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The Way Forward for Nigeria By Dele Momodu

March 31, 2012

“He upholds the cause of the oppressed,
And gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free.
The Lord gives sight to the blind,
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
The Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the stranger,
And sustains the fatherless and the widow,

But he frustrates the way of the.”

    (Psalm 146: 7-9)

Fellow Nigerians, I have come to the conclusion that the root cause of all our problems in Nigeria is the wickedness of man to man. Or how else can one explain the fact that we have literally changed governance into a curse in our country? The big tragedy is that we have turned politics upside down and we are now the slaves to politicians who in turn pay us with cruelty without any hope of freedom. They have told us in clear terms they have no intention of ending this servitude anytime soon because they have what it takes to whip us in line.
What is more baffling is the level of recklessness with which these Masters conduct their affairs without any fear of retribution. Most Nigerians have given up on any hope of redemption since the politicians have demonstrated their infinite capacity to contain all forms of rebellion. I’m one of the few people I know with the lingering hope that it is still possible to build a nation of reasonable human beings no matter how impossible it seems today. I must confess that this unbounded optimism is not based on any tested module. It is more of an article of faith.
This is the reason I chose to tackle the issue of what we need to do, practically, to get Nigeria out of the present predicament in the belief it might catch the attention of him on high. It is obvious that we all know what to do but no one seems prepared to make the necessary sacrifice. But as for me and my house, we shall continue to shout from the rooftops to anyone who cares to listen in the hope that our message would strike a chord with someone somewhere. Truth is, as writers, we never really know who is reading us quietly, and getting inspired, and taking notes, and working on joining hands with others to bring about the day we shall sing our own songs of victory like the Senegalese are doing today.
It is not too difficult to change Nigeria drastically for the better. The solution lies in the hands of only one man. That man is the one at the very top. Forget all the useless excuses about leaders and followers. A good leader can inspire the most incorrigible followers and transform them into the most responsible citizens. There is nothing the great man at the top cannot do or achieve with determination and sincerity of purpose. The key element of leadership is Trust. Followers are usually ready to follow a trusted leader even into fire. Without trust, a war General cannot get total commitment from his troops. That is what sometimes leads to mutiny, when the falcon refuses to hear the falconer.
According to Biblical accounts, Jesus commanded his disciples to walk and float on water with him. If they didn’t trust him, no one would have obeyed. One of the biggest problems in Nigeria today is the preponderance of cynicism. We are a nation of doubters. No one expects the topmost leader to obey his own laws. And governance has become a matter of do as I say and not as I do. A leader tells the people to fast while he’s caught eating a sumptuous breakfast. A certified pauper within three months of attaining power builds a sprawling palace and expects his followers to believe anything he says. His wife changes from head to toe, wearing the most expensive jewellery never seen with her in her 50 years on earth, the children close down the bars when they go night-clubbing, his garage is overflowing with exotic cars and the transfiguration is total and outlandish.
Once the big man at the top is able to do the wrong things right, every other thing shall fall in place. And what are the things he needs to do? He must have the fear of God, and know that even if we can’t see him, our Creator is watching. If he has sworn to The Holy Koran or The Holy Bible, he must respect every letter, and punctuations of that oath. If he’s a President of a nation, he must work assiduously to protect every inch of its territory. He must do nothing to threaten the corporate existence or unity of that nation. He must be a father of all and a hater of none. He must protect every citizen like a father protects his child.
The leader Nigeria needs is a man who’s ready to place the country above personal comfort. He must be prepared to make the type of sacrifice we’ve never seen in our neck of the wood. There is no law that says a President must enjoy maximum comfort while the citizens wallow in extreme poverty. There is no principle that says legislators must award atrocious allowances to themselves while the people suffer under unjust laws. There is no justifiable reason why a Governor must turn state accounts into personal savings. The Local Government Chairman is supposed to be the closest leader to the grassroots and not their Lord and Master. The problem flows down from the top to the bottom and it is often compounded because we are a nation of accomplished pirates. We don’t just duplicate music and videos we pirate bad behaviour. Thus we all look at the man at the top and begin to compete for the post of who’s more evil. What is worse, there is no crime and punishment as long as you are in the good books of the Village Headmaster.
We need someone who can cut our sinful waste to barest minimum. He must reduce the number of Ministers, personal aides, parastatals and their heads, security personnel, vehicles, hotel accommodation, foreign travels, estacodes and all manner of sinful allowances, presidential jets, helicopters, and so on. The leader has to make government unattractive to all comers who view it as means to quick riches. He must emphasise leadership above politics and engage those who have jobs to return to as against career politicians without any business or accomplishments. The era of making politics a full time vocation should be over.
The leader must have a clear understanding of his mission in power and possess the requisite exposure to how civilised nations conduct their affairs. He must never be a seat-warmer who sees power as a barber’s chair that must be rotated every four years without any effort at adding anything tangible to the political Spa. A good leader is a visionary who sleeps and dreams Legacy until it becomes an obsession. Not a man who’s just marking time and pretending to be moving without motion. Success is like a smoke, you just can’t hide it. A true leader must know when he’s failing and falling. He must possess the courage of a lion and treat his friends and foes alike. He must be bold to let everyone know his determination to succeed where others have failed.
Once the leader can demonstrate the type of simplicity that we find in leaders of South Africa, Republic of Ghana, Republic of Benin, and others Nigeria will begin to witness sporadic progress. But if our leader continues to live like the Lord of the Manor, we are doomed till eternity. I think our leaders suffer from a complex that makes it impossible for them to live simple lives. They derive their relevance and orgasm from harassing fellow citizens while the citizens themselves recognise a leader by his level of ruthlessness. Nigeria is indeed a paradox where we are mere spectators to a comedy of errors.
We expect to see a leader who will manage a prudent economy and plough the savings back into productive ventures. Top on the list is education. I have discovered from research that great nations invest heavily in their youths because characters are formed and moulded from infancy. In Great Britain, education in public schools (what we call private in Nigeria) is more expensive in preparatory schools and most exorbitant at the secondary level. The foundation of every serious nation is education.

