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This is the truth we are uncomfortable often speaking about: Nigeria's political set isn't possessed of the smart or the perceptive.
It used to make mad. So angry. I lived trough the 2011-15 version of this reality in anger. But I can no longer muster anger, just sadness,
You look at the past few days for instance. On the one hand, a debilitating clueless about the art of action, even of explanation.
As the excuse for an inert administration moves from rodents to public holidays. Plus a complicit VP, whose silence is indicting.
Then, on the other handed a ham-handed would be candidate who is stomping around making the very same mistakes that make him unappealing.
It leads me to the question I often asked anytime I was lucky to be seated in high level political meetings: these are the minds leading us?
It's really not a surprise that our nation is the way it is. It is not led by people with the capacity for depth, for thought.
But more than that, and this is not a strong word, but it is an important one, we do not have leaders that are ... contemplative.
They don't consider life's big questions with thoughtfulness or complexity. Our political leaders are incapable of both.
They don't... contemplate.
There is no evidence of an interior life. Of days, or nights, spent in reflection, in a space of expanded consciousness.
of actions and consequences, of cause and effect, of engagement with space, time and history.
This is not a small problem. It's a huge one. It's the base, as it were, of all the other problems.
You get the distinct sense that President Buhari is truly confused as to why his employers what to know what ails him, and why.
You get the sense Atiku truly doesn't understand simmering anger at old political class, when we suffer the failure of one of its members.
You get the sense that the undeclared candidate sitting atop the Senate still doesn't understand the emotional dimensions of frustration.
There is no evidence that any of these guys derive philosophy, or impetus for action from a person of deep, even shallow ... contemplation.
We have had contemplative leaders. One reads the books of Ojukwu and Awolowo and finds people who questioned their place in the world.
Who confronted the anxieties of consciousness and identity. Who grasped their place in the continuity of history.
Ojukwu's reach for Biafra, unlike many of our coup plotters, if accounts of history are right, didn't come from a reactionary anger.
Or a misplaced sense of time and space. It came from an internal struggle about the nature of Nigeria's reality, and the coming abyss.
Ojukwu apparently struggled with difficult questions, assaulted with them the fullness of a continuous mind. Then he acted from that place.
And the regret, and acquiescence that followed his life came from the palpable sense of failure he felt that his answers were inadequate
Of course, the long chain of so called heirs from Uwazurike to the present incarnate are people devoid of that capacity to do mental battle.
Awolowo too, often seen as a man of "action" was instead more importantly a man of careful thought. And he though long and hard
both about the nature of Nigeria's present (at his time), the pathways to the future, and his place in it.
'Free education' wasn't a bland campaign promise from a person seeking to score cheap voters. It was for him an existential necessity.
He was as driven by this necessity as one saw Barack Obama driven by the necessity of universal healthcare. As in, non negotiable.
What is non negotiable to this set of power players? What is the base of activity of desire beneath which they will not go?
What are the value safeguards that determine some sort of philosophy, some sort of ideas framework that guide them?
It is deeply absent. So the ensuring conversations are bland, uninspiring, banal. They are almost not worth having.
It is of cos part of reason I no longer find anger useful. Anger, possibly, led me to confuse silence on the part of PMB w/ contemplation.
One thought, in the 30 year gap since last, temporal hold on power, he had carefully reconsidered the questions he had asked of self.
And had reached new answers. One assumed those new answers drove the hunger to make things right. It appeared, completely, that I was wrong.
Instead, he - like the long chain of others before him, save for perhaps OBJ, appear incapable of the humility of reflection.
And without reflection, one can't develop the crucial leadership capacity to feel, to emote, to wrestle the complexities of... leadership.
Or what those who study these things have shorthanded as emotional intelligence. & that intelligence is the most crucial one for leadership.
Russia's Putin wrote an NYT piece year's ago arguing passionately against the idea of American exceptionalism.
John McCain, wrote a rejoinder, making it clear that he had thought also of the same issues, and resolutely disagreed with Putin, of course.
What struck me was that these were ideas - not just intellectual, but emotional, that these guys had wrestled with for years before.
You read Obama's closing interviews with @tanehisicoates and you saw that same thing. His contemplation animated his battles.
So when Putin (allegedly) hacks America's elections, he does it from a place or contemplated conviction. It is not just crass power play.
He deeply believes it is his duty, demanded by history and by his leadership of his country, to counter weight American leadership.
Those ideas, those emotions are the building blocks for his actions and for the institions he chooses to build.
We don't have those like that here. Sadly, not just in political leadership, but also in so-called intellectual conversation.
We don't wrestle big questions. We don't arrive at suitably complex answers. We just exist, withou confronting the nature of our existence.
And sorry, but a politics, or a political class, that emerges from that cannot give what it doesn't have.
So at the end of the day, we are missing this crucial necessity for leadership. We don't have leaders with the capacity to lead.
We have become, by sad default, a nation of followers being led by followers.
And this here, even more the fact that we under-estimate the scale of this problem, is why we will be here for quite a while.
No I can no longer summon rage. Or pretend that it is enough. Achebe collapsed into a heap of despair upon confronting this.
I cannot vote for despair. But at least sadness is an appropriate reaction. Sadness comes from a place of contemplation.
Sadness is a useful starting point.
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