By Dele Sobowale
In every community, there is a class of people profoundly dangerous to the rest. I don’t mean the criminals. For them we have punitive sanctions. I mean the leaders. Invariably the most dangerous people seek power.” Saul Bellow.
WHEN President Buhari signed the 2018 Budget on June 20, 2018 he made a statement which in addition to the lateness in signing the budget should warn Nigerians that the fate of our country is in the hands of the most dangerous people in the land. More than kidnappers, bank robbers, Boko Haram and herdsmen, the people we need to fear most are our elected representatives in Abuja; in the Executive and legislative branches as well as their appointees in the security establishments.
“Today, the raw material of experience is provided by men whom no one respects.” Albert Camus, 1903-1960.
In Nigeria only those who have been “invited to come and eat” and who hope the feast continues pretend to respect their principals. That explains why some would utter unprintable words against somebody in power and recant them once admitted to the dinner table. Fani-Kayode was still telling anybody, who would listen, that President Jonathan was clueless until he was appointed Director of Media for the GEJ campaign. Suddenly, the former President became “God’s blessing to Nigeria.” “Money makes everything legitimate – including bastards” according to a Jewish proverb. Every government has always been praised for its “giant strides” by the charlatans occupying office and those benefiting from its sickness. Later when out of government they will join those wondering why Nigeria is “Still a Toddler at 78”. Seldom are they honest enough to include the government they served among those which ruined Nigeria.
When the national debt rose by N7tn or more in three years, with very little to show for the monumental bondage, it was not “Evans” and other robbery kingpins who wasted or stole most of the funds. It was all those “respected” people riding bullet-proof SUVs and dressing in designer suits working at the Three Arms Zone who made the funds for development to disappear without any benefit to Nigeria. We have been underdeveloped by our leaders – military or civilians and will continue to languish in poverty until we become honest with ourselves that the current leaders in Abuja cannot lead us out of bondage.
“Planning must be understood as a continuous process integrating social and economic factors.” Costa Rican Government Official.
Every economist knows that nations, without strategic plans and continuous application of effort, don’t become prosperous and remain so. The countries to which Nigerian kids flee in dangerous boats across the Mediterranean Sea – Spain, Italy, Portugal etc – did not become great economies overnight. They planned to be great. It took hundreds of years of strong purposeful leadership for them to reach their current status. The unfortunate thing for Africa and Nigeria is the fact that no African nation has been able to evolve the sort of leadership needed over several generations to become a great economy. And size has very little to do with it.
Nigeria is the saddest case because when the “wind of change was blowing over Africa” (Harold Macmillan. February 3, 1960) in the 1960s, Nigeria was tipped as the country most likely to become the African success story and global economic giant – given our population and endowments of natural resources. We were far ahead of Malaysia and South Korea. And that was long before we became a leading oil exporter. Today, we are not in the same class. What happened?
“People have finally realized that decisions made today will affect life for the next 30 to 40 years..” (Edward Cornish, President, World Future Society, 1995).
When Cornish spoke about people he could not possibly have included the Nigerian leaders we have had from 1966. Nigeria fell increasingly behind other nations and we still continue to do for one cardinal reason.
First, the quality of leadership changed for the worst in one day when the first coup took place. From well educated leaders we suddenly found ourselves slaves to secondary school certificate holders. What the Europeans expecting great things from Nigeria did not expect was what happened. The “founding fathers” of Nigeria – Ahamadu Bello, Azikiwe and Awolowo – and their first set of close confidants were educated and dedicated patriots in every sense of the word and they were purposeful. They were replaced by Ironsi, Gowon, Mohammed, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Abacha, Abubakar, Obasanjo, Yar’Adua, Jonathan and Buhari again. On the whole, a more underwhelming set of leaders would be hard to imagine.
For 52 years, almost two generations, we have been led by people who history would remember as total failures. Demographics define a generation as 30 years. It took Lee Kwan Yew less than one generation to transform Singapore from a Third World country to a First World country. Eleven Nigerian leaders in two generations have managed to keep Nigeria firmly in the Third world and leaning towards becoming one of few nations in the Fourth World category.
To be continued…