NIGERIANS IN THE EYE OF OUR LEADERS
There is revolution in the air. Everywhere you turn to change is the word. No nation is safe anymore. Egypt and Tunisia have fallen Libya is carving in, Ivory Coast is with two governments now all these are happening in our own African states only. In the United States of America, unimaginable things are happening. Who ever expected that an American President could breach diplomatic protocol and walk out on fellow president? Who ever expected that Oil could be found in Israel? In faraway Russia, fear has griped the leadership as it will no longer enjoy the monopoly it had hitter to. All these are happening with the speed of light. Middle East is home to worry. The Monarchs are carving in and thoughts and mindsets are changing.
In July last year l wrote “Nigeria: A nation of executive complacency.” Then l drew example from the same Egypt. Then l wrote about the complacent leadership which underestimated the people duling the reign of President Anwar Sadat who ignored the peoples will to sign the Camp David Accord with the then American president Jimmy Carter. Sadat then, even with the burning of his effigy, failed to notice the war within. Hence on the day of his glory, he was felled by the bullet from his own army. We are talking of leadership of people. Nigeria is not left without comment. We once lived in this part of the world with some listening leaders. Our founding fathers did not think greed when they sat with the colonial masters to discuss our failed first republic and it is easy to defend that fact because none of our past heroes wear any look of greed that has permeated the nation like virus. Chief James Otobo the associate of our late Papa Anthony Enahoro is a living witness. So is Alhajis Shehu Shagari and Bello Maitama Sule. These two, without touching the nations coffer have remained wealthy in every ramification. Where are these nobles in the scheme of thing in governance of Nigeria today? Shagari was the president of Nigeria until 1983 when the Coup of Buhari and Idiagbon booted the NPN out of office. But he, to date, remains one of the richest farmers in the North especially with his Sokoto breed goat in his vast over three kilometer square farmland. Corrupt as the nation was then, we had Price control Board. But which of the items of sale do we have with fixed price today? Not even Peak Milk is soled at uniform price on the same street in Nigeria. Bello Maitama Sule is Journalist delight anyday. Here is a man who could, and still can pull the carpet off your feet with facts from any geo-political zones of the nation. Yet in his time, he could not save enough to build a house for himself. Like Maitama, our late Papa Enahoro never shifted ground without deep conviction especially putting the nation first. We may say that these men lived in the past. Ok. What about Retired General Mobolaji Johnson who governred Lagos state? Despite the wealth of the state at his time, the man had no house to his name when he left office. Was he afraid? No! He felt that he was only answering the call to duty by the nation he had sworn to defend. General Adeyinka Adebayo is another leader many today do not even know about. When interviewed some time ago on why he is not seen among those in the corridors of power especially with a view to corner choice contracts, he said that as an elder statesman, he ought be to a living example for others to follow. Even the fact that his son was the governor of Ekiti state did not change him.
In the North, the name Alhaji Ahmadu Bello still rings a bell and for the right reason. It is only now that the current rulers have lost steam of the importance of the belief and person of the late legend. I was still meditating on what became of his annual lecture in Kaduna when former governor, but now Senator Ahmed Muhammed Maikarfi offered answers. He said that he has refused to attend the lectures again as they were only white wash. A principled idea of a man being promoted by unprincipled individuals for personal gains. Asked about his thoughts on the military, he said the military lost its pride of place long ago when they choose to give the people a corrective regime without itself accepting correction. Then l thought. Without money – the type we see today, we constructed Lagos Ibadan express way, Benin Sagamu express way Enugu – Port Harcourt express way etc, we had he Federal Secretariats in all the old state head quarters, many other land mark edifice all over the country. These all had only one reason to do all they did – develop the nation for posterity. King Diette Spiff who in his youth built the States secretariat in Port Harcourt is still driving himself around town pridefully today. But where are those after him? What is the life style of all the aforementioned leaders today? Are we talking of General Yakubu Gowon, who as head of state for nine years did not have any block house to his name? these crop of dignitaries remain those still begging us today giving hope that better Nigeria is still somewhere within. Can we agree with the wolves in government now? Who among all mentioned have been visited by any of the political office seekers today?
