June 4, 2021
By Emmanuel Okogba
By Adekunle Adekoya
IT is often said, both by Nigerians and foreigners alike, that the problem of the country centres around its leadership. In fact, a global consensus has been formed about the leadership problem, such that it has now been articulated that leaders in Nigeria, especially those who hold the levers of power, now have a trust deficit: nothing they say or do will be believed by a people that have serially been short-changed, from generation to generation.
One of the most credible validations of the assumption that the problem with Nigeria is her leaders came from late president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, in an interview with our own Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed in 2007. The revered Mandela had this to say of our country and her leaders:
“You know I am not very happy with Nigeria. I have made that very clear on many occasions. Yes, Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down, and Africa and the black race very badly. Your leaders have no respect for their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people’s resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are.”
Of course, Mandela, from the quote above, was right. In his grave, he is still right. But the great Mandela interacted largely with our leaders, at various levels, in Lagos, Abuja and other big cities, and would have had very little knowledge of the average Nigerian. I mean, he couldn’t have known what makes Ajegunle in Lagos tick, or what defines a sabongari’s character in Kano the way he knew Soweto, or any other township in South Africa.
Well, as an angry Nigerian (and I’ve been angry for a very long time), I am of the view that it is not possible for a bull to father a goat, or a crocodile to hatch an eagle. The DNAs are different. If the followers are bad, they will simply throw up bad leaders as well. A nation deserves the leaders it gets. Just see the way we are.
Throughout last month, there were reports of arrests of rail line vandals, who went to remove rail clips and tracks recently laid as the country struggles to revive our dead rail system. Whenever it rains, fellow Nigerians bring out their garbage and tip them into the drains, which then gets blocked, and waste water spills onto paved roads, causing the roads to crack and develop potholes.
My countrymen serially vandalise electricity transformers, and remove items of value which they sell in black markets, not minding that the entire neighbourhood will be in darkness as a result. I remember how, during the Obasanjo administration, a high-tension electricity line, built to evacuate power from Ogorode Power station to an injection sub-station in Obosi was brought down by vandals, supposedly sponsored by generator importers.
How about those that cut the railings on bridges, sell them to artisans who make cooking pots out of them and sell to the rest of us? Or the commercial drivers that refuse to use designated bus stops, but prefer to stop in the middle of the road to drop and pick passengers, causing traffic to back-up in the process? Are you aware of the experience of a man that gave a uniformed service man a ride? The service man hid incriminating items under the seat of his host’s car, only for the innocent fellow to be stopped at the next check-point, searched, and arrested for being in possession of prohibited items.
It will be very difficult for good leaders to emerge from among people who themselves operate below par, because, coming to equity requires clean hands. Too many dirtied hands of Nigerians cannot nurture good leaders
Do we know that a lot of our fellow citizens are profiting massively from our collective misery, while blaming government? Take the now famous Apapa Traffic Gridlock, the most enduring traffic jam in history, since 2012. The Apapa traffic could not have lasted for so long if it had not become some people’s mint. Take that to the bank, as those people also go to the bank, daily, to deposit huge sums of money raked in from the chaos in which the majority of us suffer.
Where we are, it is almost impossible to start any venture without having to deal with some obstacles that have NOTHING to do with your business. If you try to sell something like pepper or tomato, some people will prevent you from displaying your wares until you have joined the association of pepper sellers and paid dues. Same for frozen poultry, fish, meat, name it. Not true? Okay.
An unemployed man, who’d been jobless for years eventually saw a “breakthrough” when a kind-hearted man bought a tricycle for him to ply the neighbourhood routes with and earn a living. He was shocked, when told he had to pay N70,000 to a certain man that “controls” the area, after which he must join the union of tricycle riders.
In short, he needed another N100,000 before he can “enter road.” Many of us do not know that some of our brothers dig tarred roads and create their own potholes, which enlarge into craters that generate traffic gridlocks. The slow-moving traffic provides the market for their wares, while traffic robbers also do brisk business.
Nigerians travel out and marvel at the development in other countries, the order, the aesthetics, and return home to lament. They forget easily that the beautiful Western and Middle-Eastern cities they visit came to be because their citizens are largely law-abiding. Where we are now, most of us would rather do as we wish — drive without license, drive against traffic, pay a teacher to write tests for our child, bribe a varsity official to secure admission, etc. No country can be beautiful where the citizens carry on the way we do.
In short, it will be very difficult for good leaders to emerge from among people who themselves operate below par, because, coming to equity requires clean hands. Too many dirtied hands of Nigerians cannot nurture good leaders. Mandela asked why Nigerians can’t get angry at bad leaders. Impossible. How can a beer seller get angry at a regular drinker?( Vanguard)