Soon Come….

In 1860, a mostly self educated prairie lawyer from Springfield, Ill got a chance at the Republican nomination for the presidency.

His lucky break had come a few months earlier when his friend Norman Judd had been put in charge of selecting the venue for the newly formed Republican party’s first convention.
Judd slyly chose Chicago to be the venue to aid Abraham Lincoln’s cause.
Abraham Lincoln went on to defeat the hugely popular Sentaor from New York, William Seward, who was by far the favourite to win.
Lincoln’s whole tactic was to be the second choice of all the delegations to the convention such that if Seward didnt manage to win at the first ballot, he would pick up votes.
‘Give offence to no one..we shall leave them in a mood to come to us, lest they be compelled to give up their first love’ was what he told his campaign managers.

After he won, he offered Seward the Secretary of State position in his cabinet.

In 2004, an unknown young lawyer and state Senator from Illinois got a lucky break.
The Democratic nominee for President in that year, John F Kerry was suffering in the polls with African Americans.
He therefore decided to get a black speaker to give the keynote speech on one of the convention nights.
Somehow Barack Obama was chosen for this task and boy did he take his chance!
A political career was launched and eventually in 2008, he defeated a senator from New York, Hillary Clinton who had been the favourite to win.

After he won, he offered Clinton the Secretary of State position in his cabinet.

One strong similarity between both men is the very ordinary beginnings they started their lives out in.
The one thing and perhaps the most important thing Lincoln had going for him was his formidable intellect….he had an intelligence that was second to none in his time.

Similarly, Barack Obama’s law lecturer at Harvard Law School recently remarked that in his 30 years as a lecturer, he had never come across a student as intelligent as Obama.

Why does God allow history to repeat itself?

Answering this question is above my paygrade but I do know that God never runs out of ideas.
Perhaps the reason is to serve as a reminder to us that greatness is achievable in any generation and even when it appears as if His glory has departed from a despondent looking situation….Ichabod like…, it can yet descend again.

Like everyone else, I will be proudly watching this once in a lifetime inauguration and marvelling at how an outsider succesfuully broke through the establishment to ascend to the leadership of the free world.

Being of Nigerian extraction, I cannot help but think of my own country at this time.
What we need more than anything else at this point in time is someone to break through the system from the ‘outside’ and change the way government works.

Unlike a lot of people, I stubbornly refuse to give up the hope that in my time and generation, God will move again as he so often does and wake the nation up from what has become an extended nightmare.

The job of turning Nigeria around is not as difficult as it appears to be.
But when a nation is in the grip of intellectual homunculi such as we have been for years, everything seems infinitely harder.

On July 29, 1975 a young Army Officer by the name of General Murtala Mohammed became the Nigerian Head of State after a putsch while Gen Gowon [the previous president] was away attedning an OAU meeting.

In just under 7 months he managed to achieve what seemed almost impossible under the lethargy of the Gowon administration.
The result is that his likeness adorns the Nigerian N20 note till tomorrow.
What he had gpoing for him was the same ‘outsider’ mentality….the courage to shake things up and a strong moral compass.

Without mentioning names, by way of compariosn, we have had men who have had two shots at the Presidency and the only debate left after is which one was worse.

It can be done….the trick can be repeated.
The challenge now will be to do it democratically.
Nigerians are quick to call for a revolution to wipe the slate clean and breath fresh life on the nation.
Aside from the obvious shortage of revolution fighters among Nigerians I know, there surely must be a better way to go about things other than violence.

The current system we have in place to choose a leader is fraught with so much corruption that it cannot produce anything other than a severely compromised leader when he/she manages to come out at the other end.

To break this gridlock as it were, someone has to ascend to the leadership of that nation from the outside.
Someone must be seen to buck the system and ascend to leadership on the back of popular support not the patronage of political godfathers and vested interests who then proceed to hold the nation ransom.

Why would God create 140 million Nigerians just so they can underachieve in perpetuity?
The idea of a cynical God makes no sense to me so I hope, still, that our time in the sun will come again.

So as you watch Barack take his oath of office tomorrow, spare a thought for your own country.
Perhaps you know a remarkable Nigerian who will make a fine Governor or Senator or President….you have a duty to encourage such people.
Do remember that greatness usually begins in the most ordinary of circumstances.

When you see him swear on the Lincoln Bible to serve and to defend the constitution of the United States, know that it is not impossible for your own country to one day have a president who actually sees the office as bigger than himself.

If you lose hope, you might as well give up your green passport.

Si se puede

It can and will happen…..Soon come….. 

Punch a new hole in your belts….

Some things just dont change……no matter how many years pass by.

I saw the Nigerian papers today and all of them carried some comments from one Olusegun Obasanjo.
His new year message was to warn Nigerians of an impending recession and asking them to tighten their belts.
Presumably this will involve making new holes in said belt.

He said “If we budget $49 per barrel for crude oil in the year 2009 and the price of crude oil in the international market is now below $40 per barrel, we don‘t need an oracle to tell us that we need to tighten our belt.

“That is the outlook for the world economically and it is not too bright because whatever affects the rest of the world will affect Africa and Nigeria.”

He said Nigerians must be proactive and innovative to enhance revenue from other sources, saying that the gloomy global outlook ‘may not allow us to grow as we have grown in the past.’ 

On the face of it there appears to be nothing wrong with this statement.
Certainly Nigerians have been asked to tighten their belts every year for as long as I can remember.
But Obasanjo as the author of such statements makes it all the more interesting.

One of the biggest problems with bad leadership is that in most cases the effects of such leadership are felt long after the perpetrator has left the scene.
In this case for instance, Obasanjo continues to be a drag on the national fabric as a result of the succession he engineered.

The job of the Nigerian presidency would be difficult for even a fit and healthy 40 year old, never mind a fifty something year old beset by a myriad of unknown medical conditions.
But Obasanjo imagined Yar’Adua as good enough for Nigeria and so he leveraged all the resources available to him and saw him elected.

2 years later, a nation that appeared to be going nowhere in the first place, now resembles a parked vehicle with the engine taken out.

So you have a universally lauded Professor of health due for a ministerial appointment and where do you shove her?
Yep, the ministry of [mis]information where she would oversee the likes of Cyril Stober and perhaps Hameed Adio.
Completely and utterly visionless.

These guys havent got a clue where they are carrying the nation and you wonder if they even fully comprehend the nature of the job they have been called to do.

Back to Obasanjo’s comments; are we not the same country that sold oil for $147/barrell in July last year?
Have we now spent it all? again?
What is the essence of this oil money if the Niger Delta people are not feeling it, the Yorubas complain they cant get any of it and everyone else is willing to swear they are yet to see the benefit of the damn thing.

This guy is effectively telling Nigerians that there’s nothing to look forward to in 2009.
Strangely, we never hear that Nigeria is enjoying a period of economic growth until after it has apparently ended.


But maybe there’s a reason him and folk like him can get away with cheekiness like this.
Maybe they are politically astute enough to know that the average Nigerian is selfish beyond the original definition and scope of the word.
Maybe they know that there is currently no leader or politician selfless enough in the country that will mobilise the people to speak with one voice on something…anything.

Has any nation ever achieved anything meaningful without it’s citizens putting aside differences to agree on something greater than themselves?

The individual selfish end is best met when the common good is advanced.

Maybe in 2009, we will learn to reject people like Obasanjo who squander 8 years of a democratic presidency and everything he ‘achieved’ is easily forgotten within 1 year.
Maybe in 2009 we will not suffer fools gladly when it comes to elected representatives.

Maybe we will learn to question our leaders when they ask us to suffer for another one year without explaining what exactly they plan to be doing in the intervening period to make things just a little better.

Or maybe we’ll just have another year where the president dissapears for weeks and no one knows where he is and then  suddenly surfaces and tells us he has been on the lesser hajj.
Or maybe the president will bring back the late Ozumba Mbadiwe [man ot timber, caliber and caterpillar] from the grave and make him a minister.

Heck, we could even raise the price of petrol to N90/litre to make up for the shortfall in the budget if oil falls to $30/barrel……get the people to pay the difference and if they refuse, make the thing scarce.

And nothing will change…..and before you know it we are in 2010….declaring new beginnings all over again.
And some ex- this or that uses a newspaper interview to warn Nigerians to prepare for economic recession.

Maybe this time they will advise us to remove the belt when it cant be tightened anymore and go naked.

Go forward…..make real change….achieve something lasting.
Or stay where you are….motionless…lifeless……dead….hopeless.

Happy new year.