Hope: the state of mind that engenders a positive result is a consequence of human existence. American poet Emily Dickinson in her poem “Hope is what has feathers” compared hope to a bird that perches in the human soul, where it sings endlessly even in the most powerful storm. The poem celebrated the solidity and essence of hope.

But hope is gradually pulverized by the crushing daily demand for the existence of life. Nigeria is teeming with citizens whose search for a better standard of living, security and a stable economic environment remains so elusive. And little by little, it can turn the country into a graveyard of hope. A massive exodus of citizens has already taken place towards what they consider to be an Oasis courtesy of “Japa”. It is common to hear the vociferous recitation of the why and what for of the country’s continued slide into the dark hole of nothingness further down the road. Yes, scaremongering has pretty much taken hold.

So, the loss of hope is at the forefront of the dooming prognosis for the country. Make no mistake, there are rhymes and reasons for the way citizens feel. It has been a long history of frustrated hope in the face of multiple potentialities and resources, and there is no letup in the deterioration of the country’s socioeconomic situation. Leaders break faith with citizens. Expectations are continually deferred. Change remains so distant, pushing cynicism to center stage that it dissolves into hopelessness.

A recent empowerment outreach to those bearing the brunt of the country’s socio-economic challenges in parts of Kaduna State over the holidays proved to be a microcosm of the depth of the toll of Nigerians’ plight. Heartbreaking narratives of daily struggles and survival left many drowning in emotions.

The curtains have just fallen on 2022 and it marked the nation’s annus horribilis a bit as around 133 million Nigerians were said to be under the affliction of multidimensional poverty according to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).

Much can still be done to turn the tide. A friend who stayed in Kigali, Rwanda for over a decade, can’t help but praise the amazing progress given the circumstances that led to the building of the shiny new country. In my friend’s eyes, as long as Rwanda can emerge as a benchmark of development and good governance on the continent, he is implicitly confident that Nigeria can overcome the myriad challenges and instill hope in its abundant citizens. However, optimism is not without its caveats: you must have a competent hand to guide you, especially to navigate the many thorns along the path of development and progress.

The nation’s state of affairs and the implicit lack of hope and role for effective leadership recalls the intriguing exploits of Captain Michael Abrashoff of the once troubled USS Benfold, a state-of-the-art destroyer, packed with powerful technology. But, inhabited by a dysfunctional crew, enthusiasm for performance was lacking, seemingly forcing the ship to remain largely a shadow of her enormous capabilities.

According to Abrashoff, his predecessor’s departure caused a great storm of ridicule from all the sailors that not only sent shock waves but a strong message that forced him to think about becoming an exception. The ship’s fortunes changed as soon as he took command. Restrictive attitudes were shed through his novel leadership approach. Today, the USS Benfold, named after Edward Benfold, a medic in the Korean War, is today a pride of the Pacific Fleet with a host of sailors yearning to be a part of it.

There is no better time to begin the process of restoring hope than now: 2023 provides that opportunity. The country is already loaded with disappointment and cynicism that would only be remedied with disruptive leaders who know how to work and institute changes in the midst of a sea of ​​despair; people who will inspire citizens through Barack Obama’s words before the United Nations general assembly in 2014 that “we choose hope over fear. We see the future not as something out of control, but as something that we can improve through a collective and concrete effort….”

Armed with the mental image of ordinary citizens they see eking out a living from precarious sources as they move across the country seeking their votes; the stories they read of citizens prostrated by injustices and inevitable deaths due to the inaccessibility of good health care and services, as well as the ubiquity of terrible infrastructure; the teachers’ strikes from time to time that affect the quality of education, the list is endless, it should influence service to country by individuals elected in 2023. I mean, it should be service to the people above of politics and personal aggrandizement. Hope must be restored!

Ungbo writes from Lokoja, Kogi State via [email protected]