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Simon Kolawole’s ‘Fellow Nigerians, It’s all politics’: Musings of a patriot

Simon Kolawole’s ‘Fellow Nigerians, It’s all politics’: Musings of a patriot
September 29
10:28 2022

On Monday, October 3, Simon Kolawole, the chief executive officer of Cable Newspapers, releases his long overdue debut book, ‘Fellow Nigerians, It’s all Politics’. With this, Kolawole honours his uncommon art and talent and gives immeasurable joy to his many loyal followers.

Few in the Nigerian commentariat class have the competence and passion that Kolawole brings to the table. Over an uninterrupted 22-year-old period, this journalist of note has intervened in various aspects of national life with a stamina that is uncommon for the average analyst.

Why does anyone need significant stamina to contribute to debates in Nigeria?

Nigeria can suck the best out of those who have a passion for her. People of this country whether leaders or followers are stuck in the very ways that set the nation back. And when you speak about the same issues repeatedly without a commensurate change in the habits of the people, it is only human to seek a more profitable venture and let such hard-necked people wallow in their foolhardiness. It is therefore phenomenal to make Nigeria your business, week in and week out, for over two decades and counting.

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Yet, being a columnist is not just about the ability to write. It is about perspectives; the ability to see things differently and advance arguments that expand the understanding of the average person. To achieve success with this unique privilege of shaping opinions, there is a demand for discipline at varying levels. Like any routine, maintaining a column can be monotonous, even burdensome, but a good columnist cannot abandon his duty post. So, you must have the discipline to write, no matter how you feel. You must also be dispassionate in your commentary, discounting your personal sentiment no matter how strong they are. To be taken seriously, and perhaps to contribute to national development, the writings of a columnist must inspire confidence in a way that only patent objectivity can.

These and more are what Simon Kolawole presents to the world in ‘Fellow Nigerians. It’s all Politics’. The 337-page collection, with the apt subtitle, “Perspectives on the Nigerian Project,” comprises 60 essays, which are divided into eight parts. Of these 60 essays, five, which open the book, are classified as “unpublished works,” a categorisation implying that the five essays are coming into public view for the first time. Interestingly, they represent some of the overarching themes of most of his interventions.

Over the years, Kolawole has advocated for good governance and citizenship. He has written extensively about how Nigeria can, like everything man-made, improve on its practice of federalism in instalments, while making the best of the opportunities that the 1999 constitution (as amended) provides. His writings identify various ways in which this constitution allows sub-nationals to optimise their capacity and how governors waste opportunities. They talk about how the federal character principle is beneficial for a diverse society like Nigeria but emphasise how a country should not sacrifice merit for expediency.

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Kolawole argues that breaking up Nigeria will not solve the country’s problems and gives copious examples of internal conflicts that many sub-groups grapple with. Then, there is good, responsible, and responsive citizenship; Nigeria’s peculiar corruption mess; the trouble with the leadership selection process; the lies the country tells herself about economic diversification; and how to help medium and small-scale businesses, among other important socio-economic concerns. He celebrates outstanding people from all walks of life and gives Nigerians hope that all could be well if we put out acts together.

The first essay in this section is ‘The Value of a Nigerian’s Life’. Here, he draws a parallel between development and respect for human life. He postulates that the sanctity a society places on the lives of its citizens is proportional to its level of development. The author also argues that life would be much better for Nigerians if their leaders devoted “a fraction of the time they assign to politicking and politics to governance”. Drawing inferences from the country’s poor emergency services, the failure of hospitals to treat people with gunshot wounds without police reports (while some societies will first save the lives of criminals) and the state of the supply of safe water in the country, he laments the neglect of the welfare of Nigerians by their leaders.

While many governors and ministers, who cannot boast of significant achievements on their watch, spent N100 million on presidential nomination forms, the people are wallowing in poverty; he notes. In the end, he suggests that “competent and patriotic leadership is the ultimate solution if we want to dismantle the roadblocks on our path to greatness”.

In the electioneering handbook for Nigeria, he replays the shenanigans of Nigerian politicians and their support during every election session. He speaks about the shameful practice of promoting political aspiration by proxy, endless scuffles resulting from party primaries, lack of internal democracy within the parties, the deployment of sectional and religious sentiments, allegations and counter allegations of rigging, the inability to lose fairly and the rampant manipulation of the courts. The search for a perfect president counsels Nigerians on tempering their expectations of leaders, given that all humans are prone to frailties.

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In drawing a veil over the hijab hysteria, he addresses the unfortunate incident that led to the death of a pupil at the Oyun Baptist High School, Ijagbo in Kwara state and admonishes Nigerians to live and let live by respecting the rights of others.

The last essay in this section, and probably for good reason, is ‘Abba Kyari: The missing headlines’. This piece reveals intrinsic but unheralded components of Kolawole’s personality and, ultimately, writings. While his understanding mostly comes from a well-informed background enriched by the relationships he has built over the years, this writer avoids name-dropping like you would avoid a plague. It is hard to see him peddle his influence in his writing or flaunt an achievement without cause and when he does, it is usually in an unobstructed, hardly noticeable way. The death of Mallam Abba Kyari, former chief of staff to President Muhammadu Buhari of COVID-19 complications in April 2020, upset that restraint momentarily.

Upon Kyari’s death, Kolawole wrote a tribute, which ruffled feathers amongst some people who disliked Kyari and lacked the temperament to respect Kolawole’s right to associate with and mourn a friend. ‘Abba Kyari: The missing headlines’ came one year after Kyari’s death as a memorial and riposte to those who would prefer to continue to sell the late COS as a villain. With this essay, he vindicates himself as loyal without being patronising, and respectful, yet fearless!

In seven other parts, namely: Most Popular; Politics and Politicking; Leaders and Leadership; Nation and Nationhood; Democracy and Development; Economy and Economics; and Miscellaneous, Kolawole diagnoses Nigeria’s many problems, prescribing reasonable solutions in virtually all cases.

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By relying on a variety of resources, including travels across various parts of the world, a deep understanding of Nigeria’s history, and personal studies and contemplations, Kolawole brings rich historical and clinical perspectives to Nigeria’s challenges. Apparently intent on inclusion, he employs simply, albeit tastefully, everyday Nigerian speak in the portrayal of subjects of interest. He draws his readers in with witty cracks, anecdotes, and recollections, which almost always leave the consumer reflecting on the discourse and its impact on Nigeria.

In ‘Fellow Nigerians, it’s all politics’, Simon Kolawole serves Nigerians, leaders and led, a dish which should get us all thinking about what we want for Nigeria and what we can all contribute to getting it there. It is an opulent recipe for a national rebirth of which every patriot must avail themselves.

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Adedokun can be reached on Twitter @niranadedokun

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Views expressed by contributors are strictly personal and not of TheCable.

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