“The future is the past, coming in through another gate.” Arnold H. Glasow
“The future that we study and plan for begins today.” Chester O. Fischer
Penultimate weekend, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ), was in Dakar, Senegal, to attend the West African regional conference on unemployment. At the event, this former president made a remark on this country he once (or twice, if you like) governed. He was reported as having said that “Nigeria WILL witness a revolution soon unless government takes urgent steps to check growing youth unemployment and poverty.” – Daily Trust, November 12, 2012 (emphasis mine).
The import and the criticalness of this submission by OBJ can only be lost on the most foolish and foolhardy of persons, at whatever quarters, of the Nigerian nation and structure; for even he himself underscored it thus: “I’m afraid, and you know I am a General. When a General says he is afraid, that means the danger ahead is real and potent.” He was reported to have added that “in spite of what he called the imminent threat to Nigeria’s nationhood ‘there is ABSENCE OF SERIOUS, CONCRETE, REALISTIC, short and long term solution’ to youth unemployment” (emphasis mine). OBJ could never be more correct on this issue in the light of the trajectory this nation has decided to take – the word “decided” is most advisedly employed here. Indeed, elder statesmen like OBJ should and must be seen to be the guiding light in the task of nation building.
But this piece today is probably not about what elder statesmen, like the OBJs, the IBBs, the Gowons should be doing for nation building as much as what leaders should be doing, especially when they are in positions. This then raises questions as to what such leaders as mentioned above did when they were in power and clearly had the capability, capacity and wherewithal to nudge this nation in the right direction but, for reasons the rest of us can only guess or might never know, blew their chances; actions or inactions which impinge on our realities today that speak to the real and porself-immolation of Mohammed Bouazizi was just an action which provided the tipping point for the revolution in early 2011. These peoples had been living under regimes of injustice, repression and suppression; denied of the freedom self-expression and self-determination. The storm had long been brewing for decades. The dients for this impending doom – which, by the way, are not limited to unemployment – did not come about just now. With all its successive claims to idealism and the fight against corruption, military rulership under some of these statesmen of today has served to provide the most fertile of grounds for this real and potent danger that ened and widened. Nigerians, youths, watched on. The same IBB would rise up in 2010 to declare the ineptitude of the young in Nigeria!
Maybe the best opportunity, yet, for Nigeria to indeed change the course of its destiny came in the year 1999. Probably for clearly no way out for the Nigerian military, they handed power to the Nigerian people. Nigerians indeed were set to make a clean break with their sordid past when they did not just vote for OBJ, but they gave him their clear mandate to lead them in forging a new national narrative for posterity. They were ready to cooperate with him in all fronts. Nigeria brimmed with hope and mirth. The evidence of that goodwill is probably the kind of talent and ability that disposed itself at the service of the OBJ-led government. For he himself alluded to that when, at the same Dakar event, he said youth unemployment which stood at 72 per cent in 1999 was reduced to 54 per cent by 2004 but would skyrocket to 71 per cent by 2011. He didn’t say the level it was when he left in 2007, maybe that would say something as to how he himself handled the overwhelming mandate of the Nigerian people. How he handled the hopes and aspirations Nigerians is left for him to judge. But it is clear that quite not unlike the military regimes that preceded him, his was characterized by almost unprecedented levels of impunity, wanton disregard for the rule of law, and corruption that can only be bloodsucking second to what we are seeing today. Add that to the brazen and callous subversion of the will of the people as marked by his party’s conduct under him at elections; and to boot, the fact that this government today is directly traceable to his actions in 2007 when he declared a do-or-die electoral war cry and had his way, both in his party and the nation at large, one gets an admixture, potent for any revolution. Nigerians, youths, watched on.
So, true as OBJ’s prediction is, statesmanlike as his comments may be, he had the chance; his chance to make Nigeria better. The question is did he rise above himself and his (like any other human’s) base instincts? Those who find themselves on the corridors of power in Nigeria, whether positional or otherwise, must, therefore, have a rethink and approach their opportunity, roles and duties with the needed reverence and sacredness. For when you must have mounted down the saddle of power, tomorrow will surely place a demand on you to make comments. And speak you must. You may only be speaking to and about your very own failures.