Power Is Nothing Without Control – Part 2

Seat of the President of Nigeria at the Council Chamber in the State House/Presidential Villa, Abuja.

By Dapo Akande

The Aussies, known for their love of beer or the Amber Nectar, as they like to call it, are an interesting people. If you think you’re a big beer drinker, then try challenging an Australian to a drinking contest. I can assure you, he’lI drink you under the table, any day. Aussies literally drink like fish.

There was a great advert in the United Kingdom for Castlemaine 4X which parodied this, several decades ago. In preparation for a barbecue (another thing Aussies are known for) party, two men were seen leaning on a truck in the outback (desert like area of Australia) and patiently watching while the drinks for the party were being loaded up. What were they being loaded unto? A trailer. What were the variety of drinks? No variety, only Castlemaine 4X.

Only after totally overloading the trailer with Castlemaine 4X beer to the point where one could clearly hear the trailer creaking under the sheer weight of it, did they remember that they hadn’t packed any drinks for the women. Very casually, with folded arms and a can of Castlemaine 4X he was already drinking in hand, one of the two men said to the other who was doing exactly the same, “I guess we better add a couple of bottles of wine for the Sheilas (ladies)?” His friend agreed and promptly, two bottles of wine were plonked on top of the hundreds of crates of beer. The two men were shown looking satisfied that they had done a good job and then the camera quickly shot back to the trailer as we heard the creaking increase and before we knew it the trailer came crashing down. Without the slightest hint of any panic but with undisguised regret, one of the two men said to the other, “I guess we over did it for the Sheilas”, to which his friend in equal regret just uttered, “yeah”.

The men in the advert above who felt, “Na we dey there” packed the trailer to overload with beer, pampering to their selfish whims and giving little to no thought to the interest of others. Their greed, powerlessness to rein in their voracious appetite when opportunity came knocking to satisfy it and total misuse of position and chance to meet the needs of all, eventually caused the trailer to collapse, so it could not even move anywhere. In the end it didn’t serve anyone’s interest as the drinks were needed at their party.

Forecourt of the State House/Presidential Villa, Abuja, the Nigerian Government seat of power.

But the saddest part about the whole scenario was this; they didn’t ascribe the trailer’s collapse to their greed at all. They blamed it on the two bottles of wine they patted themselves on the back for so thoughtfully including for the women.

Likewise, the problem with Nigeria from the perspective of our political leaders is not current poor leadership but the people who are in too much of a hurry to enjoy a good life. The same good life the majority have been denied all their lives, frustratingly in the midst of plenty. Our leaders will brag in the media about accomplishments which the ordinary man can barely see or feel and explain it away with the usual mantra that government resources are limited, therefore people should understand.

As far as they’re concerned, the lack of good hospitals, good roads, good educational system and the most dismal looking future for coming generations of Nigerians actually has little to do with their current performance and only to do with the corruption and profligacy of past leaders. Like the two Aussie men, they calmly try to explain away something which is so painfully obvious.

We urgently need to do something about the average Nigerian’s “do you know me?” attitude. “Don’t try me, I’m a mad man. My head no dey correct o” mentality. It beats me, why anyone would boast of not being normal in the head. I just can’t understand why people brag about something which should ordinarily be a source of concern to any normal person.

Both the “big men” and “small men” in the streets boast of their “power” and threaten to show their antagonists who they are. It’s just unfortunate that neither the big nor the small oppressor has yet realized that they’re both in the same category – they’re both small minded people – who only feel big by demeaning others. All such are nothing but “small men” no matter their position or financial wherewithal.

I don’t see how such oppressors are any different to wife beaters. Included in this category of wife beaters are the few bad eggs amongst our uniformed men, whose presence ought to be a source of comfort to the citizenry but decide instead to use it to physically or psychologically brutalize those unable to fight back. In the same category are people in positions of authority who instead of using their position to provide an enabling environment and make things happen opt instead to plant endless bureaucratic bottlenecks and strangulate all effort to catalyze industry, just because they can. I ask you, how different to wife beaters are those who boast of past appointments held, not to remind us of how well they transformed the lives of ordinary Nigerians while they were there but to now brandish such credentials as a licence to intimidate and belittle those they supposedly went there to serve? All the above are “little men” but if only they knew. Nigerians are still reeling from one such case but I doff my hat to the individual in question for offering an unreserved apology to the victim and Nigerians in general; a rarity in these climes, I must say.

Sadly, like the case of the two Aussies who were presented with a golden opportunity to meet the needs of all but were blinded by an unrestrained desire to satisfy themselves only, the ship called Nigeria is stuck and currently appears to be moving no where. Power, just for the sake of it is far from a blessing, it’s an albatross.

Changing the nation…one mind at a time

Oladapo Akande is a Surrey University (UK) English graduate with a Masters in Professional Ethics. He’s an alumnus of the National Institute for Transformation and a two time author; The Last Flight and Shifting Anchors. He writes from Lagos.