Over three weeks ago, precisely October 1st, we celebrated our 57th independence anniversary in this country. Their was enough good wishes around to heal the blind and restore the mobile activity of the crippled. Our favorite clichés were in full swing and we birthed several synonymical sentences of quantum illusions. We emptied the contents of our water bottles into our fuel tanks and told ourselves the car, which didn’t move, moved because we poured water into that fuel space. In our minds, these wasn’t what we were doing. No, not at all. In our minds we were simply using motivational speeches to save ourselves. We were trying to deceive the body that the hundred degree centigrade caressing it is the sign of too much cold.
You see, I know motivational speeches could spur a mind and denature the horrible natural. You see, I know that motivational speeches are like candles lighted in a dark room and kept on the table at night. You see, I know these things we say when we utter words of motivation could hold surgical blades and snap out the life of that tumour bothering the stomach. I know words have power and can be converted to mental-kinetic energy. But…You know, I also know that the candle on that table is only useful to a man who has sight. You know, I know only the one with surgical skills will detect a tumour. I know that you can’t put out fire with gasoline. I think you know too. This knowledge is not divinity.
Anyone can quote words of wisdom but quoting words of wisdom is not the certification for intelligence. Anyone can use motivational speeches but only just a few motivate. When we say words like ‘Nigeria is the giant of Africa’ what is the definition of a giant in the context? When we say that ‘Nigerians are the happiest people on earth’ is their a ‘New Naija Learners Dictionary” for the word? When we say “Nigeria is a great country” is this in comparison to Somalia, Haiti or South Sudan? When we say “We Are The Most Populous Black Nation on Earth” I wonder if the word ‘populous’ for simply being ‘populous’ is a virtue and a quality we can find in the development index. When we say ‘God Bless Nigeria’, are we talking about the Nigerian God, the American God or the British One?
Since our independence in 1960, we have used different words to qualify and magnify our importance but nothing has changed. The Nigerian Television Authority, NTA, since I was a boy, have always boasted and tagged themselves ‘The Largest Television Network in Africa’. They used the motto ‘You Can’t Beat The Reach’ and a boy bought into the lie. I swallowed it hook, line and sinker because I was naive and my knowledge of the world came from that Black and White Screen TV permanently glued to the NTA. When I got older and saw the world from every possible lens, my boyish love and ignorance were substituted for disgust and awareness. I think many Nigerian youths born in the last two to three decades, and even more, feel the same way. We now know we were deceived and have seen the light.
Today, we all know better. Just few persons from my generation take the NTA serious. Don’t get it wrong. This is not based on that troubling mentality of ditching their won. No. Their grudge with that network is logical and can be understood. Not everything on the channel is bad but the bulk of it, from the quality of the content, the packaging and contents themselves are not modern. A trial will convince you. So, what happened to that good television network we enjoyed in boyhood days? What happened to that largest television network in Africa we watched with innocence? How come the reach is not even in our list of channels? Simple. It was all a facade. It didn’t exist. It didn’t exist then, or now or has ever existed. What existed was propaganda which worked on the mind of a child. That is simply how these motivational speeches we make in Nigeria work.
Their is something about honesty, truth and effects that we must learn before we go ahead to use those motivational speeches or see them work. Pretending you don’t have high blood pressure(when you have it) and going about swallowing salt is simply endorsing your funeral. Pretending a comminuted fracture of the thigh to the ankle is just a minor subluxation will not make you walk. You must first identify the problem, act on it and put wings to words. Our motivational speeches in Nigeria are wingless. To eradicate hunger, it tells a hungry man to imagine himself taking any of his favorite foods. It tells the blind man to walk straight towards the busy road and his ‘belief’ that nothing will hurt him will prevent anything from hitting him. For this Lagos road? The words could be in rhythmical patterns, alliteration or poetry but as long as it doesn’t recognise the facts it is a pure waste of time.
