EXTRA REPORT: The Missing link in Nigeria at 57

By Supo Balogun, The Nigerian Expression (TNE)
In spite of  the very best of efforts by the Muhammadu Buhari administration after only two years in office, Nigeria as it approaches its 57th birthday remains at heart a giant with clay feet.

Nothing perhaps illustrates the dire straits the country finds itself in global reckoning as the latest World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) for 2017-2018.
The ranking, which was released on Tuesday, indicates that the country moved only two notches to 125  from the 127 it was ranked in the 2016-2017 index released last year.
Incidentally, of the 137 countries ranked, Nigeria only managed to perform better on the GCI than war-torn or economically depressed countries such as Congo Democratic Republic (126), Venezuela (127), Haiti (128), Burundi (129), Sierra Leone (130), Lesotho (131), Malawi (132), Mauritania (133), Liberia (134), Chad (135), Mozambique (136), and Yemen (137).

Although this is the first time Nigeria is improving in ranking since 2012, it could not make the list of the top 10 ranked countries in Africa, as Mauritius (45), Rwanda (58), South Africa (61), Botswana (63), Namibia (90), Kenya (91), Senegal (106), Seychelles (107), Ethiopia (108) and Cape Verde led the continent’s pack.
While the report is an annual assessment of the factors driving countries’ productivity and prosperity, the latest ranking is coming at a time when government is valiantly containing the threats posed by divisive elements and insurgents among a plethora of distractive challenges.

How did Nigeria come to this pass? Many hinge its lethargy in realising its full potential on the National Question. Others argue that the trouble with Nigeria is the absence over the years of a strong, committed and visionary leadership.
Between the two “questions’’ may well lie the solution to the vexed burden holding the country down in its quest to attain nationhood as well as drive growth and development.
In his thought-provoking riposte on the nation, “The Trouble with Nigeria,’’ the literary icon, Chinua Achebe, had said that the country had remained  perpetually in crisis not because of  geography or climate, but because of mediocre  leadership.

