Time To Change Our Narrative


By Sunny Ikhioya

IN the past few weeks, the world has been awash with the news of the death of Senator John McCain of the United States of America and the burial ceremonies that followed. The lesson the John McCain life and times which  ricocheted round the globe, is that; we must promote values that transcends politics and party. President Barrack Obama said much on this during his eulogy.

The point is, it is a principle or policy that appeals to the conscience and common good of the people. Senator McCain stood for the things that he saw as right, not out of loyalty to party or friends, even at the risk of his own life. ADVERTISING ADVERTISING (COMBO) This combination of pictures created on August 24, 2018 shows US Senator John McCain and US President Donald Trump. One of John McCain’s final wishes, as he struggled against a devastating brain cancer, could not have been more clear: He made it known that he did not want Donald Trump to attend his funeral. US senator John McCain, a celebrated war hero known for reaching across the aisle in an increasingly divided America, died Saturday after losing a battle to brain cancer, his office said.

He was 81. In America, you can criticise the President and take a stand against his decisions and policies to any length.  The difference between us and them is the people’s reaction. In the US, it is seen as a normal practice in democracy; in Nigeria, you are denigrated and hounded by overzealous officials of government. There are always two sides of a story. Novelist Chimamanda Adichie went to America and talked about how the western world view Africa from only one perspective and cast us in such light.

If you tell an audience a one sided story, you will not be doing them justice and that will not improve their knowledge of situations. She recommended that the story be told from all sides. And, that is the problem with Nigeria, depending on your state of origin, ethnic background and religion, that is what your story is. Each group has its own story to tell and such stories, if unified, do no credit to the whole. There are missing links and gaps that need to be put together for a proper understanding of this geographical entity called Nigeria, and if her systems and structures are properly put together, Nigeria will emerge a great nation. But, if the missing links remain lost, getting the whole will remain a mirage.

In America, individuals like Senator  McCain are prepared to put the missing links together and tell truth to all the relevant  authorities, so that the truth is not distorted. We have the Press which is the fourth estate of the realm to check those in positions of authority, even at great cost to their convenience and existence. For three years now, President Donald Trump has been at war with the American press and ‘ the heavens have not fallen.’ Can this happen in Nigeria? We must change our narrative and go beyond the one sided approach to challenges that confront us. In this instance, we are all guilty as charged.

But there must be a deliberate and concerted effort on the part of all concerned to correct this or remain in the doldrums. The beauty of democracy is the presence of a strong opposition. We have seen this in the US, Britain, France, Germany and even India. The ability to win the people’s trust, despite the strong opposition is what makes democracy thrive. Let the people see all sides of the story or picture and give them room to make a choice. We are not doing things the right way and the people are suffering for it.

The leader of Dubai, Maktoum Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum says; “The government’s job is to achieve happiness for the people….Our objective is to make our people happy and there is no delaying happiness. Multiply the days of delay by the number of people, to calculate the years wasted in procrastination..”. These are the words of a leader whose job is to make his people happy. Are our leaders really ready to give happiness to Nigerians?

Then we must change our narrative. The people must come first in all that our leaders do. We must be ready to accommodate all shades of views and opinions, irrespective of the background and circumstance; whether they be from  friends or foes. It is better to strive at understanding your foe, so you can learn to bring down his activism sensibly, than by force. The ruling party for instance says the preceding government did untold damage to the country for 16 good years and it promised change.

About four years after in the saddle, the ruling party is now inviting the same people who caused the havoc to come and help continue with the status quo. How does this resonate with the people? A governor is in a particular party this week and the next week he has  switched over to the opposition party. When all efforts to get him to return to the ruling party fails, State security agents are sent after him. Does this make our narrative true? It is time to maximise the comparative advantage that every region and tribe in this country have to offer. We must promote values that transcend religion, ethnicism  and cronyism.

We must allow every side to tell its own story and accommodate them because that is the picture. The big picture is about the greatest of Nigeria. That is the challenge for those in public office  today. They must be ready to actualise the dreams of the people; of freedom and liberty, of shared prosperity and free practice of cultures across the land. A very focused government can get things fixed in four years. We must stop misleading the people with false and negative narratives.