Babs AjayiFriday, January 24, 2014
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Gatineau, Quebec, Canada




lot has been written and said about leadership and the dearth of good leaders in Nigeria. Leadership is a big problem in most of the black world, but so is followership. Where are the followers and who are they following? Are they following the money or are they following the dream of a better nation and a developed society? It is a known fact that a people get the leader they deserve, and the experience in Nigeria has not been an exception. The people are groaning but they are not acting or getting involved. Followers are supposed to ensure that the right leaders are elected and that these leaders are monitored to ensure that they deliver on their election promises. There are several tasks and responsibilities you will expect the followers to carry out. Being nonchalant is definitely not one of the responsibilities of a follower and neither is being an onlooker, a spectator by choice or by situation.

There is the tendency to be disinterested and aloof about the goings-on in the political arena in Nigeria, and then complain bitterly when things are not going well and when basic health, employment and social services are not available where they should be easily accessible. A disinterested citizen who has shown no interest in the political process and played no role in ensuring that the process is free, fair and transparent should not be complaining when the treasury is looted, roads left unmaintained, hospitals ill-equipped, universities locked up for months, and wrong people, including ministers with forged certificates, are holding vital political offices for which the citizen did not make any attempt to add his one cent and one vote. There have been several marches on Washington in the last two years, several protests and demonstrations on Wall Street, several trips to the Parliament Hill in Ottawa by citizens who are anxious to see change and who knew for sure that the power to make the changes they desire possible is in their own hands as the electorate and as the constituents who hold the voting right to bring about change. Shall we talk about the Arab Spring? How about the protests of the last one week in Thailand? The Thai people are fighting for their future. They are sitting-in to demand change and Bangkok is noticing and feeling the heat as we write. Change will not be dropped on the laps of the masses who paid no price, did nothing and made no move. Such masses will remain victims of their own smugness and timidity.

The federation account of Nigeria's oil business has not been made public in over 15 years and NNPC (through this government and past regimes) has continued to mismanage billions of dollars in oil income meant for the federation, yet the people have not seen the need to demonstrate on the front court of the most corrupt corporation in history. Looking and acting unconcerned, being uninvolved and unwilling to play a role sucks the nation into deeper instability and corruption. How many times will the inept and corrupt leaders in Abuja increase the price of kerosene and petrol, increases which are essentially due largely to corruption, before the people begin to demand for full disclosure and accountability in oil and gas production and sales? The follower who did nothing and played no role in the political process has no right to complain about anything. He should not even complain when he is asked to pay to use a road that is a death trap. The question is: where was he when the minister of works told the world that the contract to rebuild the road has been awarded to the same construction company that did nothing the last time it rebuilt the same road? The Arab Spring has gone on for over two years now. Mubarak, Gadaffi, and Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali are all gone, the three dumped into the footnotes of history due to the zeal, determination and direct involvement of the people of Egypt, Libya and Tunisia. The people got tired, they got fed up and they took charge to rid their nations of dictators. The followership did not only demonstrate in Tunisia, they forced change on the nation and eased out their corrupt and oppressive leaders. It may be true that the fruits of their actions are yet to bear results, it is clear that the people made the seemingly impossible change possible.

Those who did nothing and those who sold their votes for pittance of food, drink and a few hundred naira notes from the candidates during electioneering campaigns are birds of the same feather. It may be true that the collectors of a one-time trifle did far more disservice to the nation and its people. The candidate who offered food, drinks and N500 note to each voter will recoup his money at the end of the day. He will get his money back in multiple folds. When the man who bought your vote last year moved out of the area from where he was elected into office and into a new house in the posh part of the city, you will cry foul and wonder how he came by the hundreds of millions naira it cost to build his new house. But you have already received your reward - the beer, food and N500 note. You and your co-travelers were so cheap that this elected representative will return to seek re-election and be ready to distribute new N1,000 note and more rice and drinks. Those who sold their votes have no right to claim that any politician is corrupt since corruption actually started from those of them who took their own kickback upfront and ahead of delivering their votes to the politician. Those who deliberately chose to do nothing and those who felt too pissed off and disappointed and as such decided to do nothing are worse off than the ones who sold their votes for a plate of rice or amala. Amala politics should have no place in our society, or tuwo politics for that matter, where the almanjeris are gathered and used during the elections only to be discarded shortly after and left to do mischief around town. Every child in Nigeria - boy or girl - deserves free and easy access to good education. Even if these children must learn the Bible or the Quran, they must first be given basic education to prepare them for a better future and life in the larger society.

Part 2 coming soon