Culture of listening without being attentive, By Jerome-Mario Utomi

Posted by News Express | 30 January 2019 | 1,008 times

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•Jerome-Mario Utomi

“Experience is not what happened to you; it is what you do with what happens.” And its usefulness essentially manifests in the development of the capacity to escape the guilt of the past and anxiety of the future.

Indeed, Nigerians, like the generality of mankind, know how important this teaching is to human existence. But, politically, the benefits are still low - with little to build on or celebrate - a fault traceable to the nation’s non-application of previously-gained knowledge to present political and socio-economic predicaments.

According to experts, “knowledge is neutral” and could be used either profitably or destructively. But the emphasis as a nation, on the former, has created a faulty perception that mirrors Nigerians (leaders and followers alike) before the watching world, as a people that listen without being attentive; and painted our country as a nation where the wise saying “A stitch in time saves nine” is fast losing its meaning.

This new awareness is predicated on two recent developments on our political geography: First, the Federal Government’s planned re-dramatisation of Operation Python Dance across the country, in the name of providing security.

The second, and most surprising, is the masses’ new-found love for and reliance on political prophecies, as against programmes/issues for an informed political decision about the forthcoming general election.

Crucially, Nigerians must acknowledge the spoken resolve by the government to curb insecurity in the country, particularly the activities of the Boko Haram terrorists in the North-east. The nation must also appreciate Mr President’s recognition, during his New Year message, that Nigerians desire/deserve peace, security, prosperity, inclusiveness, and infrastructural development, as well as his promise to build a country in which the resources are utilised for the benefit of the largest number, and not appropriated by a privileged few in their never-ending quest to satisfy their greed.

However, the FG’s recent decision to, despite the growing concerns/unpalatable experiences in the past, reintroduce the “Operation Python Dance” across the country - a military exercise in preparation against security challenges anticipated before, during and after the 2019 general election - is a pragmatic proof that our political system is truly reputed for not engaging the best minds in our country to help get answers and deploy the resources we need to move into the future.

In taking such decisions, one major aspect the FG failed to remember is that the nation has travelled this road too many, journeyed through this path consistently without result or a decision to make a detour – despite unenthusiastic signals and feedbacks from the targeted “beneficiaries” of these operations.

There are countless examples of military-civilian clashes occasioned by such interventions.

Apart from the recent avoidable clash between the Shi’ites Islamic group in Abuja that left dozens of protesting members of the group dead, others that come to mind include but not limited to a similar visit by the Nigerian Army to the South-eastern part of the country to watch the “python dance”; to the South-south to witness the “ugly” “Crocodile smile”, and another episode code-named: "Operation Octopus Grip", declared by the Nigerian Navy in the Niger Delta region.

Lamentably, these “dances, smiles, grips”, or attacks on media organisations shared a common outcome: Chaos, as well as leaving in its trails sorrow, tears, and blood. Very instructive!

What the watching world, in one’s view, should have expected from this administration is but an appraisal of the entire process; to ascertain if the strategy as used in the past achieved the desired objective.

What is even most frightening is that when it boils down, precisely, to what set the stage for this appalling situation, the painful reality is that the culture of not learning from past events is not peculiar to the government. 

For example, Nigerians, judging from their comments, continues to vilify the present administration for the country’s real and imagined woes -  in the political, socio-economic, security and cultural spheres - as if it was the making of the President alone.

This, in my view, cannot be so, as the vibes about the forthcoming general elections portray a people not prepared to challenge the political status quo.  

Adding context to the discourse, in electioneering periods - like every non-violence campaign - a collection of facts in order to establish whether injustice is alive, is the first task expected of the people. But as the nation draws near to the 2019 general election, it appears there is something different.

Whereas overbearing confidence is found in quantum, and forms a common denominator among politicians, despite the President’s recent statement that elections need not be a do-or-die affair or approached with trepidation and mortal fear, Nigerian voters have become a weak and ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound laced with inability to test the propositions presented, or explore the facets of policies not revealed by the politicians. As a result, many are relying solely on religious leaders for political/electoral prophecies.

Why this should be a source of worry to all is that it was a similar behaviour in the past that made the masses lose the political playing field; turned our democracy to “responsibility-free” and transcended voters assent to a commodity that could be purchased by the highest bidder: call it vote  buying,  if you like.

The fear is that if the masses fail to apply their recently-gained electoral experience, the effect may be worse than the previous years.

For instance, it will further prevent the country from enthroning true democracy that would herald a corruption-free nation where the rule of law will be obeyed to the letter and impunity on the part of all top government officials, civil servants and every other person in either the public service or the private sector curbed.

For the nation to breathe a sigh of relief, Nigerians must, in the forthcoming elections, do away with deformed ideas, values, assumptions, beliefs, and understandings that prevent them from seeing reason(s) to rise from the “bondage of half-truths” to the unfettered realm of objective political appraisal.

Again, achieving a re-emergence of a fully functional democracy come February, what we need is not a new theory, concept or framework, but willingness to think strategically and elect people that recognise the fact that it takes a prolonged effort and discipline to administer a country well; people who are integrative problem-solvers and can clearly meet the people’s needs better than the available alternatives.

Finally, on the Nigerian Army-Daily Trust Newspapers face-off, it will be highly rewarding if the military PR unit  go a step further to develop a cordial/asymmetrical relationship with the media, as this incessant clampdown has prompted Nigerians with critical interest to conclude that the spirit of the infamous Decree 4 still pervades the nation’s political geography.

•Jerome-Mario Utomi, of, writes via and can also be reached on 08032725374 (SMS)

Source: News Express

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