The contrast called Nigerian leadership

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“…And very importantly, let them speak to the youths that the Federal Government has no more vacancies, virtually every department is filled. The same thing in the states, the same thing in the local governments, so you can have a good degree from a good university and you will never get a job…” Mr. Buhari, President of Nigeria

In 2019 social media was abuzz over New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s short video of her blitzing through two years’ worth of her government’s achievements.

In the video which was shot in conjunction with the second anniversary of her taking New Zealand’s top office, Ms. Ardern listed down policies her government had implemented ever since she became the Prime Minister.

She had said that she was challenged by her own team to do so in under two minutes, but Ms. Ardern ultimately finished with a final time of two minutes and 56 seconds.

In the video, a smiling Ardern does not even stop for a breath while describing the “key headline achievements” of her party in the past two years.

In just two minutes, Ardern managed to mention that the government had created 92,000 jobs, brought in gun control laws, built over 2200 state-funded houses, banned single use plastic, planted 140 million trees, deployed 1600 new police officers and introduced the revolutionary zero-carbon bill to cut the country’s carbon emissions. Improved cancer care with more radiation machines, delivered cheaper doctors’ visits to more than 500,000 people, increased the minimum wage, built more classrooms in schools for 100,000 students, and brought unemployment to the lowest rate in 11 years. Apart from this, Ardern also mentioned introducing free lunches in school programmes and raising the wages of nurses, teachers and cops.

Ardern shot to prominence after an unexpected victory in New Zealand’s 2017 election and has been feted globally as part of a new wave of progressive, young leaders that included France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau, two years earlier Nigerians had elected Mr. Buhari.

Ardern’s pregnancy, maternity leave and the birth of her daughter while in office also set her apart.

Meanwhile in the United States, most families qualify for some amount of money through the child tax credit. In practice, according to Mr. Joe Biden, President of the United States. “…40 million families will receive their second monthly payment as part of our tax cuts for families with children. Three hundred dollars for each child under the age of six and two hundred and fifty dollars for every child, six through the age of 17. That’s money for diapers, food, rent, school supplies, fees and equipment for a child to join a sports team and dance class. Most of all, as my dad used to say it just gives a parent a little breathing room”

If Nigeria will work, leaders must take charge, change MUST start from them, sadly and the reality of it all is that leadership starts from the quality of citizenship, the demand and accountability rope must be pulled by patriots, expectation indices set by the governed, we must see pride and something to believe in. Unfortunately, what we have available is simply scary!

Let us look at Northern Nigeria, so much for policy somersaults, policy inconsistencies and policy ruga ranching; no framework for economy or security neither is there a social livelihood framework, or educational or health policy across board. On insecurity; one Governor is negotiating with kidnappers, another is fighting them as bandits, another calls them our children, the other say they are bandits and not Nigerians, we see kidnap for ransom now run as organized crime led by warlords and fact is that as I write there are at least 50 Nigerians largely students, girls and women in one form of kidnapped custody or the other with families running in sixes and half a dozen to raise ransoms.

Our President sleeps, governors sleep, and they sleep well in a nation where her people have resorted to vigilantism, no cohesive security charge, no synergy amongst the 17 thereabout security arms; put at best, a failed security architecture. Nothing to inspire in any form.

Yet the centre refuses to look at the times, and the reality of these times and seasons. The conversation as an example is not about and should not be about VAT but how some half a million men, and women of the various forces all put together cannot deal with a ragtag team of 50,000 criminals of various colourations.

The narrative should be if the country’s leadership cannot do what it’s peer does in saner climes then they have no business being there. The nation is big but sometimes, it is a case of when an elephant eats and eats and still cries for more, it is the grass that will get embarrassed. Let’s restructure, renegotiate, reconfigure, decentralize, whatever nomenclature we have is currently not working.

With our diverse differences in economic, cultural, traditional, political, social, ethnic and religious geosparsing the malady still remains the lack of a boss. A leader that can in 5,10,15 minutes tell us verifiable things that have been done to lift Nigeria and Nigerians up.

I end by saying you do not burn your house down because you do not like your father. I love Nigeria but beyond loving Nigeria, we, and by me, I mean many of today’s Nigeria deserve and want to see better.

In 2006, journalist Niren Tolsi spoke to the poet Mafika Pascal Gwala (1946-2014) and asked him about the meaning of Black Consciousness in his life. ‘We didn’t take Black Consciousness as a kind of Bible’, Gwala said to Tolsi. ‘It was just a trend, which was a necessary one because it meant bringing in what the white opposition [to apartheid] couldn’t bring into the struggle. So much was brought into the struggle through Black Consciousness’. The Black Consciousness movement – alongside South African Communism (as documented in Tom Lodge’s monumental new book Red Road to Freedom, 2021) and the trade union movement that emerged from the Durban strikes in 1973 – certainly brought the masses into the anti-apartheid struggle in a way that the white opposition could not; but it also brought in the sensibility of worth, of being worthy of human life, of making the struggle for freedom something precise and worthwhile for the dignity of existence rather than an abstraction.

That search for dignity defines the poetry of Gwala, whose Soweto poems sizzle with the desire for freedom:

Our history will be written

at the factory gates

at the unemployment offices

in the scorched queues of

dying mouths

Our history shall be our joys

our sorrows

our anguish

scrawled in dirty Third Class toilets

Our history will be the distorted figures

and bitter slogans

decorating our ghetto walls

where flowers find no peace enough to grow.

Compare and contrast the contrast that we call leadership in Nigeria, is there any hope, is anyone thinking of parents, doctors, our children, the police, or army, is anyone thinking of the nation’s tomorrow, how about the dignity of the Nigerian citizen, what will history say of the current crop of leaders—Only time will tell

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