Pat: I am so glad we could do this at last

Jemike: It seems there are never enough hours in the day

Pat: How was General’s funeral?

Jemike: It went very well. It was as grand as we all knew it would be. Security was very tight. My Aunt and I drove up to the VIP Marquee for one of the ceremonies. The soldiers positioned there would not allow us to drive through. They were told that this is the wife of the chief mourner but they refused to listen. It was not a long distance but we were both in high heels. My Aunt said, ‘Whatever happens, we must never have military rule in this country again’.

Pat: She is so right. Some people have been saying that Africa will be better off with ‘benevolent dictators’ in place, rulers like the late Gadhafi and Jerry Rawlings. We also have those who gradually evolved before our very eyes after showing great promise, men like Museveni of Uganda and Kagame of Rwanda.

Jemike: People will argue that countries like Uganda and Rwanda are better off for it. When I first started visiting Uganda in 1996, Kampala was such a small, underdeveloped place. Rwanda is now one of the best countries to do business with in Africa. Rawlings brought discipline to Ghana.

Pat: Remember that famous line of Obama’s when he visited Ghana on his first trip to Africa as President, ’Africa needs strong institutions not strong men’. What happens to Rwanda today should Kagame die suddenly? Does Museveni think Uganda cannot survive without him? Let us just agree that the people of Zimbabwe have decided to just wait for Mugabe to die of old age, how has his many years in power helped Zimbabwe in recent years?

Jemike: If our leaders don’t build strong democratic institutions that will outlast them, then we will keep taking five steps forward and ten back. The legislature, judiciary, law enforcement, electoral processes, educational systems, media, budgeting mechanisms, all these need to be strengthened to enable us develop strong democratic cultures.

Pat: What if our own understanding of democracy is different from that of the West? Perhaps we are not suited for Western style democracy since we have our own history, culture, and understanding of leadership.

Jemike: Haba my sister, let us not go there. Any time we want to refer to global best practices in human rights and democracy we revert to claiming our own ways of doing things as if we have tyranny in our DNA. Many of our traditional systems recognized the need for a balance of power, accountability and checks and balances. In the Old Oyo empire, no matter how powerful the Alaafin was, his authority was mediated by his council known as the Oyomesi. It was a sophisticated system that lasted for centuries till colonialism ruptured what was in place.

Pat: I agree with you my sister. We need to stop praying for big men and messiahs and focus on the durability of our systems. That way we move away from having endless and time-wasting debates about who signs a country’s budget when the President is away on sick leave. How is that even a debate? Look at the US. What they have going for them now is that they can survive a President Trump because they have built in a range of processes for ensuring that the systems protect the country and are not there just to serve the interests of the occupant of the White House. The end result of all this is that whoever is in a leadership position serves the people at the pleasure of the people and not the other way round.

Jemike: Hmmmm. As for the Americans, it sounds like they are making things up as they go along. Even their so called systems have not prepared them for this kind of White House. I beg, let us talk about our own problems. Did you read the story about the Senator who was turned back from visiting his own hometown? It turned out that the news was fake, but I keep hoping that it will happen to some of those National Assembly members.

Pat: Now, that is one way of deepening democracy, when accountability is an integral part of representation. But you know why it is very unlikely for a  representative to be turned back from his or her constituency no matter how prodigal they might be? The power of patronage. Even though constituents are unhappy with the way they are being represented, they will also not turn back a son or daughter who might bring them jobs, money or gifts. This is a key driver of corruption. Representatives are supposed to help make laws and carry out oversight functions but they spend most of their time cutting deals. Without money in their pockets they can’t go home because of all the obligations they have.

Jemike: You can say that again. You have to feel sorry for leaders sometimes. People believe there is a money tree planted in the backyard of every political leader or wealthy person. The demands are relentless. I am sure you know the saying that one rich person in the midst of ten poor people is the eleventh poor person. You give and give till you have nothing else and you are still called all kinds of names. Even those you help join other people in insulting you behind your back because they don’t want to admit that you have helped them.

Pat: It is still no excuse for corruption. The reason why people have to rely on their leaders for all manner of things is because the system keeps failing them. You manage to send your children to school, raising money all kinds of ways because you have not got a salary in six months, and your child graduates and joins millions of others in the ranks of the unemployed. You spend more time in church than working because prayers are the only way to get a job, survive poor health, accidents on bad roads, kidnappings and so on. I called a caterer I often use a while ago to offer her a catering gig. I could not reach her for three days. Guess where she was? At a church program. Her phone was switched off for three days!

Jemike: You cannot blame people for praying for miracles. One of the latest prayers in town is ‘God, please make me a whistleblower’! How can people believe their leaders don’t have money when they keep finding millions of dollars in underground pits  and safes?

Pat: Sometimes it sounds as if people do not mind if their leaders steal, as long as they are generous with their stolen wealth! Ha, we have a problem o.

Jemike: Corruption is what makes it next to impossible to get good leaders in place. All the young people and women who have been shut out of leadership because the space has been taken over by old, rich men who keep perpetuating themselves in power might be able to make a difference.

Pat: Our democratic space does need to be more inclusive and requires an injection of new faces and voices. However, I don’t see why we have to sacrifice one for the other. Since when did experience and age become anathema to us as Africans? Not all older leaders are corrupt and inept and not all young people or women are saints. We need a consensus on what transformative leadership looks like and an understanding that the drivers of new ways of thinking and doing things can be from any generation.

