Being an address by His Excellency Seyi Makinde, the Executive Governor of Oyo State at the First Edition of The Forum, a one-day international colloquium organised by The Men’s League of Christ Church, Port Harcourt on Saturday, June 12, 2021
That is the feeling I get whenever I interact with my people in Port-Harcourt. I remember the years I spent attending Christ Church, the people I met there and how some of them went on to shape my life. I will not be wrong to say, those were the days of my humble beginnings.
Nostalgia is generally not a bad thing.
For example, think of two old people who have been in love all their lives. Maybe they have spent 20 or 30 years together, going through the family album and then someone plays the song that they listened to the first time they met. Good nostalgia, isn’t it?
But in many cases nostalgia can be negative.
Spending an inordinate amount of time thinking about the past and dwelling on what could have been can lead to sadness, worry, and anxiety
And, in a way, one of the biggest problems we are facing in Nigeria today is negative nostalgia. As a people, we seem tied to the past. We want to go back and live in the past because we believe the past was better.
In fact, during an election cycle, we heard people waxing lyrical about the oil boom, the 70’s when one Naira was equal to or greater than one Dollar and they promised to bring back that time and for nostalgia, we bought into it.
We have heard people talk about how we had the great groundnut pyramids in the North, we produced cocoa in the West and found oil in the East and they promised it was possible to go back to those productive years. We are so sentimentally attached to those good times that we believe it is possible and better to get them back.
But this type of sentimental attachment to the past is not a good thing.
The writer of the book of Ecclesiastes in chapter 7 verse 10 put it this way,
“Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?’ For it is not wise to ask such questions.”
And why is it not wise. One reason is that the past is irrecoverable.
In fact, if you read Webster’s definition of ‘Nostalgia’, the second meaning says that nostalgia is, “a wistful or excessively sentimental yearning for return to or for some past period or IRRECOVERABLE condition.”
Yes, we have the past. But the past exists for one purpose, NOT for us to return to it, BUT for us to learn from it.
And this is one thing that I hope this forum achieves. In an attempt to answer the question which is theme of this colloquium, “What do Nigerians Want?” it is important to look at our democratic history and draw lessons from the economic, political and social decisions that we made in the past and the effects that those decisions have had on us.
As the African saying goes, you need to identify where you got drenched by rainfall in the past to avoid a recurrence.
But the reality of the matter is that, humans in general want the same things. No matter what part of the world we live, the religion we profess, our gender, language or any other social characteristic we may have, there are fundamental and universal things that we need as humans. Theorists have even come up with they call the Hierarchy of Needs. The problem has always been how we want to achieve those needs. And what we have to sacrifice to achieve it.
So let me wish you fruitful deliberations at this forum. I looked at the programme for this event and noticed that the six subthemes speak to three of four pillars which we are using as a roadmap to accelerated development in Oyo State. These are the economy, education and security. That shows that we must be on to something, because as far as data has shown, our roadmap in Oyo State is working. So, if you use a similar formular here, then your results should also work. I hope that at the end of this colloquium you will have created a document that can really be put to good use by those in public service as a roadmap for moving Nigeria forward.
I pray that we leave nostalgia behind.
We really do not need the groundnut pyramids of the 70’s nor do we need to go back to the time when we were great producers. Yes, production is good, but as we learnt from the industrial revolution, we have to move on from being agrarian producers into industrialised processors. And if we do not fully understand how the world’s economy works, let us think of chocolate. Africa produces the cocoa, but guess who makes the big bucks from buying our cocoa and processing it into chocolate?
So, once again, I wish you incisive deliberations as you hold this one-day colloquium.
Thank you and God bless you.
~ Governor Seyi Makinde, June 12, 2020