By Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi, University of Ilorin, Nigeria
Many critics, friends and foes, national and foreign journalists, students and their professors, several of them have written volumes projecting Nigeria. Some from historical perception, economic perception, geographical description and others simply from sociocultural description. The only common interest remains that most of them describing “Nigeria as a Country that Raises People’s hope but never going Beyond Dreams”. Many have described Nigeria where only talkatives, people bragging on empty stomach, and where day-dreamers and less patriotic people live. For instance the current president may yet deliver an excellent speech in the floor of the UN this week, but his speech may have nothing in common with the programme of his administration, the prevailing plights and economic reality of ordinary Nigerians. We always suspect that professionals write for them what to read rather than Nigerian leaders saying where their country ought to be. Who is writing for President Obama of USA, for example? Are they just speech presenters and not writers or implementers?
This may be why some analysts believe that Nigeria is not moving forward enough with her peers simply because of leadership. The journals have described Nigeria leadership in many ways, such as “a set of holier than thou pretenders”, “leaders who believe more in materialism”, fake leaders”, “very low self-esteem leaders”, “regional and religious leaders wearing national clothing”. They compare nations as a marathon race, and Nigeria is one of the participants that doesn’t get beyond a few meters from the starting point. Nigeria allows herself to be distracted by extraneous attractions and things that cannot build a nation such as, inability to find and trust a genuine leadership, nepotism and religious bigotry, limitation of knowledge on what a nation should be pursuing, inability to define and defend the nationalities and manage their separate and combine aspirations. Those who rank Nigeria low in the committee of Nations may have some points.
Other analysts prefer to go through the historic memory lane, describing Nigeria in the pre – colonial, colonial era, and from independence to date. Part of the history is the several military coups and counter-coups, and that the mistake originated from the youthful leadership created by the military. For example Gowon was only a Lt. Col and some 26 years old, still a bachelor, when he became a Head of State, July 27, 1966, and ruled for nine years. Many of the subsequent military rulers had a similar age group. Nigeria was ruled by youths between 1966 and 1999 mainly, those who couldn’t coordinate or calculate the future from the past. During the military regime the nation lost many foreign investors and investments (the same type we are begging for now) due to lack of foresight and what we may describe as their youthful exuberance. I lived on holidays in Kaduna (1965 -1977) and can recall Chinese and Japanese investments in textile and other areas we have now lost. Up to date Nigerians are educated to still believe in her leadership as a combination of “Christian & Muslim”, or “Northern & Southern”, and at least a Minister from every state of the Federation. The PDP of 1999, and even to some extent of GEJ, grew fat on that deceipt. People are ready to war otherwise. In the university my argument is that our Vice Chancellor can come from anywhere on the globe but he or she must possess measurable and genuine academic and administrative leadership that can be respected. Unfortunately many universities reduce themselves to street politics allowing themselves to be controlled by ethnic, religious and other none essential sentimentalities; and helpes by campus unions who build and invest more on individuals rather than sustainable policies.
Where should Nigeria have been? Nobody really knows, and that is the very fact and the debate. That we don’t know where we ought to have been is a very lame argument and also very weak. When a child is 6 years old we know the child is old enough to start a formal schooling, when he or she is 20 the university, and if a daughter is 30 years and still eating three daily meals on dad’s table competing with her mum we know something is amiss. Nigeria, a 56 years old, we don’t know what is good for her or what to do with her. In the 1960s this same Nigeria had a big voice in the world as a respected member of the Non-Alliances; The world was polarised at the time by the West and the USSR at the time. Perhaps Nigeria hid under the racial war and the apartheid in southern Africa especially, Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia) and South Africa. That is, Nigeria couldn’t champion her own independent course of action except to simply react to a prevailing natural environment. This also is a sign of lack of leadership.
What do we mean by “moving a nation forward?” For instance we know that a child delights in the simple things of life but sometimes this delight can take him or her in the wrong direction, and when we have to steer the child from that. But delight itself is good. To live is to delight in life, like a child. At the national level our delight is simply to be like other developed and strong nations, in economy, defence and welfare policies; whether those nations are right or not. This may include to, ensure that our national currency remains very constant for all times and not subject to spurious fluctuations, maintain a sizeable and manageable population instead of allowing it get out of hand in its present trend, and satisfying our diverse interests as much as possible. The value of the naira to any other international currency at a given time is not as important as it’s ability to remain very stable and robust all the time. Similarly our population that doubles itself almost every twenty years is a time bomb that can destroy all our planning for the future. Chinese saw that time bomb in the 1960s. Whilst we don’t have to copy their flawed one-child policy we cannot fold our arms and allow our future generations to grow into poverty. We should warn our people to plan and lead them by examples. If Nigeria is defined as poor, its population, a major factor of per capita GDP is a reason. Other factors also playing their roles.
Above all other arguments, selecting leadership, managing leadership and setting up accountability parameters, such that no one is above the law is key in modern nation building. If I had may way I would henceforth ban every person in Nigeria that has ever held any political appointment, at any level, from future participation. I will encourage turning a new page, while a national “Probe and Reconciliation Panel” will be put in place. Will a new drastic policy be an infringement on personal rights? We need to separate personal rights from stealing and preventing national development. When the wrong persons have been appointed into offices they don’t qualify to hold several errors are committed. The entire system is put under arrest and the wrong officials run the system wrongly and as if that is the way it should. Nigeria has been under a house arrest, by the cabalism whose unknown interest is simply using all intrigues to destroy and delay Nigeria moving to where it ought to be in the committee of Nations.
Prof. R. A. Ipinyomi