[Articles] Nigeria Jaga Jaga: Of Culture, Citizens And Leadership.
Everything scatter scatter
Poor man dey suffer suffer
Gbosa, gbosa, gunshot inna de air
The above lyrics are the rendition of Nigeria’s Idris Abdul Kareem in his 2004 album ‘Jaga Jaga’. Idris’s rendition is arguably one of reality, sense and truth. It conveys not only our scattered political reality but equally, the demise of reason in our current political structure and culture.
Idris’s jagajaga resonate the death of leadership, the desperation of power and the high power structure between the leaders and followers. His jaga jaga lyrics, once decried by president Olusegun Obasanjo is now crouched in our reality more than ever. The erstwhile President who said: “How can anybody call his own country jaga jaga?” is dead wrong.
Idris can sing it again. Nigeria is indeed caught up in a state of political mess and a tragic condition of jagajaga. It may be hard to admit but unless we live in cloud cuckoo; ours has become a sad state. Nigeria is also a place of heroes, honours and respect. But more recently has become no more than a harbinger of catastrophe and death. Each time one reflects upon the reality on ground it is as though: salt is added to a deadly concoction made for dinner. The taste is bitter and unimaginable.
As if the current state of insecurity, corruption, incompetence, abduction, bomb blast, confusion, tension and poverty are not enough, the minister of finance has recently warned of an impending recession which could catch up with the country in the coming months. With a combination of all the misery and the recession when it starts, one wonders what will become of the nation in the coming months.
For a curious Nigerian mind like me, I have often pondered and searched for possible truth to the whining sound but each time one engages in the train of thought, it beats ones imagination to it and I have come to the consciousness that there is nothing that can be done unless the current President and his class of incompetent bandits use up their time in 2015.
But even if we must move forward by waiting at the polls in 2015, where are the credible opposition candidates who will challenge the Jonathan camp with strong programmes and ideology?
Where are the trustworthy and reputable politicians to whom we can commit the resources of nation? Where is that candidate who will show unwavering courage towards the Nigerian course inspite of all the odds? Where is that leader? that administrator, that strategist and the leadership material whom we can say is ‘Au fait’ i.e. fully informed and in touch with the Nigerian dilemma? That is the challenging task confronting us but the challenge is also whether we can have fit enough people who can awake the consciousness of the broken Nigerian spirit.
Of course, we must start to make the right political choice to move forward but first, we need to cure the cancerous Nigerian disease. Ours is a disease not only of poverty and illiteracy; it is of our wrong culture and our too many misconceived values as citizens. What has led to the modern Nigerian culture is that while striving to align with the global culture in the age of globalisation; we have borrowed too many ‘unpalatables’.
Our cultures today are those made of many shabby western orientations, materialism, misplaced priorities and greed. It is now one which lack thoroughness, depends on the power of money and based on the notion of individualism. This culture has caused to us the loss of rationality, the demise of thought and the absence of attributes which gave sense to our fore father’s ways of lives. Now it has become our reality and the modern Nigerian system. The Nigerian disease unlike the Dutch disease for those familiar with classical economics is cancerous beyond apology. It is one that cannot be cured with the theories of economics as Madam Iweala our minister of finance would believe. The Nigerian disease is one which needs radical orientation and serious cultural change.
Our new found culture it is that is responsible for our wrong economic and political system; it is accountable for our woes and our lack of economic progress and development. Our too much emphasis on misplaced values, education, materialism, money, power and respect has served us no better. It is the entrenched culture in every Nigerian organisations and the norm in most public institutions and amongst our kith and kin. Ours is a culture not only wrought upon us by the dark side of globalisation, but by the ugly decades of poverty, the demise of leadership and many years of despair.
To move forward as society, we must start to de-emphasise the overly-important meaning attached to formal higher education by placing more emphasis on skills and intellectual development through other existing sources apart from Universities. It is true that education is important for the progress of any society, but too much emphasis on formal education also destroys.
In an economy like ours, it simply limits resourcefulness and gives little attention to enterprise and technical flexibility needed for industrial growth. Formal education is also losing value in the global labour market and diverts the attention of our young folks from learning skills and specific knowledge which are better aligned to meeting the needs of the modern age. We must start to recognise that unlike the past two decades, higher education is no longer the main key to the middle class and will not likely be for another century.
