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The mouths of babes speak truths that the hoary and the wise dare not utter. This may be an unusual way to begin an address on the political challenges that lie before us. But I have good reason for this unique entrance. I must add a caveat at this point. I do not stand here in my partisan garb. The partisan moment will soon come and I will actively engage in it when it does.
Today, I speak to you as your compatriot, a man who seeks the best for his family, community and nation. I am not here to contend with anyone. I am here that we may better understand one another. “From the mouths of babes…….” I repeat this phrase because of a talk with some young children a few weeks ago. One of the children raised his voice, saying the old people’s game will soon start.
The statement puzzled me as I could not guess the sport he meant. I was taken even more off guard when he answered my subsequent question by exclaiming: “politics.”The young boy described how politics seemed but a game. He explained that people joined parties which were nothing more than teams. Partisans dress in funny clothes with peculiar symbols on them, carry banners at big rallies in stadiums just like fans at a football match and politicians always boasting that the contest will be tough but they will beat the other side just like opposing footballers do. He concluded the only difference was victory in sports was measured by goals scored while in politics it was defined by votes gained.
Initially, I was amused by the boy’s observations. I tried to explain the differences between politics and games. Yet after the children left, I pondered his observations in earnest. It hit me that his comparison was more accurate than I dared admit. Too many of us for too long have treated politics as a game open only to an elite, exclusive club of players. The nation and the people constituted the pitch upon which the game would be decided. This incorrect mindset has misshaped our politics and injured the nation in ways mundane and profound.
Approaching nearly 60 years of independence, Nigeria remains a complex yet incomplete work of art, a project as much on the drawing board as it is our daily reality. For too many, Nigeria itself is a game. They are not wedded to the idea and ideals of Nigeria as a diverse and democratic but unified nation. They see the nation not as object of loyalty but as the most available platform to realize their personal aims. In their minds, Nigeria is lesser than their ever expanding ambitions. Because they view Nigeria as a game, their politics is but a game within a game. Instead of being a joyous nation, we have become a cruel playground where the fears and concerns of the average person get exploited but their interests never get promoted.
In this regard, 2015 was a watershed year. People jettisoned the political game as usual. They rejected worn political affiliations and superficial loyalties for a chance at substantive change.
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