By the time you are reading this, I shall be in Oye Ekiti at the Seventh Convocation of the Federal University, receiving an award that will occupy an enviable place amongst my chest of awards collected over the past half a Century. This one is special, and I thank the university for this recognition coming at a time in my country’s history that I believe will be a positive turning point in Nigeria’s history.
The past few days, in particular, have not been the best for all Nigerians. They have become victims of their own devices, presenting prospecting leadership that does not represent their best versions.
Directly or indirectly, passively or actively, we all have been complicit in birthing these dangerous days in our country’s story, a tale of decay and decadence.
Nigerians no longer have a choice but to make a U-turn and find their way back ‘Home’ to a land gifted them by the Creator of the Universe to be their own Garden of Eden, the best place on earth to live and prosper, but which, through jaundiced and narrow choices, they have turned into their ‘hell’ here on earth.
I am a sportsman, an athlete that now understands the inevitability of ‘failure’ as the essential fuel of success. To ‘fail’ many times is a basic ingredient in the life of athletes. It drives us to become winners and champions, motivation tools for surpassing normal goals.
In sport, to succeed is not easy. It always requires passing ‘raw talent’ through a crucible of fire. This means a daily grinding regimen of long hard and difficult days in the sun and rain, in heat and cold, making sacrifices, giving up pleasures, remaining single-minded and focused till the finish-line that lies ahead in the realm of uncertainty, with serious competition by the rest of humanity for the same single prize. The route to success is simple but long, lonely, painful, and inevitably strewn with tons of ‘failure’.
That’s life in sports. Yet athletes behold that journey as precious, encouraged that in sport, it is not only he that comes first that is a winner. So, we are unafraid to fail sometimes along the way. We keep our eyes riveted on the prize.
Every human should take those lessons from Sport.
Nigerians are going through rough and tough times at this point in their history, their Achilles heel being their choice of leaders from amongst them to navigate their country safely away from the precipice, and to meander safely through the minefields of dirty politics, corruption, ethnicity, religious intolerance, cultural divisions, whilst harvesting from the same fields strewn with innumerable and immeasurable riches and resources (human and mineral).
My father told me many decades ago about choosing leaders in Yorubaland in their history and established traditions. Their leaders were not picked by physical height, or other heights in level of education or size of wealth, or clan or religion or complexion, but on the strength of integrity, decency, capacity and humility. Not from amongst those driven by ambition or greed, but that are patient, humble, sagacious and strategic in their mannerisms and thinking – wise men of simple ways, good conduct and exemplary character.
That’s why, according to my father, Chief Obafemi Awolowo became the standard in political leadership. That’s why to this day the sage is deified, because he represents the best version of who their leader should be.
My father’s words resonate with my experiences in Sport, where similar values are also intrinsic when choosing a leader.
So, I am conditioned to see the world through the lenses of sports having spent all our adult life, in that sector, and in the process experiencing the best and the worst of a country called Nigeria.
So, I can say confidently, that, even with the ‘dark and dire’ of the present times, the future of Nigeria holds greater prospects of success than ever before. What the country is passing through now is the essential ‘crucible of fire’. She will eventually emerge at the other end refined and shining like steel.
To say that things are pretty hard for everybody in Nigeria is an under-statement. The times are not only hard, they are also perilous. There are ominous clouds everywhere, and the air is dense, pregnant with uncertainty and tension.
From every nook and cranny, can be heard the cries of anguish, anger, disappointment, hate, frustration and even depression, the by-products of a state of affairs created by the ignoble activities of a few with the collective complicity of the rest of us, actively or passively, directly or indirectly.
None of this is a part of an unscripted divine intervention. The elements cannot be held responsible for any of it because it is all the product of our choice and our handiwork.
The people are now faced with an impossible situation. Every ‘solution’ is a damnation belying the truth and the facts, and does not represent the best version of who the people want to be. So far, the evil outcomes have sustained only because everyone is complicit in their creation.
In the midst of all this, we must accept responsibility and now make a different choice to expect a different future. It is that simple. To continue along the present path and expect a different result is foolish.
At the start of 2023, from my little understanding of the global situation of things, I predicted that Nigeria would either embark on a new course; that the country would lead a conglomeration of African countries and their Diasporan kith and kin at the Table of Civilisations in the wake of a New World Order that shall follow the present global crisis and re-alignment of super powers after the Ukraine/Russian war.
Africa will have to present a common front as the main victims of the attritions of past centuries. And Nigeria, with its humongous resources and largest population of Black persons on earth, and the most educated, must provide the leadership to that conversation.
That means that Nigeria must wake up fast to her greater responsibilities, away from the irritating self-inflicted internal crisis it is facing today. Nigeria has to realise the enormity of its greater responsibility to the entire Black race without which she will not be great too.
Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah before him, understood this and proclaimed Nigeria’s important position in the affairs and emancipation of the Black race, and the present times, despite their ominous posturing, provide the perfect opportunity for the country to step up and forward, and take the lead in fighting against the shackles of centuries of suppression and oppression, and start to carve a new place for the race in the emerging new arrangement of civilisations. Nigeria’s leadership is key.
But Nigeria, herself, needs to be in a position to play that role. The country, since Independence, has been ‘spoilt’ by nature and the over-abundance of everything.
The clarion call to her greatness has only been in muted words, hardly ever heard or even spoken beyond a whisper in the corridors of power in the country, not to talk of it being adopted as a policy to drive the country’s external relationships and global objectives.
That’s where I have focused my attention as I made my wishful predictions at the start of the year about the next decade in human history.
So, what am I saying?
What Nigeria is going through now in its political history (because without the politics nothing can be achieved) is an essential ‘failure’ period the country must pass through.
Changing a whole national ethos is not a piece of cake. Changing what has become a culture, fighting corruption and allowing for development, cannot be achieved without the complete destruction of a failed system of things.
So, new leaders must emerge with anew mantra and message, embracing the country’s rich diversity in Culture, language, religion, ethnicity, and so on, celebrate them all, uniting the people around common interests for the good of the commonwealth, and making every part of the country a part of the big ‘Garden of Eden’ that the Creator of the Universe gifted Nigeria.
Nigeria must go through these hard and excruciating times to get rid of the cancer that has eaten deep into its fabric and rendered it impotent.
That’s how I choose to see what the country is passing through now.
It is a unique time in the country’s history as it stands on a precipice, preparing to either fall over the cliff and perish, or quickly flip its wings that are provided already by the elements, and fly into the clear blue skies.
So, as I look into the immediate future in Nigeria, all I see is a country that shall, from 2023, start to assume its role as the capital of Black civilisation, and shall start to reap rich harvests beyond it dreams, galvanising the entire Black race to come together and chart a new course on earth.
I am on my way to Oye Ekiti jo!