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By Reno Omokri
The words that have emanated from some of our politicians especially over the course of the months leading up to 2015 have been too desperate, and antagonistic, tending towards brinksmanship and giving the impression that they see politics as a zero sum game and not as a vehicle to offer service to the people.
If our electoral and judicial processes had not been sanitized to the extent we have today where the only way you can win elections and stay in office is for people to vote for you, then one may understand, even if not agree, with those who are making these desperate calls. But our electoral and judicial processes have been sanitized and our press is completely free, so there is no reason for any popular candidate or party to either directly or through its agents make such calls.
We must make sure that as leaders and followers, the words that we speak over Nigeria are sweet words because we are going to eat them when they manifest as they surely will.
I can not for the life of me understand why anybody aspiring to lead Nigeria can go on a major foreign medium as Al Jazeera and tell the world that the nation he aspires to lead is a “failed state”!
If Nigeria is a failed state, then why aspire to lead her? Are you a failure yourself?
I can just imagine what was going through the heads of the producers at Al Jazeera when that statement was made.
I imagine them asking how any serious minded person can call the nation projected by CNNMoney to be the fastest growing economy in the world a “failed nation”.
I can imagine the executives at KPMG asking how plausible it was for any potential leader to call a nation whose coastal railway project was listed amongst the top 100 infrastructure projects in the world a “failed nation”.
The World Health Organization, WHO, recently commended Nigeria for containing and defeating the Ebola Virus Disease and asked nations like the United States to learn from us yet our own son describes us as a “failed state”!
One of the greatest tragedies of the modern world is that people seem to have lost awareness of the power of words and so we speak words about ourselves, our circumstances, our environment and our nation and are actually shocked when our situations do not change.
The fact of the matter is that anybody who believes the biblical account of creation in the book of Genesis (Jews, Christians and Muslims accept it as true) will find out, if he or she cares to study, that the original purpose of words were as a means for creation before they became a vehicle for communication.
A study of the first chapter in Genesis shows that from the first verse to the twenty fifth verse, God kept saying “let there be” and there was.
It is not until the 26th verse that we begin to see God use words for communication when He told the Elohim around Him of His plans to make man in His image.
So, what do we learn from those very first moments that led to the existence of both us and our planet?
It is my assertion that we learn that since we are made in God’s image, our words cannot be mere media of communication or of describing what we see.
I am convinced that our words create the atmosphere that we live in even when we think that it describes it.
Look again and see how it was with God in Genesis. God spoke and His words manifested in reality.
We are not as powerful as God so when we speak, our words do not immediately manifest into reality, but in the fulness of time they do.
If we do not get a realization of this truth, we will keep on dealing with effects instead of causes.
If we want peace in Nigeria, we have to do more than just fight terrorism and insecurity. We must have zero tolerance for words that threaten, promise or augur violence.
It is my considered view that if politicians can curtail their use of violent and bombastic words no matter their eagerness to ascend to power then our nation will have more peace than if we were to buy all the weapons in the world.
Weapons are like medicine. Any good doctor will tell you it is better to change your life style so that you do not get sick than to get sick and need medicine.
In the same vein, it is better for politicians to change their language so that they do not stir up murderous levels of hatred in their followers.
A Harvard Medicine Magazine article once said that we could avoid most infections and diseases by washing our hands before we eat.
I rather think that we can avoid a lot of the insecurity in Nigeria if politicians can wash their mouths before they speak.
Words are powerful!
I offer Nigerians an analogy of how powerful words are.
I have visited the offices of some of the largest websites in the world and out of curiosity I ventured to ask a web designer at a Fortune 500 company in the Silicon Valley of California about the functionalities of his firm’s site and he told me that a website is just a series of commands in programming language and that if just one letter of the command was incorrect the whole site would crash!
Nigeria is the sum total if the commands that leaders pass on to the led and if just one of those commands is incorrect the end result could be unpalatable!
In the book ‘Words That Built a Nation’, Marilyn Miller argued the case that America became the great nation that she is today because of the words of her Founding Fathers. Most notably, she showed how the seasoned and diplomatic words of the philosopher, Benjamin Franklin, helped move America away from war and into peace then into prosperity.
Benjamin Franklin realized that for America to attain her potentials as a nation, her politics must be a contest of ideas. He once warned American leaders of the danger of speaking in anger and said “anger is never without a reason, but seldom with a good one”.
Aristotle said law is reason free from passion. If we accept this as true,it therefore follows that unlawfulness is passion devoid of reason.
Let us be passionate and reasonable. Words devoid of reason is like power devoid of control.
Let me now say that Nigerians have nothing to fear from the coming elections.
The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. Under President Goodluck Jonathan, elections have held nationwide and then in Anambra, Edo, Ondo, Ekiti, Osun and Niger.
All these elections have been free, fair and credible and upheld the President’s popular mantra of ‘One man one vote. One woman one vote. One youth one vote’.
Given that that is the case, any threats, whether they be of parallel governments or bloodshed or resistance or rejection, are totally uncalled for!
Given that we have a leader with such a disposition and history I think it serves everybody best to speak words that build a nation henceforth and forever!
And the media has a role to play here. Rather than give front page prominence to people who would poison the minds of our young people by calling for violence and bloodshed, the media can ‘write’ them out of relevance by ignoring them until they get the idea that if they want to make headlines it is better to speak reasonably than to speak threateningly.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to President Jonathan on New Media.