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National leadership and complexities of domestic issues

By Adisa Adeleye

NIGERIA, as some would say, is a funny place  inhabited by funny people.  It is a place, as many believe, ‘where anything goes‘. Many people believe, and truly so, that nothing is impossible in this great country of ours.

It may not be funny that inspite of strong security responses, the Boko Haram sect chooses its target at any time with devastating effect.  Therefore, it does not make any sense in warning the deadly squad not to extend its murderous act beyond the Northern axis since any agent of Boko Haram knows that the suspected haven of Southern Christians is the place of worship.

Perhaps it is only in Nigeria that a serious matter is always treated with painful levity and with apparent disdain.  It is comical if not absurd that the present situation is generating debates on good leadership.  Many analysts continue to blame the woes and the inadequacies of Nigeria‘s economic and political instability on lack of visionary leadership.

The leaders of the first republic were dubbed local or regional captains.  As former President Obasanjo once noted, ‘I think the major mistake of independence was that we had three countries in one and three leaders that were barons of each of the three countries‘.

It is a pity that in the cozy atmosphere of the 1980s and 1990s, the exploits of Sir Ahmadu Bello, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Chief Obafemi Awolowo were viewed with jaundiced glasses and reviewed sarcastically by some biased historians.
Sir Ahmadu Bello, from his background of aristocracy, was able to establish the ruling dynasty of the Hausa/
Fulani in Nigeria till today.

This was done under the canopy of ‘One North, One Destiny‘.  Even with the creation of many states in the north, the propensity to rule in the average Northern politician is evident.

Chief Obafemi Awolowo‘s political sagacity in advocating the concept of Federalism for Nigeria has been the saving grace for Nigeria as one entity till today. The immense contributions of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe towards gaining independence for the country and the redirection of the Ibos into an undivided country after the end of the civil war cannot be easily forgotten.

The problems of Nigeria after the exit of the old political giants of the country could be attributed to lack of proper understanding of the past and poor appreciation of glorious historical events.  The present has failed to build on the past; rather the present is enjoying the toils of the past without thinking of the future.  Unfortunately, the present leadership has not found favor with a critical public which perhaps, is looking for a Leviathan or the PALLADIUM‘S “a leader for the times”.

If Olusegun Obasanjo was ‘imperious and provincial‘, or a Shehu Shagari ‘insular and tactless‘, and Goodluck Jonathan ‘ineffectual‘, then something is wrong with us as to suggest living in a state of warped mentality or historical illusion.
Is President Goodluck Jonathan ineffective?  It may be too early to assess fairly a leader after just one year in office.

Some are even suggesting that the incumbent President should not try to present himself for re election in 2015, while other political blocs are busy scheming for the top post that might arise in that fateful year.  It is a pity that the prospect of a ‘Northern President‘ or ‘Ibo President is being contemplated during this period of civil strife and destruction of lives and properties.

The sad side of the story is that many Nigerians see the Boko Haram insurgency and its bloody accomplishment as President Jonathan‘s baby and Northern States‘ affairs.  This is absolutely wrong and quite insensitive.  What affects the head should also be the problem of the eyes.

Therefore, the grand political schemers should think deeply about the survival of the country before 2015.
To many analysts, the problems of President Jonathan could be due to the bad luck of not having good advisers or inability to listen effectively to sound advices.

The President looks like a leader who needs a refresher course in political economy.  With the array of economists in his team, it should not be difficult for the President to embark on policies which would increase national income, stimulate effective demand for goods and services and increase employment.

The growth stimulant is the proverbial “oil money” which is being grossly mismanaged and continues to fuel corruption.  It is still a surprise that the country continues to import a single product (refined petrol) and pays subsidy on the difference between the landing cost and the pump price.

A barrel of crude oil being refined yields other products beside gasoline.  The question is:  what happens to the prices of these products in the determination of the price of gasoline as a single product?

The other point which comes to mind is the Power Policy of the government.  The scenario is this:  the country is blessed with oil and gas – ingredients to make the supply of adequate power possible.  Thermal Plants to supply electricity have been built all over the country but could not function because of lack of gas supply.  The Gas Company (Foreign and Nigeria interest) would not supply the product because of the huge debts owed by the PHCN (Power Holding Company of Nigeria – Nigeria interest).

Our economic gurus have found an answer in the increase in electricity tariff without increase in electricity supply.  The same argument applies to increase in price of gas to industries to attract foreign investments.  Nobody seems to be thinking on what the effects on tariff increases on supply of electricity and gas would be on the economy.

It should also be admitted that the economic transformation agenda of the President is suspect.  It is unlikely that any meaningful economic prosperity could be built on tough monetary measure and high foreign exchange rate which does not allow for cheap importation of essential goods for the country‘s economic infrastructural development.

It has been said several times that tightenened monetary policy as anti inflationary measure is an illusion.  But this is the avowed policy leaving the Naira, bastardised and unstable. Perhaps, Cheap Money Policy, well managed could be the answer to expansion of supply of commodities.

On the political scene, the wide acceptance of President Jonathan as a candidate of a minority tribe (Ijaw) was believed could bring an end to the dangers of ‘power blocs‘ in Nigeria’s political system.  The President should rise above petty party politics and don the toga of a Statesman at this moment of uncertainty.

As I have stated before in this column,  summing up the mood of the 1930‘s in Britain, a Cambridge don, David Thomson noted that, ‘within so brief a span, the people of Britain knew deep economic depression and widespread distress, prolonged crises and intense anxieties, fumbling leadership and moments of national humiliation‘. Now it is the right time to look beyond the enchanting choruses of the party faithful.
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