Nigeria is asset rich but poor in leadership; a land full of mineral resources, unimaginable wealth and human capital. Our beloved country is so blessed, yet crawling into avoidable crisis.
Sadly, the whole world is watching us as the ‘sleeping giant’ becomes the poverty capital of world.
The unhealthy state of our beloved country, Nigeria was eloquently captured in a recent article by one of the world most respectable news tabloid, the Financial Times. In an article titled “What is Nigeria’s government for?” on January 31, 2022, the writer, David Piling described the Nigerian government as “a government sleepwalking into disaster.”
According to Piling, “Buhari oversaw two terms of an economic slump, rising debt and a calamitous increase in kidnapping and banditry.”
Financial Times’ report validates the report of the International Development Association (IDA) and Transparency International on the state of nation.
The International Development Association (IDA), a World Bank financial institution had listed Nigeria among countries with the highest debt risk exposure across the world. Transparency International had also ranked Nigeria 154 out of 180 countries on the Corruption Perception Index.
That is how bad leadership affects the international image of the country. Sadly, our present crop of leaders seems to have forgotten the labors of our heroes past. This explains why we are witnessing a shattered country – a collapsing nation.
Reminiscing about the golden leadership days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Ahmadu Bello makes me wonder at what point we missed it as a nation.
Obafemi Awolowo, the first premier of the Western region from 1952 to 1959, was a nationalist who played active role in the struggle for Nigeria’s independence. The visionary and economically sagacious Awo-led government had numerous achievements including: the implementation of free Universal Primary Education, the establishment of Africa’s first TV Station, the construction of West Africa’s first Skyscraper (Cocoa House) and first International Stadium (Liberty) the establishment of a first rate Civil Service, the construction of Nigeria’s first Housing and Industrial Estates (Bodija and Ikeja) etc.
Awolowo was one of the country’s leading social democratic politician who, in his agitation for self-rule, was also known to have stood for economic and social development especially in the Western region.
In recognition of all of this, Awolowo was the first individual in the modern era to be named as the leader of the Yoruba (Asiwaju Awon Yoruba or Asiwaju Omo Oodua).
Popularly known as ‘Zik of Africa,’ Azikiwe was the first President of Nigeria from 1963 to 1966. Considered a driving force behind the nation’s independence, he came to be known as the “father of Nigerian Nationalism.”
Azikiwe was a leading figure of modern Nigerian nationalism who spent a better part of his life working to end British control of Nigeria, both as a journalist and a politician. He inspired the Zikist movement, a radical revolutionary and multi-ethnic youth body which championed the Nigerian struggle against imperialism and the belief that Nigerians and indeed Africans should manage their own affairs.
An obituary in the 1996 issue of Jet captures his place in Nigeria’s and Africa’s history thus: “Known as a vigorous champion of African independence from European colonial rule, Dr. Azikiwe attained the rare status of national hero, admired across the regional and ethnic lines dividing his country.”
Ahmadu Ibrahim Bello, Sardauna of Sokoto, knighted as Sir Ahmadu Bello, built Northern Nigeria and served as its first and only premier from 1954 until his assassination in 1966.
Bello masterminded the creation of Northern Nigeria Development Corporation (NNDC), Bank of the North, and Northern Nigeria Investments Ltd (NNIL). He initiated plans to modernise traditional Koranic education in Northern Nigeria. His greatest legacy was the modernisation and unification of the diverse people of Northern Nigeria. Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) in Zaria is a monument named after him.
For us to have a healthy nation, just as in the days of Awolowo, Zik and Bello, there is need for us to return to regionalism: every region should control its natural resources, take 50 percent derivation, run local councils and create state police “as provided for under the 1963 Constitution”.
Today, to the typical southerner, northerners have been implementing an agenda of total domination as the structure of the country is eternally skewed in their favour. And to the typical northerner, the structure is a fair reflection of our socio-economic and political demographics and southerners are only allowing pride and prejudice to colour their reasoning.
With these entrenched mindsets on both sides, we cannot expect to have a decent discourse, much less reach a consensus on a national debate, which is why there is a demand for a return to the 1963 constitution.
This demand is coming for several reasons. One, it is widely claimed that the constitution granted resource control to the regions. Two, it is said that the constitution granted 50 percent derivation. Three, it is believed that the 50 percent derivation allowed the regions to compete and that was why Nigeria made progress then, compared to now. Four, the 1999 Constitution, under which we currently operate, is a terrible piece of work foisted on the country by the military.
ARISE ‘O COMPATRIOTS..
Richard Odusanya is a Social Reform Crusader and the convener of AFRICA COVENANT RESCUE INITIATIVE ACRI.