At dawn, when the finality of the proclamation of what is known today as Nigeria became undeniable, the congregation of the front line nationalists such as Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Chief Anthony Enahoro, H.O. Davies, etc heaved a sigh of relief. The pro ponderous of joy to usher-in a new independent African State further strengthened their zeal and fired-up their determination to proof to the British imperialist that Africans are capable of self government.
The London Constitutional Conferences of 1954, 1957, 1958 wherein all the representatives of the different regions unequivocally resolved to compel the British Colonialist to grant Nigeria the status of nationhood finally paved way to Nigeria Independence in 1960. Dr. Benjamin Nnamdi Azikwe therefore became the first indigenous Nigeria President. All other individuals who were involved in the struggle for independence became different role players at the Federal or Regional levels.
The joy of a young but promising nation was infected and cut short by corruption, tribalism and nepotism of the political leaders, who had turned themselves into political demagogues and infiltrated the body politics with “murder”, “arson”, “maiming,” “kidnapping”,” embezzlement” etc . This vice transformed the erstwhile nation full of joy and hope for the future to be bedeviled with the unthinkable. When the situation became increasingly unbearable and the state of nature was imminent, the young revolutionary Majors in the Nigeria Army ( Kaduna Nzeogwu, Ifeajuna, Ademulegun,Banjo, and Kingsley ) in 1966 saw the clarion call and the need to rise and defend the nation from the yoke of political profiteers who were bent on destroying the destiny of a promising Nigeria. During this strike, many political leaders were killed in all regions of the federation. This encounter introduced the military to Nigeria Politics.
It is not my intention to appraise The Nzeogwu led coup or the extent to which it achieved its objectives; rather, It is an attempt to espouse the endemic precedent which the coup laid not only in Nigeria but other countries in African Continent and the World in general. Nzeogwu’s led coup was described as an attempt to salvage Nigeria from tyrants, and redirect the ship of the country to a beneficial shore, as claimed by Major Banjo, rtd. in his book “Why we Struck”. The way through which the coup was packaged, and executed was an attestation to the fact that soldiers are trained to defend the territorial integrity of their nation state, and not to govern. I remember during one of my classes in Civil Military Relations in the mid 80’s, Professor Adekanye, Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan once argued that “military is an aberration to politics.” No wonder then that the planners of the coup failed to put sufficient post coup strategy in place. The soldiers struck without corresponding plan on who will be the head of government, or with a possible back up plan, in case the coup fail or if there was a counter coup. This insufficiency accounted for the consequence suffered by the coup plotters especially when the coup was hijacked by superior leadership in the military circle.
Brigadier-General Ogundipe, the most senior member of the Nigeria Army at this time ceded the right to become the Military Head of State because the aftermath of the coup indicated that there were more casualties in the Northern Region – a condition which trivialized one of the reasons for the coup (confronting tribalism). The situation threatened the cohesion of the Nigeria Armed Forces and the Unity of the Nation. Brigadier Aguiyi Ironzi from the Eastern Region became the Head of States by virtue of his tribe and quota. He was working on re- building trust, unity and integration of what appeared to be fragile and falling Nigeria when he was killed with the Governor of the Western Region (Brigadier Adekunle Fajuyi) in a travail that appeared to be vengeance of the outcome of the Nzeogwu coup.
Colonel Yakubu Gowon, the most senior officer from the Northern Region (not the most senior in the Nigeria Armed Forces) was selected as the Second Nigeria Military Head of States. He was a young military officer in his early 30s devoid college education or tested management experience. His regime agenda was summed in his saying “To Keep Nigeria One, Is A Task That Must Be Done.” This was a regime that recognized what was required to ensure and promote national development and progress, but lacked the insight, the vision and commitment to achieve its identified needs. His legacies are summed in his immediate and automatic authorization of his promotion from the rank of Colonel to Major General, he engaged in multiple white elephant projects that are not economically productive. He offered Udoji Award etc. He will forever be remembered to have stated that “Nigeria’s problem is not money but how to spend it” (what a vision-less leadership). This statement redefined the ethics and value systems of public office holders. Political leaders and other leaders in government eschewed the notion that the essence of leadership is service. Corruption became endemic and progressively eats through the fabric of the Nigeria political System. Rather than seeking political office as an avenue to offer selfless, responsible and responsive service, Politicians seeks political office and leadership in government business so as to “have their share” of the “national cake”. The notion of conscience, integrity and patriotism were jettisoned, it paved way for greed, selfishness and unpatriotic valves.
