Remodeling The Forerunners’ Method To Develop Nigeria

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Nigeria has always been bedeviled by a problem or two at one time. Since our amalgamation in 1914, and especially after October 1, 1960 when Nigeria became an acclaimed independent state, it is debatable that the country has had any space for full national peace and integration. Threats to national cohesion and progress hardly excuse us any full year. Successive leaderships have always been confronted with regional demands on one hand and calculated distractive measures that frustrate full concentration on national development on the other hand.

In addition, the notion that Nigeria is made up of over 250 ethnic groups but controlled by only three has been fastidious. Further, the belief that Nigeria recognizes two major religions in their strongholds has been a satanic device against our development. Furthermore, the fussy postulation that certificate, in most cases, should determine qualification into governance has bred sloth and fogey minds who end up only decorating old and dead ideas on development. Just further a bit more, the concept of recycling wasted and overgrown strength in the name of experience has robbed us of desired steps towards desired direction for desired growth. Then the age, not brain, restriction is another debacle.

Though it is good to work with known devils than unknown angels, in politics, many people are unknown diehards for a cause – for a candidate whom they may not really have direct contact. That is why leaders must not just rely on the devils they know. Good leaders should also seek for find out some angels they do not immediately know. Good leaders should not completely rely on recommendations of cronies, some of who may be opportunists, hypocrites and unknown devils. Good leaders should exert personal and independent efforts in discovering a few that can be relevant in the progress project of their governments.

It is unclear if Nigerians do learn at all from their history and wish replay the glorious past. Our forefathers were unlike our leaders today. Justice and fairness, though not total, prevailed in Nigeria’s governance. Choice of leaders was largely by worth and content, not age, not religion and not much attachment to ethno-centric bigotry. Yes, there were leadership representations on ethnic line. At that time, most citizens wherever they lived felt the sense of belonging. They had good representations. They had selfless servant-leaders. Life was not too materialist, though some would argue that there was not much commonwealth to corrupt the leaders.

I have taken time to read and digest Sir Ahmadu Bello’s massage to Nigerian patriots in 1959, the secession speech of Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1953 and the speech by Chief Obafemi Awolowo to Western leaders of thought, in Ibadan in May 1967. I became overwhelmed by the passion these great men had for Nigeria and its unity and development. These leaders were united for united Nigeria. They fought for independence from colonial clutch, until things began to fall apart, when injustice, wickedness and madness in governance began to permeate the landscape of the nation especially at the central level.

Awolowo bluntly called the Yorubas the political stabilizers in Nigeria. This assertion has not been proved otherwise. Azikiwe mourned the dearth of equality and fairness in the polity, even while believing in history as a weird mistress that begets geocentricism. And Bello propagated unity in diversity. Things went wrong along the way, like President Muhammadu Buhari would say: “some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.” That is where Nigeria has been battling to come out from. Our house was nearly broken and disorder had taken control of our existence as a nation.

Bello bargained on our racial, tribal and religious diversity commonly knitted in history, with common interests and common ideals. Our diversity, he squealed, is quite great but the things that unite us are stronger than the things that divide us. “We have no intention of favouring one religion at the expense of another. Subject to overriding need to preserve law and order, it is our determination that everyone should have absolute liberty to practice his beliefs”

Azikiwe identified and promulgated the nation’s tribulations but found solace in his cosmopolitan opinion the senselessness in breakup as a country. For him as a patriot, regional redress towards the task of crystallizing common nationality, irrespective of extraneous influences was basic. “What history has joined together”, he felt, “let no man put asunder!”

On his part, Awolowo knew that something was wrong with Nigeria. Certain attributes were required from Nigerian leaders to transform the country. They were vision, realism and unselfishness. Selflessness, justice and fairness disappeared from Nigeria’s leadership lexicon. Nigerian leaders, gripped by selfishness and servitude to wealth, seem complacent in nothingness. Wisdom, realism and moderation have become elusive. They have become the Shakespearean rags. They have proved to be unjust and unfair to other existences within the state.

A troublesome question is what is missing in the bid to position Nigeria for growth? Our past leaders prescribed the remedies. They knew we needed independence and they went for it. They knew we needed self reliance and they encouraged regional productivity. They knew we needed unity and they displayed fairness and justice, even if not total. And they made the best utilization of the youth in the leadership of the nation.

A nation can best be developed with its youth and its wealth. A nation can achieve development by giving every component of its citizenry, even if not equal, the opportunity to compete and contribute meaningfully. When the doors for equal or partial opportunities to the people of a nation are shut and the superiority complex of few individuals or groups pervade the atmosphere, the chances to development remains indistinct. This is because it is often dangerous to undermine the strength in minority. The tiny bedbug and mosquito give strong men sleepless nights, in attempt to show their economic value and nuisance relevance.

This is to say the least. Nigerian youth has been unutilized. History has great leaders who fought for unity and identity at their youthful ages and succeeded. The past Nigerian leaders came to limelight at their young ages. They were all between the ages of 23 and 40. A historical survey showed that Obafemi Awolowo was 37, Samuel Akintola 36, Ahmadu Bello 36, Tafa Balewa 34, Okotie-Eboh 27, Sunday Enahoro 27, Nnamdi Azikiwe 42, Kaduna Nzeogu 29, Murtala Muhammad 28, Theophilus Danjuma 28, Ibrahim Babangida 25, Naven Garba 23, Sani Abacha 23, Shehu Yar’Adua 23, Yakubu Gowon 32, Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu 33, Olusegun Obasanjo 29 and Muhammadu Buhari 24.

Although Nigeria’s constitution pegs age limit at 40 and 35 for president and senator respectively, can’t younger Nigerians perform as heads of other government institutions? Developed countries have used their younger ones and gotten positive impact. Why not inject new blood with new ideas in Nigeria’s polity? The elders can serve as guidance; the youth can do the job better in developing Nigeria. So, the debate at the national assembly on age limit for political offices is in order. Besides, I give kudos to public affairs analysts who have kept on educating Nigerian leaderships on this.

Another factor is the use of the minority when the majority seems to have lost direction. Moscovici’s majority influence and vice versa can apply here: “power of numbers is important - the majority have the power to reward and punish with approval and disapproval. And because of this there is pressure on minorities to conform”, he posited. Therefore, since majorities are often unconcerned about what minorities think about them, minority influence would be based on informational social influence - providing the majority with new ideas, new information that can lead view reexamination. The minority's influence could be behavioural, in thinking styles, in flexibility and in identification.

One derives solace in the patriotic spirit our forerunners in handling national affairs. They said and did. True harbingers who feared their diverse deities, they lived very simple life. They hoped that their labour would not be rubbished. “All of them”, President Buhari acknowledged his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, “Mr. Herbert Macaulay, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo, Ahmadu Bello, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Aminu Kano, J.S. Tarka, Eyo Ita, Denis Osadeby, Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance. They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. The youth and the minority are ready tools to develop Nigeria, one can bet.

Throughout his struggle to lead Nigeria, Mr. President at his flag-off campaign in Kaduna recalled world bank report that about 50 million from 84 million Nigerian youths are unemployed, an indictment on successive governments at all level. He promised a better deal to pull them out from unemployment, deprivation, poverty, hopelessness and insecurity. Won’t the youths be used to run the federal agencies and parastatals and supported to lead once more? Recall what Nelson Mandela said, “As long as poverty, injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest.”

Muhammad Ajah is an advocate of humanity, peace and good governance in Abuja. E-mail [email protected]

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Articles by Muhammad Ajah