The problem with Nigeria: Letdown of leadership?

In the superlative piece of postcolonial literature called “Things Fall Apart,” late Chinua Achebe succinctly captured my burning reflection as I write on an issue that is so dear to my heart and so important to the continued existence of our greatly valued nation.

He said and I quote to the letter: “It is totally false to suggest, as we are apt to do, that Nigerians are fundamentally different from any other people in the world. Nigerians are corrupt because the system under which they live today makes corruption easy and profitable; they will cease to be corrupt when corruption is made difficult and inconvenient…The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmarks of true leadership. Nigeria can change today if she discovers leaders who have the will, the ability and the vision…”

I wholly see eye to eye with late Chinua Achebe. Nigeria is still heavily challenged—57 years after the Union Jack was lowered as an effect of leaders—who lack the will, the ability and the vision to elevate us as a people from the bog and sticky situation we have found ourselves as a people.

The existing President of Nigeria contested for the juiciest job in Nigeria and lost—not once and twice. He was actually beaten thrice before he finally won in the year 2015! Why was he able to win in the year 2015? He won because Nigeria was tired of scrawny, languid and corrupt leadership. Nigerians did see in him, a man who they believed has the will, the ability and the vision that would help us as a people realize the Nigeria of our dreams. As an effect of this, we quickly bought into the candidacy of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is going to three years now that he got to power, but he has clearly refused to provide the kind of leadership that can help us as a nation.

A leader is as clean and strong as those he or she chooses to surround himself or herself with. One of the undoing of the last administration was the team of people that Dr. Ebele Goodluck chose to surround himself with. A leader cannot be said to be clean when those on his or her team are not. If Mr. President does not put his ‘administration-house’ in order, it is going to work against him in the days to come.

Also, I speak as someone who understands nation building and as someone who has been a student of patterns (in our polity and politics) since the Union jack was lowered in 1960. How do I mean? This is it: President Buhari cannot perform any magic without having a first-rate team of people to work with. Most of those on his team are noticeably not sharing his vision, if there is any.

Maina’s scandal is another issue that is likely going to rock the boat of Mr. President’s administration in the days to come, if he does not rise to do what is expected of him. It is not enough to hurriedly disengage him from active service; Nigerians are excepting many heads to roll. Mr. President is expected to be like the father of Singapore, who did not shield one of his choice leaders when he fell short of the law of the land. Lee Kuan Yew also submitted himself to the rule of law. History has it that he ran a very transparent administration. Mr. President is also expected to run a very transparent administration and the law that binds the common man should also bind him and his team members. This (and more) is what we are expected of President Buhari.

As I coast home, under the watch of President Buhari, this nation is crawling back into the down-at-heel room of debt. We were told that some huge amount of money was recovered from an apartment in Ikoyi, but five months after, EFCC is still seeking an order of final forfeiture of Osborne Towers to the Federal Government even as it revealed that the wife of the embattled director general of the National Intelligence Agency, Ayo Oke, paid a sizeable $1.658 million to acquire the Osborne flat.

Also, on the 10th of February, the EFCC recovered $9.8 million from Yakubu, Ex-NNPC GMD. A year ago, the Federal Ministry of Information published the total cash retrieved by the Nigerian government: “78,325,354,631.82 naira, $ 185,119,584.61, 3,508,355.46 pound sterling and 11,250 Euros.” How can an administration say they have recovered so much money and still be borrowing money at the same time to even pay monthly salary? It is a tight conundrum that we are all waiting on Mr. President and his team to unravel.