People love the easy things. They love the easy part. They know saying is not enough. Deep down they know. Either of poverty, experience or wealth has informed them. They know that simply saying you want to be as wealthy as Gates and Dangote will not make you like Gates and Dangote. They have practised this and have seen that it doesn’t work that way. They remember how the wishes for great scores in their tests and exams disagreed with what the examiner offered. They know those who brag on the street about their nonexistent wealth or their status and those really worth it. They have seen the attire of the man selling the book ‘How To Be Rich’ and they don’t want to be ‘that’ rich. They have listened to their pastors tell them, for more than 520 Sundays, ‘this week is your week’ but got into more debt.
These same persons with so much experience, for some reasons, believe it is different once it comes to running a country. They consider the one who pretends his home is not on fire as the patriot while the one who collected an extinguisher and headed home is traitor. They believe that pretending the home is not on fire will make the fire disappear. The outcome usually contradicts. After their pretense, they go back home to meet their belongings burnt to ashes. They realise words alone cannot quench a raging fire but still, on the outside, they hide the obvious from their colleagues to be identified with that popular idea of patriotism. The truth is, you can contact an ear infection by perceiving Nigeria with your sense of smell. You can be blinded by simply inhaling the smell of our open gutters. Running to Lagos Island will not save you. The faces of those open overflowing gutters in Lekki and Victoria Island are bruised, injured and stuck in traffic.
This is not a joke. Their is nothing funny here. It is a terrible situation and simply pretending they don’t exist will give more room for malnutrition. The idea of public servants using motivational speeches to solve physical problems is naive, dishonest and disastrous to both them and the people they are serving. The current Minister Of Finance said, when recession was biting people hard, ‘Recession is just a word’. She was met with insults, disgust and tagged heartless. People were stealing foods from pots and poverty was experiencing its renaissance at the time. People were dropping kids in stores and eloping with food after promising to return. Inflation at the time was at a record double digit and above 17%. She was simply trying to change the mood and uplift the minds but poverty and hunger said no. Words alone was not enough to pacify the stomach when it craved a discourse. So what did? What reduced the hunger?
The government changed and adjusted some of their policies, especially the one on Forex. They worked and were able to reduce the inflation rate today just a little below what their initial actions took it to. They did something. They knew words were not enough and embarked on works. Some would argue the reduction in hunger and other funny acts was not because of government policy but because of the neutralization of hunger in the land. Because we meet inflation in fuel prices with inflation in plantain chips price, because we meet inflation in imported goods with inflation in the price of locally produced pure water, because we are masters in matching fire for fire, we succeeded in softening the treacherous hands of hunger by equalising it. They have a point but the government did something. Some things changed. No matter how little. Actions were taken. The motivational speeches created by the minister was not called upon.
How has saying Nigeria is a great country made Nigeria a great country? In what way is Nigeria great? We don’t even have constant power supply in 2017. We don’t even have a trustworthy security system in this time and age. The men of the Police Force still collect bribe openly on the roads. A man who had an accident on the road will be left to die by passerby’s scared of what their help will get them. The army have no respect for the bloody civilians they work for. Governors and Presidents disobey court orders without consequence. Our performance in sports? Mediocre! Our performance in technology? Mediocre! Our health? Our President’s UK tour will show you. A patriot is not a person who lies for his country. A patriot is not a man who tries to awaken the atrophied limbs of brothers with some false identity. He is not someone who plunges his country into deep mess by feigning the cow dung he is sleeping on is carpet grass.
So before you use those tags, ask what it means. Before you buy that false sense of patriotism ask yourself, how will this help? I’m not asking you to be a pessimist. The point here is, don’t appreciate mediocrity. Don’t confuse patriotism for mediocrity. Don’t confuse self examination for self hatred. Don’t confuse realism for pessimism. Stop arresting your headache with a sledgehammer. Be that realist who knows that their sicknesses cannot be wished away. An optimistic realist who knows that our popular and safe positions have never made us safe or popular for good in the league of nations. Stop confusing cowardice, timidity, ignorance, destructive attitudes for virtue in your motivational speeches. Your problems will be there until they are solved. They cannot be erased by doing nothing or wishing them way. Even Astral Projections require an action to execute a project. Don’t support mediocrity. Don’t celebrate mediocrity. Don’t collect a spoon of rice when you know you can have the whole pot to yourself.