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Just Thinking Aloud (IV)

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President Muhammadu Buhari

By Bola Bolawole
[email protected] 0807 552 5533

Gbooo! Gbaaa! One of the friends hit head and limbs against tables, chairs and other sundry objects as he tried to make his way out of the dingy basement that goes by the name “Unity Enjoyment Palace”. “You had better watched it”, his friend, still calmly ensconced in his seat, called out to him; “they will soon put on the gen”, he added. “It’s taking too much time”, the impatient man fired back, as a result of which his friend called out to the attendants: “Why are you delaying in putting on the gen.?” An attendant’s response shocked them: They were not making any effort to put on the generator; the poor thing had worked all day and night the last three days and had broken down. Generators are meant to serve as a standby power supply source but here in Nigeria, it is “NEPA” that stands by while generators are the main source of power supply. “Anything ‘unity’ appears a curse in this country, especially when the so-called unity is forced down the throat of people willy-nilly” said one, to which the other friend replied “Nothing works perfectly that does not emanate from the soul and spirit”

“So, how do we get out of this dingy hole?” the impatient man, now raging, fired back. The attendants replied as politely as they could that they were searching for matches and candles. “Wonders will never end! So you don’t even have rechargeable lamps?” They do but high voltage, when “NEPA” flashed light earlier in the day, had ruined them. “But you should have bought another one!” They will, but requisition had to be made first – and the due process of approval may take a few days! “In this small place and in what is supposed to be a privately-owned enterprise, you mean the bureaucracy is worse than the Civil Service’s?” The attendant replied that the management, taking a cue from their hero, President Muhammadu Buhari, had zero tolerance for corruption! Finally, the attendant found a box of matches but another tug of war began. Each stick he tried to strike either broke or failed to ignite. He tried again and again. Frustrated, he blurted out that the other day when the same thing happened; he had to strike almost a full box of matches before one mercifully ignited!

“Those matches must have been made in Nigeria. We make few things but are a nation of importers. Unfortunately, even the few things we make here are usually of poor quality. This way, how do we compete, not to talk of riding the competition?”

“Who is asking you to compete? Have our leaders told you they are tired of importing tooth picks and toilet papers? The matches I use at home are from the Republic of Benin. One strike and it ignites! Spare yourself the trouble”

“This rubbish can only happen in a country united by force; where the leaders unite only to milk the people dry. Since 1960 what can we point at as our own contributions to civilization?”

“Quite a handful: Corruption is one. Incompetence is another. Leadership failure at an astounding level is vintage Nigerian. Our cow culture is second to none. Even the countries that have more cows than human beings will be amazed at the respect we accord cows here. Issues around cows daily make headline news and cow palaver has become the centre of our universe”

“It is such a big shame! We have nothing to discuss except cow, cow, and cow!

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“Google it: Uruguay, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia and Brazil have more cows than human beings! Uruguay has the most cattle per capita in the world while New Zealand has more than twice as many cattle as people. Yet, they do not practice open grazing and people are not slaughtered for cows as is the case here. There are a little over a billion cattle in the whole world, against a human population of 7.158 billion”

“The difference is because those are developed or developing countries whereas we are a country receding into the Stone Age. Can you find in those countries the kind of leaders we celebrate here? Even the followership there is far better than the one we have here. And I regret to note that you, my friend, are part of the problem”

“Me? Someone who suffers from the inefficient, clueless and corrupt leaders that we have here?”

“I do not contest your description of our leaders. I will even excoriate them in more superlative terms. But did you not say a while ago that the matches you use at home are from the Benin Republic? If you do not patronise your own products but have a taste for foreign goods, how can you turn around to complain that your country’s economy is going down the hill?”

“The buyer is king, have you forgotten your elementary Economics? Why should I spend my hard-earned money on inferior products that will not serve my purpose? Please and please, I want value for money…”

“In the long run, such a myopic decision will catch up with you in real time. I read the story of an Indian boy who had problems with the inferior pencil he was using in an exam hall. He kept sharpening it but it kept breaking; still, he would not give up. The invigilator noticed and offered him a good quality pencil but the boy insisted on managing with what he had. Asked why, he explained that the poor quality pencil was made by his own country and if he, an Indian, will not use it because it is poor quality, how can he expect non-Indians to do so? And if no one patronises the product, how can the makers have the opportunity to improve on the quality? Today, India is a super-power nation and I don’t think they make poor quality pencils anymore”

At that moment there was a flicker of light and the attendant shouted “Ope o! Praise God!” But he celebrated too soon! As he tried to connect the lighted match stick with the candle’s wick, he encountered another problem! Getting the candle to sit on a flat surface was also problematic.

“That candle itself must be made in Nigeria. “Abiku” candle!”

“Even if it is imported, it can still be of poor quality. Our people go over there to ask the Oyinbo people to reduce the quality of products they intend to import so that the price can become affordable for our pauperised people. The same people making the poor quality products that flood our market also make the good quality products for other responsible governments who value the life and well-being of their own people”

“I have heard that a lot of the drugs and pharmaceutical products that are imported into this country are fake or adulterated. And people keep dying – and, yet, the government does nothing! Not everyone who dies gets killed by COVID-19. Many are victims of fake drugs”

“Government – whoever they are and whatever that means – hardly patronise our hospitals. How, then, can they know and how will they care a hoot?”

“Then, the people themselves must do something. Is it not said that we must take our destiny in our own hands?”

“Be careful, lest they label you a communist! There is little the people can do anyway – except if they first organise and change the narrative. Change must come from the top. When it comes from the bottom, it is called a revolution”

“But Lai told us that change begins with us the Plebeians…”
“That is a lie from the pit of Hell. Change must start from the top. The fish rots from the head and anointing flows from the top. I once heard the leader who turned around the fortunes of Singapore say he decided to tackle corruption by making objective examples of leaders at the top. That sent the right signal down the whole spectrum…”

The attendant succeeded in his efforts at steadying the candle and the two friends stood quickly to their feet – but, then, they remembered they hadn’t settled their bill. One cautioned the other: “Times are hard. Let’s meet half-way on this rather than pile the misery on one person” “Wise counsel”, agreed the other as both friends searched their pockets for wads of Naira notes.

“Can you see the difference between darkness and light? God is not a fool. Why our leaders have refused to drink from the inexhaustible and unsearchable wisdom of God baffles me” He brought out his Bible again and began to flip through. “Genesis 1:3 teaches governments to set their priorities right. ‘And God said, ‘Let there be light: and there was light’. God first provided light before anything else. Does that tell you something?”

“I see! Without constant power supply, we can only grope in the dark”

“Putting the cart before the horse is what our leaders have done all along”

“But they have always voted humongous sums for power; where did it all go?”

“That is the question they will be asked – all of them – when the right time comes, to quote the Mighty Diamonds”

“And when shall that be, you are the Scriptures man?”

“Rest assured that Daniel will come to judgment! But the right time and season lie in the belly of time”

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