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Published  October 21st, 2009

There is no gainsaying that the once promising Nigerian nation is lost deep inside the wilderness of underdevelopment and insecurity due to the effects of pandemic corruption and deep tribal scheming. The situation has become so bad that it would take only a very courageous leadership to get Nigeria out of the woods. Unfortunately, every administration since 1960 has come and acted in manners that suggest the nation would require up to a century to have her problems fixed. It has now become a countrywide tradition for Nigerian leaders and their aides both at the state and national levels to either hide or deny their failures by casting stones at their predecessors. The Obasanjo administration is the guiltiest of them all. For eight years, administration officials shamelessly indulged in the habit of reminding Nigerians of the havoc done the nation by subsequent military dictators but failed to do anything practical to remedy the situation. In fact, the Obasanjo administration left the country’s socio-economic framework much weaker than it was in May, 1999 when it took over from Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar. The Yar’Adua administration too started with singing the same old song: “It would take a lot of time to clear the mess created by the last administration.” For half a century, Nigerian leaders have fooled the masses. By all standards, leadership is not supposed to be a tea party like many have taken it to be. Leadership is strictly an instrument for development, unity, peace, and security. Society is usually exposed to varying degrees of threats whenever leadership fails.

It is often said that bad workmen quarrel with their tools. The same thing applies to leadership. Bad leaders are fond of blaming others for their failures. One prominent characteristic of bad leaders is the readiness to invest in the recruitment of orators and propaganda wizards to help deceive and pin down the patience of hapless citizens. The blame culture our leaders indulge in has rather helped to expose one very painful fact: Most public office holders do not understand the true meaning of leadership. Some therefore see leadership as opportunities to advance tribal or religious agendas. Others simply see leadership as platforms to amass wealth. Excepting our leaders begin now to appreciate what leadership truly is; Nigeria would continue to suffer underdevelopment, unemployment, poverty, crime, and insecurity.

It would be an understatement to declare that Nigeria has lacked purposeful leadership for the most part of her 49 years as an independent nation. Nigeria would therefore need a legion of leaders that are prepared invest huge amounts of honesty, faith, and patriotism. Without this, the nation would not experience growth and peace. There is no doubt that Nigeria has one time or the other been blessed with honest leaders. The problem has been that these honest leaders mostly surround themselves with dishonest people in the form of advisers, ministers, and confidants. It is natural for honest leaders that accept support from dishonest people to become dishonourable within a very short period of time. That is the problem Yar’Adua and Jonathan are facing.

The success stories of Nigerians in the Diaspora shows that there are enough honest Nigerians who can work with our leaders to fix the myriad of problems that have continued to bedevil this nation. Unfortunately, the nation’s faulty electoral system makes it quite impossible for most leaders to assemble a credible team to work with. This has forced our leaders to have hoards of mainly dishonest people around them. As it is with most democracies around the globe, some key government positions are usually reserved as compensation for influential kingmakers immediately after elections. Since the honest people among us would not go the length to do certain abominable things to rob the electorates of their ballots during elections, they are usually ignored when it comes to filling sensitive positions in government. It is sad to note that even the few honest ones that find their way into government are usually recommended by dishonest kingmakers. This is
mostly responsible for the several cases of honest Nigerians who danced naked in the market square shortly after joining government.


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For a country with a faulty electoral system, Nigerians do not need a prophet to confirm that the art of king-making here is dirty and stinks to the high heavens. There are no internal democracies. Not only are candidates forced on party members; elections are openly rigged by political kingmakers for a price: key to the treasury. This would best explain why despite all the noise about ICPC, EFCC, and CCB; corruption has continued to grow in the country. It is now fashionable for government to decide who is to be investigated, arranged in court, bailed, or even convicted. This has indeed rubbished the much dramatised rule of law and war against graft the Yar’Adua administration is pursuing. The earlier our leaders stop deceiving the citizens, the better for the future of this country. Nigeria does not need more than four years to get back on her feet.

With all amount of honesty; I would be quick to add that Nigeria would reach the sky in a span of four years if the amount of zeal deployed to tackle militancy in the Niger Delta region is directed at corrupt and super tribal zealots in government. No doubt, Nigerian officials are reputed to be among the best fiscal policy formulators and budget planners in the world. The irony however is that Nigeria is occupying the bottom rung of the ladder in terms of budget implementation. This is a clear case of poor leadership. Nigeria would have been among the first 20 most industrialised countries in the world if her leaders had implemented annual budgets to the tone of 85% at the state and national levels in the last ten years. Nigeria only requires stable power supply, efficient transportation system, access to long term credit facilities, transparency and accountability in government business to enable the private sector drive the nation’s economy up the ladder. All of these would not cost the nation a fortune. It only requires the right leadership. Perhaps, one should add here that our leaders do not lack the capacities to fix these issues. The snag is that our leaders have been swallowed by their own greed and other human weaknesses.

