53 Years of Leadership Failures?

by Bolaji Aregbeshola

It’s been 53 years since Nigeria gained her independence from the colonial masters. Every 1st of October, a public holiday is declared to commemorate the day Nigeria began to take control of her destiny but it is important to assess our journey so far with a view to determining whether we are making progress or not.

In my opinion, the situation in Nigeria remains the same. Nigeria has experienced 53 years of leadership failures. This is evident in the huge external debt, high rate of inflation, high level of poverty, bad monetary policy, high government spending, lack of fiscal discipline, increasing national debt, low foreign exchange reserve, high level of unemployment, stagnant income growth, high budget deficit and bad exchange rate among others. These are some of the yardsticks by which to measure a country’s progress and how well its leaders have been able to improve the lives of the citizens.

But it is sad to learn that Nigerian leaders are our problem, little wonder they cannot solve the problems of this country. Nigerians who were old enough around 1960 have testified to the good economic situation of the country at that time. The exchange rate was good, prices of goods and commodities were said to be cheap and the rate of unemployment was low.

Today, the reverse is the case even though some people may not agree with the assertion that Nigeria is suffering from economic malaise, political leadership and corruption. Many Nigerians are having a hard time getting by. Nigerian leaders have not done enough to better the lives of Nigerians; they are out of touch with the sufferings of most Nigerians with the continuous corruption, lack of action, lack of good policies and misplaced priorities of members of the national assembly. Safe to say, Nigerian leaders are indifferent to the struggles of over 70 per cent of Nigerians who are living in poverty.

The price of goods and commodities keeps soaring. According to recent statistics, Nigeria has a population of about 172 million people. Over 119 million people are living below the poverty line. With this percentage remaining the same for many years now, it shows that the leaders of government have failed in their responsibilities such that the value of the naira keeps declining and the business environment becomes more unfavourably hostile to small business owners.

We keep experiencing the same problems year in year out. Our leaders have refused to get our economy back to those good old days when one naira equals one dollar and when the prices of goods and commodities and petroleum products were relatively low and affordable by the populace. We have deviated from the plans of our founding fathers. A larger percentage of the nation’s population are poor despite our oil wealth and abundant natural resources. Those who are rich are principally leaders of government, their friends and associates and a few who became rich through a dint of hard work. It is obvious Nigeria has made little or no progress economically since the declaration of independence on October 1, 1960.

Our leaders have not only failed us as many citizens would agree. Of all African nations, our economy cannot be said to be the best. We claim to be the giant of Africa but we have not proven that by lifting our people out of poverty and this show that we have a leadership problem in our country. The political ideologies and philosophies of most Nigerian politicians also speak volume. They have continued to play politics of ethnicity, tribalism, sectionalism, nepotism etcetera. This kind of politics has yet to change in my view whether as a political observer or as a student of history from independence till the present day and one can only be optimistic that this would change in the near future.

Certainly, Nigeria has some good leaders, people who have decided to shun politics and governance due to the dirty nature of politics in the country. But good people cannot continue to stay aloof besides every Nigerian must be involved in the issue of governance rather than sit back and allow individuals who are not worthy of leading us in the first place decide our collective destinies. Most Nigerian politicians will not allow the electorate to freely decide who to lead them, hence; we must refuse to allow leaders who play politics with the future of Nigeria and the lives of Nigerians from holding public offices again.

The fact that we have good leaders who are yet to emerge means there is hope for Nigeria. Many politicians will want the status quo to remain but we must break ourselves from the shackles of bad leaders. The Nigerian electorate must not wait until they are given the chance to freely decide who leads them. Both the leaders and followers have a role to play in ensuring that Nigeria achieves its full potential.

This is just a thought on the 53 years of our existence. It should not be seen as an attack on both past and present leaders but rather a wakeup call to the need to work towards a better future for all Nigerians. The direction in which our leaders are taking the country is responsible for some pundit’s believe that Nigeria will break up by 2015. Nigerian leaders need to begin to enact policies that will impact positively on Nigerians, take actions on issues of concern to the people and stop political corruption so that the future of this country can be guaranteed. It is not time to celebrate, we need to change our ways.

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