A new Nigeria or a better one? The fitting tools of a...

A new Nigeria or a better one? The fitting tools of a great repair

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Whatever becomes of what is said this day, let it be noted that we gathered under this roof in the spirit of democratic discourse and enlightenment. In the fateful procession of time and events, Justice, Progress and Compassion shall eventually overcome the awful strength of their opposites.
In one way or another, we all have felt the sting of man’s capacity to wrong his fellow man. But we are also endowed with the God-given spirit to overcome adversity and to make of old enemies, new allies and even brothers. I stand before you as a faithful believer in sentiments such as these.
Before I go further, I thank the Kings College Old Boys Association for the honor you do by inviting me to this fine occasion.
Collectively and individually you have contributed mightily to this nation. If there were more people imbued with the values of King’s College, Nigeria would be a better place.
At the risk of being somewhat nonconformist, I have modified the topic to reflect something that requires a bit more reflection. While we are here enjoying a splendid dinner, let us give ourselves some food for thought as well.
We must clearly articulate our objectives. That which we cannot think clearly, will not be attained despite the magnitude of our exertions and expenditure to achieve it. One cannot be assured that an architect’s fine design will result in a fine building. Much can go awry during the process of transforming idea into brick and mortar.
However, we can be certain that a masterful building is never the result of flawed design.
In this vein, I dabble not so much in the search for a new Nigeria. I am equally not enthused about the flaws of old Nigeria. What I seek is a better Nigeria.
I care not whether something is old or new but whether it shall make us better. Not all change is good. Not every new thing shall be kind to us.
Yes, Nigeria must change but some of the changes we need cannot be bought at the store of the new. Many things we need are shelved in the warehouse of the old. Just as we must learn new things on one hand, we must remember vital old wisdom on the other.
This is where associations such as this are so valuable. You represent an inventory of vast knowledge. This should be used not to stifle change but to guide it toward its best purpose.
The trend today is to believe progress and improvement are basically functions of technology and science. That politics and governance matter little and change almost nothing. That talk of political reform spills out of the leaking chalice of dreamers. Or is but an intoxicant used by cynical political operators to delude the public.
Skepticism abounds. The only strong belief is to disbelief. Not enough people seek to improve society. They are told that only the foolish looks out for his neighbor and respects his adversary.
They are taught the only thing to do is to look out for one’s self. If thy neighbor stumbles, reach down not to pick him up but to take those things he dropped while falling. Self-profit is the only commandment. All else is make-believe, things heard in the church and mosque but to be left there and not pursued in the course of everyday life.
The very dynamics of the current political economy is to separate people from each other. Such mean isolation was never part of us but it has crept into our culture. Of this brand of newness, I want no part.
The world has entered a period where progressive, humane reform are not fashionable. We are told to be practical, to accept the way things are. There is no struggle over competing ideals; we are told the current political economy is immutable. The only thing that matters is whether you master its dynamics to succeed or you sink and fail. To attempt to change things is as futile as trying to change the sky and clouds themselves.
This is a blatant lie. Change is possible and change we must. There is no such thing as having no ideology. Every political and economic institutions are founded on one thought system or another. To accept the false premise that there is no alternative to how things are is to acquiesce in the unfair ideology that has brought us to our current predicament.
In the hard sciences such as physics, chemistry or mathematics, one can speak of immutable principles and objective formula. In the affairs of men, most things are subjective. Virtue and vice, good and bad, what is optimal and what is not have no fixed meaning. Definitions change with the ideological and moral perspective of each person.
In the face of recession, one man fires most of his employees in order to maintain his own income level. Another man accepts to receive less income so that he may retain his workers. Two men faced with the same circumstance. Each made a decision of equal soundness with regard to the rational or intellectual quality of the thinking processes that led to the decisions. However, the decisions call forth two divergent value systems that suggest two vastly different visions of how the political economy should function whether in or out of crisis.
As in almost all social interactions, there are few acts devoid of subjective ideological coloration. The decisions we make are determined by how we would like the world to be – our very actions are determined by what we value so as to keep and what we are willing to discard when the ship of state is tossed either by storm or errant navigation.
Since there is no one objective optimal standard by which to construct a political economy, it would seem prudent for a nation to dedicate a healthy amount of time discussing this fundamental matter. For such is the surest path to reaching consensus on what economic development and good governance mean in our particular context.
Sadly, the obverse is true. We talk little about this core issue. Instead, we spend inordinate time bickering over the symptoms of our failure to discuss the core issue.
We are like the bewildered couple who has gotten their marriage license after a lavish wedding; yet neither of them really understands the meaning of marriage or their roles as husband and wife in it. Legally, they are married but functionally, their union is a crippled one. This couple will be at loggerheads until somehow, someway they forge an agreement on what type of home they want and what are their respective duties in making that home come into existence.
It is a rather curious lapse that a nation with such diversity as ours has not taken the time to give our legal marriage its proper functional underpinning. In other words, we all lined up to call ourselves Nigerian without gathering to discuss what it meant. Thus, we inhabit a nation that has not sufficiently defined its governance. We may be defined by political borders and boundaries but we have not glued ourselves to collective purpose and vision. Too many of us are born in Nigeria but not of it.
Thus, our society is not a collective enterprise as important to each of us as our own personal endeavour. It is but a platform, an arena, to claim whatever one can by whatever means available.
In too many ways we resemble a wrestling match instead of the nation we were meant to become.
Thus, we argue over matters that long ago should have been settled. The longer such fundamental questions fester, the more extreme become the proposed answers.
Thus, we have people clamoring for secession in one part of the country and the murmur of such a course grows stronger in other sections.

We inhabit a nation that has not sufficiently defined its governance. We may be defined by political borders and boundaries but we have not glued ourselves to collective purpose and vision

These other areas resent that some have advocated secession. Blame and recrimination become the political currency. Statesmanship falls in short supply. The dominant urge is to confront instead of reconcile.
It would be wrong to mistake this for a tempest in a teapot. If not careful, we may be tossed about like a teapot in a tempest.
We must listen to what is being said so that we can determine what is really meant.
Let us be frank. Many who cry separation do so because their personal ambitions will be better served by such a thing. They believe they will have greater chance at political power under a different arrangement. Yet the cry for separation has gained traction among average people; this is due to the chronic failure of government to meet basic aspirations.
If over the years, government had delivered on the promise of growth, prosperity, and justice, those calling for such extreme remedies would be but a small fringe of little consequence.
Our task is not to condemn but to listen and understand. I care not at all for this proposed solution. But I dare not discount the concerns and problems that have led many people into advocating such a thing.

I want to plainly state my position. I am a firm believer in Nigeria. I believe this land will become a great nation and a leader among other African nations. We can resolve our dysfunctions in a manner that will make this nation rise as a standard of decency, justice and prosperity for all Nigerians

Here, I want to plainly state my position. I am a firm believer in Nigeria. I believe this land will become a great nation and a leader among other African nations. We can resolve our dysfunctions in a manner that will make this nation rise as a standard of decency, justice and prosperity for all Nigerians.

 

An abridged version of an address delivered by Asiwaju Tinubu as Principal Guest of Honour/Keynote Speaker at the 2017 Annual Dinner of the King’s College Old Boys’ Association (KCOBA) on September 23, 2017 at King’s College, Lagos.

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