An em­i­nently for­getable speech

Daily Trust - - OPINION -

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.

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