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In Nigeria, Square Pegs Are For Round Holes
By Mo. Babajide-Alabi
Published in the Sunday Vanguard of August 21, 2016
There is no doubt that there are fifth columnists in the All Progressive Congress (APC) led government of President Muhammad Buhari. One needs no divination to know that the internal “forces” working for the downfall of the administration outnumber the ones who have good intentions for the nation.
Everyday, people complain about the downward slide of the country in basically every area. There are concerns that despite the touted ‘dream team’ of the president, the country is still ‘going nowhere’. Let us cast our minds back to the early months of this administration when there were concerns among Nigerians that Buhari was taking too long to ‘assemble’ a team. The answer was that he was “cooking up” a dream team of technocrats who will path Nigeria’s way out of failure.
When the list became public, Nigerians could not hide their disappointments at the calibre of the nominees. They cried that it was not yet uhuru as familiar and inexperienced faces were paraded as the best for the country. But the voices of reasoning were drowned by government apologists who, at every opportunity, drummed it loud and clear that the ministers would perform wonders in their various assignments.
Unfortunately, these touted egg head-ministers have different “technocratic capabilities.” It did not take long to discover that majority of them have nothing new or unique to offer. From ministers with or without portfolio to super ministers, they are all as uncoordinated as the “manifestoes” of their party.
Some of them are confused and out of sync with the policies of the government. Take for example the Minister of Education Adamu Adamu who seem desperate to drag university administration back to prehistoric times by his “flip flop” actions on appointments. The bungling of the appointment of a substantive Vice Chancellor for Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife is a good example of administrative inexperience on the part of the minister.
The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed had at various times threw spanners in the wheel of change by his usually unguarded statements. His suggestion on creating jobs via masquerade parading leaves little or no room to doubt his mental capacity for the job.
We can go on and on about the ministerial ‘Dream Team’ who have done more damage than good to the administration. Of recent is the Solomon Dalung, Minister of Sports. It is not unusual in Nigeria to see individuals with little or no experience appointed to fields that are far above their capabilities, however, this is the first time in the history of the Sports ministry that a minister without a clue of what sports administration is about has been appointed. Worse still, he does not care a hoot.
Dalung, a lawyer by profession, is a classic example of everything wrong in political quota and Federal character appointments. His tenure at the sports ministry has exposed Buhari’s lack of sincerity or commitment to the change matra.
The shambolic handling of the country’s preparation and attendance of the 2016 Rio Olympics by Dalung and his officials had brought focus to this young man. He is under the scrutiny of Nigerians who demand explanation for the worst Olympic participation in history.
Prior to the start of the game and the knowledge of the poor preparations and lack of support for athletes, Nigerians hoped that the country would manage a few medals. I could not restrain myself laughing out loud every time I listened to pundits discussing the possibility of a good showing at the games. The optimism and hope they placed on Nigeria athletes, footballers etc finishing on the podium were so high that I queried their state of minds.
While I understand the patriotism oozing out from these commentators, it is instructive to also note that patriotism do not win games. The reality of Nigeria’s failure was starring us in the face even before the start of the game. Yet, we, just like Dalung and his sports officials were hoping for miracles.
It was obvious that whatever the quality of the contingent we took to Brazil, we were only going to showcase the best of our worst. Not for lack of individual talents in the team, who can win gold medals as many times in their sports, but for the mediocrity of Dalung and his ‘co-travellers’.
The dream of Dalung was of failure. For the dream to become a reality, he laid out plans. To every man with vision, there are always subordinates who are in support for the actualisation. Dalung had a bunch of them who were on the same page and worked assiduously to achieve his dream.
I can see them huddle together, all in the name of meetings, months before the game. I visualise them in conference rooms of various expensive hotels across the globe busy planning the failure of Nigeria. We all know the antics of Nigerian officials, especially when led by a clueless administrator. These sports officials lacked the will for success. But they possess in abundance ‘that’ will to better their lives and families at the expense of the athletes they presented for the games. The more meetings they held, the fatter their allowances became.
Nigerians are a bunch of incurable optimists who despite the reality on ground always hope for the best. This optimism of a better tomorrow and the belief of “e go better” are reasons why we are still standing as citizens of Nigeria. I wonder if there is any other country in the word where citizens suffer so much yet hoping for a dramatic turn of events. Despite the poverty, hunger, joblessness, lack of good leadership, corruption, we, as a people are patriotic and optimistic.
I remember a few years ago when Nigerians were named the happiest people on earth. As unbelievable as the award was, the organisers must have seen something in the Nigerian spirit to believe that despite our depreciating life, we are standing and always smiling.
To an ordinary Nigerian, being patriotic comes naturally. But the leaders feign it to make themselves popular or to gain unrestrained access to the pot of gold the country has to offer. The ordinary Nigerians need no incentive to be patriotic as they put their hearts and soul to everything that is Nigeria.
The leaders are masters of pretence. It is of a fact that ninety five percent of them are in service not for anything but for their daily survival. They do not hide this fact that Nigeria is just the bread and butter for them and their families. We wonder why some of these political appointees cannot recite the national pledge. Or why they mumble anytime the national anthem is sang publicly. They care less about the progress or development of the country.
In this category are the Dalungs who hold on to hats that are too big for their heads. The Dalungs who made us the butt of jokes when the national football team was stranded in far away United States of America (USA). The Dalungs who looked on when hotel officials locked up the Nigerian contingent for unpaid bills.
How long will Nigeria continue to glorify mediocrity? Despite the shameful and unpatriotic developments under the watch of Dalung, he, nor any of his officials has offered no apology. And worse, no word has come from the Presidency on the disgrace Nigeria suffered preparing and attending the Olympics.
Definitely, a change is coming soon.
Published in the Sunday Vanguard of August 21, 2016