By Abiodun Komolafe
Beginning with independence, the story of Nigeria has been fraught with faulty assumptions, a fraudulently concocted arrangement; done in haste, and handed over to an ‘inorganic geographical entity’ known as Nigeria. From thenceforward, all our errors and failures as a country, the corruptions and gnawing underdevelopment unleashed upon the country, were never due to the absence of the voice of reason, but its rejection, and total abandonment of wise counsel.
Regimes after regimes; military or civilian democracy, the story has been the same! The First Republic faltered, not because some wise patriots did not see the looming catastrophe, but because the political gladiators of the time lacked the requisite humility and forthrightness with which to accept wise counsel and correct the obvious and identified mistakes in the objective interest of the bourgeoning nation. Fated to fail, the voice of reason did not disappoint!
In the Second Republic, Obafemi Awolowo lamented Nigeria’s economic woes, only for Adisa Akinloye to debunk the obvious, pop-up champagne together with party members, and laugh the warnings of the sage to scorn, albeit to the economic peril of the country. But, rather than muster the leadership streak needed to address the economic drift of a wasteful country, Shehu Shagari, the then ‘reluctant’ president, opted to declare ‘austerity measures’ in the fiscal arrangement of the public administration. Cleverly; and in a curious twist however, the masses were made to pay for the mistakes and profligacy of the ruling class. This was also the beginning of another vicious cycle.
Literature is replete with theories and arguments for, and against the aberrant incursion of the military into politics in Nigeria, or any other developing economies for that matter. The messianic worldview or inevitable revolutionary ‘Change’ philosophy always serves as the bait of appeal to the masses. However, since despotic and autocratic rule is ill-suited for a democratic and an all-inclusive government, military regimes often end up with benignant people, who are intolerant and annoyingly dictatorial. In retrospect, the unitary system of the Aguiyi Ironsi-led military administration was an experiment birthed in confusion. Truth be told: the faulty lines of suspicion, distrust and disunity in the country, which the military, naively, intended to fix, are more pronounced today than they were at the time.
In clear terms, Yakubu Gowon’s regime was an arrangement of convenience. To the country and its handlers, it was a pragmatic option, just to keep the country together. There was no preconceived development agenda, and no vision for the country. Instead, it was programmed to take each day as it comes. The regime accommodated seasoned technocrats and reputed bureaucrats, which lent the face of civility to the military junta. Quite interestingly, Nigeria made huge fortune and money which was spent frivolously in consuming what we do not produce, and producing what we could not process or add any economic value to. Consequently, opportunities were squandered, the seed of corruption was sown and the culture of primitive accumulation of ill-gotten wealth had begun in full throttle. And, as fate would have it, the junta simply muddled through until Gowon was removed. Again, before the takeover, prominent Nigerians had called on the military government to relinquish power, and return the country to civil-rule. But, again, the voice of reasoning failed.
Then entered Murtala Muhammed’s regime! Though short-lived, it claimed to have taken power to help return the country to civil-rule. For the junta, that was enough and sufficient reason to take over government. There was no concrete plan for development or any proposed amendment or alteration of the extant unproductive structure of the public administration; but, only of course, to help return the country to civil-rule. Olusegun Obasanjo only came to complete the fortuitous and therefore, indeterminate probability of outcomes. Although, there was a handing over of the reins of power, the systemic arrangement and structure of the public administration remains the same.
Leadership has remained the bane of true development in Africa. For decades, Africa has been blessed with leaders who only delight in reading ‘blueprints’. Lest we forget, ‘blueprints’ are the proposed intentions of public office seekers, written by experts and professionals, to be read by politicians to the eagerly waiting ears of unsuspecting and trusting-if-not-gullible-but-politically-enthusiastic people. As such, no one cares to fact-check performance and compliance profile of the incumbent government against the electioneering and campaign promises at the expiration of its tenure! The cycle is endless! Election time, the recurrence of blueprints; back to another election time. Leaders no longer speak from their hearts; nothing is prepared, so, nothing to regurgitate. We are trapped in the world of prepared ‘blueprints’, the contents of which are at variance, or, at best, in total disconnect to the needs and reality of the people’s lives.
Nothing is working in Nigeria, even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has not helped the situation at all, Nigerians were fed-up; and the consensus then was that it’s time for a change. Muhammadu Buhari was voted-in with the assumption that the anticorruption stance of the 1984 – when Tunde Idiagbon, his co-pilot – was in the saddle; could still be reenacted. But the truth is that Idiagbon is dead and the rigid anticorruption stance has died with him. Buhari only reaped the benefit of the political largesse spill-over, because of his accident of association with Idiagbon, especially, with the foreign media even telling Nigerians that if corruption is made the benchmark of governments’ competence and performance, in comparison to Buhari’s government, Sani Abacha and Goodluck Jonathan’s governments will both be given pass marks.
What of insecurity, which has become an intractable menace? Boko Haram marauders now constitute a big threat to our regular army. Unemployment has reached an unbearable benchmark. Economic opportunities and investment activities are shrinking with each passing day. Inflation is now two digits even as food insecurity now threatens the survival of all citizens. Yet, despite these chaotic and overwhelming situations, which is fast turning the country into a shit-hole, the voice of reason is calling for true federalism, restructuring, equity and fair-play; but the political gladiators are not listening.
Donald Trump, United States of America’s president, once asked Michael Cohen, his one-time private lawyer and fixer, if he had known any country that is run by a Black that is not a shithole, nothing but a ‘complete toilet’. With right leadership, humility and strong political will, can’t shit-holes be turned to Paradise on earth?
May the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, grant us peace in Nigeria.