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The fixers and the unfixable

Every country is beset with problems; problems that need to be fixed so the nation and its citizens can saunter and hum along the boulevard…

Every country is beset with problems; problems that need to be fixed so the nation and its citizens can saunter and hum along the boulevard of modern development. Problems are challenges. They invite brave men and women to tackle them. Problems are endemic in all societies. Without them, human beings would never be motivated to serve their countries. History remembers those who came, saw, fixed their countries’ problems and lifted them to new heights of progress and development.

Without problems, we would not have politicians. They are born and exist to fix what is broken. Sometimes they break what is not broken just so they can have something to fix. Democracy simplifies the process of recruiting the fixers who can fix our problems. Every election circle throws up men and women who tout themselves as the authentic fixers of what is broken. Democracy obliges us to believe them and give them the power to be the master fixers and the master problem solvers.

Some of our country’s problems are as old as yours sincerely. Many more are younger than yours sincerely. That they constitute challenges to every generation may point to the fact that human problems and their solutions are not linear but circular. My mind drifted to some of these lingering problems last night. I woke up wondering why they still make our country, and its leaders look like failed fixers and failed promise keepers. 

Power supply, the engine of modern development, became epileptic when I was a young man; it remains so in my old age; education, once the pride of our country, is a pathetic victim of contradictory policies and policy summersaults; potable water was a challenge in my village, Ikpeba; it still is as indeed it is in almost all our villages; corruption, the poison in the veins and the blood of our nation, remains defiant of military and civilian solutions and continues in its unholy determination to kill our country; insecurity, born after the civil war, beginning with armed robbery, today has many pikins such as bandits and kidnappers; Boko Haram has been waging a bloody war against the Nigerian state since 2009, it remains undefeated.

Weep not, brother. Nigeria is a lucky country in more senses than one. We have never lacked problems crying to be fixed; and we have never lacked men and women who believe they can fix them. We have had eight men in khaki who came because they felt the problems overwhelmed the agbada and baban riga men. They reasoned that our problems could not be solved through the tardy ways of bureaucracy but with immediate effect. 

Thank you, Governor Bala Mohammed

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Each came and waved the swagger stick at the problems and commanded them to disappear with immediate effect. Problems have bad manners, you know. They smirked and thumbed their noses at the generals. The generals left the stage but the problems they came to solve are still with us. There was no magic really, in the phrase, “with immediate effect.” It is a just a phrase with the naïve promise of an urgent solution.

The civilians returned in 1999. We have had four sets of them, each leading us on our weary journey to the never-nation for which we are permitted the luxury of dreaming about. I guess that President Olusegun Obasanjo must have been shocked to see that the problems he tackled as our military ruler in the middle to late seventies, were still waiting for him and chuckling as he assembled his team for the battle royale with them. 

By the time he left office, he believed that he had broken the backbone of some of the problems and they would no longer taunt his successors in government. He failed to reckon with the fact that some of our nastiest problems are like mosquitoes: they have the capacity to sniff and survive all insect killers.

President Buhari and the fixers who took office with him as state governors in 2015, have nearly exhausted their statutory period of eight years in office. In a few months’ time, they will yield place to their successors, a new set of fixers in the executive and the legislative branches of government who, as befits new sheriffs about to descend on the town, are loudly promising and assuring us that they are the new men chosen by God and sent by him to fix our problems. Come to think of it, all our political leaders, military and civilians, were God sent although I doubt that the Almighty was eventually mighty pleased with what they made of the opportunity to serve their nation and their people as political leaders. 

What will the outgoing set of big men be leaving behind for the new set of big men? These big men met armed robbery, kidnapping, corruption, epileptic power supply, potable water denied to millions of people, hospitals that are worse than consulting clinics, roads that were serious national challenges and Boko Haram that burdened the nation with internally displaced persons, Nigerians living as refugees in their own country. They also met separatist agitations in Igbo land and Yoruba land. They came to fix the problems they met, but the result is not a credit to their capacity as fixers. 

During their time in office, they saw our country turned into the poverty capital of the world with 138 million people officially classified as poor. They saw the emergence of banditry, killer Fulani herdsmen and a cocktail of other crimes and criminals. I think it is easy to see that they too will be leaving behind worsening national challenges—more crimes, more corruption, a dilapidated educational system assiduously producing certificated young men and women; a rising tide of unemployment with our young people who are the sons and daughters of nobodies wearing their cheap shoes chasing jobs that are either not there or are hoarded for the sons and daughters of somebodies. 

 In the circular nature of human progress and development, these problems have not been fixed. There must be a good reason why problems are passed on from one set of rulers to another. It may sound cynical but think of it this way: if a previous set of rulers had fixed these problems, what would we have expected their successors to do? If there are no problems to be fixed, politics and nations lose champions and aspirations to political leadership loses meaning. The more stubborn the problems are, the greater the challenge they offer brave men and women.

The president said he has done his best for the country. True. The state governors too claim they have done their best for their various states, even if most of them will leave their states with the detritus of their incompetence, poor and indifferent leadership that have done more harm than good to their states.  

Take note that the president and the state governors are not claiming that they fixed the problems they met and those that came of age during their time; they are only saying they have done their best. This should moderate our expectations from our new set of fixers who emerge after the general elections.

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