Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Time Has Come

Leadership is the greatest need of the hour in Nigeria. Across the land, at all levels, with the exception of very few bright spots, there is a debilitating absence of direction. Our leadership meltdown is not restricted to the political realm; religious leadership has been equally abysmal. There are few genuine role models and exemplars of what is good. Our society is descending into chaos. The times recall lines from W.B. Yeats’ poem, The Second Coming: “the best of all lack conviction, the worst are full of passionate intensity.” The situation is bleak and everywhere there is a deficit of common sense and character; a yawning absence of courage and conviction.

There are things that need to be said and there are things that need to be done. The saying must often come before the doing. A declaration of alternate possibilities – a strident insistence that things do not have to be like this – must precede action. There are those who will say that talk is cheap. Indeed. But when people steadfastly refuse to voice the obvious, then clearly truth has become expensive. Someone must utter the truths which we as a people fastidiously avoid confronting. We must speak truth to power.

As Thomas Paine said, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” These are not times for regurgitating stale clich├ęs and rehashing the expired rhetoric of our superficial public conversation. These are not times for apathetic self-involvement punctuated by beer parlour lamentations and living room histrionics. These are not times for mundane pursuits. On the contrary, the times are crying out for fresh thinking. These are times to dream boldly and to dare in like spirit. We need to reason deeply, to brood over the issues and our roles in resolving the crisis. The deep-rooted malaise of our society requires solutions conceived from the very depths of our consciousness. Only the deep can call out to the deep. In other words, the customary shallowness which attends our public discourse must be discarded.

The prophets of old heard from heaven and sought to align their societies with the imperatives of providence. If we could hear from heaven today regarding Nigeria, I do not believe that we would hear the poetry of comfort and impending bliss. We would not hear the sound of an abundance of rain coming forth to end a season of national drought. We would hear instead a summons to responsibility; an invitation to begin to re-imagine and reinvent the dysfunctional conditions that we have grown distressingly accustomed to. We would hear a call asking us to seek our roles in a nascent and as yet embryonic movement for national renewal. I believe that that we would hear this call framed as a query: “Who shall we send and who will go for us?”

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