Nigerians have grown to expect the worst from their leaders and government. Give an average Nigerian a couple of scenarios; one positive and the other negative and ask which they belief relate to their country and its leaders. Most will go for the negative. We have come to expect the worst from our politicians and no doubt, we get what we expect. But are we perpetuating a dysfunctional mindset that keeps us in a self-fulfilling cycle of failure as a nation? Hence, I have lately been reading the various chartrooms and threads about Nigeria on the web as well as other media commentaries.

I fear we are in danger of allowing cynicism to rule and ruin our future as a people. We know most of our career-politician leaders are corrupt. But then we are equally quick to find fault in new generation of leaders coming up. If it is an old politician, we complain that he has been there for too long and assisted in the pillage of the country since independence. If it is a young politician who has been in active politics for a short while; we complain that he has made no difference and a stooge of the godfather.lagos1

If it is a young or old aspiring politician, who is entering the terrain for the first time; we complain that he is simply going there to ‘chop’ (steal) money like others. It seems nobody is ever good enough for some Nigerians. We have become a nation of habitual complainers, moaners and cynics. We have given up on the old guards and the new ones are viewed with suspicion even before they take a single step.  My consolation is that even God has His critics here on earth. Much less mere humans.

But in my view; what is lacking in many Nigerians is ability to think rationally. Rational psychology expects you to prioritize your assessment of people and then decide based on dominant good qualities, while viewing the few bad qualities in context of an otherwise overwhelmingly ’good’ candidate. Many of us make these analysis daily. You indulge that driver constantly coming late to work, because he is otherwise an excellent driver and the best you have ever had. You indulge that househelp’s bad manners because the kids love her and she is the best cleaner you have ever had. You decided not to relocate from your area of Lagos despite the horrendously bad road leading to it because the area is otherwise very safe and little or no crime at all. We all make these judgments and balance analysis all the time. So why do we not apply the same to our old or aspiring politicians. Let us learn to increase in hope and optimism and believe good can still come out this country. Our focus on the negative has got us nowhere; so why not try a new approach Let us be less cynical and more hopeful.

Truth is; the worst offenders are the educated middleclass, many residing in Diaspora. Many complain about everything Nigeria does; yet live in Chicago where several of their governors in the past 20yrs have been jailed for fraud and corruption.   And the Internet allows people to pontificate, become tin gods with little repercussion and minimal sense of responsibility.  We need to change. There are now many “good people” reluctant to join the political arena. Not due to the fear of the corrupt political elite; but for fear of been shot into pieces and have the reputation stained by the mostly Internet-based/Educated/Chattering brigade; who theorizes and analyses everything from the sidewalk. I am sure some will say that at least the governors in Chicago were caught and prosecuted successfully, while none has been brought to book in Nigeria. But that is not the salient point here. My argument is that there are bad and corrupt politicians everywhere. Why must we allow cynicism to destroy the future of our hope?

In the most memorable section of his “Citizenship in a Republic” speech, President Roosevelt captured his life philosophy in just a few sentences. “The Man in the Arena” tells us that the man we should praise is the man who’s out there fighting the big battles, even if  imperfect and those battles end in defeat. In our day, when cynicism and aloof detachment are considered hip and cool, he reminds us that glory and honour come to those “who spend themselves in a worthy cause.”  He noted:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat”.

These perpetual Nigerian critics specialize in finding fault in anybody that is brave enough to enter the political ring. We all need to be careful. It seems many are naively looking for a “Perfect Candidate” that is blemish free. Remember that Joseph (in the Bible) had a criminal record when he became the best Prime Minister in Egypt; straight from Prison. I know Joseph was innocent; but nobody knew that except him and God.

My advise to these armchair critics is; why don’t you throw your hats into the ring. If nobody is good enough for your Nigeria, does that include yourself as well? Are you as bad as the people you always criticize?  If not; why don’t you enter the arena and make a difference. Perhaps, you are the change agent the nation has been waiting for.

Let’s stop shooting down everybody that is trying to make change happen in our Nation; even if they are not perfect. It’s hard to see the good in people, when you’re only looking for the bad.  Let’s focus on their ideas/policies/agendas and not simply on personalities or the mistakes they have made in the past. And finally, let us be led by that inner voice; so that we do not simply know everybody after the flesh. I see change happening in Nigeria through unexpected vessels.

Let us believe the best for our nation and support and constructively criticize those in the arena; not because we agree with all they do or they are prefect; but because we owe it to Nigeria since we are not in the arena ourselves. God bless Nigeria.

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