Influencer, visionary, courageous, empath—these are some of the words that come to mind when considers attributes of the quintessential leader. We are told a leader takes responsibility, seeks to serve first before being served, and when things go south, he is ready to take the fall for it while sharing accolades with his team members in times of success. This is how society defines good leadership. But what does society know? Leaders in my part of the world have cracked the code of inimitable leadership in a way that trashes whatever their counterparts in other climes think they are doing.
COVID-19 is back and with a vengeance. The steady increase in the number of people who are infected every day is not the only source of worry. This time around, fatalities are on a worrying rise too. And with the government still tinkering with the idea of imposing a lockdown, it’s safe to say we have continued from where we were in 2020. Nevertheless, the coronavirus is not the sole source of concern for the Nigerian, these days, a citizen of the most populous black nation in the world has to make peace with the idea that he may wake up to a blocked telephone line, no thanks to the ill-timed directive to get the National Identification Number registration done.
In the part of the world I live, 40%of the population which translates to more than 80 million people live below the poverty line. But that’s not all, many of those who are fortunate to not fall within this bracket are only marginally doing better. One chronic illness and they are down to the dreaded penury group. Little wonder we are all about what to eat, how to survive, how to stay afloat amid the unending challenges that plague citizens of a consumer nation. Lofty ambitions are a luxury; in Nigeria, it’s all about being able to afford basic living expenses and keeping the kids in school.
Three things are certain in life: rain, tax, and Nigerians bashing their government for glaring ineptitude. Small pockets of conversations, large gatherings, a night out with friends, and commuter small talks have lamentations of irresponsibility on government’s path as a core feature. And this discontent that gives rise to criticism is valid. There’s no reconciling the abundance mother nature bestowed on Nigeria with her dismal socio-economic state.
My best friend, Bami and I were on our way to shop for groceries. It was the weekend, a time when we did our cooking for the week. But this time around, we were cooking for Bami. I was scheduled to spend a few days visiting my cousins in Badagry. I had met Bami at the NYSC camp and we had grown close, so close that everyone believed we were a couple. And each time any of us denied it, they scoffed or gave us look that told us they thought we were being untruthful. It did not help that Bami’s girlfriend was in Benin and I was without a lover. And while I had a slew of admirers, none had aroused more than a passing interest in me.
The other day, my cousin and I were discussing music and he asked me a question that comes up quite often among Nigerian music lovers. One that centred around two of the biggest artistes in the country and whose music I preferred. I gave my answer. Told him I was more inclined towards the one who had transcended the desire to make hits for the fans and now did music he loved and had grown into. It didn’t matter that he once appealed to the masses too. He had now evolved and his fans would have to come to terms with this evolution.
As 2020 winds down, many things have changed around us. The optimism and hope that often heralds the pending dawn of a new year are missing, for good reason too. Everyone is cautious about their expectations from the coming year because of the many shocks 2020 served. But while a lot of changes have occurred in the way we live and our disposition to events, what has remained unchanged is the deep divide when it comes to opinions about the way Nigeria is currently run. The “hailers” and “wailers” within the polity have maintained their stance regarding national issues.
The year that shook us our core. The year that made us reevaluate our beliefs and life choices. The year where plans went to nought and the need to stay alive trumped every other need. Stating that the year 2020 has been an unusual year would be an understatement. It’s been a gruelling year; one characterised by an avalanche of bad news. Many deaths recorded…many families thrown into mourning, jobs lost, economies in shambles. As 2020 grinds to a halt within the next two weeks, it’s instructive that we do not forget the lessons it taught us. I have chosen to share mine in this post.
Quite often, we talk about how different social media is from the real world. We allude to the interactions that happen between strangers in the virtual community as incomparable to what obtains when people can see each other and gauge firsthand emotions. While online mediums represent ivory towers: a cocoon of sorts where realities of physical living take a backseat, it’s imperative to understand that humans exist behind the thoughts, banters, and interactions on social platforms. It is the inability to recognise this that results in uncomfortable or embarrassing situations.
In the last couple of years, it hasn’t really felt like Christmas was in the air in November or even early December. This year, it’s even worse. The travails of 2020 have subdued many of us. Because we are just grateful to be alive, we aren’t too bothered about the yuletide or whether we’ll get to do our favourite things during that time. However, the realisation that the bills are no respecter of COVID-19 and other sundry challenges is enough to jolt us from the state of inertia if we ever dare to remain in it for too long.