including you my friend Nigeria, we all at one point or another or perpetually, we all are afflicted with this…what did you call that sickness again?”

“Intellectual laziness and lack of imagination.”

“Gbam! So, shall we restart this conversation on that premise and ask how we can work around the situation beyond a leaders-centric focus even though, I completely agree they have been bad flies in our ointment…”

Peter Esele, a labour leader and former president-general, Trade Union Congress (TUC), wrote from Lagos.

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