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Nigeria and her enterprise is an enigma to the eyes and ears of foreign observers, a complex geographical contraption and a bed of untapped treasure both human and mineral. And to many, it is this complexity, like an unsolved riddle that continues to fuel their attraction to our shores. One Femke, Van Zeijl, a German journalist, working in Nigeria for a Dutch newspaper have torturously labeled Nigerians as people wallowing in mediocrity. I therefore pen my thoughts carefully, not totally in protestation to her analysis, while some of her observations may be accurate, but to deepen the conversation and perhaps highlight our problems from a neglected angle.

Let me state clearly, that Nigeria does not produce "an averagely talented" authors who write colorless books (a remark by Femke published on on 03/21/13) neither do we produce averagely talented Engineers, averagely talented lawyers, averagely talented Doctors, Artists and what not. We do not! Look around you and you will find countless colorful arrangements of world rated professionals and personalities of Nigerian origin. Refresh your mind if you will and learn about our Nigerian born, world acclaimed Noble Laureate like Wole Soyinka, the Man Booker prize winner, dubbed the Father of modern African literature, recently passed on Prof. Chinua Achebe, the notable Engineer and famous Scientist, the Gordon Bell Prize winner, Dr. Phillip Emeagwali, Prominent Human Rights lawyer, the late Gani Fawehinmi, the globally renowned economist, MIT graduate, Nigerian Finance Minister, Okonjo Iweala and the list goes on.

These are the caliber of experts Nigeria produces and we are consistent across the globe. Not mediocre, not half baked individuals. Here ends my protestation.

Beyond the sentimental, I reinstate that our problem is one of endemic Corruption. Mediocrity is merely an ornament of corruption. If a leader upholds corrupt practices, he or she has compromised the standards and therefore cannot sanely demand high standards from his subordinates. And if there are no superior interventions or checks and balances, the same corrupt practice is perpetuated up through down the ladder.

What I find interesting is that every average Joe who is interested in pursuing a leadership role both in private and public arena is completely cognizant of the status quo. He or she is aware of the existing problems and what ought to be done to bring change and progress for the organization or the State respectively; at least I’m inclined to believe that. For instance, that those vying for governorship of a state understands that the State needs better and efficient road system to facilitate commerce, that the State needs consistent power supply to support our growing industries and improve productivity across the spheres which will in turn improve employment and elevate standard of living. The knowledge of all these is not alien to the aspirants.

But what happens when the person wins an election or selection and becomes the Governor? Here is the simple revelation. Once in such position, that corrupt mindset or the endemic corrupt nature grows feathers and wings, mingled with unguarded power, reason and objectivity is then thrown away. If there is any residual reason or sanity, it is further extinguished by the demands of the cabal type of framework or institution that enabled the individual to emerge as the Governor in the first place. Most of the State’s resources are therefore spent bowing to the bidding of the power hungry king makers. At the same time, the governor sifts away as much as he or she can to shore up for his personal security. Have you not noticed that once the individual relinquishes that power and position at the end of their tenure, the strangulation is lifted and suddenly reason and common sense returns and as such they are quick to organize symposium where they highlight the problems of the State and the projected path for recovery. They are hence applauded for being experienced Statesmen and yet they added no value to the lives of the people while in office.

The truth is that the polity has grown insensitive, callous and out rightly numbed by the ills, human right violations, gross underachievement and alacritous blatant economic strangulation perpetrated by our leaders. We whine now and then, and soon our shrill voice is muffled when crumbs are disbursed by the master or Chairman. To continue to access the few crumbs from the Chairman's table, we yield to the forces of conscription as an honorable ‘Otinkpus’ and ‘hanger-on’s’.

So, don't tell me mediocrity is our biggest problem and not corruption, like we are some subhuman specie prone to underachievement and mediocrity. No! Our main problem is Corruption galore. The solution still lies in the hands of our people and particularly the citizenry that refuses to sell their birthright for porridge of stew. The solution is in our voices and in our unflinching democratic votes. Our leaders have fooled us one time too many, but they cannot fool us all the time. And we don't need a foreign observer to diagnose our problems and offer nothing as a pathway for success. We are intelligent and capable to forge a better future for our people if we so consciously choose to.

Written By Dr. Edwin Ndukwe
[email protected]

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