By: Kamoru Sodiq, Osun

FELLOW Nigerians, on October 1st 1960, Nigeria was declared an independent sovereign nation amidst jubilations and jollifications. In his independent day speech, the first and only Nigerian Prime Minister, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, said “words cannot adequately express my joy and pride at being the Nigerian citizen privileged to accept from Her Royal Highness these constitutional instruments, which are symbols of Nigeria’s independence. It is a unique privilege which I shall be remember forever…”

Today, 56 years down the history lane, the journey has been quite tough and rough, the country has been fumbling and wobbling, uniting and dividing against itself. The political and socio-economic experience are both reflecting and refreshing. The leadership scorecard is nothing to write home about, the nation’s heritage is fast becoming sabotage, the nation’s institutions are pliable and puerile, the nation’s treasury is profusely leaking by corruption and connection, the nation’s ambience is still gloomy and stormy and the dream of expectation is swift assuming unending nightmare. Call it Lord Lugard’s magic and Flora Shaw’s spell, craft it a forced marriage. Even cynics, have asked that “was God angry the day he created Nigeria?” Are they right or wrong? The answer is neither here nor there, all we know is that, our country is in shams and shambles!

True to say that Nigeria is blessed in so many ways is an understatement and to say the country is facing a lot of enemies is also an understatement. The question is, what is that worst enemy tearing Nigeria apart beyond rooftops since independence? The answer is simple and straightforward, it is a question of political leadership. Over the years, the country has witnessed various forms of government and leadership’s disparity. We have principally civilian and military leaders and subsidiarily, the lame duck interim leader. The civilians were neither better nor the military good. They are all co-worshippers in the temple of corruption. The safe and sound destination still remains a day-dreaming! What then can catapult us into our safe haven?

I say emphatically and categorically that, the burden of expectation and hope hang around the leadership’s neck like an albatross. Given that, they are the movers and shakers of our national life. Although, democracy promised the transfer of power to the people but, we have not been fortunate because, poverty and ignorance have frustrated democracy in Nigeria. Gods and Lords still liter our political space. Even they get hierarchy.

Pathetically, since independence, the obvious surviving legacy of the successive Nigeria’s leaders has been the institutionalization of corruption in all the public and private life of the country. It is instructive to state that, political leadership in this context refers not only to the government but embrace the totality of the political class that has the exert influence on the machineries of government even from behind the scene. Incontrovertibly, corruption has hit the country by the jugular and destroyed all the cherished national values.

From time immemorial, it is an indubitable fact that, no nation of the world grew and enjoyed all round development without experiencing good and selfless political leadership. The reason is not far-fetched, qualitative development has always been the direct outcome of good governance. Talk of Fidel Castro of Cuba, Lee Kwan Yhu of Singapore, Mandela of South Africa, and the list is endless.

Just to buttress my point, Emeritus Professor Chinua Achebe, a renowned novelist, knew Nigeria inside out. He said it best in his book, “The trouble with Nigeria”, where he insisted that the root of the Nigeria’s predicament should be laid squarely at the foot of bad leadership. He argued: “is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership.” (Achebe, 1984:1). Emeritus has hit the nail on the head! I concur with his submission.

Having diagnosed the problem and soundly unveiled the premises. How do we set the ball rolling? My humble submission and solution is honesty. The reason is not hard to seek, to be a Nigerian President (Governors and other posts) is to live in virtual exile from the space you governed. Given that, when hapless workers have not been paid for months, Nigerian leaders continue to enjoy their lavish banquet and flying first-class or presidential fleet. When the electric power generated in the country drastically drops towards zero megawatts, the Nigerian-lords live in a paradise city where light is permanently turned on.

As if to compound the matter, their closest advisers and those who are allowed within the whispering distance of Nigerian-mafias are lot-seekers. And why not be so, in a country where political office is the surest and easiest route to wealth, few are the insiders willing to tell the bare-truth and risk being ostracized from the manor’s garden. Unless our leaders remove those beguiled spectacles, sneak into the bukas, markets, slumps, groaning-joints, under tree lecture- theatres, barber shops where Nigerians nakedly speak their woes, they remain hostage of hired liars, glory hunters, mired in a miasma of deception.

To cap the edifice, Nigerian leaders should not wonder why fate would choose them at a time the nation’s fortunes are plugging! They should be reminded that great leaders are not made in good times. Rather, they are forged in the crucible of dwindled fortunes. Nigeria simply has been lacking in one thing any nation of the world needs to achieve greatness.

After decades of miscarriages to produce credible leaders, a patriotic and progressive change in the attitude of the Nigeria’s political class (gladiators) is all that is needed for the nation and its people to experience steady and sustainable growth and development. It is time to face the bullet and hope for miracle. The cross is too heavy!

Gob bless Nigeria.

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