Re: 2015: What do Nigerians want?

I have received the letter below as a rejoinder to my last essay, in which I referred to a post by Khalid Imam on Facebook. I reproduce his rejoinder below in its entirety for one purpose only – to offer greater clarity to my argument in “What do Nigerians want?” It is my hope that Khalid, left to himself, would offer some clarity to his argument as I have sought to offer in mine. May God save us from us. – Gimba Kakanda

Gimba Kakanda, a talented poet, critic and an outspoken activist, is a brilliant columnist. I spare time to read his witty interventions every week. True, Kakanda is such a honed mind and even if one disagrees with his views, one can’t help marveling his brilliance and sophisticated handling of language.
Last week, in a swift reaction to one of my recent Facebook posts, in which, I expressed disillusionment with the futility of investing all our trust, hopes and aspirations on our present day seemingly unserious, bemused and unpatriotic politicians, Kakanda devoted his entire column, in the Blueprint of Friday, February 7, 2014 not only to rebut my postulation, but also to offer provoking interpretation(s) on the assumed or rather intended meaning(s) of what I postulated in that post.

But to my utmost surprise, Kakanda opted not to critically uncover the meanings beneath the layers of my corpus, but built his refutations of the dismal performance of our political leaders with this simplistic charge: ‘Yes, all politicians are thieves, but I have not seen your poster… How can I vote for you, sir? Your absence, my most revered saint, means my vote is invalid.’ Frankly, as someone I regarded as a serious critic, I was not expecting him to be that simplistic, but lay primacy on what the text says or not said, not resorting to author-based oriented approach of criticism.

Yes, Kakanda is free to adopt any of the kinds of criticism, but, that notwithstanding, I would have been thrilled if he allowed the text to freely inhale air, as it is the case in the text-based approach of criticism being effective and illuminating. Essentially, the text, as Professor IBK would always say, should be freed from its author’s influence, or the supposed contextual meaning it presents or that of the reader’s assumptions. The author (and the reader too) is dead where the text is a king.

Back to the flesh of Kakanda’s thesis, I would begin by admitting that Kakanda was right stressing, ‘we are all politicians in our own different ways;’ and that defeatism, not cynicism (I must stress) is not the right pill to swallow by anyone aspiring to be a change agent. Yes, defeatism or not, we should always strive, no matter the height of the fence to cross over, in serving as the fuel moving the vehicle of change. But again, as change agents, we should not fail to ask the right questions about the colour(s) of the change we yearn for or we deserve.

On cynicism and optimism, if one is very critical, one can’t deny the fact that they are twins not from a different mother. For, neither of the two, in my view, is built on a quicksand of irrationality. Like the incurable optimist, a wise cynic should stubbornly rely on reason to feed his cynical mind. To stress, the thread separating cynicism and optimism is very thin. Hence, it is wise to avoid allowing our stubborn optimism to delude us into accepting, hook, line and sinker that optimism is water we could readily fetch with a basket. The optimism of an ostrich that buried her head in the sand thinking it was saved from danger is, to me, not enough to shield her from the powerful wind. Therefore, the cynics among us insisting that the driver of the bus we must all board must not be a drunk should be listened to.

Inasmuch as I try to concur with Kakanda’s opinion that ‘our politicians are humans’ and ‘the products of politics are our efforts and sacrifices,’ I would still throw a word that only a well-tied broom sweeps; our large number, if we continue to ignore the lesson of discipline and teamwork taught to us by the ants will continue to hobble our march to democracy. And our persistent silence on the type of democracy that will address our basic socio-cultural and economic demands may end up becoming the knife on the throat of our future prosperity.

Let me end this intervention by stressing that, as Kakanda would want us to believe, there is an oasis in the desert of ‘we can do,’ and docility or sitting on the fence was, is and will never serve as the potent seed of positive change. And that the main thrust of my critiqued Facebook post, by Kakanda, was, and, still is, a desirous wake-up call reminding us not to venture into the thorny forest barefooted in the name of an expedition called democracy. Democracy is a journey, not a destination. May God save us from ourselves!

Khalid Imam is a Kano-based poet and teacher and reachable via [email protected]

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