‘’……New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of,
There’s nothin’ you can’t do,
Now you’re in New York,
These streets will make you feel brand new,
Big lights will inspire you.
Let’s hear it for New York, New York, New York……………’’
The wordings above are culled from the refrain of a very popular song, ‘Empire State of Mind’ rendered by one of America’s best gifts to the entertainment world, Jay-Z. The song which featured the sonorous voiced diva, Alicia Keys, gave Jay-Z his first number one single on the bill-board hot 100 as a lead artist, in his 14yr illustrious career. Suffice it to say that l find the wordings of this particular song quite inspiring especially given the background of its composition and eventual release.
If an opinion poll is carried out amongst the peoples of the world, there would be no prizes for guessing that the result thereof would show that different people are inspired by different things as well as circumstances; ranging from the mundane to the critical. Therefore, it was yet another inspiring moment for me when the just concluded Para-Olympic games in London came to a glorious end. However, one particular event, the finals of the women 200m T11 opened for me a completely different window of inspiration. To be clear, the T11 category of track events is for the completely blind, and it was here the Brazilian Jhulia Santos held the world captive. Running in lane 8, Jhulia and her runner guide tripped and fell while the other competitors raced to the finish line. Realising that she had lost the race, she remained on the tracks and just when you thought she would simply walk off it, Jhulia stood up, braced herself and ran to the finish line. This was at a time when the winner of the race had all but concluded her victory lap. It was therefore no wonder that the whole stadium stood up in rapturous ovation.
And so, having opened that window of inspiration in London, the breath of fresh air (not the variant we all know too well about in these parts), that waltzed through it could be felt in far away Charlotte, North Carolina in the United States of America. And the occasion couldn’t have been better than the Democratic Party’s National Convention. No matter what is enunciated about this nation aptly referred to as God’s own country, one thing anyone can’t vilipend is the sagacious disposition of its leaders, both past and present, to inspire its people. And inspire, in an awesome demeanour, Michelle Obama, the beautiful wife of the America President did, when she took centre stage to deliver a speech that was greeted with an approbation that is still reverberating throughout America.
Living the American dream is a cliché that exemplifies leadership by inspiration for the American people and that is why you find the citizens of this country mouthing it as confidently as they would render their national anthem. It is a cliché that connotes the determination of a nation to ensure that all a citizen has to do to fulfil his or her God given potentials, is simply to dream it. Literarily! The founding fathers of the American nation envisioned this dream, and successive governments have not only cultivated it but have strove to certify that this dream is kept alive in the lives of every and any American who keys into it. The question that readily comes to mind as a Nigerian is how they have been able to do this consistently in their 236year old history as an independent nation. Not surprisingly, the answer is quite simple; ensuring that the social contract between the leader and the led as espoused by the constitution is not in breach.
A very instructive part of Michelle Obama’s awe inspiring speech at the DNC which struck a chord in me, is the part where she said;
‘’…….And l’ve seen how issues that come across a President’s desk are always the hard ones- the problems where no amount of data or numbers will get you to the right answer….the judgment calls where the stakes are so high, and there is no margin for error. And as President, you can get all kinds of advice from all kinds of people. But at the end of the day, when it comes to make that decision, as President, all you have are your values, and your vision, and the life experiences that make you who you are……….’’
Nigeria presents a completely different proposition in the execution of social contracts, the basis for which any citizen should attempt to dream. Ours is a situation where it is easier to get the chestnut out of the fire than for our leaders to uphold the tenets of the constitution. In these climes, we are inundated with puerile explanations of how President Jonathan is surrounded with men (and women it MUST be said) who ill-advise him and shield him from the harsh realities of the state of our nation. But l am not fooled and l also do not expect any discerning mind to be. As Michelle rightly said, ‘….l have seen firsthand that being President doesn’t change who you are- it reveals who you are’. However, given our penchant for defending the indefensible, l would suggest , granted the assumption President Jonathan is surrounded by the proverbial wolves in sheep clothing, that Reuben Abati as a matter of urgency makes Michelle Obama’s speech as ubiquitous as is permissible to President Jonathan. And l have a few suggestions.
Copies of the speech should be spiral bound and placed in conspicuous places such as his dining table. Nothing would beat reading that speech with an appendage of a bite of cassava bread and a sip of fresh fish pepper-soup. His bedroom should have a copy, for reading relaxation while sharing bedtime jokes with Aunty Pershe. A copy should also adorn his table in the council chambers and his restroom at the villa (recall Fela said something about expensive shit). Copies should be burned into DVDs and played as part of in-flight entertainment in the Presidential Jet, as well as his bullet proof Daimler-Chrysler monster. Finally, the President’s laptop and smart phones should have the speech as their default home screen. My thinking is with constant perusal of and listening to this speech, he may yet begin to appreciate the fundamentals of inspirational leadership, one that would provide the platform to bring an end to the Nigerian nightmare.
As presently constituted, the Jonathan Presidency is epitomized by effeminate luxury, a penchant for unbridled profligacy, and a myopia of ideas that is hilarious at best, and befuddling at worst. But there is hope. He says he would become the most praised President but that can only be achieved through a broad based spectrum of people-centric initiatives and good governance style. I long for the day when as Nigerians, we can also utter and proudly too that, we are living the Nigerian dream.
Michelle Obama inspired me. My wish is that her speech would also inspire President Goodluck Jonathan!
• The writer’s footprints are visible on twitter as @9jaBloke