*By Martins Oloja*
We can’t deny that we always doze off at the point of our need for purposeful leadership. We have never been vigilant about quality political recruitment in our journey through democratisation. One of our icons, Professor Chinua Achebe, saw this long ago and in 1983, he wrote a little book titled, The Trouble with Nigeria. The first sentence in that significant work is, “The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership”. Despite his warning, we have since dozed off. He had reckoned then that shortly after independence, we had some awareness about quality of our managers and leaders. And so the good ones represented us in the four regions of the federation and thereafter we went to sleep. Then the “soldiers of fortune” (according to Max Siollun) came noisily in 1966 with their correcting fluids we failed to scrutinize for quality control. They arrested our development strides, overthrew our main weapon of growth and country competitiveness, federalism. For lack of knowledge of the danger of allowing ‘militicians’ for too long, we perished as they came with their false gospel of “no victor, no vanquished” after a devastating civil war.
We were actually conquered as we kowtowed to the strategy and stratagems of the new messiahs that killed most of our prophets, our visionary regional leaders. And when the artful conquerors began to kill themselves for power, we were still not vigilant about the nexus that should exist between nation building and quality of leadership. We hailed them after they gave us a pill, which killed a culture of high expectation in all of our fathers who failed to covet the best of the spiritual gifts – discernment.
As the ‘militicians’ consolidated, another prophet, called Fela Anilulapo Kuti began to ring his bell, but instead of decoding his caveats well, we danced to the melodies, drank more pills of low expectation. Fela the prophet, had then looked into the seed of the time and warned us about authority stealing, while our Popes and Imams were breaking bread and feasting at the feet of our soldiers of fortunes.
Fela,the seer revealed to us about the incipient cankerworms and little foxes that were already spoiling our vines then when he proclaimed some as “International thief, thief”. Yet, we were too enmeshed in a higher and more deadly Epicurean spirit – that would not allow us to be self-aware and vigilant over our investments.
And so again, we dozed off even until a handsome soldier with good dental formula (gap-tooth) came with his false gospel of peace, reconciliation (with civil society) and development. The evil genius gave us more sleeping pills. And we began with a series of political and electoral experiments, which ended up in fames on June 12, 1993 before fleeing to his enclave, not too far away from the capital of the raped federation. Then came two other successors, one with a dark goggle raised in an ancient city that once produced an icon called MalamAminu who once carried a placard against himself as a health minister – before the ‘militicians’ arrived.
The last military president who gave us the current constitution in 1999 the soldiers artfully prepared for “we the people” while we were democracy-hungry in our deep slumber, also guided us to have a retired soldier and former head of state as a man we should (could) trust from the rock place.
We all clapped for the man, though it had always not been “his will” to rule. The retired soldier, tired farmer and pardoned prisoner of conscience (who was jailed for his bad verses and suspected ambition) by the no-nonsense soldier in dark goggles, was there for eight years.
The succession arrangers didn’t allow the dominant political party then, PDP to select him. The usual suspects, retired soldiers again gave us more Vodka and we slept off and so they gave us their man who did not know his age.
Though it was again “not his will”, they allowed us to tolerate what Fela, the prophet called dem- don crazy (demo-crazy) for eight solid years. And because he, a southerner was imposed on the PDP by smart and rich soldiers who competent military sources said, hail from Gusau, Minna and Jalingo, etc, in 2007, the man compensated the ever-ready north with a younger brother of his soldier friend, Shehu from Katsina. And so again, we dozed off, and the man whose kinsman prevented from becoming the chief scribe of the United Nations, imposed gentle Umaru from the north on the hapless and sleepy nation. They did not tell us that Umaru was not well enough to lead a complicated country without a strong private sector to support development. And so in the middle of his tenure, one day we were snoring in the night when the leader Olusegun gave us, Umaru sneaked out to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Umaru did not return to office alive. But man who made “rule of law” one of his main governance agenda did not convey his medical vacation to the national assembly for the vice president to “coordinate the activities of government in his absence, according to the constitution.
Behold, because we were not treated for the consequences of the many sleeping pills and strong drinks, we were still asleep when one unprepared doctorate degree holder who was made deputy president to Umaru was sworn in as president through a “doctrine of necessity” concoction Umaru’s strange lawlessness triggered. Where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise, as we read in our old student companion. Again, despite the opposition of a powerful cabal famous for power play from independence in 1960, the Niger Delta smiling intellectual with limited experience in governance was properly elected in 2011 to run Nigeria till 2015. That too happened when we dozed off. That first president who holds a doctorate degree too slept a great deal on duty, as he could not complete even the East -West Road in his constituency in almost six years, let alone economic routes across the country.
