hen Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a Dream" speech in 1963, little did he know that there was a 2-year-old black kid somewhere in America who would grow up to be president of the United States 45 years later. Given the subservient and inferior state of black Americans at the time, without even the right to vote in most states, any reasonable mind could have easily waved off his dream as an illusion. When President Kennedy gave a speech in 1962 and proclaimed an overambitious dream of sending an American to the moon within a decade, the United States was far behind the Soviet Union in the space race, and anyone that considered his speech somewhat delirious could be forgiven. Yet America landed on the moon within ten years of that speech.
In recent times some of the most successful inventors and great achievers have included many that have a dream about something big, and pursued that dream fervently to the point they even dropped out of the most prestigious universities in this world just to accomplish their dream. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg are just a few names. Dream is only the beginning; good leadership is equally important if such dreams are to be actualized on a higher level. Leadership is the ability of an individual to create a vision and to motivate others to higher level of achievements. Every successful nation has such dreamers in abundance, and it is not only in the private sector that dreamers are needed. A minister, governor, or president with big dreams can change the fortunes of his/her people just by having a lofty dream and motivating the people below to greater accomplishments.
In Africa today the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, is one such dreamer. One ought to have known the state of things in Rwanda when he took over as president after a much publicized genocide. 60% of the country's budget was dependent on donations from foreign countries. Even today, up to 40% of their budget still comes from donors, yet this man has totally transformed his country. I have no doubt that Rwanda will become the Singapore of Africa within the next ten years. When I look at such men I'm reminded that the destiny of a nation is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of the choices made by her leaders. In the same vein I can say that the short comings of a nation are no more than a magnified reflection of the incompetence of her leaders.
Recently I had a conversation with a female friend of mine who happens to be a barrister in Nigeria. I will spare you the rest of the story but the gist of it was that she asked why I was not a member of the Nigeria Bar Association. "I have no use for it," I said. She was disappointed and went on to tell me in glowing terms all the benefits she enjoys for her membership. What caught my attention was how she carefully narrated what she considered her most lucrative benefit; how she arrived at Abuja airport and nearly didn't get a seat on the plane until she pulled out her ID as a member of NBA, and with the help of some other colleagues present, was able to secure a seat on the Enugu-bound plane. I obviously did not want to deflate her ego so did not say much in response. The truth is that I'd rather dream of owning my own jet so that I won't have to deal with such problems at our airport terminals. People, just like nations, can only rise to the level of their own dreams.
Each time I listen to President Jonathan or any of his ministers radiantly tell us that they are rehabilitating the Nigerian railroads I feel like throwing up. They are busy trying to rehabilitate our railroads to the standard left by her majesty's government in 1960, at the time several African countries are already operating high speed trains. Poverty can be a kind of wilderness, once you are in it you need to be shown the way out. Our political leaders are in the wilderness, suffering from a collective poverty of minds. Together they have a bag of degrees from some of the finest institutions, but education without application is worth less than worthless. Often there is only one class of people now running for political offices in Nigeria; not those who want to do big things, instead it's those who simply want to be big. There are just a handful of governors in Nigeria today who are indeed doing big things. Fashola is a dreamer, Chime is a dreamer, and Akpabio is also a dreamer though a rather controversial one.
Instead of big dreamers in public service and government as an opportunity for public service, what we see steadily are people seeking private gain through government service. Greed and corruption have become the cancer of our nation; they have eroded our value system and created contempt for many of our institutions. We are currently in the middle of Oduahgate, a scandal about the purchase of armored cars for the Minister of Aviation. The truth is that today, every governor and every minister has a few armored vehicles in their fleet. The governors have collected hundreds of millions monthly as security votes, some are collecting up to two billion naira monthly. They go about in long convoys with dozens of well-armed police, army, and secret service agents, yet they don't feel safe. Now they are all buying armored vehicles, which they see as necessary in an increasingly violent Nigeria. Even the most frugal of governors have these armored vehicles, and while we are crying over Oduah's 255 million naira for two cars, Fashola recently bought three armored vehicles for the price of 600 million naira.
Some people have called for Ms. Oduah to resign. In any other society she would do the only honorable thing, which is to resign. But not in Nigeria, Jonathan has just set up a panel to investigate, just as he did when Alison-Madueke was implicated in a twenty million Euro house purchase scandal. That investigation died a natural death, this, too, will die a natural death within Aso Rock. It seems that the only shame in Nigeria these days is that there isn't any shame and that is a shame indeed. In spite of the incompetence of our political leaders there are Nigerians who are still dreaming big. Kudos to people like Aliko Dangote of Dangote Group, Mike Adenuga of Globacom, and Innoson Chukwuma of Innoson Motors. There are many more Nigerian big dreamers out there, some are stopped temporarily by challenges brought on by failures of our government, but not stopped permanently.
Many thinking people believe Nigeria has seen its best days. But while I take indications from the past, like most Nigerians I live for the future. I often ask myself, what happens to a dream deferred? Does it rot like an apple, decay like a sour or does it explode over time. In spite of the recent activities of MEND and the current Boko Haram menace, Nigerians are far more creative than destructive, and when all the injustices and frustrations have been removed there will be virtually no limit to our progress, spiritual as well as material so please keep your dream alive no matter your present challenges.