We must start to recognise the importance of technical education and other traditional sources of intellectual, professional and personal development. As part of our cultural change, we must start to recognise part of our culture which threatens us rather than unite us. As a Yoruba chap for instance I appreciate the great power of merrymaking and the ‘Aso-ebi’ culture but I also know that it a wrong part of our culture which has caused more problem than unity. Such cultures place too many pressure people in society; it takes away attention from the main priorities and makes people ready to do anything no matter how immoral to meet up with the demands of culture.
We must as Nigerians start to scale down our overly ambitious expectations from society and start to live within our means. We must win the problem of greed by becoming more determined and resolute in our individual endeavours and approach to life.
We must always remember those great words of Nikhil Parekh that greed lethally poisons; it maliciously obfuscates all truth and has no beginning or an end. Although I disagree slightly with Nikhil because the Nigerian greed has a beginning and its beginning is the start of our too many expectations from individuals and society, the Nigerian greed starts when we begin to aim to become millionaires without getting ready to develop novel business models. The Nigerian greed starts when we expect to sow where we do not reap and begins when we think our fate and happiness lies in the hands of individuals rather than hard work.
As citizens, we must stop to blame others for our woes and start to tackle the reality of our world. The Muslims must start to fight the war from within by educating their folks on the most important fundamentals of the religion and how such fundamentals can be used as instruments of the advancement of society at large. The task of Muslims is huge and it is incumbent upon its leaders to understand the reality of the 21st century and leave behind the antediluvian types of culture that is not in harmony with the modern time. The Church also needs to start imbibing the culture and orientation of community in its management, ownership and control. The Nigerian Christianity is beautiful but has too many ugly sides to it. The modern church must also scale down its prosperity preaching and focus on teaching the best of the scripture. As citizens, we must see our problems as a collective challenge and forget our religious and ethnic divide to achieve common peace and unity. We must pick and choose the churches and mosques we attend and must raise our voices when our religious leaders are misinterpreting the scripts.
As monarchs and chiefs, our most important function is to ensure that society functions peacefully and coexists harmoniously. We must be the first call of tradition and the greatest examples of truth, tolerance, honesty, peace and progress. We must always remember the thousands of our ancestral Kings and queens, and chiefs and highnesses who have answered the call of nature.
We must as writers, educators, thinkers, journalists, publicists, activists and public domain administrators use our power of words, pen and space to promote truth and advance citizen’s education. In Pius Adesanmi’s recent essay he suggests that “we have to look beyond formal institutions to instruct and educate our people. We have to take civics to the streets, to social media, to Molue buses, to paraga joints and that we have to meet Nigerians where they are”. Pius’s conception of public pedagogy speaks sense and in my view is one of the radical ways forward.
As writers we must start to speak with the power of the pen, we must write to educate, enlighten, inform, promote and challenge the socialization process to claim back our lost moral and cultural values. We must start to use the power of collaboration to fight the fight as writers, activists and social scientists. We must tap into the power of technology and social media where our young folks converge. As writers we must start to go beyond the fictions and the satires and start to advance into the world of public education and investigative writing.
But it is not only the task of writers and activists; it is also the task of our social and religious institutions. It is the task of the employers and civil society. It is one tasked upon the lawyers, the doctors and the entrepreneurs. As lawyers, we must defend the criminals but must also insist on encouraging the truth. We must as doctors uphold the ethical values of the medical profession and as entrepreneurs and business men we must insist on ethics and good business culture. As employers we must start to insist on managerial competence and business ethos which works in the best interest of society and yet gives us the decent profit and dignity we desire. We must as employers start to promote skills and competence over papers and qualifications.
Our next president can make Nigeria work but if we do not change our social fabric, address the many years of decadence and strengthen our deceased moral and cultural values, corruption, greed and all the ugly Nigerian customs will keep setting us aback. One author on culture recently writes that: “it is the entrenched societal values that allow or disallow certain initiatives to come to fruition”. Therefore until we change our broken individual and collective systems and our broken moral culture, we may continue to be the sad state that we are and development may never touch our land.
It is time for all of us as citizens to rise up and take the task of nationhood to our heart.
It is time to recognise that tens of millions of us if elected to office will perform miserably than President Jonathan because it is in our blood. The incompetence, corruption, dishonesty, mediocrity and impunity is wrought in the Nigerian way of life.
I dare to say that no change of president and no change of system can take us to the right path. The change must begin from all of us. From individuals and every Nigerian homes and institutions.
Here is my prayer:
May the jaga jaga continue until we change our ways!