And so as sleeping sickness became a national malaise, while the ruling party went into political coma and the citizens thoroughly bitten by tsetse flies, dozed off as usual, a coalition of artful dodgers called APC emerged to sow more tares for Project 2015. Then the once disciplined soldier came in quietly and peaceably with his gospel of restoration of change – an irresistible message that caught a sleeping nation napping again. Behold, the consequences of the gospel of change have been devastating. And just, as I read in a recent memorandum of a firm’s change management model, we have just realised that all us have been caught napping with a meretricious change mantra by a false prophet that we have been following. I mean most of us, as citizens have been sleepy followers of a charismatic but false prophet who cannot improve on the years that we felt the locusts have eaten.
At the moment, they tell us daily that there is some light at the end of the tunnel when they know that there is no tunnel anywhere for us to spot any light. The economy has been worsening as even locally produced food items have become incredibly expensive for all to buy even as purchasing powers of most citizens have been worsening daily. Only the power elite can afford to smile in their bunkers as the population is becoming increasingly restive.
Some of the elected representatives even in the hitherto conservative and gullible north are being prevented from coming home. The original Shakespeare, (not the manager of Leicester City) would have said most of our leaders have murdered sleep they once induced us into and so they can sleep no more!
*Time for Action Plan Against Slumber:*
According to Niall Ferguson, a Harvard University history professor, who has done a provocative examination of the widespread institutional rot that threatens our future, our institutions – the intricate frameworks within which a society can flourish or fail – have been degenerating. At the moment in Nigeria, the world’s most populous black nation, despite what we have realized from oil wealth, symptoms of decline and decay are all around us everywhere we go: sluggish growth, crushing debts, increasing poverty and inequality, aging and unskilled workforce, anti-social behaviour and criminality. We all know what has gone wrong. We now know that most of our leaders have been emergency dealers. We now know that the military’s taste of their forbidden fruits politics, for so long, actually ruined the country.
The politicians in uniform destroyed the finest part of our politics, federalism, our founding fathers’ weapon of country competitiveness and steady growth. They gave us unitary system that has also ruined even our critical infrastructure and institutions including education, healthcare, electricity, works and housing through their obnoxious unitary system.
They introduced monthly revenue sharing at the centre, a mechanism that encourages democratic lethargy anda culture of low expectation. What is more, there are wealthy men without work. What is worse, the ‘militicians’ began to do the odious by allocating the best oil blocks to themselves and individuals they would like to empower for their selfish ends. Where are the oil rich nations even within OPEC that allocate their best deep-sea oil blocks to individuals? It appears that we are stuck with the ‘military legacy issues in Nigeria. The most prominent leaders and kingmakers in Nigeria appear to be only from the stock and rubbles of the men in uniform. We are always afraid of them. They decide who becomes the president. They have permanently sent the civil society and indeed the people into a very deep slumber.
The other day, some of them, former military leaders were in Minna, ostensibly to decide on a possible succession arrangement, in case a reported presidential illness becomes politically complicated. The gathering was a front-page story. It had to be. The men in uniform are the most prominent in Nigeria but they may not be the most significant. As a cleric, Rick Warren, author of a classic, The Purpose Driven Life has noted, many prominent people may not be significant while a lot of significant people too may not be prominent, after all. So God and humanity indeed are in need of significant people for good kingdoms, after all.
The conclusion of the whole matter is that it is time to organize again for recruitment of leadership for Project 2019, which has overtly begun. The traditional kingmakers who always send us to sleep are at it again. They have begun to exploit the flashpoints in the polity: Niger Delta militants, Boko Haram, Biafra bogeyman, Fulani herdsmen, demand for federalism that can’t be discussed at this moment. The schemers are saying it is time for the South East Zone; the North has not completed its term, etc. My people, it is time to stop agonizing. Let’s start organizing to elect a leader that can start rebuilding Nigeria from 2019. There is no hope in the PDP and APC platforms. Before they send us to sleep again for them to plan against the country, let’s begin data gathering against the forces of darkness that have underdeveloped Nigeria. Project 2019 is here again, ‘lest we should be the last’ again as a poet, Kwesi Brew once warned.