Most often, the bane of Nigeria’s growth and development is blamed on the dearth of leadership. But in the humble opinion of this writer, our nation is highly blessed with a great reservoir of leaders. The problem however is the refusal of our nation’s nefarious economic interest groups to allow anyone other than their favored candidates to occupy certain sensitive public offices. And this is usually in spite of these favored, compromised individuals ending up as mere “glorified office boys…and girls” because they are designed to fail.
The powerful assemblers and importers of generators will not appreciate the advent of a leader that is bent on fixing the nation’s electricity problems. The obnoxious producers of fake pharmaceutical drugs will not fold their arms and allow a purposeful leader to take charge of affairs at NAFDAC. And profiteering owners of various private educational institutions will never want a leader that will want a positive turn-around in the educational sector.
Those of us old enough can still remember Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s trail-blazing leadership in the then Western Region. The great leader mobilized his people to invest in agriculture and utilized the proceeds to build a TV station, Olympic-sized stadium (both firsts in Africa), a skyscraper, free education program and free health service (all firsts in Nigeria).
Gen. Murtala Mohammed was in charge of our nation’s affairs for only a few months but till today, many Nigerians cannot forget his war against corruption, the “immediate effect” discipline he instilled in us and his prompt provision of essential commodities “essenco” when a food shortage crisis hit the nation under his watch.
And so far in the 21st Century, we have already witnessed the emergence of budding national leaders in our midst. At the mention of NAFDAC, many Nigerians will always think first of Prof. Dora Akunyili but how many of us can remember the past bosses of the government agency? The same can be said of the Central Bank of Nigeria where no one can forget the name of Prof. Soludo in a hurry. And since the exit of Ribadu from the EFCC, the agency has become nothing more than a window dressing toothless bulldog.
But what really were we all thinking in 2007? In spite of the nation’s vast pool of human resources both at home and abroad, all we could come up with for President was a nice, smooth gentleman who, unfortunately, happened to be very sickly and psychologically overwhelmed by the tasks at hand. With all due respects, President Yar’Adua is a political “lame duck” that our nation cannot afford at this crucial stage of its development.
And who do we have as representatives at the National Assembly? They are mostly a bunch of non-altruistic spoilt brats, power-drunk ex-soldiers, bored erstwhile industry giants and, of course, a sprinkle of scam artists and drug barons. Very sadly, these same scenarios are replicated at State and local council levels at very huge economic, social and political costs to our nation.
It’s no wonder that the President along with the other “glorified office boys and girls” practically have no clues about solving the nation’s myriad of problems. For instance, has it ever occurred to these guys in Abuja that by solving our security and infrastructural problems, the very first multiplying effect will be the great reduction in our nation’s unemployment rate?
For a country of over 140 million people, our Police manpower is far less than that of the State of New York in the United States. The nation’s Police officers are so overstretched that it’s a miracle that the crime rate is not worse than it is. There is also the poor operational management of the Police as a consequence of its centralization. It’s high time we broke down our Police agency into Federal (for Federal crimes) and States (for local security issues). And with this arrangement in place, the ensuing massive recruitment drives at both Federal and State levels will allow for the necessary manpower for foot, bike and vehicular Police patrols of the nation’s nooks and crannies. And, as an additional benefit, this exercise will greatly reduce the rate of unemployment in the nation.
The state of our nation’s power sector is so comatose as to warrant an urgent deregulation. In the United States, I live in the smallest State called Delaware. Yet, there are 2 different companies generating and distributing electrical power to the State. One can then imagine how many companies are generating and distributing power to huge States such as New York, California etc. With a regular supply of power, can we all imagine the many companies that will be operating at full capacities and employing more staff?
The nation’s 3 tiers of government have the primary responsibilities to make certain budgetary allocations for the development and maintenance of roads. In high density environments such as Lagos State, commerce stands to gain as the many unnecessary man-hours wasted in traffic hold-ups caused by bad roads will be eradicated. And once the roads are completed, corporate, social and religious organizations and high net-worth private individuals can be encouraged to adopt some of the roads. The major objective of this arrangement is to have the roads maintained by the adopting organizations, thereby taking the burdens off the respective governments.
In the educational sector, there is a need for us as a people to realize that no where is the cost of education solely made the responsibility of governments. In most parts of Europe, the people pay astronomical taxes to sustain the provision of free education to their kids. In the United States, home owners are made to pay certain educational taxes in assisting their State governments to provide education from elementary to high school levels. We can fashion out some better means of financing education for our kids at all levels.
And talking of taxes, it’s high time our people were made to pay taxes! Budgets of States and local councils cannot continue to be funded by the monthly handouts from the Federal government.
This writer is one of the many Nigerians currently domiciled abroad strictly for economic emancipation and not because the foreign abode is an Eldorado or a state of Utopia. But while we love our homeland and would love to return permanently instead of the occasional visits, there is sadly the nagging concern for the nation’s festering security and infrastructural problems.
Presently, our nation is like a ship adrift at sea. But the ship of State must not be allowed to drift aimlessly in the hands of charlatans and their sponsoring economic interest groups who are only feeding fat at our collective expense. Prior to the 2007 election, whoever heard of Mr. Raji Fashola in the nation’s political landscape? But the ingenuity that brought about his emergence as one of the greatest leaders to run the affairs of Lagos State can be deployed to usher in many more of his ilk onto our nation’s political horizon. And it’s high time we paved the way for such selfless leaders to take charge.