A COMPARISON of Nigeria’s experience in the quest for development with the experiences of other countries in the world provides a clear answer to the question: why has Nigeria failed or why is Nigeria failing? That answer, poignant and direct, is that there has not been a steady supply of good, selfless leaders to galvanise the potentials of the country for greatness.
This leadership vacuum has, of course, left in its trail, economic crises, political turmoil and wanton impoverishment of the people. Worst still, the prospect of prosperity for all in a land so blessed materially and in every other respect is undermined by corruption.
President Muhammadu Buhari, presumably a good student of history and a dramatis personae angry enough at the nation’s steady decline, has a golden opportunity to change the narrative.
Ironically, Nigeria started out on an excellent note as good leaders were not in short supply at the nation’s independence. With their sterling qualities, the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Michael Ajasin, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Michael Okpara, Aminu Kano, Sa’adu Zungur, Anthony Enahoro and many others of that era illuminated the political horizon with ideas for a nation bound for the greatest of heights. They were men who till date remain beyond compare.
But the tragedy of Nigeria is that the kind of leadership these gentlemen offered has consistently defied replication since their demise. Now, the country is bedeviled with unabashed pretenders to the positions of leadership, men and women who are only actuated by the impulses to acquire more material things for themselves and their families. Their hearts do not throb with the questions of how to improve the lot of the people they seek to serve and they are not jarred into altruistic service by the stark, pestilential misery of the citizenry. This was the problem identified by experts at a recent forum on “Growing Nigerian economy in this new era” the other day where participants appropriately blamed the nation’s economic crises on poor leadership.
In every political dispensation, the hope rises that there would be a break from this pattern of selfish leadership. Alas, a succeeding set of leaders often becomes worse than its predecessor. And Nigerians are haunted by a sense of a misplaced hope as they often soon realise that expecting good leadership from those in power is nothing more than an exercise in delusion.
But the nation needs to break this cycle of perfidious leadership by having in power and in offices men or women with the right qualities to fulfill the desire of Nigerians for a just, equitable country, leaders propelled by a vision to make Nigeria the best place for its inhabitants.
Nigeria needs leaders who are not suddenly attracted to public office by the prospect of primitive wealth accumulation. Not leaders ferried into public office by auspicious circumstances but ones who, before seeking a public office, thought of what to do with the office and planned for the office’s execution.
In Nigeria, there are too many areas where big ideas are needed. Education, for instance. A visionary leader could reflect on the nation’s huge population and consider making its educational sector the best in the whole of Africa. Then it would train its nationals and export the manpower to other nations of the continent, and even the rest of the world.
The leaders Nigeria needs are those who look beyond here and now and offer a direction. They may not have all the answers but do not lack the will to dream big dreams as well as the wisdom to galvanise the nation to dream with them. They would be leaders who make huge sacrifices to develop the country, propelled by the knowledge that leadership is for service.
Now, there is a fresh opportunity for Nigeria’s current set of political leaders at all levels. They must learn from the failures of their predecessors and avoid such. They must acknowledge that nations fail or succeed because of leaders and that if Nigeria must develop, it is up to them.
The leaders who have promised change must chart a trajectory of values in sync with the promise, values that are clearly different from those that have retarded the nation’s development. They must articulate to the citizens a vision and lay out the plan for its attainment.
Needed now are leaders who, in words and in deeds, make Nigerians feel secured in the confidence that they belong to the best nation in the world.