Sunday, 18 January 2015


Yesterday as my family was getting ready for the monthly Igbo Anglican Church service in San Jose, California, my daughter wanted to know how long the drive will take. Kids don't like driving long distances. They always ask, "Are we there yet" after a few miles. Why? Because driving is boring when you just sit and stare. So, innovators designed products to keep kids busy on any long trip. But they still ask, "Are we there yet" because kids are ancient beings with little knowledge of time. Any boring period is eternity! And that brings me to Nigerians.

Nigerians love action! They love it more if it is dramatic or morbid. They don't care about lessons. They don't care if results were achieved. They don't even notice if it was just motion without movement, just like rocking your your baby to sleep. The civil war was action/drama, with Ojukwu and Gowon as main actors. Murtala Mohammed's regime was hailed for the dramatic firing of civil servants with immediate effect. Some civil servant heard of their dismissal over the radio as they were driving to work so they turned back home. How dramatic can that be! Nigerians love adrenalin rush at others expense!
No one noticed as Murtala Mohammed ruined Nigeria. When you remove top civil servants and replace them with low level officers, you have laid the foundation for failure. The hood does not make the monk, when you remove a Commissioner of police and promote a Chief Inspector of Police to the rank of a Commissioner, you have dug holes on institutional knowledge and performance. When Murtala died six months later, he was eulogized as action man. He got his name on our most important international airport and his face on our then highest currency note.

Nigerians have no sense of history so the subject was yanked off our curriculum. But Nigerians love drama. They love action. Like kids, any period of non-public drama is eternity and chants of "Are we there yet?" will rent the air. The military understood and exploited this to the maximum. When Buhari showed up in 1984 as Head of State, the public drama was War Against Indiscipline, public execution of drug offenders using retroactive decrees, jailing of journalists whose truthful publications embarrassed the government, and jailing politicians, some for millennium years! The least form of public entertainment then was frog-jumping and flogging. Nigerians cheered them on! Action! Action! Action!
Nigerians love drama. When Obasanjo became president, the same military mentality showed up. Elections were do or die, some political opponents got missing, towns and villages were razed to the ground. He then set up the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to fight corruption, setting the stage for the best form of entertainment.

Using the concept of maximum impact, he went for big fishes - the Inspector General of Police, his own ministers, governors and other high-value government officials whose arrest will be entertaining enough. Houses and shops were pulled down without due process. Nigerians cheers on even when the worst cases of human right abuses were committed.
Under OBJ, Nigeria became one giant coliseum that would have made Roman Emperors jealous. At the end of it all, there was no railway, no modern airport, no good roads, no new university, no power supply, and not one high profile government official serving any jail term for corruption today.

President Jonathan is boring. He is so boring that after five years, some Nigerians think he has been president for six! You don't entertain Nigerians by revitalizing the railway. Making the journey from Lagos to Onitsha shorter by three hours does not make the journey entertaining. Leaving Enugu by 6:00AM and getting to Abuja before 12 noon does not remove the bile of boredom. Completing the federal prison at Nnewi, whose foundation was laid in 1982 by Shehu Shagari, has no entertainment value. Remodeling or renovating the airports cannot make a Nigerian to laugh.

President Jonathan has zero sense of humor. Instead of publicly arresting the Accountant General of the Federation, he chose to use Integrated Payroll Services System (IPSS) to flush out federal ghost workers. How much insipid form of entertainment can he inflict on Nigerians. No, the worst form is saying that he will use technology to fight corruption. Very laughable. Haba! What kind of a joke is that? That means there would be no more public entertainment in the fight against corruption. As for the much touted Agric revolution, what is food when the government cannot entertain you with drama. Bia, Oga Jona, mind yourself!
When Nigerians shout for change, they are just like kids asking "Are we there yet?" They are asking to be entertained. They do not notice the journey of transformation because they are not being entertained. They want action even if no appreciable progress was made. They want the government to entertain them until their faces hurt. Unfortunately, Oga Jona is not an entertainer.

~ Emeka Maduewesi

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