By Alinnor Arinze A.
Many of us were born in very remote settlements in the ‘Third World’. These communities, and some now cities and islands were not accessible before now but for bridges. The bridges opened up those places to the benefit of ‘both sides’. These bridges had lifespan or periods under which they must be closed for repairs or reconstruction to make for continued usage. Most of the bridges in the developing nations or third world countries were built by the developed countries.
Looking at those bridges, many would believe that they were built to help improve the living standard of people in the third world. But in most cases they only helped the developed economies get more return on their investment in those places. The interest of the masses who were hitherto alienated from the ‘other side’ was never the reason for the bridges.
If we take a look at the countries seen or regarded as Third World, all were former colonies of the developed economies. They all literally granted their former colonies their plea for political independence but never allowed them economic independence. They do not only build and repair bridges and other major infrastructure but would want to continue to do so to the detriment of the people; they would not allow the people to develop the capacity to do those things.
No wonder the Afro-beat legend, Fela Anikulapo Kuti sang ‘Teacher don teach me nonsense’. In his song, Fela remarked that it was the responsibility of the teacher to correct his students whenever they made mistakes. But in the case of our former colonial masters, they never bothered about correcting our innumerable mistakes which emanated from what they handed down to us, because our despicable situation bettered their economic status. Many people back in the days had accused the Abami Eda of acute verbal diarrhea, but we know better now.
Our people used to have their traditional concept about leadership and politics. But our teachers made us discard them and gave us theirs perceived as superior. Their redefinition of this part of our life had only helped destroy us; they gave us democracy. They said it meant government of the people, for the people, and by the people. But Fela Anikulapo Kuti looked analytically at it and said it meant ‘demonstration of craze, or crazy demonstration. They claimed that the system would make government or governance closer to the people. Take another look at most of the countries categorized as Third World and all you would see are imprints of the colonial masters; civil rule and not democracy.
The bridge they built for us was meant to connect the leadership and the followers. But it has not translated to anything meaningful in terms of the development of the people and our teachers are ‘silent’. Our teachers are not unaware of the situation in all their former colonies but prefer to sit on the fence and mend it. They have people in different places in each of their former colonies who update them. They set up different organizations and agencies who they make look like they are out to fight or cushion the effects of the absurdities and the abuse of human rights. After all, it is safe to say that slave trade was not evil but purely and strictly business with our forefathers who gave our people in exchange for perishable items.
It is said that, ‘if you say you’re leading and nobody is following then you’re only talking a walk’. John Maxwell also said that everything rises and falls on leadership. In this vein, we are sort of only replicating what our teachers taught previously which cannot be called leadership. The truth is that leadership in this part of the world had been ineffective because of the faulty foundation our teachers laid. Even now, our teachers would always meet with our ‘leaders’ but just to bargain and make sure their vested interest is protected.
In the past, we had a few people who were in the front line of the crusade for the welfare of the people. Most of these people have had the privilege of being elevated (selected or elected) to take positions of leadership either because of their commitment to the cause of the people or for being ‘garrulous’. Our teachers also were in most cases the forces behind the elevation. The very moment these ‘our people’ got to those positions of leadership, the bridge that once existed between them and their people ceases to exist; the only existing bridge would be the one between them and our teachers. The same people who were championing the cause of their people changes like chameleon; their pronouncements, stance, and policies all of a sudden become elitist. They no longer feel the pulse of the people, then there is no longer a bridge.
Our teachers must have advised our ‘leaders’ on how to appear to be close to the governed. Their advice I guess must have prompted the creation of offices without portfolios. For our ‘leaders’ to be effective or appear to be so they must hire loads of aides. These aides would serve as the bridge that should have existed. What a great idea! No wonder we have senior and junior bridges. The senior bridges should be able to carry or convey what the junior bridges cannot. In every sphere of life, there must be a Special Assistant, then a Senior Special Assistant. All the Assistants (Junior, Senior and Special) must all have their own bridges while they were brought to serve as bridges. So they the Assistants are also entitled to Personal Assistants for smooth and effective coverage of fields of endeavour.
At this juncture, let us ask, why is the teacher silent in the face of all the mistakes and absurdities? The teacher may actually be enjoying sitting on the fence and mending the same. I do not think the advice of the teacher to our ‘leaders’ to construct those bridges was a bad one. But if the revelations from Wikileaks are anything to go by, we would then understand that there is no bridge because our teacher is the bridge having influenced the building, appointment or selection of the bridge.
If there must be meaningful development in the third world countries especially in our part of the world, the bridges must be in places where none existed and reconstructed in other places. A bridge in the real sense should not be an ostrich. Failure in most assignments starts from not understanding the actual role one is called to play. From all indications, most of the people appointing or selecting the bridges do not understand why they are doing so aside rewarding political loyalty or the seeming loquacious. And the very ones so appointed or selected do not also know what their roles are.
No leader succeeds or governs effectively when there is a disconnect between the leader and the followers. It is obvious that most leaders do not read local newspapers, watch local television stations or listen to local radio stations. How then do they claim to know what happens to their people? Their claim is based on the report of the ‘bridges’ who are no bridges. You are left to wonder whether these bridges actually read the newspapers or have time for television and radio stations and their programmes which they have to relay to their principals.
From all available records, it is clear that most people in this clime live on less than one dollar bill a day. Invariably lack, hunger and abject poverty can be easily perceived. The folks who are so appointed or selected seek to first quench their thirst and hunger before looking behind their shoulders. In order to avoid having their butts kicked they resort to organization of solidarity visits and praise singers; to tell their principals sweet tales. Every other person or group with divergent opinions is seen as a detractor and anti-progress. There would not be any meaningful change until our ‘leaders’ stop seeing from the distorted lens of these middlemen.
The bridge looks like the missing link based on the aforementioned. If the leaders cannot reach their people because of ‘security protocol’, then the bridges must be bridges and must be seen to be so. The bridges are not these folks who suffer from acute verbal diarrhea and never mindful of the use of words when addressing the people. The bridges are not praise singers; they are actually to feel the pulse of the ‘people’ and report same. They are not the folks who label people with genuine concerns detractors. Certainly, the bridges cannot be the ones who call the governed useless critics, senseless agitators, never do wells and all sort of names. I am sure the bridges are not these ones who speak from both sides of the mouth and who stop at nothing in disparaging concerned citizens.
When there is no bridge, there is no effective communication. When there is no effective communication, visions are misunderstood. When there is no bridge, the pulse of the people is not felt and there cannot be said to be real or meaningful development but impoverishment.
(Arinze A. can be reached on: Arinze198@gmail.com, www.arinze198.wordpress.com, Tel: 08098001782)