Capacity To Address Issues

The human brain has evolved tremendously in the last thousand years, but at varying degrees from one individual to another. The ability to discern what is right from wrong, a function of the brain, is influenced by the environment, as well as association, Shakespeare argued that there is nothing good or bad, only thinking of men. Nobody actually knows what is absolutely right or absolutely wrong. The human mind could also veer, independently in thought, within a given condition or association. The ability to reason is our advantage as humans; so also the capacity to judge, which is further a level of the development of our brain within the human sphere.

The late warrior, our own Dim Ojukwu, once gave an analogy, as relayed by his friend, popular writer, Fredrick Foresight about two young boys. What informed Ojukwu is unclear in these statements. The boys were supposed to have been brought up in a cupboard (outside of external influence, hence untainted by association) at the foot of a mountain. By adolescence, the two boys, supposedly, had developed different traits. According to Ojukwu, one of the boys, in due course, had climbed the mountain to explore and have an overview of his surroundings, while the other erected a shrine at the foot of the mountain to worship the overwhelming gargantuan mountain. Why did the boys behave differently?

The story elicited a varying degree of the developments of the brain in a given situation. The conquering minds will be the ones that climb heights - the explorer's mind that forces one to venture outside one's natural habitat to seek a better life and maybe conquer it. I chose this illustration for the argument of independent minds. My main theme really is what I have observed to be commonplace in our society. I know that generally we as  people do not address issues. I once saw a program, on live TV in South Africa, where a white South African said that the African black person does not address issues, only the messenger. Before the "racist" could finish what he said, he was branded a racist; good, but that was not the issue that he raised.

I first came to this conclusion in 1999, when Senator Waku, probably the poorest ex-senator in Nigeria today; he remains an outcast and kept "far from the madding crowd" for accusing Obasanjo of writing cheques of N11 billion naira to Julius Berger, barely 2 weeks after Obsanjo took office in 1999. Waku was so peeved by the president's action that he said that such did not happen, even, during the military era. This was in the early days of our return to democracy, and any messenger, no matter his status or reason, was condemned for any suggestion that put the military in a good light.

Nigerians, including the writer, vilified Senator Waku for insinuating that the military should come back. After we had our pound of flesh from the embattled senator, we did not go back to confront Obasanjo to explain why he wrote those cheques; instead, we descended on the messenger, Waku, and ostracized him politically. The issue, till this day, has not been addressed. For that, we missed a golden opportunity for checks and balances of the executive in Third Republic. Each time I told the story, it strengthened my resolve that we are incapable of addressing issues. Obasanjo also fell prey to our failure to address issues - only the messenger, in his futile attempt to clean up the corruption stable.

In his fight against corruption, Obasanjo once got help from the London Metropolitan Police in the form of a video evidence that could indict the then governor of Plateau State, Dariye for money laundering. Many Nigerians, particularly the people of Plateau State were quick to taunt that Dariye was the only thief. The issue Obasanjo raised, of course, was not whether Dariye was the only thief or the worst thief; the issue was that Dariye laundered public money - their money - period! Our inability to address issues diluted that case, and sent a signal that maybe the area of our brain meant for judgment was not fully developed. I am not sure the ability to address issues is acquired through experience; or is it genetic?

In Nigeria, if for example a road is bad, the last person expected to point out that the road is not in good order is a former this or that. All of us, 99% of us that is, will taunt, "What did he or she do while he or she was there?" Meanwhile, the problem of the bad road remains unaddressed; our energy and time will be spent vilifying the messenger, instead of fixing the road. Our entire landscape is littered with unfixed issues of corruption; underperforming economy; bad roads; no light; no good hospitals; no good schools; no rail; no good public transport; no security of life and property; no safe skies; rigged elections; no good leadership, no good following, etc.

In late 2011, investigations revealed widespread scam in the fuel subsidy program. It was estimated that it ran into more than a trillion naira. A big issue that practically paralyzed the whole country for a week - there was even cessation of deadly attacks by the dreadful Boko Haram during that protest. The issue has not been addressed till this day, only because one of the messengers had a stain of dishonesty sprayed on his garb; it was alleged that Lawan Farouk was promised $600,000.00 to remove Femi Otedola from the list of defaulters. We seem to have traded the tainted $600,000.00 for over $7 billion that was involved. The issue is as good as buried.

Nigeria, since independence, has been ruled by Nigerians. These are people from the same material as the rest of us; they are not foreigners. A foreign friend believes that our leaders are merely a chip of a rotten block; he means the rest of us. Another person I met on an airplane from Montreal to Paris says Nigerians cannot cease to amaze him - the Nigerian, in deeds and thought, is more rotten than his leader, yet he expects his leader, made of the same stuff, to be an angel or act differently. My friends often wonder why, in my write-ups, I do not condemn any leader only the system. That is because I see the leader as a reflection of me, and anybody that is not as guilty as charged should cast the first stone. To fix this country, we must desist from attacking the messenger and address the issues. We can still treat the messenger for what he or she is - independent of the issues at hand.

The leaked Obasanjo's letter to Mr. President may turn out to be the defining moment in our history. I bought one of the newspaper that carried the story, and read through while I was chauffeured home. Its contents, easily, could have been Obasanjo's own score card; to my mind, it mirrored the two-time head of state to the letter. However, unlike many Nigerians I am beginning to see it differently. The message seems to describe the state of the nation, which many Nigerians agree. Can we, and that includes Mr. President, for once address the issues and not the messenger? Jonathan still has time to fix whatever shortcomings and should be wary of sycophants as advised by his godfather. Critics, they say, are not good writers, but are needed in order to polish one's work. My advice to my fellow Nigerians, including Mr. President, is for us to step back from the shadows of diluting issues facing this country just because of whatever author. Let history recall that we, at this time, did so.

Samuel A. Caulcrick
St. Jerome, QC, Canada.