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Date Published: 10/05/09

Seeing is no longer believing in Nigeria By Jude Egbas  


I quit complaining about Nigeria the day the country’s Police Chief, Ogbonna Onovo vehemently stated to the press that erstwhile anti- corruption Czar, Nuhu Ribadu, could not have been in the country to pay his last respects to late Chief Gani Fawehinmi. It took the publication of the pictures of Ribadu flanked by some members of the deceased’s Family in the dailies for Onovo to beat a hasty retreat, even though tongue in cheek.

Ribadu was supposed to be a wanted man by the authorities once within the country’s terrain. But he did not sneak in. He granted interviews to the press, spent ample time with the family of the deceased, and must have attended to private business before jetting out of Nigeria’s air-space. If we needed further proof of the myopia of those who hold positions of authority in Nigeria, acting Inspector General of Police, Ogbonna Onovo provided plenty more.

But the police chief may have been telling the truth. A few within the rank and file of its intelligence gathering units may have actually sighted Ribadu. I also imagine that Mr. Onovo may have actually seen the photos before his ill advised foul mouthed rant to the press. I can bet my day’s dinner that the folks at the immigration to whom Mr. Onovo directed his tirade when it dawned on him that he was beginning to make a fool of himself, must have seen Ribadu since he was no ghost, and may well have been aware that he was a ‘wanted man’. But in Biology, ‘vision’ can also be viewed as relative. The optic nerves send a signal to the brain which interprets what has been seen to the Observer. We are also aware that sometimes the eyes could play tricks on one as in when we are presented with what we call an ‘optical illusion’.


So, let us cut Ogbonna some slack. The twin vision defects of ‘Myopia’ and ‘Optical Illusion’ which plagues those in positions of leadership in Nigeria than most, is one reason why we are still struggling to gain a foothold in a fast moving world at 49. Attorney General of the Federation, Michael Aondoakaa definitely shops in the same ophthalmic emporium as the police Chief. His version of ‘Rule of Law’ is so warped Lord Denning would be rolling in his grave. His latest Ruse of Law cause involves a single minded determination to defend former Governors who have stolen the country blind. This he does with a vigour only a defective vision can explain.

And then there is Maurice Iwu, the electoral umpire whose bespectacled appearance leaves you in little doubt that his optical illusion may be endemic. At several fora, he has sounded it out loud to all who care to listen that he is the best thing that has happened to the country’s electoral space since sliced bread. He struts his stuff at all flawed elections with the arrogance of a sixteenth century monarch, daring anyone to call him to question.

Mr Onovo is also in the good company of several in the corridors of power who will tell you unashamedly that Nigeria is better, in fact far better than it was 49 years ago even in the face of the visible infrastructural decay, a dysfunctional system and the suffering masses. They wonder why we just cannot get it. But they need not look any further than the simple notion that we all see things from different perspectives and that our nerve endings may well be relaying different messages to us. It all depends on which lenses you may be peering through.

Someone handed me a hand held Nigerian flag as a souvenir on Independence Day. I looked at it carefully to see if the colours were really green and white. There were. But for the first time, I doubted my sense of vision. I brought out a ball point pen and scribbled the words ‘Nigeria will be great again’ on what appeared to my eyes to be the white portion of the flag. It now adorns a section of my living room and I stare at it every morning if only to re-assure myself that that was what was scribbled. Two days after Independence Day, I invited my nine year old niece to read the words aloud to me. Alas! I was correct. While I was beginning to doubt my own vision, certainly that of a nine year old could be trusted to be picture perfect.

The same cannot be said, however of the Lords at the villa in Abuja. It has since struck me that since we definitely do not see the same things as they do, or since we have a superior vision, it would be better to depend more on what we see. ‘Nigeria will be great again’ has been what I have seen since Independence Day and surely what a lot of younger Nigerians can begin to see with me.

Let us begin to carve our own visionary path and let those who claim to lead us continue to see the shadows that have dogged their every policy decisions till this day.

Egbas is a Company Executive based in Lagos

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