By Fola Ojo
A true patriot is known not by the lofty political position he holds; not by the vastness of wealth he commands and controls, and definitely not by the ton of people he cheerleads. A true patriot is adjudged a jewel of cutting-edge inestimable value by how he inspires and motivates the citizenry to purpose when they are down on their luck and into doldrums. To a nation in despair, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo has become Nigeria’s modern-day Apostle of Hope. Whether the VP is speaking to Tradermoni market women recipients in Yenagoa; or his spiritual constituents in a church in Abuja; or to Muslim faithful in Zamfara, he dishes out hope as a sumptuous delicacy on a golden placating plate. Words that roll out of his mouth are verbal comestibles sweet to munch on. I love leaders who speak from the heart. They are far from heartless. For millions of Nigerians dillydallying between the fear of today and fright of tomorrow, inspirational messages of assuring hope are necessary. Even in the face of most monumental difficulties besieging breathing beings, pastors must give hope. That’s how they are ordained to speak. “Calm down, everything will be alright”. “Relax, this one too shall pass”. These are the idiolects of an ideal clergy. That is what Pastor Osinbajo does frequently as he doubles as the Vice President.
I desperately look forward to an opportunity to put some questions to my Pastor Osinbajo, the politician who is daily bombarded by staggering facts and figures of Nigeria’s rising debt in varying currencies; and spiking death tolls from dastardly attacks of kidnappers and terrorists. I have plenteous questions of the campaigner Osinbajo who crawled out of a smoky helicopter without a scratch. I hanker to ask candid questions from our VP who mediates in ethnic feuds while he daily fights his own personal gutsy, contrary winds of onslaught against his person by mean men who later offer apologies for their dirty mouth. What will Osinbajo-the-lawyer sitting in the Presidency tell us truly about the complexity and intricacies of a country like Nigeria? What reality release will come from his spirit being about the country’s fate dumped on his lap to reign over as the Number 2 citizen? If there is an open microphone lying around somewhere, and the sound engineer slumbers off, what will Osinbajo muse about our political climate he daily sunbathes in? Is hope possible in a terrain where millions have lost hope? I love my pastor. And I sincerely believe Osinbajo is Nigeria’s modern-day Apostle of Hope. But is it not about time we drew a line between hope and self-deception? Failure comes quickly to a nation that deceives herself, and self-deception is self-affliction. Telling truth to self is the best help a man can receive. Nigeria cannot keep getting logorrheic and chit-chatty about hope without drawing out workable plans to fix reasons why we are in a fix.
A World Bank Report on the Ease of Doing Business just submitted that Nigeria climbed up 15 places to 131. Nigeria was also named one of 10 most improved economies in the world in terms of ease of doing business. Only a fabulist will declare that the Buhari/Osinbajo administration has not made great strides in a few areas of our polity. But until effects of these figures trickle down to the average Nigerian on the street, these numbers remain only numbers. Rhetoric of hope must be supplanted by reality checks. How many Nigerian civil servants have become billionaires without passing through the baptistry of corruption? How many importers, exporters, and businessmen dodge paying taxes, skip levies, and evade requisite import duties? How many jet-owners pay parking fees for their expansive and expensive private jets? How many people in government and outside of it come to equity with clean hands? Muhammadu Buhari is branded the archenemy of the corrupt and corruption. Please don’t for once think that corruption has finally taken a leave from Nigeria even with its archenemy sitting in the Villa. Corruption is only in hibernation. How do we hope for economic growth that works for all when corruption is king? There are a few available jobs around, we hope it improves. Those who are employed aren’t paid their salaries, we hope this behaviour changes. The cost of living is rising. Crime is spiking. Bandits are growing their camps with new recruits. Governors now beg bandits not to kill; and criminals are bribed in round-table negotiations not to steal. Prayer-contractors have been enlisted to spray terrorists with imprecatory prayer because our military leaders are growing big bellies while terrorising brigands have become too hot to handle. And yet, Nigerians are daily urged to hope? This is a tall order for ordinary Nigerians in drawn-out despair; and who are unable to feed their families.
I ran into a fellow recently in Chicago who once was a heavy-hitter with the Nigerian government. He went on a tirade against the same system from where he fed fat. On-and-on he blew hot in a tongue lash on Nigeria. But he has forgotten that he once was part of the problem. You hear some critics today as if they were never part of the disease that’s threatening our hope from standing erect. At the end of the tirade, he said, “But I have hope for Nigeria. Nigeria will be great”. In sports competition, hope for goals doesn’t come true until the team sets a goal. Rhetorical hymnal of hope without setting goals is nothing but buccal retch of rubbish and hallucination.
The belief that what a man confesses will automatically become a reality is fat phantasm. Any school of thought that teaches confessing as a stand-alone winning weapon in life is nothing but a teaching tribune of deception and flimflam. Two-thirds of the Nigerian population today is below the age of 35, and youth unemployment reached an all-time high of 38 per cent in the second quarter of 2018. By 2050, the United Nations projects that Nigeria will become the third largest population in the world. How does Nigeria feed a ballooning population tomorrow when plans to feed the people are haphazard today?
I subscribe to hope. It is the only phenomenon Nigerians have hung on for decades. Hope keeps people alive. It keeps them sprinting to the finish line; and it energises them. But where is hope if we don’t hop? Where is hope if positive moves aren’t made? Whatever dims hope in Nigeria is not without remedy. Government businesses will remain the gastro-intestinal tube for many shady characters until politics is made to become true service to country. When the government -federal, state, and local- provides rock-solid plans to create jobs, provide housing, and build and rebuild infrastructure that we all can enjoy, then we can hope. If a comfortable majority of men and women at the helms of all governments will jettison stinking satiation for self -self-interest; self-aggrandisement, self-centredness; self-promotion; and self-gratification, poverty will die in Nigeria and prosperity will rise. That is when we can hope. And Nigeria, thereon, will become one the best places on the face of the earth to live and do business. That is my hope.