“There is basically nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air, or anything else,’’ he had argued.
The trouble with Nigeria, Achebe insists, is “simply and squarely failure of leadership.’’
Indeed, many say the leadership question is inextricably intertwined with the national question such that the one will determine the other. In the face of an apathetic citizenry, this may well be the missing links  in the nation’s tortuous post-independence odyssey.
Malam Nuhu Ribadau, the pioneer Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), could not have put it better when he said, “what the country needs is honest and modern leadership that would be a rallying point for citizens, one that can tame the consuming tides of corruption and evolve creative solutions to our myriad of problems.
“It is my belief that firm and sincere leadership is the precursor of industrious and patriotic followership.’’
Ribadu, who spoke while delivering the 11th Convocation Lecture of Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Anambra, believes that everything would fall in place once a visionary leader emerges.
“Modern nation states, as we have seen from examples in sister African countries and elsewhere, succeed largely when you have a leader that is focused, open-minded, cosmopolitan, yet firm and unrelenting.
“The leadership examples of Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, and much later, Nelson Mandela in South Africa, and Paul Kagame after the genocide in Rwanda, point to the importance of how a good leader can shape the fortunes of any nation. Outside Africa, we can also point to the shining examples of Singapore and Malaysia,’’ he said.
Writer and lawyer, Chris Edache Agbiti, on his part, attempted a sociological dissection of the nexus between leadership and nationhood.
“Unlike its counterparts in other climes, it is unfortunate that Nigeria is yet to find its bearing as a country capable of fulfilling the purpose of its existence to its citizenry.
“The reason for the above is not far-fetched. There is no bond or attachment holding the leadership class to any group cause and in this case, national cause.
“I am talking of the abysmal failure of the leadership class to make any conscious effort at nation building, as the commanding forces in the successive regimes all busied themselves in strengthening their attachments to their respective ethnic cleavages rather than embarking on nation-building,’’ he said.
Across the land, there is a unison of consensus on the challenge of inept leadership which has accentuated  the nation’s faultlines of ethnocentrism bordering on divisionism and religious intolerance.
Dr Mahfouz Adedimeji, the Director of the Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies of the University of Ilorin, notes that Nigeria has the potential to be great with a committed leadership, as well as a disciplined followership.
“Nigeria has the potential to be great in spite of its challenges, especially with a leader that is committed and passionate about the country,” he said.
Adedimeji observed that leadership level must not only be focused at the Federal Government, but also at the state and local government levels.
“Everyone is a  stakeholder  just as the president of the nation is, we must  be exemplary and committed to helping the country,” he said.
The don noted that although  the process is painstakingly slow, the situation is gradually changing such as electricity supply, adding that with more commitment, the economy will also pick up.
He added that most of the agitations and security challenges in the country are as a result of the economic problems, and if people can have the basic necessities in life, then there will be stability in the country, and less agitators.
A political analyst, Ahmad Lawal, said that if age is a pre-condition for growth, then Nigeria would be termed a failed state, arguing that developed nations like the USA and UK took a long time to get to where they are today. 
“What those people fail to realise is that our problem is not lack of infrastructure but lack of systems. 
“It’s not a low standard of living, but a generally low IQ and a defeatist mentality; with a proper system in place, growth is only a matter of time. 
“Again they fail to realise that the world has become a global village now and we don’t need to wait for the number of years those countries waited to grow as it’s now easy to transfer technology,” Lawal said. 
Lawal explained that some had  argued that the problem with the country was leadership while others identify  ethnocentrism. He, however, argued that this is not  the case in Nigeria.
“There are so many developed nations with multiple ethnicities. 
“The United States  has several races even. As for leadership, it’s from the people that leaders are chosen. The underlying root cause, in my opinion, is a deficient mentality based on the fear of poverty and the will to dominate a fellow man.
“How else can you explain one person embezzling funds he cannot spend in a lifetime? 
“As challenging as the problems seem though, they are not insurmountable” Lawal added. 
A lecturer at the Kwara State University (KWASU), Dayo Olorisade, said it is obvious that government could not do everything. 
”Although we expect the government to provide our basic amenities; with the situation on ground, it is like we will have to wait forever.
”So, it is better we start doing things ourselves and stop waiting for the government,” Olorisade said. 
Another lecturer, Lawal Olohungbebe of the College of Humanities in the university, said Nigerians should imbibe the spirit of volunteerism. 
”We just have to stand up on our own because we are mostly affected by all the things the government fails to do. Things like clearing of drains, providing jobs and engaging in community services which  affect us, ” Olohungbebe said. 
An Ilorin-based lawyer, Babatunde Gegele, said Nigerians have put so much expectation on the government.
”As the government is supposed to do certain things for us, we also have duties to perform as citizens which most of us are not doing. So, it is left for us to do our bits and not leave everything to the government,” Gegele said.
For another legal practitioner, Mrs Helen Aina, Nigerian leaders are the worst in Africa.
“Our leaders have caused us so much pain. They are too self-centered and never care for the masses.
“Leadership problem is the core problem and not ethnic issue.
“The so-called  leaders have been leading us inside the desert for 57 years without any positive outcome,  “she said.
A university teacher, Dr Tolani Hassan, said the long period of misrule has contributed in no small measure to the poor state of the nation.
Hassan, an economist and a senior lecturer at the College of Management and Social Sciences, Tai Solarin University of Education (TASUED), Ijebu-Ode, said the natural resources of the country have been badly managed by successive governments.
He said that Nigerian leaders since the discovery of oil, have allowed this situation to kill their initiatives to tap into and develop other natural endowments for sustainable development.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association in Ogun, Ibrahim Atanda, however, blamed the situation on corruption.
He said that corruption had assumed the status of a monster in Nigeria and had permeated ever aspect of the life of the nation.
Atanda said that Nigeria is not in lack good leaders but that corruption has made it difficult for such people to rule.
The NBA Chairman said that instead of committing the wealth of Nigeria to its development, many leaders at various tiers of government have continued to misappropriate the funds.
The Chairman of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Ogun,  Wole Sokunbi, who corroborated Atanda, noted that corruption has led to unequal distribution of Nigeria’s resources.
He noted that the situation had led to a situation in which Nigerians have resorted to “cutting corners” and using official positions for personal gains particularly in  the public service.
“The situation has crippled the incentive, particularly, among youths, for hardwork, for increased production and sustainable development,” he said.
Mr Sunday Bamidele, a sociologist, also pointed at inept leadership and corruption as the missing links in Nigeria’s quest for growth and development. He said corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of the nation, arguing that  ” this has been keeping Nigeria far away from attaining any reasonable level of development.’’
Mr Greatsheyi Akintunde, Chairman of National Association of Small Scale Industrialists in Ondo State, attributes Nigeria’s underdevelopment to its negative education system.

“Speaking from an industrialist’s perspective, Nigeria has a negative perspective of education from the beginning which is classroom literary education and not industrial education.

