“If the point of life is the same as the point of a story, the point of life is character transformation. If I got any comfort as I set out on my first story, it was that in nearly every story; the protagonist is transformed. He’s a jerk at the beginning and nice at the end, or a coward at the beginning and brave at the end. If the character doesn’t change, the story hasn’t happened yet. And if story is derived from real life, if story is just condensed version of life then life itself may be designed to change us so that we evolve from one kind of person to another”. (Donald Miller) – The author of ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life’.
Without sounding too philosophical, change is only change when it involves character transformation in individuals. We have experienced all manner of changes in this part of the world but it looks like our ‘character change’ tilted only to the negative end. And when character is lost everything automatically is lost. Transformation actually involves a complete change from somebody / something to / into something else better. We really experienced transformation but we did not become better people; we only became less human living an illusion. Probably, it may be ‘transformational grammar’!
Looking at the innumerable number of transformational grammar and songs in the land someone spoke up. Abimbola Adelakun said, “Nigeria, measured by nostrum of the Federal Government, is a primitive stratified nation of pretenders in power, pretenders out of power and, the insignificant others. The Federal Government, myopic for aeons, perpetuates the anomaly by deeming pretenders worthy of red carpets, security and protocols whilst the nation’s others – all who have never been in power; whose homes and addresses are a shame to humanity, and, whose stories never make the headlines – as insignificant and disposable.” So we transformed from caring for ‘the people’ to caring for ‘a privileged few pretenders in and out of power’.
Indeed, we witnessed transformation; we moved from people being afraid to commit crime for fear of imprisonment to people committing crimes and walking free without the law having its way. We metamorphosed from ‘judiciary being the last hope of the common man, to ‘justice for the highest bidders’. The paradigm shift is such that we actually need to approach Wikipedia and other updaters of words for the meaning of words like statesmen, heroes / heroines, leaders, achievers, and the likes as our value / reward system is below the zero line.
Peter Singer said, “If you go back in time you’ll find tribes that were essentially only concerned with their own tribal members. If you were a member of another tribe, you could be killed with impunity”. Nigerians are dying every day but their death can only elicit attention or stir up genuine reaction except they have relations in the corridors of power. No wonder Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon said our system of government changed but our people are still living believing in a democracy while we are practically in a ‘cabalocracy’ – government of the cabal, by the cabal and for the cabal. His comment only corroborated the earlier quote from Peter Singer clearly depicting that the pretenders on the red carpets would not mind total annihilation of the ‘insignificant and disposable’ just to make sure the potbellied hawks are satisfied.
Before the advent of the transformation toga, we looked forward to fixing of basic amenities and infrastructure whenever we talked about governance and peoples’ welfare. We have ‘ported’ in the spirit of transformation; governance is now all about ‘stomach’ infrastructure and very soon we will welcome a new ministry – Ministry of Stomach Infrastructure. As soon as the new ministry comes on stream probably all our socio-economic problems would be completely solved and we will find ourselves among the twenty largest and powerful economies in the world and ultimately the real giant of Africa with protruded stomachs!
We are in the era of denials: see nothing and say nothing. The people who died in the struggle for the emancipation of the people and enthronement of democracy are surely crying and regretting in their graves. They surely did not labour just to have civil rule instead of democracy. Even the very enemies of the struggle are gallivanting in the corridors of power to the utter dismay of the people who were either exiled, jailed or killed in their bid to resist and reject tyranny and injustice in the land. Most of them who are still alive and around in the polity (the activists and members of the pro-democracy groups) are now labelled detractors and enemies of the state by the same people who never wanted democracy. Many have been silenced but there are still a dogged few who believe that evil will continue when good people keep quiet, while others prefer living as if nothing is going wrong; stoic.
The people who were in the struggle for the emancipation of the neglected and impoverished Niger Deltans have suddenly abandoned the cause and have ‘transformed’ to billionaires. The amnesty programme may have stopped the incessant kidnappings and breaking of oil pipelines to an extent, yet Nigeria still loses more than 100,000 barrels of crude oil per day to oil thieves, the presence of the Navy and Joint Task Force notwithstanding. Excuses in different fora by the Minister of Petroleum Resources and the coordinating Minister of the Economy &
Minister of Finance regarding the sophistication, organization and connection of the oil thieves can only mean outsourcing of responsibility or ignorance of responsibility. With the creation of the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, have the issues raised by the ‘agitators’, ‘freedom fighters’ and environmental activists been resolved? The real issues are no longer discussed as some if not all the actors have joined the transformational train and abandoned the cause for the billions.
The anti-graft agency – EFCC was set up to check corruption even though it was an outsourcing of the responsibility of our Police. Many alleged it was a political tool in the hands of the former president – Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to check his political enemies. But many did not ask the right question then – Did the agency arrest or prosecute anyone for doing nothing? The once dreaded agency has been transformed to a toothless bulldog – powerful only in name. Without holding brief for the agency, the Attorney General of the Federation doing the biddings of the ‘ogas-at-the-top’ contributed in no small measure in making sure that the agency never succeeded in concluding any case in court because of vested interests. Charges are withdrawn once you come under the “Big Umbrella”.
In 2012 alone the defence budget for capital expenditure was N34.36 Billion with a whooping N5.71 Billion earmarked for the acquisition of equipment by the Army. If the words credited to the American Ambassador to Nigeria is anything to go by, obsolete equipment were purchased and the fight against insurgency jeopardised. If the funds earmarked back then were utilised probably the issues of going to South Africa and seizure of funds may not arise. What we keep getting is transformational grammar – “we are looking into the records, in fact a committee has been set up”.
It has been probe, probe and probe without probity. Teams of ‘transformational Committees’ are in place and are really doing good jobs at unraveling many cases of corruption and ‘very soon’ they will come up with their reports. If you have forgotten about the report on the Fuel Subsidy thieves, SURE-P will soon release the report. If you want the report on the allegation of bribery between Hon. Farouk Lawan and Femi Otedola, do not worry too much it will be out. Madam Stella Oduah has sorted the bulletproof cars issue and she’s free? Transformational grammar states that stealing is not corruption so the Minister of Petroleum Resources can afford to fly more private and chartered jets. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi was drunk when he alleged that some money was missing or probably was not at home with transformational economics even though he was Governor of the CBN?
Many have argued that the pilot of the transformational train is the best thing that has happened to the nation. If under his watch lecturers (his former colleagues) were ‘allowed’ to go on avoidable strikes and left students at home for many months, it shows how much he has transformed the education sector. Under his watch, judges are beaten and he does not come out to condemn such action, then he must be a party to it. Under his watch, stealing is not corruption. Any rating we get for corruption now is not just for corruption; it is for corruption with impunity. Many ‘criminals’ are on their way to take cover under the ‘Big Umbrella’ as there is a standing order to canonise many as saints in a bid to have the numbers.
We have indeed experienced ‘transformation’ but it only brought a deterioration of our values. Simply put, transformation to impunity! Everything rises and falls on leadership! If you say that you do not eat pork meat but you’re using your teeth to share it for kids --- you have eaten pork and your body language shows you’re not a saint!
Alinnor Arinze A. writes from Abuja, Nigeria