Nigeria is not blighted; it is our leaders that are. And there is evidence everywhere attesting to this fact.
In 2002, the conveners of the annual Lagos Bookfair which had made its debut at the University of Lagos Sports Centre in 2000 staged the 3rd edition at the National Museum, Onikan, Lagos. Amongst other guests at that event was a very hard-working young writer, Chude Jideonwo. A student of Mayflower College, Ikenne, he was the author of the novel, My Father’s Knickers.
Seed grows. Chude went on to work as a researcher on Funmi Iyanda’s show that aired on the then NTA Channel 10, Lagos and is currently one of the anchors of The Future Awards, RED Media and YNaija.
Our people are not blighted, only the leaders are.
There is a second witness: Tolu Ogunlesi. While yet a science student at the University of Ibadan, Tolu discovered that his first love was really writing and stuck to it. When this writer met him on the portals of Krazitivity, an arts-inclined listserve, about 2003, Tolu was moments away from picking up a Bachelors degree in Pharmacy.
Post-graduation, Tolu found space as an analyst at Accenture and later in the Corporate Affairs Department of Visaphone. But writing kept tugging at him and he moved on to bag a Masters in from the University of East Anglia, won the CNN Africa Journalist of the year and has gone on to be one of the country’s most enterprising bloggers and ‘freelance journalists!’
Today he writes steadily for The Punch, Voyager Media and The Financial Times. He is also the West Africa Editor at The Africa Report and runs WoweMedia.
I have referred to these young everyday leaders to illustrate my thesis that our nation is at heart a God-blessed land where a thousand flowers are almost guaranteed to bloom. But to achieve this potential, this nation simply needs better leaders than it is getting today. Leaders that will stop abusing our collective potential by their shameless display of incompetence, greed and kleptomania. We need leaders that will commit themselves to ruling within the context of this critical axiom: ‘godliness with contentment is great gain!’
Daily, we read of governors wringing their hands, waiting for bailouts to pay basic wages to their workforce. Your Excellency sir, your bailout is lodged between your obtuse convoy and your asinine security vote! We also read about party leaders who believe that the first order of business is to emplace their cronies and not the cultivation of viable and visionary solutions that will get this nation out of the social and economic quagmire that it is presently mired in. They were wrong yesterday, they will still be wrong tomorrow.
But we will not give up. Every problem has a solution. And the first thing to do is to get a handle on things. In 1983, the writer, Chinua Achebe, published a slim tome on the Nigerian condition. Titled The Trouble with Nigeria, Achebe went on to pen those very famous remarks: ‘The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership!’ He could not have been more exact. To paraphrase Bill Clinton, Nigeria is not a blighted country; ‘it is our leaders, stupid!’
When people seek to get into power and sadly do get it without knowing that the first order of business is to serve, then that country indeed has no leaders. Leaders by their job description are simply expected to lead! To do this they must understand the people and society they want to lead. Let no one be befuddled about all the sophistry that it usually brought into the discourse in these parts.
The average Nigerian father leads his home daily without any grand speeches and rationalizations. What our so-called national leaders are being asked to do is to multiply same on the national scale. What the minister of power is expected to do is to learn from the millions of his citizens who use local electricians to connect ‘I better pass my neighbour’ generators that give them light when they switch them on! He should simply escalate this basic practice onto the grid!
Our leaders must simply do the jobs they ostensibly applied for! They must be in front to lead our people. They must serve us and not themselves. And to do this, they must have a vision of where they are taking us all, corporately speaking! This for this writer is an irreducible minimum. Life is indeed too short and too impactful to spend valuable time behind leaders who are going nowhere or even more insidiously, ‘whose belly is their god!’ Tufiakwa!