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Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman

2022 and Judgement Day By Lasisi Olagunju

Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC Chairman

Monday, 3 January, 2022)

We’ve all walked gingerly into the uncharted dawn of 2022 hoping to make some sense of its covetous threats. Jonathan Swift, 18th century satirist and author, wrote of ‘The Day of Judgement’ when “the graves give up their dead” and “thunder roars and lightning flies” and “the world’s mad business now is o’er.” This new year, 2022, takes Nigeria significantly one giant step towards that Day, the end of “pranks” and “designs.” The year before the last was one of dread and death; of lockdowns and isolationist locks and keys. Then came 2021 and we defied pandemic fears but the reveries of terror and banditry were unremitting. Nigeria was helpless last year; but it has always been. What we make of this year will determine what next year turns out to be. I am referring to 2023, its ambiguous promise and today’s uncertainties.

When the leader carries a shield wherever he goes, it is obvious there is no peace in his domain. The king has failed in his primary duty of protection of his subjects. The night has been very long for us as a country. Nigeria won’t stop being the grave of its peoples’ peace and joy – or what the Yoruba call a child of tears. Bad things won’t change unless the head is good. We get shamed and insulted and we shrug off everything as if nothing happened. The Singapore-based Chandler Institute of Governance in its inaugural Good Government Index (CGGI) released in April last year said Nigeria was the world’s third worst governed country. It said our country beat only Zimbabwe and Venezuela on its list of infamy. It was a faecal crown of thorns, it reeked of shame and pains. But our leaders got that verdict and calmly moved on as usual into darker darkness. As editorialized by the Nigerian Tribune on May 3 last year, Nigerians have resigned to being wantonly sandwiched between the banditry of outlaws and the violent recklessness of those charged with the provision of security.

There is a proverb about cockroach wanting to rule over the chicken. The only way it can do that is by hiring the fox. And that exactly is what we have. Every clan in Africa has a proverb linking the chi of the leader with the lot of the led. But in Nigeria, we appoint captains from a pool of failed sailors and then complain that the ship drifts into danger. The strain of humans in Nigeria is different from what you see anywhere else. We plant same seed every year and pray for the fruits to be different. When a year grows bad, we quickly pray it to end. We take a crossover into a new year thinking that the end of December is the end of the cross we carry. Then we sink in agony as the wheel of pangs rolls on and the cycle of disappointment continues its orbital journey towards another December. We forget that the primary reason for our failure is leadership. If you see a happy people, look for their king. The Congolese people say a good leader is a forest of fruits, everyone who goes there takes something good home. Our lot has been ghastly.

This year holds in its cusp whatever ultimately will become of this country in and after 2023. If the eyes would be patient in their focus, they would see the nose and its expressway of nostrils. For instance, there are two governorship elections this year – in Ekiti and Osun. Those two polls are the gateway to what is coming. They will impact you no matter where you are from in Nigeria. I urge you to pay attention to both states; particularly, pay attention to Osun and its eerie happenings. Politics plays out there as if all this world is about war and strifes. Whatever will happen to national politics in 2023 will be foretold by that state. The seismic rumbles in its jungle are not for nothing. All the principalities of Nigeria are converging already, casting lots. And I should know. Today, there is no party in Osun State, what moves there are interests. Nothing is clean-cut there; interests criss-cross stems of conflicting platforms. In that anomic state, I see PDP in APC; I see APC in PDP. Watch that space.

Leadership matters if a people would be saved. An old man was once asked to explain why a people needed a good king. He pointed at an army of black ants in disarray. In their best element, these creatures would march through the jungle in disciplined battalions. But the ones before the old man were not. The old man said they were not seen in orderly columns because there was no leader leading. “Without a leader, even black ants are confused,” he said, quoting an Ugandan proverb. A hunting party that would go home with good games won’t appoint a tired, bad leader. Nigeria has not got that wisdom.

