Yes, that was a difficult read but not because it begins with words about a vision from God.
No, there is nothing wrong with Fela Durotoye’s opening statement. It does not point directly to the coming elections but is instead a reflection on his beginnings as a motivational speaker and his career as life coach. While assessing its value and content, it should be considered that the speech published online on ThisDay was orally delivered at a ‘TeamFD’ roundtable event. It was not a prepared “speech” in the sense that we know such to be, or one written as an op-ed for publication. It’s important because some see the speech as evidence of how more candidates can be revealed as being without substance when they write.
However, the aspirant must have been okay with the idea of his speech being published in one of the nation’s top dailies. The article will now be used as a reference with which to evaluate his policy plans and capacity. On that note, it is not good news for Fela; his campaign might become as difficult to sell as his article was difficult to read.
Is Fela’s repeated invocation of “God” reasonable in 2018 for a presidential aspirant in multi-religious Nigeria?
Science, law or philosophy could be an individual’s external reference or motivation for the choices they make and public actions they take. For Mr Durotoye, it appears to be “God”. It should not be a problem to the extent that he does not divine (instead of define) Nigeria’s troubling issues, relying solely on divine intervention as his framework for public policy. His vision that Nigeria “will be undoubtedly the world’s most desirable nation to live in” is a much-needed profession of positivity that should not be discarded because he has claimed to hear it from God.
Fela stated his ideas on how to make a nation from the country that Nigeria still is. He identified four things: “a common heritage, A common language, A common culture and ultimately a common value system“. The fourth is arguably the only necessity if we consider that multicultural societies – comprising groups of people without a common heritage, language or culture – have welded well to become nations. Fela also talks about giving people “an overriding sense of purpose” as requisite for nation building, while carving “a clear assignment for that generation of people to say if we are going to make our vision come to pass, this is what we must do on a daily basis“. Fela also lists 10 values which he believes will “define who the new Nigeria is and in a way“. There are a number of things to debate (and debunk) in that speech; it should not be dismissed because it begins with an appeal to religion.
Because it was not a written piece, there are long stretches of compound sentences. It makes for tough, tiring reading. Being also a speech given without notes to an audience comprised of volunteers and close allies, the frequency of the recourse to the divine by mentioning God often should not offend.
Motivation or direction are important in evaluating leaders. But the key questions between now and 2019 should focus on what aspirants think of Nigeria, their appreciation of the challenges and how they will apply themselves in solving them. Some may perform below subjective expectations on motivation but unless they fail to answer the key questions, it would be premature to dismiss them.
By Alexander O. Onukwue | Follow @inquizimedia on Facebook and Twitter