BusinessDay

Nigeria at 62: Better late bloomer than none?

Back in 2015, when I was moving out of my parents’ house into a 2-bedroom flat in Bariga, I found myself doing a lot of the touching-up at the new place on my own to save money. I laid rubber tiles and painted the living room myself one Saturday in September of that year as I prepared to move in on October 1. Buried somewhere deep in the recesses of my Instagram archives is a video of yours truly driving home after a hard day’s DIY labour, hands caked in white emulsion paint with Vector The Viper’s “I Luv U Nigeria” playing on the radio.

At the time, having restarted life in 2013 following my return from the UK, and preparing to move into a new flat with my girlfriend after she got a new job and I got a raise at work, I did not disagree with the lyrics of the song. Despite all that was demonstrably wrong with Nigeria, it was, on a personal level anyway, my little slice of self-actualisation.

To date, whenever that song comes on, I am transported back to those magical few minutes inside my Kia Rio at Ifako, dreaming of my impending middle-class, upwardly mobile dream with the love of my life at the time. But of course, it was September 2015. May 29 had already come and gone. So what came next needs no rehashing.

And here’s the thing – I will be one of those expecting a lot of great things from him. I am one of those who will be hard on him if he repeatedly makes policy gaffes, even if at a much lower frequency than the current abomination in office

Why are we here?

A few hours before I wrote this article, I found myself having a text conversation with Vector himself. Music, he said, should have found ways to express itself as a catalyst for social change in Nigeria the way writing has done and still does. I agreed, but pointed out that the nature of the business of music makes meritocracy much more difficult than in writing.

“Bad writing,” I said, “has no place to hide, while a bad song with sufficient radio airplay budget can become a hit.” This lack of meritocracy, I believed, is what promotes a certain brand and type of music over another more politically and socially conscious variety.

At every point in my sojourn in Nigeria, I have observed and experienced multiple experiences that have solidified my conviction that a deep lack of respect for logical outcomes, process and meritocracy is what lies at the heart of the choices Nigeria makes on a micro and macro level.

Whether it is the mass decision to vote out the president under whom “I Luv U Nigeria” was an unironically listenable song and replace him with a coup plotter, or individual decisions to promote social climbers, gangsters, thieves and plagiarists over those who display competence and humility, the choices are the same.

Unsurprisingly, the outcomes have also been the same. We have politicians like Muhammadu Buhari. We have religious leaders like the blokes who perform “miracles” at their numerous “crusades.” We have entertainers who achieved top billing through horse trading instead of talent and quality output.

We have “award-winning journalists” who have never done a day’s journalistic work in their entire lives. We have social leaders and influencers who trade on vapid, airheaded single issues. Basically, we have an insubstantial society, fed by a culture that is obsessed with vacuity.

Read also: Nigeria @ 62: The paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty

Will we do better? Well, we better…

Nigeria is now ranked 16th on the Fragile States Index which ranks nations in ascending order of their status as failed states. There are no fewer than 4 separate and distinct armed conflicts taking place within Nigeria’s territorial borders, all of which arguably constitute existential threats to the country.

For the first time in the country’s history, government income has been superseded by debt repayments, which makes the Nigerian government technically insolvent.

Of course, Rt. Major General Buhari himself will not be the one to deal with this problem as a matter of long-term concern because he has approximately 8 months to go, and it will become someone else’s problem.

While the sun may have already set on the Buhari years and any potential of getting some kind of positive outcome from them, the problems remain stacked chest high in front of whoever is unfortunate enough to come next, even if that person is Peter Gregory Obi. Especially if that person is Peter Gregory Obi.

Why I single him out for specific sympathy is that going by historical precedent, if he does win the 2023 election and he starts making sound economic and political decisions that favour long-term growth, it is the very Nigerians who voted him that will yearn for “Egypt” the loudest.

While The Other Two Contestants may be cut a significant amount of slack by an electorate that simply does not expect much from them, expectations are sky high for Mr. Obi. And here’s the thing – I will be one of those expecting a lot of great things from him. I am one of those who will be hard on him if he repeatedly makes policy gaffes, even if at a much lower frequency than the current abomination in office. Is this fair? Well, not really, but it is what the situation demands right now. Nigeria does not have a lot of time left to start to get its act right if it wants to experience a Col Sanders-style middle-aged late bloom that transforms its 60s, 70s and 80s into boom years.

For my sake, for Vector’s sake, and for the sake of everyone else who strongly longs for something better, I hope it happens.

I really do.

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