There is an old story on what wise people look for when they appoint leaders. My favourite folklore re-writer, James Baldwin’s ‘The Sons of William the Conqueror’ is my story here, reproduced verbatim:

There was once a great king of England who was called William the Conqueror, and he had three sons. One day King William seemed to be thinking of something that made him feel very sad; and the wise men who were about him asked him what was the matter.

“I am thinking,” he said, “of what my sons may do after I am dead. For, unless they are wise and strong, they cannot keep the kingdom which I have won for them. Indeed, I am at a loss to know which one of the three ought to be the king when I am gone.”
“O king!” said the wise men, “if we only knew what things your sons admire the most, we might then be able to tell what kind of men they will be. Perhaps, by asking each one of them a few questions, we can find out which one of them will be best fitted to rule in your place.”
“The plan is well worth trying, at least,” said the king. “Have the boys come before you, and then ask them what you please.”
The wise men talked with one another for a little while, and then agreed that the young princes should be brought in, one at a time, and that the same questions should be put to each.
The first who came into the room was Robert. He was a tall, willful lad, and was nicknamed Short Stocking.
“Fair sir,” said one of the men, “answer me this question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird would you rather be?”
“A hawk,” answered Robert. “I would rather be a hawk, for no other bird reminds one so much of a bold and gallant knight.”
The next who came was young William, his father’s namesake and pet. His face was jolly and round, and because he had red hair he was nicknamed Rufus, or the Red.
“Fair sir,” said the wise man, “answer me this question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird would you rather be?”
“An eagle,” answered William. “I would rather be an eagle, because it is strong and brave. It is feared by all other birds, and is therefore the king of them all.”
Lastly came the youngest brother, Henry, with quiet steps and a sober, thoughtful look. He had been taught to read and write, and for that reason he was nicknamed Beauclerc, or the Handsome Scholar.
“Fair sir,” said the wise man, “answer me this question: If, instead of being a boy, it had pleased God that you should be a bird, what kind of a bird would you rather be?”
“A starling,” said Henry. “I would rather be a starling, because it is good-mannered and kind and a joy to every one who sees it, and it never tries to rob or abuse its neighbour.”
Then the wise men talked with one another for a little while, and when they had agreed among themselves, they spoke to the king.
“We find,” said they, “that your eldest son, Robert, will be bold and gallant. He will do some great deeds, and make a name for himself; but in the end he will be overcome by his foes, and will die in prison.
“The second son, William, will be as brave and strong as the eagle; but he will be feared and hated for his cruel deeds. He will lead a wicked life, and will die a shameful death.
“The youngest son, Henry, will be wise and prudent and peaceful. He will go to war only when he is forced to do so by his enemies. He will be loved at home, and respected abroad; and he will die in peace after having gained great possessions.”
Years passed by, and the three boys had grown up to be men. King William lay upon his death-bed, and again he thought of what would become of his sons when he was gone. Then he remembered what the wise men had told him; and so he declared that Robert should have the lands which he held in France, that William should be the King of England, and that Henry should have no land at all, but only a chest of gold.
So it happened in the end very much as the wise men had foretold. Robert, the Short Stocking, was bold and reckless, like the hawk which he so much admired. He lost all the lands that his father had left him, and was at last shut up in prison, where he was kept until he died.
William Rufus was so overbearing and cruel that he was feared and hated by all his people. He led a wicked life, and was killed by one of his own men while hunting in the forest.
And Henry, the Handsome Scholar, had not only the chest of gold for his own, but he became the King of England and the ruler of all the lands that his father had in France. He inherited everything.
End of story.

Nigeria has the three prince-types. We have hawks. We have eagles. There are starlings, birds of wealth, freedom and strength. But what choice do we always make? What choices are we making already? If that prince, Henry, were a Yoruba man, his name would be Iwalewa. It is very easy to translate that. It means “character is beauty.” But character is the least attribute we cherish in our leadership. It is the reason for our ugliness. What will change our narrative starting from this new year is a broad-minded, knowledgeable leadership that will tear down the frames of iniquity and rebuild the flawed walls of Nigeria.

Happy New Year.

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