2023 GOVERNORSHIP AND
STATE HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
FOR THE RECORD: Dr. Mo’s Thinking in Time; Remarks By Oseloka H. Obaze
Dr. Mo’s Thinking in Time; Remarks By Oseloka H. Obaze; Politician, Diplomat, Policy and Governance Expert, At the Launch of The Nigeria Dream by Dr. Moses Paul, Merit House, Abuja, Sunday 2 July 2023
I am elated to be here today; first as a writer who is supporting a literary work and the author and secondly, as a member of Nigeria’s attentive public. The heavy lifting today has been assigned to the eggheads. So my task is made a lot easier.
The other reason why I’m here today is that as the author stated in the foreword, “Nigeria is at a cross roads, undergoing a profound transformation that includes politics, government, governance, leadership, and all other spheres of society.” And as Leon Trotsky admonished us: “You may not care about politics but politics cares about you.” That for me is a compelling reason for our presence.
Finally, I’m here because our host and the author of The Nigerian Dream, Dr. Moses Paul, have dared us to dream. Like many Nigerians, I am a dreamer.
For me, contemplating the romantic but non utopist notion of The Nigerian Dream was too attractive to be passed up. Certainly, not in the context of the past year and the intrusion of the Obidient Movement into our national psyche; and certainly, not with the prevailing climate that is counterfactual to every sense of nationhood and nation building. As the author surmised, “A new Nigeria is Emerging; we must embrace the Promise of that Dream.” And indeed, “I am A Nigerian.”
It was George Santayana, I believe, who said that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” As such, though I have been thoroughly immersed in partisan national politics over the past year, I have still found time to read some political books in order to understand where we went wrong.
These books include How Democracies Fail by Steve Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt; How to Think Politically, by Graeme Garrard, and Surrounded by Idiots, by Thomas Erikson.
The last book is very important in the Nigeria context, since its subplot is: How to Understand Those Who Cannot be Understood.” You will agree with me that in the present day Nigeria, there are many leaders and people whom we can no longer understand.
As a student and practitioner of diplomacy, politics, policymaking one of my favorite books is a 1987 book titled, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers, by Richard E. Neustadt, and Ernest R. May. The core value of the book, which Dr. Mo adopts and adapts to, is to ask questions during the decision-making process rather than ask questions after the fact, only to posit: “How could we have been mistaken?”
It is for this reason and its underpinning import that I have titled my remarks: “Dr. Mo’s Thinking in Time.” As you might have guessed, my task is not to review Dr. Mos’ book, but to place it in its proper context apropos Nigeria’s realpolitik.
I can affirm that The Nigerian Dream, which in its Eight Chapters grapples with issues germane to Nigeria, passed the required litmus test and more: after all, good books about governance and politics should have certain core nuggets; essentially, they should be “down-to-earth and sometimes hilarious demythologizing of people and events.” Dr. Mo toes that line well, thus buttressing the essence of our shaping our historical and nation-building narrative by documenting events as they unfold.
Paradoxically, in The Nigerian Dream, there is a nugget of nostalgia embedded in the modicum of hope held out for a non-performing, laggardly and polarized Nigeria. If not, how does one countenance the suggestion that “It’s time to revive the good old days?”
The upshot is that despite Nigeria tending towards a failed state and with all the vital development indices on a nosedive; a new Nigeria is possible and it must be predicated on the concrete and cogent realities of the past – basically the lessons learned and missed opportunities.
Any discourse of Nigeria that glosses over corruption, weak institutions, lack of accountability, state capture, and glaring inequalities in power and resource sharing, would be essentially shambolic. The Nigerian Dream does not.
This proves that true democracy encompasses the freedom to choose, starting with respect for the rule of law, the people selecting a leader of their choice and that choice being respected, and the institutionalization of all other freedoms.
“Which way Nigeria?” is an overused cliché and a popular 1970s song by Sonny Okoson. Perhaps, the answer lays in The Nigerian Dream. But what is the question? What is wrong with Nigeria? Often, we blame leadership! But we the followers are equally culpable.
As expert opinion contends, “What is even so bad about the contemporary state of governance and its human security component in the country is the fact that a culture of impunity, a lack of empathy, pervasive corruption, and the inability of serial governments since 1966 to foster unity, integration, and national cohesion, etc., have combined to render the country incapable of assuming its role in the comity of nations.”
And what is the solution? Simply, it is the realization of the Nigeria Dream. It should be self-evident, but that is not always the case, that Nigeria is hobbled by lack of elite consensus. Nigeria is in crisis because past leaders have collectively not done well. Our past leaders allowed governance to become transactional ad primordial in its entire ramification. Despite some flashes of good leadership, we have lacked consistency.
This is why we need an ethical and purposeful leader, who is development-oriented, can think disruptively and has a transformative mindset. Ethical and purposeful Leadership is akin to the Rotarian values- it must be selfless and aimed at common or collective good. This means maintaining the rule of law at all times; with high ethical standards in one’s business, one’s profession, and in one’s personal life.
The purpose of government is the wellbeing of the people. Citizens’ rights deriving from the Constitution must be sacrosanct. A purposeful leader has the task of ensuring that government meets her responsibility to protect the common man. He must serve in accordance with the Constitution, but also protect people’s rights and ordered liberties.
Government’s conduct, pronouncements and policies will be underpinned by creatively managing our national diversity and ensuring that the myriad constitutional provisions on the federal character principle, offers opportunities to all Nigerians to serve in any capacity in the public sectors.
Endpoint: “A society which debases the power of ideas while exalting the idea of power is not only short-sighted but foolish in the extreme.” Nigerians are not foolish people; our leaders are just plain greedy and selfish. It is that selfishness that has delayed The Nigeria Dream. So Thinking in Time, it’s time to seize the moment. A New Nigeria is indeed Possible. The time is now!
Contents provided and/or opinions expressed here do not reflect the opinions of The Pacesetter Frontier Magazine or any employee thereof.
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