The Office of the President
Being a Nigerian takes a very interesting mix of optimism, stoicism and humor. Anything less and you can consider your sound mental health a fond memory once you come of age and awareness. Nigerians are one of the most unruly groups of people to ever organize themselves into a country. We like to cut corners and deals, to take and take and never give, to firmly shut doors after we have passed through, and to be better than our neighbors. We are generally not compassionate; instead, we are suffused with schadenfreude.
We are corrupt, lawless, and generally have little regard for the next person. As long as we can be the ones to get that contract, to drive in the one-way lane while others trudge through static traffic, jump the tedious queue or offload the laptop with the fried core on a blissfully unsuspecting buyer, then all is fair. But nobody can accuse us of not determinedly hoping for the best, even while we do the worst. Our optimism should be bottled and exported in place of petroleum. The Nigerian hope of one day realizing a totally different, positive result from repeating the same abhorrent behavior is nothing short of admirable.
It goes without saying that we have the leadership we deserve. Our government is a direct reflection of who we are; a sample size of sorts. Therefore, if we look at those in charge of running the country, any truthful and pragmatic Nigerian, without bias and devoid of any brown envelopes under the arm or Ghana-must-go bags in the boot, will tell you that the lineup is disappointing as a whole. This does not appear to be changing anytime soon, as the proposed candidates in the looming 2015 elections appear to be a recycled list of the usual fare.
It will take a special hybrid of human and god-like qualities to steer Nigeria out of the mess we have been embroiled in since before Independence. The perfect president will not only have to resolve age-old problems, but also the ones happening in real time. Not only am I absolutely certain that none of the usual suspects have all the required qualities in that specific blend, I am also highly doubtful that our President Solomon (as I like to refer to this mythical creature) is nowhere in the pipeline. But, I also happen to be from Nigeria where optimism reigns supreme. So, I shall allow myself (and you, reader) a few pleasant minutes of fantasizing about this messiah, and how he will transform our lives once he storms Aso Rock.
The one thing President Solomon has in abundance is wisdom, obviously. He is positively dripping with it. This is not the gossamer-thin wisdom that stems from stacking honorary degree upon honorary degree, but one that is accompanied with true intelligence. He is a strategic thinker, with all the cunning of a fox. He does not dawdle, and is the ultimate Action Man. He knows that he cannot afford to be timid and he handles threats to the peace of his country and the safety of its citizens quickly and decisively. He understands the different kinds of warfare and is versed in appropriate response, and so does not rely on various advice that tugs him in six different directions equally, effectively keeping him in one place.
President S. has a threshold for corruption tolerance that is a double zero figure. He refuses to continue with ‘business as usual’ in his government, and is uninterested in pleasing those who style themselves as Kingmakers or Godfathers. Sure, he racks up grudges here and there, but as his wisdom is super-human, a grudge is but a pesky fly. He holds everyone in his cabinet accountable, and wastes no time weeding out those who refuse to come to the light. The Minister of Works had better work. The governor of Jigawa had better govern, or be shown the door. Because President S. is wise, he puts an end to the mass looting that disguises itself as Security Votes. He slashes off those multiple pointless allowances that have turned the tiers of government into a huge, lucrative party, and he redistributes the funds to areas that have erstwhile paid the price for government excesses: power, infrastructure, education, security. He does not look for large sums of money like, say, twenty billion dollars, to mention a random figure. He knows where all his country’s funds are, and is not reliant on America knowing things for him. Ministers don’t purchase ‘cars’ worth hundreds of millions of naira, not on his watch, no sir. People do not redecorate offices with the national debt of a small country while he is in charge. President Solomon enforces a total crackdown on members of his government who are only there to ‘chop’. The only chopping to be done in his regime is that of timber to build low-cost houses for his beloved citizens.
President S. quickly, in his immense wisdom, realizes that power is the key to a flourishing economy. He waves away all the bumbling excuses of his predecessors and deploys his best men and resources to fixing that dismal sector. He sees solutions where others see free wads of cash just waiting to be diverted to their Cayman accounts. Before his first term is up, power cuts become something Nigerians mention when playing ‘Remember when’. He makes good on the beginning-of-time promise of accessible foundation education to all. He is not dismissive of the youths, paying them notice only when he needs to organize an ‘independent’ group of people to clamor for his re-election. He is determined to give them the best environment and infrastructure for their education by dragging the flagging school systems up to the best standard.
He is tireless and successful in his efforts to ensure that the economy does indeed flourish, and not on the back of petroleum exports alone. President S. is smart enough and hardworking enough to exercise his brain and deduce that we could significantly add to our revenue by paying attention to the other resources. No job is too cobwebby for him. Natural resource mines and oil refineries that have been abandoned for years will be welcome back into the fold. Agriculture will no longer be associated with only poor villagers, as arable land will become moneymakers again. He is not afraid of hard work, so relaxing on the pillow of contentment over oil blocs will not appeal to him.
President S. is a naturally perspicacious person. He understands that public perception is very key and he can determine what actions make him appear, well, asinine to his people. He then proceeds to shy away from such behavior. He is not careless or condescending in his speeches, and he proofreads what Abat- I mean, his press secretaries put in front of him. He respects the populace enough to neither insult their intelligence with blatant lies nor waste their precious time with rants about how the opposition has put convoluted plans in place to discredit him. Indeed, he has no use for paranoia and is solely interested in making his country work, from the bottom up. He relays this message to anyone who speaks in his name, keeping himself above all forms of pettiness.
He’s a very fair man, an advocate of meritocracy. He doesn’t subscribe to this nonsense of Federal Character, but believes that all Nigerians are equal and thus should be judged by their own merit, and not where they come from or which tribe has its turn to be in certain posts. He will always hire the best man for the job, even if it means hiring from the same nuclear family four times in a row. Because he has made the country a habitat for transparency, he does not have to worry about the alleged ramifications of supposed domination of one ethnic region over another in his government. He is Nigerian first and foremost, and he inculcates that doctrine in all Nigerians.
For all his mental acuity, President Solomon is not allowed to be a boring personality. He is the perfect embodiment of charisma. He isn’t exactly George Clooney, and good thing too, as it wouldn’t do for most of us to get a head rush whenever he appears on television. But he certainly is a very likeable man. People listen when he talks because he commands attention. He can never be accused of having the personality of last month’s kitchen rag. He’s affable and engaging, with wit to cap it all. He’s the perfect diplomat, smooth and charming with a will of steel.
Like I said earlier, this man I have just described is a special hybrid. A mythical demi-god, if you will, under whose regime there will be plenty in the land. Yams will be fat, cattle will multiply, springs of water will flow through lush gardens, children will laugh gaily and all the other things that happen in Utopia. But this is the strength of character and purpose we will need if we are serious about making our country work, ever. I honestly do not think he will manifest in my lifetime, to be frank, but hope springs eternal. In the words of that incomparable bard, John Lennon, ”You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”