“You will agree with me that our technology has been operating at the lowest ebb. Majority of our schools are more interested in business programmes and humanity courses because of the negative education system  we have.
“Our technology drive has been so low at a time the developed countries today rely on cutting edge technology. If technology is encouraged, there will be industries and if we have them, our economy will be greatly improved.
“Even in universities of technology, these courses are being run without paying premium to their core values. Polytechnics are supposed to have a different focus  that will enhance technology but our case is different.
“So if we cannot produce pencil now, which we have been using since 100 years ago, what are our universities doing then? Principally, if our industries are working, we would have been better at our 57th anniversary,” he said.
In Osogbo, the  Chairman of Osun chapter of NBA, Mr Bamidele Ajibade, believes corruption is one of the key factors  responsible for the slow pace of development in Nigeria in the last 57 years.
Ajibade urged the president not to relent in his anti-graft war to move Nigeria forward.

Mr Ahmed Ahmed, a Kaduna-based journalist, said the bane of Nigeria’s development lies in the crisis of leadership.

Ahmed said the country has not been lucky to have a selfless leadership.
According to him, no nation develops and attain an enviable position within the comity of nations in the absence of a selfless leader, noting that successive governments in Nigeria fail to build a virile socio-economic paradigm  intrinsically home-grown and distinct from colonial arrangement.
“The abandonment of agriculture, which was the mainstay of our economy and highest employer of labour before the discovery of oil, is evidence of lack of vision on the part of the leadership.
“The absence of local content in the exploration of oil in both downstream and upstream of the sector, which responsible for capital flight is as a result of selfish leadership.

“The security architecture of Nigeria is in shambles simply because the political leadership compromised and allow criminality to fester in order to get and sustain power at all cost,’’ he added.

For Chukwuemeka Okoye , a civil servant, the discovery of oil has become a curse to Nigeria. He said corruption and greedy leaders are responsible for Nigeria’s underdevelopment since independence.
“Today, you see our so-called leaders building mansions, buying jets, lodging billions of naira in their accounts while civil servants and pensioners are dying due to non payment of salaries and pension.
Mr Wole Fagboro, a political scientist, agrees, saying  bad leadership had remained Nigeria’s problem since independence. Nigeria cannot develop because governance had never been exemplary. Our government promotes mediocrity over competence.”
Fagboro also said that the adoption of the America system of government is not suitable to the peculiarity of Nigeria.
An Ibadan-based legal practitioner, Mr Olalekan Ojo, said that Nigeria’s inability to harness its rich resources is due to failure of leadership and a docile followership.
He said the average Nigerian  today is only interested in crass accumulation of wealth in line with the nation’s values which promote corruption.
Ojo further said that the education system is not promoting growth and development. ”Till today, Nigeria is still relying on oil while other countries are technologically driven. This is to tell you the power of education,’’ he said.
In Ado-Ekiti, a don, Prof. Chris Oluwadare, said it is regrettable that Nigeria has yet to discover itself in spite of the efforts of its founding fathers due to unnecessary politicisation of issues.
He urged the country’s political leadership to summon the political will to initiate urgent but drastic measures to tackle the short and long-term challenges facing the country.
A community leader and retired Permanent Secretary, Chief Deji Fasuan, however, said the lazy attitude of the led and their impatience’’ are impeding the rapid development of the country.
He urged Nigerians to learn to be patient with their governments even as he urged leaders to be forthright and accountable.

Ekiti Commissioner for Information, Mr Lanre Ogunsuyi, on his part, expressed regrets at the state of the country after 57 years.
“The lessons from our predicament as a nation are many, but top among them is that a declining economy means that we have to be willing to make greater sacrifices in our personal consumption,’’ he said.
As Valentine Achum, a writer, argues that the quality of leadership in Nigeria will have a multiplier effect on all sectors of the national economy.
“If the quality of our political leadership is good, it will no doubt have a corresponding effect on our economy. But if our political leadership is dysfunctional, same will happen to the economy.
“No wonder Kwame Nkrumah had warned that “seek ye first the political kingdom, and all others shall be added unto you…’’
”Owing to this, there must be a complete restructuring of our leadership recruitment process. 
”This restructuring must first take place within the political parties in Nigeria,’’ he said.
All told, Nigeria at 57 calls for a complete turning point by the leaders and the led as we are all guilty of bringing Nigeria to its current knees, and unless we resolve to do things differently, we will continue to have the same results.
With the challenges dogging Nigeria’s evolving party system, it has produced in President Muhammadu Buhari a conscientious leader who has demonstrated uncommon vision and candour in governance.
Pitiably, his two years’ stewardship in government would have been tantamount to the Eighth Wonder of the world if it had reversed in a jiffy, the nearly six decades of rot.
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