This past weekend, the world of “Nigerian Twitter” lit up into howling spasms on a spectrum ranging from pure anger to amusement. Why? A governor deemed it fit to throw up a statue to honour a visiting President. The leader of a nation complicit in acts of violence and death towards Nigerians. Once again this country showed how we often let almost anyone play us over and over again.
Unnecessarily extravagant? Yes. Tone deaf? You bet. Alarming? Not really. The way this is set up, those who can play the game of taking advantage of the masses often get to do so unimpeded. You see, the people around these parts seem to thrive on “outrage” as long as they can see what upsets them. That’s the case until something else gets its own fifteen minutes of infamy.
The issue is perhaps not that such an inexplicable statue went up or that it was done against a backdrop of suffering. It is that the bizarre idea did not die at inception but made it all the way down a conveyor belt of yes men and “thought leaders” to its fruition. So people wailed, people pontificated and of course, people condemned. The problem is, we did not just get here.
Like those who laughed at Donald Trump when he first made a reach for the American nuclear football, till he sent his opponent reaching for solace in really interesting places, we tend to allow issues grow insidiously till they’re staring us down. Human attention spans are getting shorter and shorter so whoever can tell a good story, at the right time will get the right amount of attention.
You see, while many were stunned and watched Trump place his hand on a Bible at his swearing-in, others were smiling in satisfaction. These happy people had watched the most powerful man build momentum, making a play to a base that understood his language while a self-righteous bunch wagged fists indignantly. In Nigeria, it’s the same thing time after time.
We see politicians who don’t care much for their constituents till it’s time to scramble for votes. Like a coach chucking on his best substitutes as the final whistle looms, they prefer the adrenaline rush-inducing rituals of making last minute plans. Then they put together hastily concocted tales that reek of piles of dung. Believe it or not, these poor narrative crafting exercises largely tend to pass the smell test. You’d assume the electorate would be smarter right? You’d be mistaken. The issues of life seem to play us an eerily familiar tune. One that says we have to only solve one problem at a time and thus voter education seems too ideal a quest to push.
In the creative community, there are several tales of new entrants into the political scene seeking one service or the other. Meetings are scheduled and held. Agreements are made. Then silence prevails till the fat lady starts warming up to belt out her favourite notes. I have a friend who has not heard from a prospective client for months. Guess why this is really hilarious. We are about a year and a few months away from the next round of major elections in this country. Guess who can be counted on to come rushing to put together a strategy with a few months left till the polls?
The opposition right now, for instance, is as organised as chickens at a job fair. The electorate is only excited by what they can get at feeding troughs and the elected leaders seem to be doing more flailing than anything else. If you’re into tragicomedies you’re probably overdosing on dopamine as you watch the Nigerian highlight reel play.
You see, one cannot be surprised if and when the economy suddenly “recovers” in the run-up to the elections. Certain groups will be flush with cash, of course, that is all that will matter. Both parties will have entered into a vicious cycle of epic proportions. One side making a play to itching ears, failing to deliver, and another falling for the wiles of a class ready to darken the future a bit more.
Off-screen, a lot is happening. So much is coming together beneath the surface but we really don’t care because these are the oh-so mundane parts of the process. Why wait till the adrenaline rush convention comes upon us? Maybe it’s because we think we are playing the game but we are really the game elements tragically in play.
We cannot afford to get drunk on our own KoolAid anymore. “Righteous indignation” surely cannot be where it begins and ends. Yes you’re fed up and angry. what tangible moves are you making to force a shift in play?
To every single stakeholder; leaders, intending leaders, the electorate and the inevitably cynical bystanders, the time to deploy actions and affect play is actually now. Don’t be silly, tell your story the right way, at the right time. Listen to the right narratives. Discern between the options available and the ones that seem to be non-existent (even though they are). Failure to do this will leave one outcome;you will get played again.
P.S. You say you are upset by cringe-worthy things like weird statues but what is the plan? Do you have your Permanent Voters’ Cards yet? What are you waiting for? When do you plan to move out of your stasis?