But IBB entered the scene and dramatically changed things for the worse. Before him, the Buhari/ Idiagbon government had clamped most political office holders in jail for some heavy and small financial misdeeds. Even Alhaji Lateef Jakande the then Lagos State governor was jailed for such flimsy offence as donating state fund to the party he belonged – Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). In his quest for recognition and general acceptance, he threw caution to the wind, released all political prisoners irrespective of weather they were rightly or wrongly jailed and without conditions attached. Nigerians watched. On September 29, 1986, he took a step further and devalued the Naira which was exchanging for N1 to $0.80. Rains of attacks started from every quarter especially from the Ivory Towers. First they were ignored and when he thought right, he began by choosing and picking his favourites and fixing them in appointments over and above their bosses in offices. Thus was introduced the divide and rule tactic of the government these of which later developed to create an IBB boys cartel – the group only through whom, gift and largesse's could be received from the government. Departments were created and filled with mostly half baked employees only to besmear others. Disenchantment became the order of the day. Dignity of labour was thrown to the wind and everyone became subjected to the wimps and caprices of the choice of Babangida and what ever he and his associates think. No longer the General Order of the civil service but quota system, but government of divide and rule. Who were the losers? We, the ruled. IBB was to confess in an interview some time ago that he deliberately refused to disburse fund from Federation account for six (6) months only because he wanted to see if the country would collapse and it didn't. That was the height of ineptitude. In earlier governments, we had price control, produce, Oil, Rubber Cotton Groundnut etc, all these were thrown to the waste bin. New agencies were created and starved of fund and so rendered useless. MAMSA, OMPADEC, NOA, NEMA name what ever acronym you may, it has a place in Nigeria but all to no effect because the leaders ruled without example.
From the foregoing, it is easy to conclude that for over thirty years, Nigerians have had it so bad. We have had leadership with is conceived by maybe some girl friends over Pepper Soup ala Alozie Ojuaja former Police PRO in Lagos. Our leaders must feel the pulse of the lead and deliver democratic dividend without favouritism. Projects must be people oriented and be seen to be executed in record time.
We are in the 12th year of democratic rule in the 4th Republic. What has been largely seen is a great gully between the leaders and the lead. Now it is election again and expectations are high. There is no better time for both the candidates and the electorates to giving positive thoughts to quality leadership and followership. I read some one in the person of the president say the other day that the Egypt type of revolution cannot happen in Nigeria. I think such views are too serious to be considered with a pinch of salt. We had hardly digested the view when protest erupted in Zaria for lack of Water and Electricity. Typical of Nigeria, it will be politicized and one fellow would be tagged the promoter of the protest. That is not the issue. Nigerians are to say the least, seating on keg of gun powder. A Volcano just waiting to erupt and given the level of maladministration in this country, it is not safe to be free any more.
The situation in North Africa and Middle East did not start over night. It was a process. A process of impoverishment in the mixed of plenty; a process developed by informed minds which were first in figments but gradually grew to an army of zealots. No government has ever won in a people's revolt. It has been demonstrated in USSR and the result is the pockets of Republic there. Before that, at Aba, the great market women's revolt, success was theirs; in South Africa it was the people that got victory. We can go on and on. But it has gone full circle now. The cradle of civilization is with full dose of the people's desire for change. Your guess is as good as mine for the next victim.
Our leaders must know that we the lead are angry. We are no longer comfortable with failed promises in the face of Billions of Naira vanishing without accountability. For those contesting the elections in the various arms of the government, it is time to think aloud. Certainly we are not going to have business as usual come next dispensation in the polity. NO. There must be visible change or else, those who resist change may be consumed by it. The election days are counting. God bless Nigeria.
Mike O. Akpati is A Public Affair Analyst based in Port Harcourt.
Mike O. Akpati
0803-675-7067; 0807-233-5040 (sms only)