Nigerians: Please Stop Recycling

by Max Siollun

I do not wish to appear politically incorrect or to be a person that does not care about the environment or planet Earth that we all share. However I am pleading with all Nigerians to stop recycling. That’s right , I said it: STOP recycling


Before I get “flamed” for being so uncaring about the environment, please let me explain.….

Those of you that live in the UK, would you have taken the last elections seriously if Margaret Thatcher had come out of retirement to challenge Gordon Brown as Prime Minister? What if the Labour Party had chosen Neil Kinnock as its new leader instead of Ed Milliband?

Those of you in America, what would you say if the Democrats had chosen Jimmy Carter as their presidential candidate instead of Barack Obama? Sounds preposterous doesn’t it? Yet no matter how absurd it sounds, this is what Nigeria has been continually doing since independence in 1960. At every electoral and leadership cycle, Nigeria repeatedly turns to past leaders from decades back.

The candidates who have so far declared their intention to contest the presidency in next year’s presidential election include two retired Generals, who ruled the country for nearly a decade between them, and who first entered Nigerian government in 1975. Although there is a case for experience, there has to be a sensible limit somewhere. When these men first entered Nigerian politics, Gerald Ford was President of the U.S., Johnny Nash and the Bay City Rollers were dominating music, and most of you reading this article had not even been born. Does that put things into perspective?


As for the “northern consensus candidate”….those of you with long memories should think back….way back to 26 years ago. Remember the “53 suitcases” scandal involving the Emir of Gwandu in 1984? Well, do you remember who the customs officer in charge of the Murtala Muhammed airport in Lagos was? Better still, can you remember who the Head of State was at the time of this scandal? ….

However, it would be unfair of me to single out this 2011 candidate group. They are not the only recycled Nigerian leaders in waiting. To understand how much Nigeria has been stuck in the past, and has been lumbered with essentially the same leadership since the 1960s, consider the following sobering fact. The late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (who took office in 1997) was the first Nigerian leader who was not directly involved in the 1966 crisis and the ensuing civil war (even then – his older brother was directly involved in the crisis). It took Nigeria four decades to find a leader from a new generation.

Every single one of Nigeria’s prior leaders had links to, and was directly involved in politics since the 1960s. General Gowon was of course Nigeria’s war time leader. His successors Generals Muhammed, Obasanjo, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha and Abubakar were either involved in the July 1966 coup, or fought in the civil war that followed it. Apart from the fact that Obasanjo returned to rule Nigerian again 20 years after his first reign, even President Shagari was a minister in the cabinet of Nigeria’s first Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa.

People keep wondering why Nigeria seems to keep coming full circle and seems to be perpetually stuck with the same problems. Is it because the leaders tasked with eliminating those problems have essentially been the same for the past 40+ years?


We can blame the leaders all we want, but this constant resort to old leaders also exposes the lack of political sophistication in the Nigerian electorate and political process. Parties choose “big names” from the past who are well known because Nigerian politics has not evolved beyond a glorified fame contest. People like Gani Fawehinmi and Nuhu Ribadu are popular among youths and educated liberals. However they could never win elections barring a miracle because they do not “belong” to the establishment political circles that the old leaders belong to.

Back during General Babangida’s ill fated 1990s transition programme, General Obasanjo (on learning of General Gowon’s intent to run again for the presidency) sarcastically asked ““What did he forget in the State House that he is going back for?”

We might also ask the same question of the current incumbents….

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