The Dilemma Of Nigeria's Progeria
"The amalgamation of southern and northern protectorates inextricably complicated Nigeria's destiny"
- Chinua Achebe, 2012.
THE PROGERIA phenomenon aptly captures the Nigerian dilemma. Progeria, also called the Hutchinson-Gilford Syndrome, is a progressive genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly. It is also defined as a rare genetic disorder of childhood marked by slowed physical growth. I'll stick with the latter definition as my working tool in this short article because it mentions SLOW GROWTH.
My layman's description of progeria in relation to the socioeconomic status of a nation is a situation whereby something expires in advance or prematurely. A fatal contradistinctive phenomenon of rapid ageing without corresponding growth that specializes in killing its victim at its most productive age. A phenomenon of arrested growth/development. A progress stuck in the unyielding mud of perpetual retrogression despite the availing conditions to the contrary.
Progress in reverse gear.
Professor Patrick Lumumba was quoted as saying “Africa is behind because Nigeria has not realized her potential. It’s time the leaders rise up because one in every five Africans is a Nigerian.” I partly disagree with the Professor to the effect that it is not that Nigeria failed to realize her potential, but that the successive managers of Nigeria's potentials have deliberately sabotaged those potentials from maturing into their full intrinsic developmental values due, primarily, to a knowledge-resistant kleptomaniacal political culture that believes in looting all of tomorrow's resources today in the service of self rather than investing same for the cross generational, congenitally continuous progress of society.
The economic prosperity of a country, it's sociopolitical stability, the sophistication of its infrastructures, plus all other factors that make a nation achieve greatness and advancement, are functions of effective and visionary leadership. This is where Nigeria has been very high on the scale of misfortune compared, for instance, to a country like Singapore. Leadership! That's all that makes the difference between Nigeria and Singapore. One was blessed with a pioneer visionary and capable leader in Lee Kuan Yew who handled the affairs of Singapore with a Midas touch that turned the island nation to one of the most patronised financial hubs in the world. From an orphaned, befuddled nation in 1965, Lee completely changed the fortunes of Singapore to one of the most legitimate reference points of economic success in the world today.
The records of Singaporean success were all achieved without it being endowed with the gargantuan natural resources like Nigeria's and without having excess population or a large land space to afford it cheap labor like China.
What propelled Singapore forward was leadership predicated on the greater good for the greater majority unlike the "self-centered pedestrianism" of the Nigerian ruling cliques. And, this is what we should all be mindful of. Whether a country is blessed with natural resources like Nigeria, Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates, or devoid of natural resources like Singapore and Japan, what makes the difference is the leadership culture in those climes. Saudi Arabia and the UAE have managed their natural resources to develop their societies while Nigeria has remained the notorious prodigal son of Africa due to the criminal mismanagement of its resources by its rulers. I couldn't believe what I saw in Dubai. A desolate desert just a few decades ago now arguably one of the wonders of the 21st century. Now, the UAE has joined the proud league of nations exploring the space having successfully sent its spacecraft, Hope, to the Mars. In the UAE, I saw a functional society where everything works with unfailing predictability.
Nigeria has nothing to show for her natural resources except stories of woes, wars, looting and perpetual conflict of ethnoreligious antipathies. Whereas Singapore, with her nothing more than modest natural resources, rises in leaps and bounds - same for Japan that survived two nuclear bombs to emerge as an advanced nation respected in the comity of nations- Nigeria has remained immobile and stunted. Societies that understand that human resources are superior to natural resources and focus on developing their human resource capacity through multifunctional educational system progress faster in developmental strides than those fixated on natural resources managed by extremely roguish cabals like Nigeria's.
The Madiba, Nelson Mandela, was quoted as saying in frustration on the Nigerian irony of fate that “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..." Nigeria is a typical case of a potential king that regrettably became a celebrated nonentity.
Nigeria's progeria is a complicated malaise that can only be healed, as I have often posited, by the total overhaul of its leadership recruitment process. Nigeria requires its own Lee Kuan Yew. That's one side of it. The other side is for Nigeria's Lee Kuan Yew - and we have many of them - to recognize his/her historic responsibility and pick up the gauntlet to make the necessary sacrifices to assume the leadership of the country before it collapses on all of us.
Nigeria is not bereft of her own Lee Kuan Yews, but they are either too cushioned in their cocoons to understand their responsibility in nation-building or too cowardly to exert their capacity and pay the necessary sacrifices due to the fringe benefits they enjoy from the failed governance system. Lack of patriotism is not only when you harm your country, it is also when you can do something to help her but you're too scared or too privileged to do it. The ignorance of those who have the capacity and resources to make a difference in a declining country like ours but fail to do so is that if they remain aloof or akimbo or withdraw after going one-quarter of the way in the rescue mission while the country fluctuates is that they fail to recognize that they would be consumed by the collateral commotion of its downfall.
The guys blessed both with both the brain and resources to save the situation feel unconcerned or above such assignment of national redemption. They mostly put faith in their material wealth and international connections to live anywhere in the developed world where the people in those places have paid the sacrifices of leadership to make their countries work. But, that's a defeatist and counterproductive mentality. Remember that even as president, Samuel Doe could not escape from Liberia before he was consumed by the inferno of justified insurrection. You might argue that he could have escaped earlier if he wanted to, but also remember that there were many rich and influential Liberians who desired to escape and even offered millions of dollars in bribe to run away but were eventually liquidated in the streets of Monrovia.
When incidents of national crises develop into active wars, there are no more sacred places and no more untouchables. It is an all-consuming fire. We all have to get actively involved in the business of national redemption by being politically active - everyone from age 18 to 75 at least. The current president of the United States of America, Joe Biden, is 78 years old and would be 82 by the time he completes his first term and might re-contest if he still has the grace of health and sound mind by then.
Most of Nigeria's well-to-do elites who have no baggage of corruption or any form of social scandal hanging on them and blessed with the capacity to run this country well give every manner of ridiculous excuses to be absent from the political field. They easily succumb to their own ignorance of the interaction of social forces that play out in the quest for the leadership of a nation and the politics therein. Once confronted by the inevitable challenges of politics in a third world setting, they beat a hasty retreat like a dog that runs into a lion in the jungle. Suddenly the courage, tenacity and creativity that earned them success and acclaim in the business world desert them and they simply join the ignoble team of unconcerned compatriots’ content with complaining perpetually.
I believe that Nigeria can still be fixed if the right people decide to pay the necessary sacrifices of taking over its leadership by democratic means. But that window is rapidly closing now as the country is going down intractably under the failed rulership of General Muhammadu Buhari. Should Nigeria survive Buhari miraculously, it would present us with an uncommon opportunity to fix this country once and for all.
Let's do it!
Comrade Mark Adebayo is a civil rights and political activist, published author and administrator. He is the executive director of SecureWorld and Liberty Initiative for Peace, a Lagos-based NGO.