By Rev. Fr. Gerald Nwafor
Sometimes what we see is very different from what the facts are. I remember one of my professors talking about optical illusions and mirages. We were young philosophers at that point, so it was only about theory and education. Many years down the line, we were faced with the reality of what optical illusion may stand for, or in a broader sense, the application of mirages in our day-to-day lives. Not every pot belly had food inside it: some may have kwashiorkor, and some may have abdominal cancer.
Therefore, an optical illusion is the first step to investigating what may be presenting itself to the eyes. I read an article a long time ago that tried to debunk the common statement that calls Nigeria the giant of Africa. I followed the thought pattern of the author, but I did not agree with all he said. I agreed that we are maybe giant in population as the most populous black nation in the world, and the most populous nation in Africa. So, in number, we are the giant, other than that we are the dwarf of Africa.
The optics may be saying we are the giant because of the number of people walking the streets of Kano and Kaduna, not doing anything but begging with a rubber plate and ready to be used for any riot against political opponents, religious views, tribal differences, and economic and social demands. That perceived population strength is actually a weakness for Nigeria, because they are mostly out-of-school children.
We have the same problem in the main market, Onitsha, where out-of-school children have been turned into hawkers for pure water and soda drinks.When the optics look good, we need also to investigate because all that glitters is not gold. The government just passed a big budget for infrastructure, and we were celebrating before the economist in our midst told us that the optics look good but that the reality is this: firstly, most of the money in that budget will be borrowed from the IMF and some other foreign institutions. That 98% of the money will be used to service debts. Secondly, generations unborn will be left in debt, and if this pattern continues Nigeria could be a failed state in five years.
The celebration was cut short, and people are asking now what is in the budget. We want to know the specifics. Nigerians have seen that 1.5 billion alone was allocated to the vehicles for the First Lady of Nigeria and the House of Assembly members have over 7 billion allocated to their cars. I do not want to mention the state governors where over 300 million were used for entertainment monthly. What are they eating bikonu? Is it not the same vegetables and rice, foo-foo and ofe? The optics were not even considered here, because it is optically sickening and causes mental bewilderment.
The most annoying part of this financial rascality and insincerity is somebody coming to defend it on national television. I heard a long time ago when people were using it as a joke, “Do not pee at my back and tell me not to worry, that it is rainfall.” No, I know it was not a joke but a reality with the government of Nigeria today.Although the optics may be good or bad, in reality it is always good to consider the image, because about 50% of us may not have time to investigate the optics and discern when it is an illusion or reality.
I have a friend who smoked heavily. But he was very careful never to smoke in front of his kids. I asked him why he doesn’t smoke at home. He said that it was a bad habit he picked up from the university and did not plan to pass it down to his kids so that the cancer would not kill four for the price of one. He also opined that society does not look at smokers as responsible people. So, he would not like to fall into that optics in the eyes of his kids. Another friend does not smoke but has a bar filled with wine in his living room. He had his four kids smoking and drinking heavily. Every day, he is at loggerheads with the kids because of their drinking and smoking habits. I told him that optics matter a lot. The kids grew up looking at the bar in the living room.
And imagining what would be happening at the bar, they went ahead to put it into practice. I would say that our optics are sending out messages. If we are not very clear on our optics, they could be sending out conflicting messages. Our optics should be clear and unambiguous, we should not allow people to interpret our optics for us. You should not go where you are not supposed to go, so you need to swear to God to prove your mission.
The optics of the political organizers in Nigeria today are very confusing and bad. The optics of the judiciary are at the lowest moments in Nigerian history, and the optics of the ruling party are nothing to write home about either.Finally, I would not defend the indefensible. Nor should I uphold a failure.
Yakubu and INEC have shown that they are incapable of organizing a free and fair election. This is not only optical but also practical. The off-cycle election is a testament to what we saw in February and March. The judges in the judiciary who are departing from the constitution and stare decisis (the principle of following judicial precedent) are raping the public in broad daylight.
How can you not obey the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and how can an appeal court depart from the judgment of a supreme court of the land? What happened to the other principle of mandamus where the lower court is demanded to follow the rulings of the Supreme Court in similar cases? The ruling party is trying to change the national anthem into a political jingle by singing “Bola or your mandate we stand,” on the floor of the national assembly in place of the national anthem. The optics are really bad in Nigeria today.