In his enriching leadership vade mecum, ‘’From Third World to First’’, the Singaporean enigma, Lee Kuan Yew wrote he knew that Singapore would not survive the pressing challenges of the time if citizens’ attitude to governance, communal responsibility, institutional constructs, and the country did not change. To break the conundrum, Kuan Yew embarked on a series of disciplined and seminal reforms -- literally pulling water out of stone.
Singapore is a petite country -- with a population of about 2 million at the time of Kuan Yew and over 5 million as of 2021. However, the country is diverse, multireligious, multicultural and multiracial. The critical problems of nationhood, schisms, ethnic and religious tension, racially motivated violence, recriminations, fear and suspicion of ethnic domination, mutual suspicion, lack of accord, and vicious conspiracy theories were a string of Gordian knots asphyxiating the country when Kuan Yew became Prime minister.
Although two disparate cases, these vexations in old Singapore are the obstacles in the way of Nigeria’s social evolution, peace, and progress today. Principally, the Lee Kuan Yew example shows there is the place of leadership and there is the place of followership in building a country. Citizens have as much responsibility as the leadership. But it is fundamental for the leadership to be the rallying crucible; to be the trigger and nucleus for nation building.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu is in the saddle. It is a new dispensation. Renewed Hope is here. And the hope and expectations of Nigerians will not be cut short. Under President Tinubu, Nigeria shall thrive and triumph over every devilry and sinister machination. Nigeria shall prosper and the land shall know peace. The land shall bear fruit for all citizens, and our democracy nourished, and unity strengthened by our commitment and persistent resolve.
President Tinubu has begun on a very fine note. His disposition since he won the 2023 presidential election has been one of a unifier, comforter, and builder. He said prior to his inauguration: ‘’I seek a nation founded on justice, peace, prosperity for all, regardless of religion, region, ethnicity, and class. I seek a Nigeria that is for all Nigerians.’’
No Nigerian leader, in recent history, has shown this stuff of forthrightness, attunement and expansiveness at such a capricious time as now in the life of the nation. The president is clearly in full cognisance of the magnitude of today’s pesky challenges.
He has started well with accenting that which binds us together; by emphasising our strengths and unity, by holding out a hand of fellowship to all, and by affirming his place as the father of all Nigerians. A single speech can go a long way in determining the trajectory of things. It can establish trust, inspire hope, and patriotism. Martin Luther King Jr stirred a nation with his ‘’I have a dream speech’’, and Abraham Lincoln mobilised American consciences with his Gettysburg Address. A single speech can go a long way.
We cannot minimise the enormity of the task before the president. There is a gasping economy that needs a fillip; there is insurgency, kidnapping and banditry gnawing at the entrails of the country, and there is discordance, prejudice, and strife. The president has a full plate already and he will need all the support he can get.
It may be a tall order for some, but we all need to support the government to succeed, and as well hold it to its promises. Nigeria making progress means the government must succeed. It is our bounden duty as citizens to ensure that Nigeria makes progress. This is not a time for needless distractions and subterranean plots, but for solidarizing and communalising.
Nigerians across stations, persuasions and ideological and political leanings will need to play their role to keep the wheel steady and in forward motion. The civil society, the media, and we, occupiers of the office of the citizen, have our part to play. Nigeria is our collective patrimony. It is our responsibility to make it work. It is our responsibility to help the country heal.
In the book mentioned earlier, Lee Kuan Yew said what I found to be profound about the evolution of the media in Singapore and how it helped in building the country.
He said: "In the 40 years since 1959, the Singapore press has evolved away from the norms set by the colonial government. We brought this about by laying down out-of-bounds markers, mostly for our English-language media. They had been influenced by the British editors and reporters who used to be their superiors in the Straits Times group. It took many years before a younger generation of journalists in the 1980s recognised that the political culture of Singapore was and will stay different from the Western reporting styles and political attitudes of the American media, always sceptical and cynical of authority. The Chinese and Malay press do not model themselves on newspapers in the West. Their cultural practice is for constructive support of policies they agree with, and criticism in measured terms when they do not."
I know the Nigerian media is bubbling with a good number of patriots, and as an institution, it rises to the occasion when there is an urgency to steer the ship away from the tempest or the precipice.
We all need to rise to the occasion. We all have our part in healing Nigeria. But the leadership will need to set the tone and clear the path for citizens to follow. I believe it will.
God bless Nigeria.
By Fredrick Nwabufo, Nwabufo aka Mr OneNigeria is a media executive.