An eminently forgetable speech
Gone are the days when political speeches were eagerly anticipated. Inspiring oratory with captivating diction and memorable quotes appear sadly to be a thing of the past. Back in the day when political leaders knew their onions, they rose to their feet and spoke extemporaneously at length on the subject of their administration.
Nowadays the mere ability to read a prepared script is deemed to be an accomplishment worthy of applause. Today’s leaders are deficient in the art of delivering speeches in a manner which exudes a deep knowledge of, or passion for, the subject matter. Instead with heads bowed, they read out bland un-motivating drivel prepared in tedious civil service language while habitually fumbling over words as if seeing the document for the first time.
Political speeches should be made memorable and inspirational through either oratory or content. Unlike First Republic Premier Sir Abubakar Tafa Balewa whose impeccable diction left even the British spellbound, President Mohammed Buhari (PMB) is not an orator.
Accordingly his speech writers must learn to ensure his speeches are memorable in content and contain quotable “sound bites”. The 2015 Independence Day speech was disappointingly terse and un-inspirational containing nothing of any significance to quote.
It addressed seven issues; President Jonathan’s surrender of power, the need for patriotism, the Boko Haram menace, the Power Sector problems, the Petroleum Sector sanitisation, the Ministerial List, and the need for patience.
The call for patience was misplaced. Nigerians have been patient for fifty-five years to no avail. We have every right to be impatient considering the dreams of the founding fathers. PMB’s speech mistakenly concentrated on matters of the moment and was totally inappropriate for the occasion, paying only lip service to the real reason for the public holiday.
Presidential speech writers must do better in future by redirecting their orientation, and appreciating that national addresses aren’t supposed to be progress reports. They are primarily meant to motivate the population, outline policy initiatives, and re-affirm the direction of the government.
They are meant to be etched in the memory. There was nothing memorable, historical, deeply inspiring, or of any new significance that qualified it as an Independence Day address.
The writers not only failed to recognise what the day called for, but also failed to address the deeper and more complex issues which undermine our national progress. There was no attempt to draw upon historical analysis to explain why our nation has found it impossible to achieve its potentials.
Nigeria is undeniably a country blessed with an abundance of natural resources. We comprise a fifth of all the black peoples in the world and are the seventh most populous and the seventh largest producer of oil, yet regrettably we have failed to become what our pre-independence prospects in the 1950’s led the world to expect from us. While other developing countries chose alternative development strategies we have stuck with failed strategies fashioned by western nations and global financial institutions. SouthEast Asian Nations which were our contemporaries in the 1950’ and early 1960’s have moved on to become truly developed nations while we continue to regress.
No nation can rise above the quality of it leadership and in truth the peace and progress of our nation has been continuously undermined by our ruling elite. Since attaining independence we have had such poor incompetent and corrupt leadership that despite being blessed with abundant resources of all types, no substantial benefit has accrued to citizens.
Totally ignoring the complex issue of the nation’s raison d’etre and the search for a national identity PMB’s speech writers claimed that what Nigeria needs is some undefined unity of purpose. Most Nigerians disagree because at the end of the day all of us are united in our desire for the good life!
The real reason our nation hasn’t progressed isn’t a lack of unity of purpose, its consistently poor leadership. Unfortunately PMB’s speech writers gave no indication of a true understanding of the nation’s historical problems, part of which has been the zeal with which past leaders have pursued wrong policies and objectives in messianic self-righteousness.
Disappointingly other than views on corruption, insecurity and discipline there was nothing in the speech with regards to economic blueprints for encouraging patriotism and eradicating the misery of spreading poverty.
Every Nation must have a well-articulated economic vision as well as objectives and strategies for fulfilling that vision, only then can there be unity of purpose, When and only when these objectives are fulfilled can a nation be said to be successful. Issues such as human rights, freedoms and liberties are meaningful only if the basic freedom from want and poverty are guaranteed.
After fifty-five years of independence our nation is still characterized by decay and formlessness and citizens can’t outline the cardinal principles of their economy or explain the absence of any form of social welfare system.
We are continuously fed the line that the forced unity of our peoples is a great achievement, whereas various demands for ethnic selfactualization are the result of so many disadvantaged people feeling they derive no benefit from being citizens of Nigeria.
With all the dilly dallying over appointments and the resurfacing of the same old names there is a growing belief that the change mantra was a ruse. PMB’s speech writers must seize the day before national apathy sets in.
They must quickly conceive, envision and articulate things greater than the mundane anticorruption war and learn to inspire citizens to buy into this dream, otherwise it will be difficult for the nation to make appreciable progress under his watch.