One of the most important stories that any one of us has ever heard is the story of the six blind men and the elephant. There’s no need recapping the entire story here except to point out that the where the six each saw a pillar, a rope, a tree branch, a hand fan, a wall and a spear, were right. And they were wrong.
This story is important because it brings about the issue of perspective, an issue that will assume increasing importance in this country as we move further away from the 2015 general elections, and close to the 2019 general elections. Perspective, in real terms is very simple — we can both be looking at the same thing, but from different positions, which means that there is a slight difference to what we see. Politically, this means that we can both be looking at the same problem, and actually be seeing the same solution, but have different ways of approaching that solution.
This is why it is very important, to have access to as much information as possible, and not to close the door to even the information that you do not like to hear. Remember our talk about echo chambers just over a week ago?
Now, Nigeria is clearly in a messed up state right now, there is no denying it. This country has been messed up for ever, and things are getting worse. We cannot provide the most basic amenities for our people, and personally, I find it embarrassing that we are still at a level where in presidential campaigns, the issues are about elementary stuff such as roads, power and water. At that level, the discussion should be about highfalutin stuff such as trade deals, external relations, the structure of our country. Things such as roads, power and water, should be for the sole administrator of my LCDA (I used to know his name, thanks so much Uncle Ambode).
This brings me right back to where we started. The six blind men. Something is wrong with Nigeria. What is it? To me, an Igbo chap resident in Lagos, it is a lack of real authority for the successor to Dele Oyesanya, who used to be Chairman of Ikosi LCDA, before he was replaced two weeks ago. To someone else, say Tarilate Tamuno, it is that her immediate environment has been so polluted, she cannot plant even corn, that most resilient of weeds. To Chinedu Aniegbunam, Igbo civil servant living in Amawbia, it is that his best chance for career advancement can never come at the federal level because of his ethnicity. For Abu Sherrif, living in Kano, it is that Islam does not encompass every facet of his daily life. For Bamidele Ogunleye, it is that I, came from somewhere East of him, and I have taken his job. These are all valid concerns, and like the views of the elephant, they are all wrong.
Yes, there is a problem. But we cannot see the problem, if we do not sit down, talk about our concerns, and just as importantly, listen to others talk about their concerns.
This is one of the beauties of this democracy thing that we have decided to import. It gives everyone a chance to talk. It also gives everyone a chance to be heard. Sadly, in our country, we have developed a habit of wanting to talk, and then attempting to push our own narrative, as if it is the only valid narrative. This can never work. What it leads to, is people getting very angry with everyone else, and some taking up arms, so they will be heard. Does that sound familiar?
It is also very important, no vital, for us to note this — no single idea is ever the most superior. Every great idea has to undergo refinement before it gets better. Refinement can only happen when the idea is put up for scrutiny, and coldly, sometimes brutally torn to pieces, holes picked, filled with other ideas, then put together again. There is no other way. Alternative voices matter. It is important to at least listen to them, so there can be progress.
Disagreements are not a bad thing. Being disagreeable, is bad. Let’s learn to disagree, without being disagreeable.