Jemike: Absolutely my sister. Look at what happened with the issue of the Chibok girls. There were two levels of accountability at play. The Bring Back our Girls Campaign has been resolute in their demands for the return of the girls, heckling the government to do more. The campaign has thrown up old and new leadership. The government has also been working hard behind the scenes to secure the release of the girls. It is not the role of the BBOG campaign to be nice or polite. No parent is polite when their children are in danger. It is the responsibility of the government to use all its powers and resources to protect its citizens. Everyone has a role and everyone should have a voice.

Pat: I can’t believe that people are still calling the Chibok kidnappings a hoax. Hey are saying the girls look too healthy and well-dressed to have been held captive in a forest for three years.

Jemike: Don’t mind them. Anyone who says so should go and donate their own daughters to live with crazy fellows in the bush. Even one of the government spokespersons did not help matters. Did you hear him say that ‘there is no evidence of abuse, they all seem to be very well’. Is he for real? So the poor girls should carry signs of abuse and torture written on their foreheads?

Pat: I am glad they have finally been reunited with their families. Let us pray that the others return home safely, we don’t care how it is done or what they look like. They have suffered enough. Perhaps you should run for office? You would make a very good leader.

Jemike: Hahaha! Thank you my sister but no thanks. I can lead from anywhere. Leadership is about making things happen and serving people. You don’t need to run for office to accomplish that. We should all lead from where we are, using whatever platforms we have. We need to celebrate values such as hard work, discipline, compassion and selflessness. That is a start to building the strong institutions we need.

Pat: You are not having dessert?

Jemike: No my dear. ‘Body magic’ is too uncomfortable and if I do more than thirty minutes on my treadmill I will just drop dead. There shall be no vacancy in my household.


Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at BAF@abovewhispers.com




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19 Responses to LOUD WHISPERS: Over Dinner

  1. Dom Dom May 22, 2017 at 12:18 pm

    Always in point. The wrongs in our country are just endless but this has really summarized everything. Things really need to change

  2. Femi Diipo May 22, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Sometimes when I read articles like this i wonder if things will ever get any better. Our problems and issues as a country are so obvious and apparent, as well as the solutions as this article as even stated most of them. But why do they seem so impractical, why can’t they just start materializing?

  3. Kate Adams May 23, 2017 at 2:04 pm

    This is true. Our traditional system had great value more than the ‘borrowed’ system we have now. we are educated but blind and this is eating deep into our system.

  4. Shola Ademide May 23, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Whenever I come here, I learn every time. I wish those in leadership will come here and learn.

  5. Lamide May 23, 2017 at 2:07 pm

    If only we would build strong institutions which cannot happen without us getting people who understand the basic precepts of governance. Not touts that try to flaunt as human beings.

  6. kolade Wilson May 23, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Can our society change? Can we have something tangible in this society? We know our problems but can we have a lasting solution? Seriously, the solutions should be what we will emphasis on. We know our issues already.

  7. Maureen Adams May 23, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    Whistle blowing prayer point is a serious thing o. I am praying for my own gig too. This society has made us lose hope in hard work because those that don’t deserve it at all run the millions and those that are hard workers and faithful face depression.

  8. Olushola Aderanti May 23, 2017 at 2:23 pm

    @maureen, you are very right. Our society has made us tarnish good works to doing dirty works. Corruption is the air of the day and it’s affecting good and honest citizens.

  9. Akpes May 23, 2017 at 4:39 pm

    All hope is not lost, things can always get better with Nigeria provided we ourselves are doing the right thing.

  10. Akpegbe May 23, 2017 at 4:47 pm

    Like seriously there is no excuse for corruption.it’s either you are good or bad. Leadership is all about service but here in African especially Nigeria, its all about themselves & loved ones. They don’t care about the Masses’ welfare.

  11. kes May 23, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    This is very educative I must confess. Whistleblowing prayer point can’t be avoided a all, that’s a course one can’t afford to carry in Nigeria. #proudly9ja

  12. Princess May 23, 2017 at 4:59 pm

    When situations become unbearable people devise new methods to suit their sphere. People now pray in tongues on the road all because of the country’s unbearable hardship they call it tongue strolling. This is no joke at all cuz am a living witness.

  13. Ebonychyqui2 May 23, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    Africans have the highest tolerance level I must confess, despite the turmoil we are still suffering and smiling. Fela might not be a pastor but he was a great prophet!

  14. Olakunle Olajide May 24, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    Yes. Be a leader wherever you are. The change in the Democratic system can only start from respective individuals. We are the people. Nice conversation.

  15. Adeshina Oye May 24, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    This is great. This is actively engaging and I wish we will get somewhere positive in this Nation.

  16. olanrewaju May 24, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Nigeria will be better someday, sometime.

  17. Amina May 24, 2017 at 9:23 pm

    I don’t think corruption can ever leave this system. We just have cycles of the people destroying our system in all the systems that should work. All those in the national assembly where put there by those ‘Kabals’ that ate our society rotten.

  18. Oluwatosino May 25, 2017 at 12:09 am

    Great conversation… Truth be told. Our leaders needs purification of heart. Their is still hope for Nigeria. Am very positive about my country. God help us ijn

  19. Princess May 27, 2017 at 2:26 pm

    At Amina corruption can and would leave Nigeria. The change starts with us all, let’s just be good ambassadors of Nigeria in all our endeavours!


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