The people that were saddled with the roles of nation building denigrated and compromised sanctity of responsible human being with impunity. Their passion is love for money. Corruption has infected all the three levels of government and has eroded the peoples confidence. Life has neither meaning nor worth. Political thuggery and marauders invasion has built the nest of horror and fear in the heart of the citizens. Some politicians are nothing short of lunatic hired-assassins. They have perfected the schemes of killing and maiming, so much so that it has created the culture of fear and intimidation in the heart of innocents and well meaning public servants. Consequently, the qualified and appropriate candidates stay away from politics for the fear of annihilation. This paved way for the inordinate ambitioned politicians with incompetent resume. For example, It is on record that none of the post independent Nigeria Presidents or Head of States willingly or wittingly desired the office of the Presidency. In 1975, General Muritala Mohammed said,” My colleagues and I in the Supreme Military Armed Forces decided to overthrow the government of General Yakubu Gowon thereby terminating his inordinate ambition of becoming a Field Marshal and despotic tendency”, General Obasanjo in 1976 said he was an “off-shoot” of General Muritala Mohammed. In 1979, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Nigeria’s first Executive President stated that he had wanted to become a Senator, In 1983, General Muhammed Buhari said, “I became the Head of States because of an urgent national need to prevent the political, moral, and economic recklessness of the civilian (Shagari ) regime, In 1986, General Babangida said: “I became the president by necessity”, In 1992, Chief Shonekan became the head of ad-hoc government to compensate the Yorubas for the death of Chief M.K.O Abiola, the acclaimed winner of the first ever free and fair election in Nigeria. In 1993, General Sanni Abacha said; I became the Head of States so as to prevent the government from been hijacked from Chief Sonekan by disgruntled Army Officers. In 1998, General Abdul Kareem said, “Me, President ? No Way, I did not have plan to become Nigeria president”, In 2000, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said; “They invited me”, and in 2007, the incumbent president Shehu Y’ardua stated that he had wanted to be a Senator. Therefore, when people without vision find themselves in a po
sition of mission, the only explanation for their ineptitude is self defense.
Nigeria deserves a better government that will be responsive to the yearnings of its people. Records indicate that twelve of the last thirteen Nigerian Presidents and Heads of State were circumstantial leaders.. How much longer could Nigeria tolerate and accommodate accidental leadership? Their forty-eight years of misrule has landed Nigeria in the global scale of socio-economic repression and psychological asylum. It is time for the right thinking and visionary individuals to stand up for the challenge of nation building, and legally wrestle power from the “do nothing, sit tight, and greedy political opportunists”. It is time for true leadership to emerge. Leaders that will damn the eccentric politicking of present political rogues. Leaders that will see Nigeria as a country that worth living, and if need be dying for. Leaders that will redefine politics as a medium to improve the lives of the citizens and create a new niche for the country among the committee of nations. Frantz Fanon – a French trained Psychiatrist and a member of the Algeria Liberation Movement wrote in his book “The Wretched of The Earth” “The future will have no pity for those men who possesses the exceptional privileges of being able to speak the word of truth to their oppressors, but having taken attitude of passivity, mute indifference and sometimes of cold complicity”.
To this end, let the Nigeria political elites and bureaucrats who deluded themselves with the right of unaccountability be reminded that their days will roll-over like days and night, and their memory will fade with them. Nigeria will rise again, its potency and significance will become irrepressible; leadership with good intention will re-emerge and the people’s will will prevail.