“Nigeria is 59 while United States of America is 243 years old, Japan was founded on 11th February 660 BC, Russia is 1156 years old, France is 1600 years old and Germany over a thousand years not forgetting England which was founded in 927 AD. If you tell me there is nothing to celebrate in being 59, I will ask you using which metrics. Research about the country you hero worship today and tell me where they were at 59. Happy Independence to the patriotic citizens of the great nation called Nigeria”.
(The above was copied from a WhatsApp platform, unfortunately I don’t know the author).
One of the many problems with Nigeria is that we don’t learn from the history of other nations, while we are hell bent on emulating them and adapting our very existence to them. That is why we keep making the same or worse mistakes of the past.
Many of the complications we face in Nigeria today are not new and they do not require highly innovative solutions or as some people will posit, rocket science or re-inventing the wheel. The solutions we need in Nigeria are simple, tried, trusted and effective all over the world. As a country, Nigeria does not need to reinvent many of the solutions to our problems.
For example, the solutions to electricity problems in Nigeria is everywhere in Japan, UK, Germany, Morocco, Egypt, USA, etc.
In another example, the solutions to better road development is everywhere in the world but our leaders choose to punish our people – they want us to beg and plead with them to give us basic amenities that every modern society deserves and actually need.
When Nigeria was 19 years old (taking it from Independence in 1960), it was a far better place and with greater potential than the Nigeria we have now at 59. We can always look for and offer excuses to defend mediocrity. Must Nigeria go through all the problems that the US, Japan, Russia and England went through and wait until it’s 1000 years old to overcome?
The ‘templates’ are there; examples of countries that became independent after Nigeria and have become successful are there. You’ll never find them use those examples. ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’, the saying goes!
According to Papa Philip Asiodu, (born 19 February, 1934), one of the “Super Perm Secs” of the Gowon era of the early Seventies Nigerian Civil Service, (when the civil service, federal or states, was still civil and rendered efficient and effective service to all Nigerians), the Lagos Monorail was planned in 1962, Governor Lateef K Jakande started it in 1979 and Buhari cancelled it in 1984. Whoever is in power at completion takes the glory for a project. S/he has the power to terminate or stop the project and damn the consequences.
Now to the issue at hand, according to a friend, Ibukunolu Alao Babajide, an ignorant uneducated person cannot be a good leader! An academic whose only role and ambition in life is acquiring knowledge and reaching academic pinnacle, cannot be a good leader either!! Most of those who stole Nigeria dry are educated with degrees and CVs as long as the arm! Good leaders need a combination of traits. Basic knowledge and Grade 2 Teachers’ Certificate are enough, vision for creating a better future, and a sacrificial mien at the expense of self to achieve a greater good. The missing attributes in Nigerian leaders are the vision and the sacrificial mien. They are too selfish and greedy. They loot to become rich at the expense of the country.
Good leaders with the sacrificial mien can come from any part of the country. But mistrust, greed, religion and ethnic bias have blinded us into forfeiting merit for mediocrity. And even at this, we find out it is really personal greed and aggrandisement that mattered to the and not even for the benefit of their ethnic community. So, what is the point? Would you rather be a local champion than a national one? Or, if you have been a local champion, why not go for a national champion?
We as a people should nurture that sacrificial mien in ourselves and others. Already in our little WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages, we see people who post all manner of solutions but when we ask for a little money to do a little good, they will never sacrifice. At the same time, we have people here who hardly post but will give their time and money to do a little good.
Under colonial rule we were all programmed to think that the acquisition of diplomas alone translates into good leadership. It is not so. Rather it is what impact we make on the society that really matters. A 21-year-old poultry farmer produces meat and eggs for society. Another who stays in school until 31 consumes resources for 10 good years without any productive contribution to society and at 31, starts looking for a cosy civil service job! If s/he does not get a job, s/he starts criticizing and complaining and blaming the government.
We share as much blame for our bad leadership because we allow them, not only to rig, cheat and murder their way to power, but also to misrule us. A people deserve the type of leaders they get, so they say, and Nigeria is a perfect example of this singularity.
Nigerians are so obsessed with their paper nonsense they call Qualifications. The more it comes, the more rubbish they are. Majority of the leaders who have performed modestly for Nigeria in their roles have only a decent education – High School or Grade 2. Some of them – Balewa, Shagari etc. I cannot remember a governor that performed as well as Jakande of Lagos State during the Second Republic. His education was at CMS Grammar School. He later went to Journalism School at Ogba in Lagos. He did not have a university degree. I dare say his contribution to Lagos State in 4 years and 3 months remains unmatched.
Please reflect on all our graduates and PhDs leaders and try to single out one outstanding one among them. It is more difficult. The more educated Nigerians come into public office, the more rubbish they are. We had a Professor of “energy” so to say, in charge of Power and Energy, and we ended up with less electricity. The last Minister for Health was a Professor of Medicine and a former Vice Chancellor of the best university in Nigeria, he ended up after four years a dismal failure in his portfolio. “Na so so theory and talk – all these book people!!”
Na grammar and big degrees we go chop. We want leadership and progress. I am happy if a mechanic with the right skills will gather graduates who cannot use their own knowledge but he now gets them to deliver progress for our great nation. Let us be humble with our education!
Those of us who lived in Nigeria during Shagari Era will remember Austerity Measures, Ghana Must Go Exodus, Import Licence Scandals, Hoarding etc. After 1966, Nigeria ceased to experience any constant electricity, pipe borne water or good roads. Those of us that enjoyed free education and health was by virtue of UPN Governments of the states in the West, but that was not a federal benefit.
Most Nigerians believe President Shehu Shagari is a good man. In 1979 corrupt elements like Umaru Dikko, Joseph Wayas, our own Ibadan men, Chief AMA Akinloye and my “uncle” Richard Akinjide (I just have to mention names here) surrounded him and cleaned up under his watch. Once, when Awolowo was asked about Shagari, he replied that Shagari is an honest man but he is pathologically lazy! He left the corrupt elements who surrounded him to destroy his government! Shagari himself was an incompetent, albeit honest leader who oversaw a devastatingly corrupt administration that bequeathed nothing but misery and sorrow to Nigerian citizens. 1979 – 1983 is one of our darkest democratic moments in history, no matter how much anyone tries to defend or justify it. History will never forget that.
Ironically, Prime Minister Tafawa Balewa had the same problem. Balewa left no property but alas, the likes of Festus Okotie-Eboh robbed Nigeria blind under his watch. Shagari served in a perceived good government led by a good and competent leader, who went on to achieve well
Umaru Yar’Adua was kind of similar as he too was an honest man. Basically, to govern Nigerian you need to be ruthless with your friends and people around you.
But the reality is that honest and good men do not necessarily make good leaders. This is a real lesson for our upcoming leaders.
Certainly, we have not yet got the type of leaders we need in Nigeria, and the point I’m making here is that our root started a long time ago, but we just can’t continue doing thing the way we have been doing it and meeting failure and disappointment at every bend; and that included changing the leadership mien and calibre.
Say the Truth always!!!!!