“The greatest patriotism is to tell your country when it is behaving dishonourably, foolishly, viciously.”
― Julian Barnes, Flaubert’s Parrot
Till the rivers run dry and the world ceases to exist, problems shall never end. Problems became part of man the moment he took a bite of that apple and was banished to earth to come and find the solution that would take him back. And so, seeking solutions to problems must be our eternal habit.
However, just as Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them”, we have to think differently and divorce ourselves from all the things that have pinned us down to where we are now. As pointed out by many who took it upon themselves to be pointers at problems, Nigeria’s problems are all condensed into one – leadership.
Most of the things we are writing about are things that we have written about in the past. And since instead of improving, we are progressing in the manner of the person digging a hole – going deeper down – we should not get tired of reiterating and retelling what we have said earlier until something gives.
And this is why we opened with the quote from Flaubert’s Parrot, a novel by the award-winning English writer, Julian Patrick Barnes. Born on 19 January 1946, he won the Man Booker Prize in 2011 with The Sense of an Ending, having been shortlisted three times previously with Flaubert’s Parrot, England, England, and Arthur & George. Flaubert’s Parrot was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1984 and won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize the following year.
We have always believed and told the world that patriotism is the bedrock of development. Without it, no nation can make progress and if, by some miracle, they grow, that growth will be ephemeral.
You see, patriotism is the love of country with devotion deep from the heart. Anything from your country is, in your eyes, the best. The way the parents of an ugly child see beauty in that child is the way a patriot sees anything from his country as the best in the world.
In my write-up of 27/05/2019, entitled “Open letter to an incoming governor,” I wrote, among others: “Your Excellency should also make sure that those who have their children in private schools do not determine the affairs of public schools. How can one be in charge of education but send his wards to private schools or abroad? Anybody who will administer education must have faith in what the government is doing to improve education, which he superintends. Anybody who cannot sacrifice for the state should not be allowed to benefit from the state. Your Excellency, do that and education would improve by leaps and bounds.
“There is a reason why Malaysians in 2018 overwhelmingly brought back Dr Mahathir Mohammed at the age of 92 to lead them again. He was ready to sacrifice his life for them when he refused to travel abroad for medical treatment in 1989, opting to be operated upon in Malaysia, which led him to build world-class medical facilities in the then under-developed country later.
“He had this to say, ‘As a doctor myself, I knew the risks. I knew there was a possibility that I might not survive the operation, as it was not a common procedure.’
“Yet he rejected his doctors’ recommendations for surgery in the US. ‘I had to have faith in our Malaysian doctors,’ he said. ‘If I didn’t make an example of myself, no one else would have confidence in our medical service.”’
“Your Excellency, anybody who, together with his family, has to travel abroad for medical reasons need not be in charge of your ministry of health and any health facility. Not only those who go abroad, but even those who patronise private hospitals or clinics, please relieve him of his duties if you had already appointed him. The only exception is in dire cases determined by a competent medical team that such cases have to be treated abroad.
“You can aim at providing standard primary health care centres in at least each ward, a standard General Hospital in each local government, a standard Specialist Hospital in each Senatorial Zone and a world-class referral hospital, maybe in the state capital. You can even partner with world-renowned hospital managers and administrators.
“These two measures, in education and health, when taken with such seriousness, will see a turnaround in the standards of education and health in your state, and ultimately the general quality of life.”
In “Nigeria: How do I begin?” written on 22/06/2020, we talked about how a leader galvanizes his people for development. We said: “But whatever the case, a leader must, by his actions, give hope to his people and the confidence to excel. Again, if the Chinese, in one of their proverbs, believe the fish rots from the head, then the head must show more patriotism.
“Servant leadership is why Malaysians in 2018 overwhelmingly brought back Dr Mahathir Mohammed at 92 years old to lead them….” We have written about this early on.
“Or the Indian case where the father of the nation, Mahatma Gandhi (October 2, 1869 – January 30, 1948) would not ride in the sleek and luxury cars from the west; he elected to trek and drive in locally made carts. This injected vigour into local car manufacturing. Now India is a vehicle exporter.
“These servant leaders teach that a leader sacrifices; he is not one collecting a fabulous salary and unimaginable allowances but still being fed by the government or using foreign-made items like clothes, food, cars, etc., instead of those his country produces.”
Not yet done with the question of exemplary leadership, we wrote: “Change must begin with the leader” on 06/07/2020. We started with a quote from a Brazilian lyricist and author of The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho: “The world is changed by your example, not by your opinion.”
We wrote: “Allah (SWT) said in the Qur’an that He does not change the condition of a people until they change what is in their hearts. It is a verse widely quoted out of context by people wanting to give their idols in power excuses. There was never a time in any history that people just woke up and all of them at the same time said to themselves: ‘We must change.’ Even revolutions and mass uprisings have guides. Someone has to mobilise the masses, sensitise them, and lead the way. And that person is called a leader. Therefore, those who are fond of quoting this verse as an excuse to shield their principals are loose-brained, mischievous or plain illiterate. Most likely, they won’t refer to the verse if the icon does not appeal to their sentiments.
“Because God raises the living out of the dead and brings forth light out of the dark, He raises from among a people their type who leads them from deprivation to well being. Out of the palace of the Pharaoh, He raised Moses (AS). Out of the family and society of idolaters, He brought forth Abraham (AS), and out of the heathendom of Arabia, He revealed Muhammad (SAW). Chaka the Zulu founded the Zulu Empire and for twelve years, before his assassination on September 22, 1828, he moulded his people into a dominant fighting force never seen before in southern Africa. Mao Zedong, known as Chairman Mao, was the founding father of The People’s Republic of China and laid the foundations of what China now is. You can go on and count leaders who changed their people and their countries’ fortunes by leading by example. Cuba’s Fidel Castro was one; we also had Muammar Gaddafi from Libya, Dr Martin Luther King who raised the consciousness of Blacks, Dr Muhammad Mahathir of Malaysia and Mahatma Gandhi of India.
“These leaders raised the consciousness level of their people and changed them into better human beings, by being what they wanted their people to be. They did not look their people in the face in a condescending and patronising manner, point a finger at them, and sing “change” while they indulged in the vices of yore. Mao viewed such leaders as “swollen in head, weak in legs, sharp in tongue but empty in belly.”
For Nigeria, when can we have our own Mahatma Gandhi or Chairman Mao or Fidel Castro or Gaddafi – somebody who thinks Nigeria and Nigerians first?
Hassan Gimba is the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief