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Death of leadership dreams…

I salute Madagascar’s attempt to provide the world with the cure for the pandemic, COVID-19. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I take journalistic notice of the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) that Madagascar’s herbal drug, Covid Organics, needs to be clinically tested for safety and efficacy before being adopted by countries. WHO predicts, however, that up to 190,000 people could die from the coronavirus in Africa and as many as 44 million could become infected in the long run if a solution wasn’t found for the pandemic.

Madagascar has already quit WHO in protest against the less than enthusiastic response of the world body to Covid Organics.

As usual, the big pharmaceutical companies of the West are running a rat race to find a cure or vaccine. They are not likely to find Madagascar’s temerity funny at all. South Africa has offered to help its tiny island neighbour with testing and scientific analysis.

Covid Organics is largely composed of artemisia, a local herb much like Nigeria’s Dogonyaro herb used for ages in the treatment of malaria. Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Colloids and Interfaces and US company, ArtemiLife Inc are also trying to develop their own version of a cure focusing on the same artemisia annua plant cultivated and processed in Madagascar. It is clear to me that the West would want to be the first to find a recognised cure. That feat comes with billions of dollars, bragging rights and political muscle.

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All African nations should back Madagascar to the hilt. For once, let’s stand up for one of our own. Yes, let’s test Covid Organics for safety and efficacy, but let’s do so with dispatch.  A global cure is going to come out of what some crazy baldheads prefer to call a  ‘shithole’. I can’t wait!

Madagascar is doing the kind of things that we, as young people dreamt for our country in the 70’s when we still thought we were destined to lead the black race. The universities served as apprenticeship channels for leadership training. Student unionism was the learning field where young people willingly apprenticed themselves in the service of their immediate community.

The executive, legislative and judicial arms of government were vibrant and accountable. I can speak for the University of Ife, but I know that was the tradition in most universities and polytechnics. I recall that in a particular year, the Judicial Council (composed entirely of students) cancelled the presidential elections and ordered a rerun.

Most of the press releases of the students’ unions were about societal ills and global affairs. The serious mindedness of students accounted for the passion with which they embraced Murtala Mohammed and his pro-liberation policies. For once, they found a military government with which they could do business. Idealism was the drug sniffed by many a student leader.

Dr. John Mabayoje, a former student leader now on the wrong side of 60, recently wondered why all the great student leaders Nigeria has produced over the years did not migrate into government. His thesis is that if tested student leaders go into politics and government in later years, the country would be run on a set of minimum standards.

“A man who can win elected office within a  polytechnic or university campus as a parliamentarian, Students Union Executive etc, is much more exposed to his peers being able to judge his or her character than someone who just passed through the institution without contributing anything to governance for his peers to judge him or her. After all we fail to remember that the only place where a truly democratic political culture remained in Nigeria from January 15, 1966 – October 1, 1979 and from January 1,  1984 – May 1999 was in the students bodies of the universities and polytechnics. That was where the Omoyele Sowores John Nwodos, Abba Dabos, Femi Okuns, Ayo Olukotuns, Kingsley Agbakobas, Rotimi Akeredolus, Rahman Mimikos, Adeleke Mamoras, all started…. We are still looking for the rest of us from that Golden period who were elected by their peers as their best and brightest. That will solve the issue of ‘Touts in Politics’”.

The military and their civilian successors in government ‘ate’ the years that particular generation of student leaders could have naturally taken leadership positions to serve the country.

According to Mabayoje,  “In Nigeria, the wealthy elite dictate everything and have so far advanced that concept with acquisition of more and more wealth to control as much of the political narrative as possible without recourse to the quality of the power proxies they are breeding. That has triggered a vicious cycle of poorer and poorer half-bred lackeys as their proxies… The best of us who were honest and skilled in administration, with fertile erudite minds, never had a chance to succeed in Nigerian politics”

Now as the evening of their lives peeps through the window, they wonder where all the dreams of their youth have gone. Whither the projected greatness? Wither the black man’s beacon of hope? The generation that fought for the abolition of apartheid in South Africa now cringes before the decapitating army of Boko Haram!

No matter; we the dreamers of dying dreams stubbornly declare, Long live the dream! Madagascar gives us hope of what could still be, in spite of all the obstacles on our way. Last Sunday, I took a respectful look at one of the Dogonyaro trees near my house. Who knows how many tons of dollars are hiding in plain sight through that tree?

But there I go a-dreaming again!

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