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Are our Leaders our Hurricane?

September 15, 2008

Many countries of the world have experienced, some are experiencing and many of whom are aware that still another form of hurricane or natural disaster was only a matter of time. China has of recent witnessed many of such natural disasters.

Many countries of the world have experienced, some are experiencing and many of whom are aware that still another form of hurricane or natural disaster was only a matter of time. China has of recent witnessed many of such natural disasters.

It started with an overwhelming snow which almost brought the country’s transport system for days to a standstill. The snow negatively affected the agricultural and electricity sectors. Next the country witnessed a disastrous earth quake which took several lives, destroyed many properties and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Then again, the flood, which claimed another set of people and causing damages worth millions of dollars. Yet china is today hosting the world to the satisfaction of the world. In fact it is not only hosting the Olympic Games but is participating with every livelihood that it would top the medal table. There are other countries prone to one disaster or another like Myanmar, United States, India, Bangladesh etc. In all, one could see the determination to overcome the difficulties and make life as normal as possible for their respective citizens in order to continue to participate in the task of nation building for development.

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The Nigerian situation is a very strange one. God in His mercy has not made Nigeria witness any significant natural disaster. He has rather blessed the country with a number of minerals in addition to an environment that is conductive to all kinds of crops and livestock. The country and may be above all, is endowed with a population that is a major attraction to the business community and an envy to our enemies. However, Nigeria has remained backward and unstable. Majority of its people are in excoriating poverty and illiterate. After the recent G8 meeting held in Japan, the members recommended that four other countries be invited to join the Group. The absence of Nigeria from the list made me to ask myself, why? Who is our ‘hurricane’? This is because some of the countries recommended were peers to Nigeria, if Nigeria was not even ahead of some of these in the past. The G8 preferred to invite China, India, Mexico and South Africa. I thought this should give our leaders sleepless nights. But on second thought, I begun to think, are our leaders not the ‘hurricane’? But again a hurricane destroys what exists; however, Nigerian leaders have not even allowed anything to develop before destroying it. A seasoned scholar, Professor Claude Ake has the assumption or hypothesis that Nigerian leaders had no development paradigm. The leaders in government are in government to enrich themselves and destroy their perceived enemies.

The leaders outside government devote their resources to pull down those in power to occupy the position. A cursory look at our history and what is happening today go to support the assumption. The disturbing phenomenon where authority is seen to protect the corrupt is most disturbing or when elections have become a ‘do or die affair’ despite all calls for reform. Nigeria is today 48 years as an independent nation but there is nothing to be proud of. Our political culture has remained primitive, our economy undeveloped, poverty on the increase in the midst of trillions of dollars the country earns, corruption has imbibed more complex methods and has become immune. Our power sector, our road network, education and health sectors etc are only degenerating. Recently I was in the republic of Niger and in a village where for four days there was no single bleak of electricity and constant water supply with strong pressure that one could take bath with the shower.

That, I have not seen in Nigeria for many years. In Niger also, what I saw on the road was countless number of trucks with goods heading to the Nigerian boarder. When I asked, all these for whom? I was told they all work for a well known smuggler who has turned Niger into a transit for his goods. I also saw endless number of tourist vehicles with their stress-looking drivers all heading to Nigeria. I further asked myself, what is wrong with us as a nation? Has the world thus understood us and were therefore considered more of a failed state? Why are our leaders doing this to us, for what benefit? Nigeria has had a number of different leaders from different tribal background in the country, leaders of different faiths and from both military and civilian orientation but there is far more disappointment than celebration. The leadership at different occasions has probed Ake’s assumption that due to lack of a development paradigm they would have to seek to divert the attention of Nigerians. These were done sometimes by deliberate creation of faith or tribal related conflicts in order to divide and rule, formulation of controversial policies or actions that lead Nigerians to conflicts and destruction of themselves and their properties with their leaders showing crocodile tears. Nigeria is now under democratic rule with political parties whose ideologies, focus or even programs are unknown to the majority of the Nigerians.

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The political culture has been overtaken by sentiments, corruption and god fatherism. These have beclouded the leadership that matters of the state for its development and the citizen’s rights to freedom of choice mortgaged and considered irrelevant. It is therefore little wonder that our political and military elites beyond the rhetoric are not seen to be pained by Nigeria’s underdevelopment. Our sectors are dangerously degenerating at an alarming rate. The leaders have perfected the art of corruption that the led have already learnt from. In our schools coupled with insufficient teachers and dilapidation structures, examination malpractice is the order of the day at all levels of education. One malpractice or another has entered every sector, every business and every aspect of life because Nigerians have been made to understand, deliberately or not, that knowledge, honesty, hard work and all those noble values cannot take one anywhere and they do not matter.

These through such acts as electoral frauds, jumbo payments to primary school failures, monetary and other forms of corruption etc, have made Nigerians most especially the youth now do not dream of innovations, inventions service, etc but have only one dream, how to make ‘big money’! The recent hue and cry by Nigerians on salary increase for especially National Assembly members was not because of any envy but the question of value for money. I believe if the NASS members were to play their role in the democratic process and ensure the good governance, Nigerians would be on their side but the opposite is the case. Nigerian youth in particular have been made to believe it is not the source that matters; it could be even as a public officer, it is the end result. They have come to learn that the country values only the ‘big men’, no matter what they did in the past. With this orientation or disorientation, just like the hurricane or other natural disasters destroy environment, our leaders are our hurricane. But more fundamentally the hurricane of some other countries is a natural disaster while ours in manmade, so what next then?

I could remember in the year 2000, when Nigeria was in its ‘honey moon’ with Obasanjo, I was in London. It happened that I gave a paper at the Centre for the Study of Democracy under the University of Westminster and I was arguing when asked about the solution to Nigeria’s problems. I suggested that obasanjo was a good man. He was second in command to Murtala Muhammed who led a regime that fought against corruption and tried to instill discipline. He also voluntarily handed over power to a civilian president, so I gullibly said Nigeria was in good hands and it would soon be out of the woods. One professor immediately reacted that a system must not rely on an individual. We must struggle to make the institutions accountable. And this he further said could be done through civil societies. After Obasanjo’s eight year term particularly his obsession and activities for tenure elongation and the conduct of the 2007 general elections I could not learn better. Not only is Obasanjo now irrelevant to the international community but he is a liability to the People’s Democratic Party and the ‘Yar’adua government. For Nigerians they are looking forward to the day when rule of law will take its course on Obasanjo. Our future therefore is the needed struggle by civil societies of university staff and students, the journalists, the workers and others to take the lead to demand for good governance and hold to account any public officer.

These groups must immediately demand the legislature, which is the pillar of democracy, to exercise its constitutional duties, fulfill their oaths and be the representatives of the people and not turning the legislature into a goldmine and leisure. This qualifies them for any jumbo salary. It must be business unusual or what the Hausas say, ko wacci ladan kuturu sai yayi mashi aiki. Nigeria must be fully aware that power generally does not get frightened by mentioning the name of God. Power is frightened when it is threatened. Civil societies must therefore generate the capacity to threaten power to force it to serve the Nigerian people. Once the system is on course civil societies may take a nap, a very short one, indeed. Dept of Public Administration Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, Nigeria.



The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of SaharaReporters

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