Turning point in Nigeria’s historical evolution: A critical interpretation (1)

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By Douglas Anele

Last week we argued, among other things, that the present ruling elite who constitute less than one percent of the Nigerian population are unwilling and incapable of moving the country from the precarious position it is at the moment to a better place in the future. Keep in mind that this group, which includes top key players in politics, the military and business, controls over ninety percent of the country’s wealth.

The reasons for our pessimism about the ruling class are not far to seek. To begin with, ninety-nine percent of that class are solely motivated by primitive accumulation in whatever they do, especially if they are elected or appointed to serve in one official capacity or another. Values which are necessary for effective leadership such as selflessness, patriotism and enlightened social conscience do not enter into their calculus for public office. In addition, Nigerian leaders are, as a group, blind and pachydermatous to the lessons of history – one can almost say that our ruling elite is insular to the harsh verdict of history concerning primitive accumulators.

If our leaders are well-informed about the futility of bulimic accumulation, and really take to heart the incontrovertible truth that the greatest good a leader can do to himself and his people is to serve selflessly without exploiting his position for material benefit, then the stench of corruption that pervades the country would have dissipated.

More tellingly, Nigeria could have witnessed tremendous progress in the quest for human capital development and wealth creation. It is not gainsaid that our leaders are hypocritical, deceitful and wicked. Nothing exemplifies this better than the penchant of members of the ruling cabals at both the executive and legislative arms of government, their relatives and acolytes to travel abroad for medical treatment even for what the media assistant to the Senate President described as “minor ailments.”

Map of Nigeria

Map of Nigeria

The logic behind this palpable absurdity is simple: the lives of a prominent Nigerian, his family members and friends are more precious than the lives of ordinary citizens; therefore, it does not matter if average Nigerians die as a result of poor health system as long as the leaders can easily fly overseas to receive excellent medical care.

Now, it is interesting to read in newspapers what Nigerian leaders say concerning the myriads of challenges we face and how to overcome them. What can we say about the lectures, seminars and workshops organised periodically by the ruling elite purportedly intended to generate ideas for national development? At first sight one might be tempted to commend such effort because it creates the impression that those involved are motivated by genuine patriotism to proffer solutions to the leadership-generated problems facing the country.

But upon closer inspection and reflection, it becomes pretty clear that the whole thing is mere window dressing intended to deflect attention from the massive fraud perpetrated against the people by the leaders. Again and again members of the ruling elite who craft such developmental blueprints either manipulated the system to get to the top or used their privileged positions to enrich themselves and their families.

For example, consider media reports concerning the just concluded 10th yearly lecture of the Centre for Values and Leadership held at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), Lagos, where some prominent Nigerians, including two serving state governors, condemned endemic bulimic corruption within the political and socio-economic leadership circles in Nigeria.

The views expressed by the speakers at the event, especially on the negative consequences of the loss of core values for nation-building and insistence on mentoring, are “spot-on.” However, the fundamental problem is that Nigerian leaders rarely practice what they preach. From the regime of Gen. Yakubu Gowon (rtd) to the current administration of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, our leaders have manifested a troubling disdain for their highfalutin promises to the people. Even Gen. I. B. Babangida (rtd) and late Gen. Sani Abacha, two military leaders, in their public speeches perceptively diagnosed Nigeria’s problems and proposed ways of resolving them.

But they failed to match their prescriptions with noble actions. Therefore, when prominent Nigerians, particularly those that have occupied high public office or are still occupying such positions pontificate about the problem of corruption, about the loss of enduring values and about the need to reconstruct the country on a sound moral and patriotic footing, majority of  the people (correctly in my opinion), either ignore them or respond cynically to such empty sermonisations.

The reason is that for decades Nigerians have been inundated with fine rhetoric from official quarters, with very little to show for it in terms of genuine transformation of the fundamentals of our existence as a modern nation-state.

For the two governors who spoke at the lecture my questions are: to what extent have you made genuine personal sacrifices for improving the states under your care? Are you prepared to be poorer financially when you leave office at the end of your tenures? As believers in an omniscient God, would you be completely exonerated from corruption assuming judgment day comes at the end of your terms?

And for all the prominent people that featured at the event, aside from questions about the core values that determine their actions, one would want to know what they would consider as appropriate response of the masses to the current political and socio-economic system that only takes care of the one percent that controls the bulk of the country’s wealth and leaves ninety-nine percent of the population in the slough of despond.

To be concluded.

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