By Mamman Nasarawa
I am old enough to remember the promises made by Nigerian politicians from the First Republic to date. The promises and manner of presentation remained the same: “free education” which later changed to “qualitative education”; “free health-care”, which is now coming in a slightly more user- friendly mantra, “affordable health-care”; “tarred roads”, now repackaged as “motorable roads”, etc.
However, in some cases, the politicians don’t even bother coming up with a new slogan, even after failing to deliver the deliverables, like “housing for all”; “full employment”; “subsidized loans”, among the Eldorado promised to Nigerian electorates. You will realise that I refused to mention about the numerous promises to end our power black-out, and this is because I no longer have the appetite or strength to even mention it. Honestly, I think this is a battle that my son should take up, probably when I am unable to maintain the diesel-run generator on which I spent half of my retirement benefit.
In a country where more than 90% of the citizens live on less than $1.5 a day, and a high percentage of the population are not educated, one can see the ease with which the fallacious politicians keep manipulating the intelligence of the people through all sorts of electoral promises. Since they are neither intelligent nor honest enough to answer my question, why should they expect me to leave all I am doing and queue up to vote for them? In all fairness to them, none of them even bothered coming to solicit for my vote in the last election, and I am not sure if I had seen any manifesto. I usually don’t go into the issue of how badly they treat voters after robbing them of their votes because I have always known our fate in the hands of our elected officials. For example, it is only in Nigeria, I understand, that the President of the Senate does not use the commercial airport or aircrafts, even on his private trips. Next time I see his motorcade on the way to the airport I shall follow him until I confirm this statement.
You are free to ask me if I am getting crazy, but I am beginning to believe that Nigeria would not be worse off if it had no President, Minister of Finance or Governor of Central Bank, Inspector-General of Police, Minister of Works, etc. After all, Nigerians are used to providing themselves with basic public services like electricity, water, security, roads, schools, etc. because governments at all levels have woefully failed in providing these services! Recently, my son told me that his teacher said the number of churches and mosques in Nigeria is 10 times the number of schools and hospitals in the country. “So, what do you want me to do”, I fired back angrily. Realizing how uninterested I was in the subject, he changed the topic. “Daddy, they said there is a hunter, who is now leading the police in the hunt for armed robbers in the country”. Instead of taking up my frustration on the innocent lad, I realized that it was better for me to understand the import of the child’s message: things are not working well in the country, which is traceable mainly to lack of dedicated and focussed leadership. Of course, you don’t engage a minor in this type of high-level political discussion.
However, recently after listening to a radio programme on leadership qualities, I came to realize that no other profession prepares its practitioners for the presidency of Nigeria more than taxi driving. To begin with, membership of this profession is unquestionably one of the most liberal in Nigeria. Its members can excel to their elastic limits depending on their hard work and God-given talent.
It’s not like the ‘bureau de change”, where entrance and upward mobility is monopolized by the Hausa, or the spare-parts business, where you have to be an Igbo to survive the rough and tumble of the profession, or the legal profession where the average Yoruba has placed his destiny in it in Nigeria. It is also, perhaps the only profession that has succeeded in breaking the North-South divide, without being enshrined in our Constitution.
Furthermore, taxi driving in Nigeria is not a profession for the lily-livered; crisscrossing the country needs an undaunted mind, which will be an asset for the highest political office in the country. By virtue of his profession, an average Nigerian taxi driver is likely to speak at least two or three languages, an attribute that would make the taxi-driver-president feel at home in every part of Nigeria. Being a true nationalist, our taxi-driver-president would not be identified with any particular hat – the ethnic trademark of Nigerian politicians!
The taxi-driver-president would be an action man, using the same instincts with which he used in picking up passengers with a just wink from them. Taxi drivers are not only eagle-eyed, they also have an incredible memory. Imagine how our taxi drivers navigate through our narrow streets, often without numbers, to drop and pick up passengers – without the use of GPS! With this kind of computer memory, our taxi-driver-president would remember every project site for which money has been allocated in the budget. This means the end of collecting money for non-performing projects, or even worse, non-existing ones.
National Security, is no doubt, one of the areas that the taxi-driver-president will perform very well, in other words, the most crippling psychological wound inflicted on the psyche of Nigerians right now. For sure, his taxi driving experience equips him with incredible wherewithal for intelligence gathering. Every Nigerian speaks loud and the higher the position in government the louder. Those in the National Assembly are special bread; and that is why even when there is a black-out, they don’t miss the public address system.
While our big men are good at talking aloud, our taxi drivers are even better in the art of snooping. However, to the average Nigerian when you talk of national security, what comes to mind is the issue of Boko Haram (BH), MEND and MOSSOP in that order and in another category the armed robbers, kidnappers and their marauding small cousins, the burglars. Since these terrorists and miscreants use taxis quite a lot in their strategic planning, the taxi-driver-president will use his skills, experience and considerable goodwill from his constituency to win the fight against them.
As for BH, the taxi-driver-president would tell the whole world that this is a local problem, so the Americans should rest in peace. In Africa, when there is a fight in a family, distant neighbours are not called to intervene. Anyway, the option of using “Babalawos” to catch the head of the BH has not even been tried, and these “Babalawos” if you don’t look for them, they don’t offer themselves.
One of the main complaints against our politicians is their inability to sit down and work. Some argue that if they were to sit down and work for long hours, what time would they have to spend the stupendous amount of money they make? Probably this is where our taxi-driver-president doesn’t need any orientation, because by his previous job has trained him to sit and work at least 12 hours a day, seven-day week. His dedication to duty is such that even without a brake he will still drive!
Just before completing this piece, there was breaking news that the price of fuel has been increased by more than 100%, in spite of all the hues and cries by the Nigerian public. The “Gang of Three” is prepared to suck more blood than the children of the Burmese vampire generals who couldn’t increase the price of fuel in their country by more than 34%!
So, I will continue with my dream that one day, our nation, Nigeria, would get a taxi-driver-president. And then we shall all be taxiing off to cover the distance we have lost in more than 50 years!
Mamman Nasarawa resides in Abuja, FCT.