Youth is an incredible period of belief and blind foolishness. Philosophically, life is capsulated in three stages – morning, afternoon and night. Childhood signifies the morning of life. Youth is encrusted in the hot belly of life’s afternoon and willowy white hairs capture the embers of old age symbolising night. As a child born and bred in the turbulent Mushin community of Lagos, youth, for me, opened the floodgates of wild possibilities burnishing human limits to life’s daily drudgeries. Shortly after leaving secondary school in 1985, I struck friendship with a sinewy, pimple-faced adolescent, who was a human donkey. Like many youths, my very muscular friend, who would easily have made a name for himself if he pursued any combat sport, wasted his time and money, year after year, trying to attain university education and satisfy societal expectation. My friend didn’t pass the almighty West African Examination Council school-leaving certificate examination until he met a pastor called Messiah whose factory, sorry, church was located in the Oko Oba area of Agege.
“Your problems are solved,” Messiah assured my friend, “You will pass your JAMB and GCE in flying colours.”
“How, pastor,” my friend asked Messiah, the inadequacy of his intellect feeding his fears.
“Are you doubting what God can do?” Messiah queried.
“No, sir,” I believe in God, my friend mumbled, swallowing hard.
“Then, keep your mouth shut and listen! I will give you a pen and a white handkerchief. On your exam days, you will see an invisible hand writing answers on the board,” Messiah said, and probably sensing the lost look on my friend’s face, Messiah added, “Don’t worry if a hand doesn’t appear writing on the board, I will give you an anointed pen, you just write anything in your answer booklets, angels will later change whatever you wrote into perfect answers once they see the ink of the special pen on your answer booklets.”
My happy friend kept the words of Messiah as a secret in his heart, knowing full well I didn’t need Messiah’s magic. But when he learnt that the West African Examination Council had released that year’s GCE results, he came to my house and urged me to follow him to check his result. On the way, he told me about Messiah and his magical promises.
Shaking with fear, my workaholic friend stayed at the gate of Anwar-ul-Islam College, Agege, while I entered the school and headed to the principal’s office where the results were pasted. He did better than a certain governorship candidate; at least, he sat all the papers and bagged straight F9s. The pen and paper I brought with me to record the result became useless as there was nothing to write down. I turned and headed to the gate. When I was about 30 metres away from him, I broke into a run and flew into his arms. Youth and mischief! He knows me; he wasn’t taken in by my sudden flight of happiness. “Where’s the result?” he asked, looking into my eyes. “Let’s go and have a drink! You’ve blasted WAEC totally!” I said in effusive joy. So, we headed to a palm wine joint beside the school and hit some bottles. While on the umpteenth bottle, I said “Ol’ boy, na F9 parallel you get o.” Then, he stopped drinking and narrated how Messiah had milked him and some other friends mercilessly, promising them excellent examination results without having to go through the rigours of reading.
I later led him and his other friends on the rampage to Messiah’s church. That was the wantonness of youth. President Muhammadu Buhari wasn’t in his youth when he seized power on the last day of 1983. At 41, he was in the afternoon of life. As a member of the elite corps of the Nigerian Army, Buhari had the best of military training and attained the rank of major-general. It was thus shocking when news filtered out that the secondary school certificate of the great general had developed wings. It was even more shocking when military authorities declared not having Buhari’s certificate in their possession just as the Daura-born general hired several Senior Advocates of Nigeria to defend his missing certificate. Why the President had to hire a plethora of senior lawyers instead of simply producing his certificate is yet befuddling, igniting a brainwave that dumped him, my friend and the governorship hopeful in the same sack. Many followers of the President and the governorship contender would say that a man’s certificates do not translate to administrative competence, anyway. My brawny friend, who now resides in Dallas, Texas, is today on an income of $40,000 per month, having opened a thriving transport business in God’s own country after migrating 15 years ago.
The quality of the Independence speech delivered by President Buhari on October 1, 2018 gives teeth to the assumption by some Nigerians that academic excellence is vital to administrative competence. When heads of governments deliver milestone speeches in serious democracies, the masses look forward to meaningful policy pronouncements and factual updates on national issues. These were missing in the President’s October 1 speech.
Just like his military days when fear rather than reason cocooned watershed national events and speeches, the Independence Day speech delivered by the President was bereft of hope, promise, energy and belief. It was what doctors refer to as Brought-In-Dead. After the usual oratory nicety of the first paragraph, the 27-point speech totally failed to cruise once airborne, crashing heavily in the face of disingenuousness and obvious ineptitude. The opening paragraph limply said, “On this first October date and on the eve of the start of the general election cycle, we should do well to reflect on what binds us together and the great strength our diversity bestows on us.” I don’t know what exactly the President was talking about here. Even if your speechwriters make mistakes, an academically sound leader would go through his speech and make corrections. The third, fourth, fifth and sixth paragraphs talked about national security without putting in perspective how the government has combated the menace of terrorism and what it would do in concrete terms to keep Nigeria secure. The seventh paragraph wasn’t different from the hopeless paragraphs before it. It says, “We are diversifying away from reliance on oil to increased manufacturing capacity, solid minerals development, and agriculture,” just as the eighth paragraph says, “Efforts are on course in the Niger Delta to clean up polluted lands, restore hopes of the youths in the region and re-establish livelihoods, and strengthen their capacity to guarantee for themselves and for our country a brighter future.” Where and what are the efforts? Typically, the President didn’t find any fault in the activities of killer herdsmen across the nation, rather he blamed their action on “those seeking to plant the seeds of discord and disunity amongst our people,” warning in his ineffective military style that “the perpetrators of murder and general mayhem in the name of defending or protecting herders or farmers will face the full wrath of the law.”
Also, the serious issue of climate change and the depletion of Lake Chad basin didn’t get a deserving response from the government just like comments on the anti-corruption fight and infrastructure development were utterly lifeless.
I went through the whole speech and couldn’t find one paragraph that shows that the Buhari administration is doing any meaningful work on the Nigerian project. It’s sad. Though I look forward to the President’s New Year speech, his Independence Day speech was, to say the least, most uninspiring. Our President must spark.