“I know that what truly kills the poor is not just their poverty. It is their lack of hope that tomorrow would be better than today, or the hope that their children could be better off than they are” – Kishore Mahbubani
“Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” –
Proverbs 13.12, NIV
I have been pondering for some time now on the transatlantic magnetic power of hope. The word hope is so powerful in that it commands the attention of all human beings across the seven continents with almost unrivaled degree. As an immigrant who migrated to United States several years ago, I have been fortunate enough to witness how people gravitated towards the call of hope on two different continents.
Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola aka (MKO) was the 1993 Nigerian presidential candidate whose mandate was stolen away from him by the Nigerian political elites who saw him as a threat to the power structure which benefited them. Though MKO won the election, he was never allowed to govern Nigeria. Still, the election made its mark in Nigeria’s history as the freest and fairest election the country ever witnessed, and MKO’s consciousness will forever be registered as such.
Given the fact that MKO Abiola and his running mate Ambassador Baba Gana Kingibe, were both Muslims in a country with a large Christian population, one has to speculate why their ticket was not widely resisted by the general public. Reflecting back on their campaign, it is clear why no one did – the message of hope that the two brought to a country who was hopeless. The hope offered by MKO Abiola resonated with the people and brought them to the polls in an unprecedented manner without being bribed because it promised to deliver the working poor Nigerians from the wicked clutches of generational poverty, provide social amenities such electricity, hospital, good roads, drinkable waters, and make Nigeria a better place for all.
In 2008, then Sen. Barack Obama also offered hope in the midst of a horrific economic recession in his run for the White House. Obama offered this hope when working class, middle class, and poor Americans were losing their jobs, homes, and retirement savings in masse. For perhaps one of the first times in America’s history, people of all races and socioeconomic class also lost their confidence in ever attaining or holding onto the American Dream. Although Obama was African American and running for the president in a country where defacto discrimination is still very much alive, people put aside their differences and focused solely on what they all desperately needed. In unison they cried for “hope” and the skin color of whoever provides this hope was a non issue to the existential realities of many of America’s people.
One thing the people in these two different countries have in common is that they both reached out for hope and healing in the midst of tumultuous economic situations. Yet, what separates them is the fact that while Obama still has the opportunity to bring about the realization of hope – many are still either unemployed or underemployed and contrary to popular opinion the economy has not recoverd from the recession – Nigerians hopes were dashed by a brutal military dictator (General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida). Since then Nigerians remain generationally hopeless.
Nigerians are still in need of hope and are earnestly awaiting the arrival of a political messiah who can create hope that can be felt, touched, and could become a reality. How I which President Goodluck Jonathan would resurrect the hopes and aspirations that Nigerians felt in 1993. All that President Jonathan needs is the political wisdom of finding the mutuality between his desire to be reelected president in 2015 and Nigerian’s desires of economic and social freedom. In politics, common desire is the secret of political success and represents a common ground where desires overlapped and are fulfilled for both sides. If he does this instead of the power politics he’s been playing to hold on to power beyond 2015, Nigerians will be the ones calling for him to be their president.