Nigeria’s Restructuring and Secession Dilemma, By Uju Obii-Obioha

I still have some doubt that the attainment of an independent Biafra or restructuring will eliminate the major issues of selfish and visionless leadership that afflicts us today. If we end up electing the same type of politicians we have always done, the problem will definitely persist. How much good will Biafra or restructuring do if the same calibre of people are elected?

As we all know, for a few years now IPOB has been strongly clamouring to secede the South-East from the larger Nigerian federation. It is a contentious issue that stirs up strong emotions in most Nigerians and fortunately the intent of this article is not to discuss whether or not I am in support of secession but rather to provoke some critical reasoning on the issue.

Many people will agree that the major issue that has hampered the development and success of Nigeria as a country for so long has been the selfish and visionless leadership of our politicians and public officials. It is also evident that at the core of the push for secession is the lack of infrastructural and economic development in the South-East. The indigenes are fed up with the lack of development and believe that the solution to the problem is to become a sovereign nation on their own, thereby taking responsibility for the required progress as opposed to depending on the federal government. Also, there is a growing number of Nigerians who believe that the restructuring of the federation will lead to a more progressive Nigeria. The overall consensus on both sides is that things are simply not working as it should and something needs to be done urgently if we want to move forward as a people.

I still have some doubt that the attainment of an independent Biafra or restructuring will eliminate the major issues of selfish and visionless leadership that afflicts us today. If we end up electing the same type of politicians we have always done, the problem will definitely persist. How much good will Biafra or restructuring do if the same calibre of people are elected? Will having a new country automatically stop the rogue politician from embezzling public funds? We must learn to shame leaders who loot and care more about themselves than the people they serve. We should stop clapping and cheering them on when we see them at public functions. We should not be enamoured of their wealth and airs, but should only be interested in their characters and ideas.

…Nigeria is blessed with a good number of capable people with the know-how to provide great leadership, however the decay in our political system has deterred a lot of this calibre of people from seeking public office. There are very many people with the desire to serve the country but who are not willing to risk their lives or soil their hands in the muddy waters of Nigerian politics.

It puzzles me that Lord Lugard once made a comment about the Nigerian that unfortunately still holds true today: “He lacks power of organisation, and is conspicuously deficient in the management and control alike of men or of business. He loves the display of power, but fails to realise its responsibility”. The part of the comment that stands out to me is the underlined about loving the display of power but failing to realise its responsibility. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that the majority of our politicians, regardless of ethnic origin, are so madly in love with the spoils of power that they often fail to realise that they were elected or appointed by the people and for the sake of the people. The joy of the office should be in the projects accomplished, not the entourage/convoy and adoration of supporters. Also, the masses are in love with power as well, and they keep dreaming of gaining power some day and enjoying the spoils that it confers too.

I am fully aware that Nigeria is blessed with a good number of capable people with the know-how to provide great leadership, however the decay in our political system has deterred a lot of this calibre of people from seeking public office. There are very many people with the desire to serve the country but who are not willing to risk their lives or soil their hands in the muddy waters of Nigerian politics. As a result of this sad reality, the unscrupulous ones mostly win elections because they are willing to employ all the nasty tactics available to achieve this. The real solution to Nigeria’s problem is a reform of INEC to enable it conduct free and fair elections and for the Nigerian people to begin electing capable people with integrity to run the affairs of the nation, while also stepping up to hold them accountable for the discharge of their public responsibilities.

Uju Obii-Obioha, a procurement professional and contract specialist with a US federal agency, writes from Maryland, USA.

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