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Change and illusion of sitting on the fence

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AS our nation, Nigeria, undergoes a political watershed in her history with the first transfer of power from an incumbent to the opposition, the concept of CHANGE has assumed a new position in the psyche of Nigerians. It is now seen as the bedrock of that metamorphosis. It all began when the All Progressives Congress, APC, the party of the new President, crested to victory on the slogan of change as the vehicle that will dismantle the present dystopia to usher in a new Eldorado.

While the cymbal of change is today clanging in all the nooks and crannies of our nation, one question that has not yet been answered is the type of change that will recreate the New Nigeria. An honest appraisal of post-victory posturing does not provide any lead in that direction. In fact, the manner with which the slogan has been bandied reduces it to the sole responsibility of the new President.

Will it ever be possible without a concurrent contribution from every citizen as its catalyst? No doubt, the President is the first and most important protagonist in this regard; yet, he alone cannot be the game changer in the epic battle for our national rejuvenation. The demon of expectation that seems to possess us has projected an illusion of a change that will be solely externally induced by the President. What a mirage!

It was Heraclitus, the Pre-Socratic philosopher, who first brought the notion of change into the history of rationality when he used the concept to counter Parmenides’ permanency of Being. According to him: “Nothing is permanent; everything is in flux since by cosmic rule everything changes. It is a unity relating everything and the locus of vital order of all reality. Life is like a river in which one can never step into the same current twice”.

If one is to pause a little to consider this reasoning, two realities stare one in the face. One is the character of all-inclusiveness that marks the concept of change, which for example, is represented here in the metaphor of the non-divisible nature of the river. The other character is the continuous nature of change exemplified in the metaphor of constant flux that logically counters Parmenides’ “vibrant statis”.

To extrapolate this idea to the present situation of Nigeria as regards the current crave for change, one must argue that for any meaningful change to happen, it must be all-inclusive and continuous. In other words, it must be the preoccupation of all and not the exclusive reserve of the new President. Unless all are involved, nothing will happen no matter how we think otherwise.

For a start, nature has been generous enough to offer us a mock example in the organogram of a bee colony. The survival of the bees in any colony is largely dependent upon the collective warmth and intricate structure of their colony and hive. Without delving into an analysis of this complex natural phenomenon, the success of any change in Nigeria must replicate this network. Buhari is the Queen-bee since he is the centre hub of our new Nigerian project. Other government functionaries must be the scout-bees whose jobs will be to reinvent new and efficient ways of managing our different ministries and departments to generate new results.

Each one of us then must be the worker-bee in contributing our individual effort for the intended change. While this unity is being forged, the second aspect of the change is no less important, and that is its continuity. Change, by its nature as Heraclitus made us to understand, must necessarily be continuous. The Orwellian lesson of the animal farm in his novel is a good reminder of the danger of slack.

When the animals wrought the epic change of dispossessing Mr. Jones of the Manor Farm, which by right belonged to them, they thought that their victory would be perpetually sealed by destiny. They neither worked together nor remained vigilant to protect their newfound change until the pig,Napoleon, became their new tormentor, and finally handed them over back to their old tormentors as Manor farm.

Therefore, to actualise the change of building a new Nigeria, all hands must be on deck. We may begin from a few areas. First, there is an urgent need to recalibrate our individual mental thought patterns as Nigerians. Our new categories of thought must include the aphorism “things must be done right for Nigeria to change and succeed”. This demands that the existential question of the meaning of life must be settled for a start. It is a sine-qua-non for a new Nigeria since the manner with which we lead our lives is an answer to an already posed question, what is the meaning of life?

Everything we do in life is an answer to this question even when we are not conscious of it. Is the essence of life for me all about pleasure and comfort, or is there something more?

As Heraclitus noted, “If happiness consisted in the pleasures of the body alone, we should call oxen happy whenever they come across bitter vetch to eat”. Therefore, the new pattern of change must include the truth that life is not all about what I can grab out of it since that is the fertile ground of corruption.

Secondly, the change must include a new appreciation of our diversity as a blessing rather than as a curse. Hyping our ethnic differences in the past has clogged the wheel of our national progress for too long. Some ethnic flag-wavers among us have destroyed our collective destiny by their never-ending rant. Of course, I am not an unrealistic optimist who does not know that there are myriads of difficulties involved in managing our divergences. However, that cannot continue to hold our collective progress by the jugular since the testimony of history puts lie to such logic.

Homogeneous groups do not populate the most advanced nations of the world. Several examples can suffice to buttress this. The Flemish and Walloons of Belgium, the Scottish, Wales, Irish and English of United Kingdom, or even the Catalonians, who are different from the rest of the Spanish populace, are all perfect examples. They have tensions existing together in these different nations, yet all belong to the industrialized nations of the world. Therefore, diversity is never a Nigerian peculiar problem; rather it is a human problem (or blessing). We all must believe in one project called Nigeria, for united we stand.

Thirdly, the change must involve a new attitude to our civic responsibilities. As Nigerians, we must uphold our collective destiny through a new way of doing things. Our old dilettantish way must give way to real professionalism in whatever field we are. This must extend to being whistle blowers since that will be one of the best ways to hold our leaders responsible.

The stories of crimes caught on the private cameras of Nigerians that have led to arrests and trials are among the heart warmers of the new Nigeria. All those who made promises of change to us from the President to all the elected leaders must be constantly heckled to vexation any time they digress from the new path of change. But above all, we all must be the new agent of that change since no other person can fulfill my own part in the corporate existence of our nation.

Finally, I would want to close this piece with Jesus’ warning in the Scripture where a man who had experienced some changes in his life, did not do anything positive to advance and protect it. He placed his hope on external factors by not doing anything positive with his newfound situation until the evil spirit that was cast out came back with seven more deadly ones (MT. 12: 43-45). Friends, for the new Nigeria to be real, we can no longer indulge ourselves in soporifics. Otherwise, our nation will be worse than it is now. We must build a new Nigeria, but all must participate asartisans of that change. The President cannot do it all alone. With God on our side, we can surely succeed. Let the Change begin with me! God bless you all.

Rev. Fr.  Gerald Azike  wrote from Rome, Italy

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