Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Age of Consequence

I think a short explanation is necessary here. Well... I have started a weekly Sunday column at the Guardian in Nigeria, and here are the articles written so far, starting with this one. There!


By Tunji Lardner

“They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent.”  Owing to past neglect, in the face of the plainest warnings, we have entered upon a period of danger.  The era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays, is coming to its close.  In its place we are entering a period of consequences”.  We cannot avoid this period, we are in it now”
Winston Churchill, November 12, 1936

The inimitable Winston Churchill made these remarks when speaking to journalists about the impending war in Europe. Against the ominous backdrop of Hitler’s sabre rattling, he was issuing a dire warning about the inevitability of the Second World War amidst the dithering, ill prepared, fractious, frightened and collective impotence of what was to evolve to become the Allied Forces in the European theatre.
His powerful words, expressing the ‘strange paradox’ of a wilful decision to be indecisive, irresolute, unmoored, liquefied and impotent; this might very well describe the collective state of the Nigerian psyche today.  Since last year’s fuel subsidy ‘wahala,’ there is a growing consensus among the chattering class that Nigeria is a very fragile state heading in absolutely the wrong direction. While the reasons adduced for this dangerous trajectory are as varied and as vapid as the respective commentator, it is clear that ‘something is rotten in the state of Nigeria.’
The prevailing zeitgeist is one of a limited national horizon as a viable and stable political entity and a severely circumscribed future for the tens of millions of young people under the age of thirty, by some estimates perhaps 110 million out of a population now adjusted upwards to 170 million frustrated citizens. Nigeria has run out of excuses for its failures, and ‘the era of procrastination, of half measures, of soothing and baffling expedience of delays’ is truly over we are fully in it, we are in the ruthless grip of historical causalities, we are all, regardless of culpabilities in the age of consequences.
If we consider the past as prologue-meaning that our history has determined where we are today, we all must bear graduated responsibilities over the last five decades for taking what was once a promising nation and turning it into a failed state. While, I must concede that most of the damage to Nigeria was wrought by the ‘Military-Political Complex,’ still well and alive today, thank you very much, a substantial amount of blame must lie with succeeding generations whose collective apathy and inertia, all but guarantees that their future is permanently held hostage by the past. A past they can reasonably argue, they had no hand in shaping. However, that’s exactly my point, this IS the age of consequences, and our collective complaisance in maintaining this present status quo means that we are all guilty as charged, in varying degrees.
Presently in a wry and ironic twist of history, we are engulfed in that strange paradox of cascading failures of the state, undermined by maximum complexities and complications being confronted with a sorry counterpoint of minimum competence in leadership and governance. At federal and state levels, on the average, our political leaders are both incompetent as well as corrupt, and yet our citizens still look to them for salvation. Nigeria’s problems have outstripped the abilities and will of her leaders to solve them. Then again there is the paradox of expecting salvation from the very class of people who caused the problems in the first place, a clear case of doing the same things over and over again and then expecting different results-this by the way is an acceptable definition of madness.
It is as if Nigerians have all collectively decided that they are not subject to the laws of physics, and that the laws of causality do not apply and that we are not bound to the simple logical equation of A+B=C; in a word, cause and effect cease to apply in the Nigerian dimension of reality. However, the ‘reality’ of reality is that while the time and historical distance of a causal factor might have happened a long time ago, and not within the immediate purview of the observer, the effects will still happen, and continue to happen until its trajectory is changed. This is what young Nigerians have to fully understand; the fact that you did not ‘cause’ the problem does not mean that you will not suffer its consequences.
We are presently confronted by many existential threats, not only to Nigeria as a country but also to Nigerians as people. Up North, we have a raging civil and widening war, underscored by wide spread destitution and deftly disguised as a religious conflict, and deep down south, we are held hostage by war lords periodically threatening to destroy Nigeria’s oily life blood. Caught in between these violent pincers, the looting of the commonwealth goes on abated and unchallenged, our health and wellness indicators keep us abysmally in the lowest global ranking, our educational systems has virtually collapsed, we live literally in the dark ages and nearly 70% of our citizens are poor, creating again that strange paradox of a rich country full of poor people.
As often times as I scratch my head in bemusement and wonder aloud about if at all it is possible to right and repair this country, if at all this Nigerian experiment is in fact doomed, I am always amazed at the astonishing ignorance and incuriosity of Nigerians about the true state of Nigeria, and even more so, the breath taking arrogance and impunity of the people who rule them. In Nigeria, about 2% of the population have access to and control 80% of its resources. The ruling elite have demonstrated over the last fifty years or so, that they really do not care about the welfare of Nigerians, and even when they do, their egos, arrogance and incompetence prevents them from creating a fully realized and sustainable process of lifting their compatriots out of poverty.
So the question, is the past as prologue, are we doomed? The answer is yes if we continue to encourage and maintain the bad habits of the past, and no, if we decide to change the present trajectory and chart a new course. On a positive note, remember that the Allied Forces did eventually win the Second World War, but not without considerable ‘blood, toil, tears and sweat.’ Are up to the task?

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