By Tony Rapu.
We can take the biblical story of the children of Israel in the wilderness as an odyssey of nation building with several instructive lessons. Despite having been liberated from Egyptian bondage, the children of Israel still failed to seize the Promised Land.
On one level, this tells us that there is a difference between being delivered out of something and being delivered into something. There is a difference between deliverance and freedom. The Israelites had been delivered out of Egypt but they remained in bondage to fear and to a slave mindset. They were not ready to take responsibility for fully realizing their freedom.
The post-colonial experience of many African countries exemplifies this dynamic. After a glorious liberation from the colonial masters, the new elite soon proved incapable of leading their countries into their own as strong nation-states. It quickly became apparent that the skills required to lead liberation struggles were vastly different from the skills required to administer the new nation-states and manage their national economies.
On their part, the citizens expected a quick, miraculous transformation that would bring development but they were not mentally prepared to undertake the sacrificial labours required to conquer the gigantic odds against them and strengthen their nations. As a result, many of these countries stagnated, or fell into a wilderness cycle of coups and civil wars.This is certainly true of our country Nigeria, which despite the discovery of vast quantities of lucrative crude oil is yet to actualize its full potential. Instead we have found ourselves lurching from one inept administration to the next, seemingly locked in a never-ending cycle of agitation, superficial progress and retardation.
The pro-democracy movement that won the struggle against military dictatorship and earned our democracy was unable to transit to a governing political movement, proving yet again that there is a difference between liberation and freedom.As Nigeria transitioned into democratic rule, we celebrated our deliverance from martial music and the “fellow countrymen” monologue. However, the long years of military dictatorships and human rights violation had traumatized the psyche of the average Nigerian.
Military aggression had instituted violence as part of nationhood and made cynicism a national pastime. Our deliverance from military rule and oppression thus did not translate into our automatic arrival in the ‘Promised Land’ of democracy. Evidently, there is a difference between winning liberation by opposing a tyrannical political order and building a secure and prosperous nation by constructing an alternative social order.
This is the summary of our national conundrum. We have been delivered from the bondage of military dictatorship but have not marshaled the mental, moral and spiritual strength required to fulfill our national potential. Like the Israelite slaves of old, the current political elite has wasted the window of opportunity and like that generation with a slave mentality, they are unable to engage the principles of governance or take the giants standing against us.
2015 is not the Land of Promise. The question now is whether a new generation of Nigerians will be able to arise in the spirit and strength of Joshua and Caleb. Social media and our literary community are rife with “activists” who are experts on what is or isn’t right about our country.To be sure, the social media activism has been instrumental in exerting pressure on government and focusing global media attention on the plight of the common Nigerian. The ongoing #BringBackOurGirls campaign is a good example. However we must go beyond armchair criticism and oratory, to develop the strategies, fortitude and discipline required to properly run the affairs of state and build institutions.Our rhetoric should be to influence and persuade listeners to take action in the direction of freedom. We already have the diagnosis – we are in a remote wilderness.
A Joshua breed of leadership must now chart a path for a new Nigeria. New and visionary leadership must now emerge to take on the task of restoring our sense of national dignity and patriotism. The current crop of leadership represents a generation that is unable to go to war against the giants of ethnic rivalry, politics and religion that have consumed the land. We are once again on the edge of the Promised Land.
While the political elite jockeying for 2015 continue in their shortsighted attempt to impose ineffectual solutions on us that will still take us back to Egypt, those with vision have to strategically map out with clarity an agenda to build the new nation. Today’s clamor for national transformation must translate into a clear pathway for change. We must maneuver towards an endgame.
Dr. Tony Rapu via email at firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @drtonyrapu