Dedication is the key word. A dedicated shoe clerk could save a nation where an opportunist Statesman could ruin it. The history of the world is but the biography of its leaders (Thomas Carlyle, 1841). Imagine the unforgettable travails of Nigeria since independence and the lost opportunities. Our national fortune had been inextricably woven with the biographies, life and times of Balewa, Ironsi, Gowon, Murtala, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, Babangida, Shonekan, Abacha, Abubakar, Obasanjo, Yaradua, Jonathan and lastly Buhari.
We lacked visionaries and astute nation builders. It had been a lamentable tragedy of errors. Our leadership had lacked love, fire, ambition, sense of history, geopolitical vision, competitiveness, set goals, management acumen and honesty. The blanket portmanteau description of our leaders might be harsh, but it is evident that majority had not ventured to promote national growth, national efficiency, and greatness.
Tafawa Balewa was an epitome of simplicity and honesty. He had done his level best in initiating the first Development Plan. Ironsi took the mantle of leadership, failed to prosecute the coupists and started a dangerous political permutation. He got wiped off. Gowon was dashing, came at a serious period of strife and uncertainty, suffered from youthful exuberance. He was basically honest, never put up a private mansion. He initiated several physical development plans and towards the end, he got swollen headed, ambitious and wanted to perpetuate self in power and he fell in the end. Muritala the enigma, brash, youthful, repentant, wanted to do too much too soon. He suffered fatally from taking on too many enemies at the same time. He was not killed by a random coup but eliminated by a well-knit conspiracy whose sole aim was to get him killed for kicking against the Caliphate, Britain, America, Civil Servants, and the army top brass. Obasanjo came and started building bureaucracy on a low tempo. He made a conscious attempt at nation building, but the method was too slow to reach a revolutionary peak and stumbled on the path of rapid development. Shehu Shagari came unprepared and governed mostly pedestrian. It looked like the operators of that government had wanted to make up for lost time in the looting spree. Buhari came and started the spartan discipline. He never watched his back and was checkmated before he warmed up. Babangida came with the toothy smile and the "Maradonic" samba dance. The end of hope had begun for lack of dreams as by now political tinkering, civil service experimentation, surrender to World Bank dictation, structural adjustment program that brought no benefit, Liberian and Sierra Leone senseless wars that cost us billions in dollars. The baton was passed to Shonekan whose government was dead on arrival. Abacha completed the loop and led the Nation into an enduring nightmare.
The return of Obasanjo and the manner of his elevation from prison to Aso rock had not prepared him well enough. He, however, succeeded in removing Nigeria from the list of pariah nations, paid our so-called debts, bloated the inefficient bureaucracy but never made any attempt to get us to the Paper Tiger launching pad.
Yara dua shunned continuity, he canceled the modern railway contract, truncated the IPP program but managed to tame the militants. Uncle Jona left us comatose by the lack of experience and management ineptitude.
People often forget we had only two choices in 2015. Nobody claimed that PMB was a saint or our savior. He had never claimed to be an all knowing economist.
Many mischievous and half-educated busy bodies had questioned the WASCE credentials of a retired general. We all know he wasn't a magician. We make no excuses for his weak points.
What are the yardsticks for clueless leadership? What and where are the clues taught for good performance? What is being misgoverned? What are our genuine complaints? Was the unpaid salaries embezzled by the government officials? What "misdoing" of government is evident? Have we ordinary folks not been failing in our callings, duties and social obligations particularly in prompt payment of commensurate taxes? Is the problem with us as we continually elect non-performing leaders because of pecuniary, tribal, religious, regional, narrow and selfish interests? Are we given to analysis, because it is only in logic that contradictions can not exist? Do we expect too much from the government? Are there job descriptions for our elected leaders? Do we believe them when they claim they don't have money? Have we been criticizing them constructively? How do we factor into the equation the reduced expectations from the crude oil sales and large-scale arson?
We lack national consensus on what we designate as a national good. We lack faith, patience, solid foundation, honesty and national purpose.
Our major problem in this country is inefficiency. Corruption is one of the consequences of inefficiency. Efficiency breeds productivity, full employment, working rule of laws, no-nonsense security apparatus, upright judiciary, a spirit of hard work, appreciation of enduring responsibility and a deep sense of history.
PMB is our most consistent leader that has invested in efficiency in his fight against corruption. If a nation is efficient and corrupt or inefficient and not corrupt, there is hope at upward development. Nigeria had been corrupt and inefficient. PMB is an apostle of efficiency, a necessary prerequisite for a lift off. He probably would not finish the revolution like Deng Xiaoping or Lee Kuan Yew but he has decided to set a standard, a building block of decency and progress. Let him be a fundamentalist, a nepotist, with a sectional bent but he is the best we have as of now, and he is on course. PMB is trying to lay a foundation that is firm and strong, but "faith that is firm is also patient. Justice will be the measuring line for the foundation and honesty will be the plumb line."
PMB will never take us into industrialization but he might if constructively criticized and genuinely advised lead us to the gateway.
We need to industrialize on a massive scale. We are advantaged by our large population. Junks of cheap goods now flow from neighboring West African states into Nigeria. What a monstrous aberration. We blame the lack of infrastructure as an impediment to industrialization forgetting that Dangote operates within the same infrastructural complex to rise to the top of the world.
PMB is our Shoe Clerk. Where are the Nigerian economics professors, seasoned technocrats and those who claim to know better? They have no clue on the dialectics of the political economy of growth. The toxicity of half-truths has become the rule rather than the exemption. We have fully developed a culture of the Critic without plowing back new ideas and innovations.
In this era of the fourth industrial revolution, the prospect of the Nigerian project is bleak.
*Being a response to “T” (SOS, February 5, 2017)