Searching for A Robinhood: The Nigerian Dilemma
Robinhood began his journey in English folklore and then went on to appear in literature, Tv and film, art, video games, among others. He is a skilled archer and swordsman who is known for his generosity to the poor and oppressed peasants who suffered under the oppressive rule of the sheriff. This made him the beloved of the people and many prefer him to be their leader than the Sheriff himself.
One of the notable things about Robinhood is his character. The stories portray him as someone who is almost without flaw. He is honest, emphatic, selfless, has compassion for the poor and leads nobly. His love for the poor is remarkable and this is one reason he had a cult following. He was perhaps a powerful figure but never once was it written that he became power-drunk or arrogant but rather remained humble all through till his death.
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Nigeria, the 6th most populous country in the world, has been grappling with 2 major problems right from independence; poverty and leadership. As a result of the increasing poverty rate, campaign manifestos have often been centered around poverty reduction. Several promise jobs and infrastructure to support the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). They promise free education and affordable healthcare with the goal of having people pay less for essential services so that they can have more for other pressing needs. They also brag about how they will reduce corruption which is the reason many remain poor especially pensioners who do not get paid after retirement.
However, there is a problem. The leaders themselves are a problem to the country. Rather than providing visionary leadership worthy of emulation by other African countries, Nigerian leaders make decisions and draft policies that do not in any way grow the economy. When confronted, they compare their leadership and the situation in the country with the one prior and say, ‘after all, we are better off’. The disgraceful outing at the just concluded Tokyo 2020 Olympics is an example in this regard. Even with the clear failure in leadership, the minister responsible says that it was ‘Nigeria’s best out in the last 13 years’. Shameful.
The problem runs deeper than even the leaders. The followers are the ones to be blamed for the failure of Nigerian leaders. In the first instance, the leaders are not from Mars. They are picked from the followers. They are elevated to the leadership chair, make things difficult from the followers and all that they resort to is to wait for another election where they would repeat the same mistake of voting someone without credentials of reasonable and progressive public service.
One reason for the above is that Nigerians are constantly seeking for who they would call a ‘messiah’ – a Robinhood. The incumbent president was packaged as a messiah in 2014. The story is different today. Another reason is that Nigerians are not fully involved in politics. During elections, many do not vote or take part in the political process. Many do not believe in the integrity of the polls but it is even much more worrisome not participating in it but spending time praying for good leaders.
The third and perhaps most important reason is false hope. Most Nigerians are hopeful that they will be ‘blessed’ by a leader who is good and does not engage in any corrupt practices. This is false hope because many Nigerians are corrupt. They are involved in one manner of corruption or the other. The problem is that they do not even regard what they do as corruption. For example, paying more to have your passport ready within 24 hours, giving ‘gifts’ to journalists to ensure that their story appears in their publications, paying extra for a yellow card without being inoculated, among others. This is why it is strange that those who are corrupt are expecting a saint to rise among them.
But then, what is the way out? There may not be any clear roadmap out of this because even with the forthcoming 2023 general elections, it appears that the same mistake is being made again. The reason for this is that many have stated that they want a change but are not involved in the process of change. Several candidates that have no proof of either excellent public or private service will appear few months to the elections and state their desire to become the president of the country. They will speak negatively about the ruling class and call them ‘old’. This mushroom tendency in politics usually sends off the confidence of the citizens. It is no exception that they are at the brink of losing the election and disappear again only to appear few months to the elections. There is no strategy in this but rather a failed repetitive system where the candidates bank on the fact that they are ‘younger’ and belong to a different party. This gives them the hope that they will be successful at the polls.
Secondly, new and emerging candidates probably need to prepare for elections 8 years in advance. This is not a fixed time. It could be more or less. During this time, the candidates are to take time to patiently build up themselves and their portfolio of public service. They should study both local and international politics and be grassroot in the knowledge of the problems of the country. To make a Nigerian happy is the probably the easiest thing to do in this world. Just provide the basics and they will praise you. Now, imagine providing much more than the basics and you will become an emperor for life. But to provide this, one must understand the grassroot issues and deal with them from that level. This requires a level of engagement that can only be gotten by experience and interaction and not by proxy.
Thirdly, the National Orientation Agency is the most important in Nigerian which can inculcate the right values to the people. Unfortunately, the agency has been asleep for a long time with a leadership that probably needs orientation too. But we all need orientation and this is why the failure of the agency leads to a failure of knowledge on the part of the people. The agency often comes to life every 4 years when it is time for elections. This is the time they just tell people to go out and vote. Afterwards, back to sleep. Perhaps the agency needs to be reminded of its powers. It needs to be informed about the mass behavioral change that it can cause if only it tries. It needs to be told that there are various ways to raise money to run its programmes rather than sleeping and saying, ‘we are inadequately funded’. Even with little funds, one can cause a contagious mass social campaign. This is possible if we only try.
Finally, we must realize that we will not have a Robinhood any time soon or even ever. What we have is a choice to either run for political office or support those who are in tune with our ideology of progress, growth and development. Leaders are not gods and even if they were, gods can be rejected. We cannot hope for a brighter future yet do nothing to achieve this. We must be ready to do our own part on the path towards a better Nigeria. This is the only way. Any other way would amount to searching for a Robinhood.
Written by Anthony Onugba, who is the founder of Writers Space Africa and the African Writers Development Trust, where he is Executive Director. Learn more about his works and connect with him via his website, Twitter and Facebook.
Another post written by Anthony : 3 ways we can heal our mental health
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