Dr. Pius Adesanmi returns to the larger issue of generating solutions to Africa's problems. Contributors are encouraged to take up the challenge offered by Dr. Ike Idogu in Dialogue 101 when he posed the question: What, then, must be done in the new millennium?

I find Dialogue 101 very uplifting. The time is indeed ripe for the
implementation of strategies aimed at taking us out of our current
socio-economic stasis. But beyond corrupt politicians and government
bureaucrats, it is also necessary to think of how to begin a mental
rewiring of our people. That's a precondition for making them accept and
validate the culture of normality that's bound to come with strategies
produced by concerned intellectuals. Five decades of wrong, corrupt
policies and dysfunctionalities have accustomed our people to the
abnormal, making them strangers to the normal. Please, allow me a few
anecdotes to illustrate this problem of wrong wiring:

1)A principled member of the arts community was elected into the Federal
House of Representatives. Those of us who were close to him rejoiced.
That was one person, we believed, who wasn't going to Abuja to steal
money and who was going to do things properly. He lived up to
expectation. He still lives up to it but his constituents, wired
wrongly, are not finding his incorruptibility funny. He opened an office
in his constituency and tried to adopt the American practice of going
home to listen to his constituents once in a while. When an American
congressman goes home, his constituents go to his office with concrete
questions/suggestions: what are his voting patterns? what bills is he
proposing on education, health, jobs, etc. The Nigerian lawmaker did not
bargain for the wrong wiring of his constituents by the system. They
came to his office whenever he went home. But each visitor came to ask
for his/her share of the national money he brought from Abuja! They
wanted cash: I've not paid my son's school fees; I need a new engine for
my car; I need money to hire labourers to harvest my yams, etc. He tried
to explain that he opened the office for them to bring concrete problems
on development and policy. At any rate, he was not part of the
money-chopping morass in Abuja. He annoyed his constituents: if you are
not taking our own share of the money, what the hell did we send you
there for? Wrong wiring.

2)On a trip home last year, I took a bus ride from Lagos to Ilorin. We
ran into the unavoidable police checkpoints. Each driver is supposed to
know the standard rate of bribe for each checkpoint. If it's N100, you
prepare the bill, slow down and slip it into the waiting hand of an
officer, who smiles and urges you on. Our driver was stubborn on this
particular trip. He tried giving N100 to an officer at a checkpoint
where, apparently, passengers and drivers knew that the bribery rate was
N200. The policemen stopped us, manufactured all kinds of charges and we
were delayed for over an hour. When we eventually resumed our journey,
the passengers, all elderly men and women, were livid. They rained
abuses on the driver: "that is the problem with Nigerians. We know the
law and will always deliberately break it! Who does not know that the
rate at that checkpoint is N200? Why try to cheat those policemen and
waste our time in the process, you this ole!(thief)". The driver
apologised profusely to his enraged passengers.  Wrong wiring.

3)Now to intellectuals who are also wrongly wired. In 1998, I
accompanied a Nigerian colleague who is an Associate Professor in Cape
Town to the Nigerian Consulate in Johannesburg. He needed to renew his
passport. We were both veterans of government offices in Nigeria and
their culture of rudeness and poor service and have both been
conditioned to expect poor service: oga is not around, you can't see oga
today, etc. We knew from experience that several of our diplomatic
missions abroad a mere photocopies of the situation back home. This
time, the consulate staff shocked us beyond measure. We met smiling
officials who ushered us in, introduced themselves, offered us coffee
while we waited for my friend's passport. We were done in less than 30
minutes. Outside, we were dazed. The service we had just received was
not "normal": Could this possibly be Nigerian officials? Could this
possibly be a Nigerian system that had just worked? Then the epiphany:
we realised we were 2 intellectuals wrongly wired by their system to
always expect abnormality from it. Faced with normality, we couldn't
handle it, we couldn't believe it. Wrong wiring.

The individual, who should be the key to the success of the
implementation phase of African(ist) agendas and strategies, is so
massively wrongly wired by the system and we need to address the
problem. When NEPA manages to sustain power for two straight days, this
individual calls it a miracle and quotes appropriate Bible verses to
support his interpretation. He may even tell you two days supply of
power is evidence of God's victory over principalities and dominions:
that mentality is a problem. When water supply lasts for two
uniterrupted days, this individual goes to give testimony at a
Deliverance Ministry on the Lagos-Ibadan expressway: that mentality is
also a problem. The point is to rewire this individual.


Pius Adesanmi, Ph.D
Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature
The Pennsylvania State University