And the education is not just about certificates it must transform our youths into complete persons who are capable of surviving under difficult situations. This education prepares them to think as entrepreneurs and not as people waiting endlessly for jobs that may never come. Our schools at all levels need that critical overhaul in infrastructure and curricular. A good environment is too crucial to effective learning. It is a miracle that our present institutions of learning still manage to produce world scholars under Stone Age conditions.
I will repeat my regular advice again. We can no longer afford to play politics with the future of our kids. The time has come when we should merge some of the universities for better and effective management. We must begin to collapse the monuments to madness that litter our landscapes. Our youths deserve to study in the best environments like their counterparts in other places. It is disgraceful that they now have to run to Cotonou, Lome, Accra, Kumasi, Cape Town, Ukraine, Malaysia, and others, in search of sound education. Our problem is the unwillingness of our politicians to spend money on objects of value instead of the frivolous waste of our resources.
From education the natural follow-up is job creation. Our leaders have failed woefully in this regard due entirely to their own faults. The commonest way to generate jobs all over the world is to create a rash of activities. Our total neglect of infrastructural development is a major impediment to job and wealth creation. Just imagine how many of our citizens would have been off the streets if  we had paid serious attention to rehabilitating and building new roads, revamping our schools, generating, transmitting and distributing sufficient electricity, operating an ambitious transport system, investing stupendously in agriculture in form of planting, harvesting, processing, preservation, storage, breeding and so on.
By now we should be self-sufficient in food production because our climate is very favourable to all manner of agricultural projects. But we have chosen to waste our resources on importing dead foods from abroad. Even the much we grow, the farmers are not able to get to far-flung destinations because of poor roads. The lack of electricity has also made preservation and processing difficult and cumbersome. Our Ministries would have employed many of our IT guys if they chose to upgrade their filing system from the crude methods they employ at the moment. Our Judiciary is also begging the same treatment. It is for our leaders to wake up to their responsibilities.
There are several ways we were gainfully employed in those good old days. I was able to secure vacation jobs at CSS Bookshops as a shop attendant. Most of us also had teaching appointments waiting for us after leaving secondary schools in 1976. I was a village teacher in 1977 but I doubt if such opportunities are available today. Most of those jobs have virtually collapsed because various governments stopped playing the traditional roles of civil servants as nation builders and chose to complete the total annihilation of our nation. It is impossible for companies that can hardly break even to employ new workers.
Education alone would have absorbed most of our jobless citizens if our schools were in good shape. The railways would have attracted many energetic people currently snaking around in search of daily bread. The banks used to employ so many people and paid the staff fantastic salaries but all that has become history. The hurricane that swept through our banks has left incredible destruction in its wake. There seems to be no end in sight for the endless misery of unemployment.
But something severe has to be done before our youths run amuck!

Article culled from ThisDay Live, Saturday 31st March 2012

Dele Momodu is a Nigerian Journalist/ Publisher. He is the publisher of Ovation International

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