Just like in the case of the Niger Delta where those that were benefiting from the activities of militants never wanted peace in the region; there are several thousands of Nigerians who are benefiting from the nation’s poor leadership culture. Some of these persons believe they would lose substantial stake if there is steady electricity in Nigeria. Is it not a shame that despite the abundance of natural gas in the Niger Delta region, constant power supply has been a mirage in Nigeria? The petroleum sector is no better. As the sixth largest producer of crude, Nigeria still imports more 50% of petroleum products to service local markets. This status quo is maintained just to make sure some persons have the opportunity to make huge profits through the importation of petroleum products. For how long would our leaders continue to fool the citizenry? To make matters worse, government has been making much noise about the planned withdrawal of petroleum subsidy. For a nation suffering from poor leadership culture, there is no doubt that subsidy is the only benefit the masses are sure of. Ordinarily Nigerians will surely resist attempts by government to further impoverish them with the planned increase in the prices of petroleum products by 1st November, 2009.

Furthermore, there are many Nigerians that think an efficient transportation system in the country would impact negatively on their businesses. This is the reason why our federal roads are deliberately allowed to turn into ponds and death traps despite the existence of FERMA. It is also for the same reason that the rail system has gone comatose over the decades. More than that; a handful of Nigerians benefit substantially when government businesses are done in secrecy. It has therefore been difficult for the nation to reap the benefits of transparency and accountability. All of these persons enumerated above are members of the platoon of kingmakers. They work hand in glove with our leaders to destroy the country. Some how, the masses have always tended to undermine them because of the subtle manner they operate. They are mostly faceless but quite a formidable force. They are very wealthy and influential and too ready to contribute resources to install and manipulate political leaders to their advantage. One ready question that has always hung on the lips of many Nigerian leaders is: “Is it morally right to bite the finger that fed me?” This is the problem with leadership in Nigeria. The foundation of many Nigerian leaders can be traced to the heart of dishonest kingmakers. It would be difficult for Nigeria to enjoy quality leadership as long as the masses are prevented from choosing their leaders. This is the strong reason why the electoral laws should be reformed to make votes count. Electoral fraud is indeed one very big brush that our leaders have used to paint Nigeria black in the eyes of the international community. Though, Nigeria is believed to be Giant of Africa, the international community see the true giant in Ghana and South Africa. This fact should help grow patriotism in our leaders.

Yar’Adua had once flaunted his patriotism when he openly confessed that the 2007 presidential election that brought him to office was flawed. He followed this confession with a firm promise to overhaul the nation’s faulty electoral laws. This honest disposition earned the former governor of Katsina State so much respect among the Nigerian masses and civil society organisations. But with the election season just a few months away, they are beginning to feel betrayed. Some have gone to the extent of cursing the day they accepted to forgive the ruling party of all her electoral sins before, during, and after the 2007 presidential election. Many Nigerians have begun to argue that the president’s blatant refusal to cede the power to appoint the Chairman of INEC is as good as not having any electoral reforms at all. The president’s unwavering resolve to keep the all-important right to appoint the electoral commission’s boss has left wide gaps for fertile suspicions among watchers of Nigerian politics. Civil society organisations and opposition political have already cried fowl against the continuous delay of the long planned review of the nation’s constitution which was stalled owing to very trivial issues. Even the claim by the deputy senate president, Ike Ekweremadu that a whole of N500m was inadequate to enable the National Assembly review the nation’s constitution has been quickly interpreted to be part of a grand plan to scuttle the much anticipated electoral reform process ahead of the next general elections. Whichever way one wants to looks at the unfolding drama, the truth still stands out: Our leaders are suffering from severe agoraphobia.

It is pertinent to note at this point that Nigeria does not need just honest leaders. There is also an important need for honest followers as well. Honest followers would not ridicule leaders that are unable to own fleet of cars and mansions after leaving office. Many public office holders indulge in corruption because of undue pressure from family members, friends, and political associates. This should however not be an excuse for public office holders to steal government money while in office. They should rather put the interest of the nation first and grow the courage to resist extreme demands from whatever quarters.

This is the right time for Nigerian leaders to face the realism of fact. This is even more urgent because the patience of the Nigerian masses has run out. It was mainly for the fear of military intervention and possible disintegration that Nigerian masses ignored the charade that was the 2007 presidential elections. But unfortunately, Nigerians have been gravely hurt by the slow pace of development and high incidents of corruption in the polity. What is government expecting from the masses that are witnesses to the fact that most public office holders clearly live above their incomes while they wallow in abject poverty? Nigeria has become a time bomb. It would therefore be catastrophic if President Yar’Adua continues to take the patience of Nigerians for granted. For now, the endurance limit of Nigerians has become even shallower than the lower course of the River Niger. Government’s propaganda can no longer navigate the heart of suffering Nigerian masses. To successfully dredge same, the president should ensure that the electoral system is reformed in line with popular opinion before the next general elections. This would enable the electorates to take charge of the driving seats and disengage all the unpatriotic kingmakers and apostles of corruption that have held this country back for nearly half a century.

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