I don’t know that I have ever seen a patient dog. Matter of fact, I don’t like dogs. I’ve been pursued twice in my life by them, so it’s not easy to have the same coziness some friends have with the wet-nosed creatures, cuddling and feeling their fur and all that.
Owing to my indifference to them, I have not cared to observe and verify the saying that the patient dog eats the fattest bone. Such dog will almost certainly die hungry under my care; we just don’t have much in common.
But if the saying has any truth in it, then dogs are probably more virtuous than Nigerian humans.
In his New Year’s address, President Muhammadu Buhari echoed this sentiment while touching on the matter of “Restructuring”. It was the buzzword of 2017 and the president used the medium of his address to re-emphasize his distaste for the word and the (well, his) idea of it. As far as he is concerned, the spanner in the works of the Nigerian project is a question of process rather than of structure; jumping from the Parliamentary system of the 1960s, to the present system, and longing for a return to the former is all evidence of the impatience of the Nigerian.
So why exactly are Nigerians impatient?
It is a bit of a paradox to say Nigerians are among the happiest people in the world and yet say they are impatient. What is happiness but a state of mind where frustrations are ignored as though they did not exist. And this same Nigerians are among the most religious in the world, yet impatient? Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, says the Bible; can we honestly form an objective view on how Nigerians have managed the slow pace of development over the last 20 years without tribute to the patience of the people?
Mr Buhari is right though; Nigerians are impatient. It is the suggestion that they should not be that is off beam.
To be of value, patience must be hinged on some trustworthy identity. Patience does not require full knowledge of the status of the future but it requires that the attributes of the object demanding trust be shared with and appreciated by the long suffering agents. Christians are patient with God because they believe they share His image and Likeness; it would make no sense to be impatient with your image. And lovers are patient with spouses for love’s sake, and parents are patient with erratic children because they are the transmitters of the genes of erratic behaviour.
Patience in the Nigerian case must involve a resonance between Nigerians and the state. Only when the people that constitute the geographic region of the country ascribe an identity to this region after their own aspirations will there be patience.
What does it mean to be a Nigerian in 2018? Do people within the confines of these borders live, vote, read and analyze the news, apply for jobs and get appointments, judge public office holders, and die in bomb attacks or to herdsmen as Nigerians or as members of other preferred identities?
Ultimately, the defining monument of this identity is the constitution, the chief point of reference for the administration of the state. Being a product of the Military dispensation synonymous with speed and force, the 1999 Constitution with its amendments abets impatience. It is not a product of patient, robust conversations by Nigerians on what their State should be. There is not the attachment of identity to it, certainly not the type that took South Africans four years to produce after the end of Apartheid in 1990, nor anywhere near that produced in the late 18th century America after independence from the tyranny of King George.
If there is an upside, perhaps Buhari’s rejection of restructuring could be a step in the formation of political parties driven by principles. With the growing sense of conviction in many quarters that a better Nigeria that will live to its potentials must begin with restructuring, 2018 could see the development of the Restructurers and the Anti-Restructurers, a dub of the Federalists and Anti-Federalists of the founding decades of America.
After all, Nigeria’s democracy, with the addition of other years before 1999, is really in its founding decades. It is somewhat ironic but the early years of democracy, due to the presence of freedom of opinion as opposed to command and control, are the decades of impatience. There should be open conversations about what methods are best adaptable to the heterogeneous 180 million people bound by “freedom, peace and unity”. For these not to be mere empty words, there must be the freedom to be impatient, so long as no harm is done in trying to prove one’s point.
The fruit of such conversations will be the emergence of that organic identity that fosters unity; when this identity is settled and unity engendered, patience will come naturally because there is something to believe in. But where the expression of identity remains stifled, suppressed emotions will usually stir strife.
Process is what emanates from a structure. But if the reverse is his argument, rather than foreclosing conversation on the latter, Nigerians should be looking forward to President Buhari’s expatiation of the matter in ‘The Anti-Restructurers Papers’.