Recently, John Boehner, speaker of the US House of Representatives announced his resignation, not only from his position as speaker but also from the Congress. I am not aware his resignation had anything to do with corruption or fraud, but simply on the basis of principle which caused disaffections within his beloved Republican Party. I am not sure that disagreeing with the party through which you were elected is enough grounds for you to resign your position in Nigeria. Not even a monumental case of graft and fraud will make Nigerian politicians tread the part of honour even though they are called “Honourable”.
What happens when an organism suddenly stops growing? If we agree that the main purpose of life is growth, then the extinction of certain creatures like dinosaurs from planet earth can be as a result of the fact that they suddenly stopped growing. A cell that stops growing or fails to subdivide or die becomes cancerous and useless. Similarly, when our leaders continually apply the same old, failed methods in our public life, it shows stagnation and portends danger for the country’s growth. Professor Chinua Achebe in his book, The Trouble with Nigeria, concludes that the main challenge for Nigerians today could be summed up in one word – leadership. That conclusion is valid till this day.
An organisation that does not inject fresh ideas or new blood, sooner or later faces the inevitable. We do not need to be diplomatic about this fact. The best our leaders have done is to replace themselves with their children and children’s children or in worst cases their cronies. Little wonder you have recurrent names like Shagaris, Balewas, Akintolas, Fani-Kayodes, Okonjos, Nwekes, Obansanjos, Buharis, and the likes who are all children of former public officials. In most cases when their children are not presently available for whatever reasons, they set sights on their godsons or anointed candidates to take their place. How does a nation grow in this kind of situation?
It still baffles me that we are yet to effectively develop youthful leaders to retire the likes of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) who is perhaps the only reference made to anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria at age 72. This is after his previous stint as Head of State (1983-85). The question then is: What are the likes of el-Rufai, Ribadu and Fashola doing? Can any of these boast of the virtues embodied in Buhari? Did they fall off by the way? Where are the so-called leaders of tomorrow?
It is my long-held view that most of our leaders are everything but creative. This is why Chief Awolowo opined in his book Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution (1966) that our leaders lack “comprehension, mental magnitude and spiritual depth…” Invariably, most of them do not see beyond their noses. Like incompetent physicians, our leaders administer doses of the same drugs for different ailment or symptoms. They live the lives of 20th century deep into the 21st century. This explains why 20th century ideas are still fresh in their minds. An example is imperative at this point.
In October 1962, days before Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s treasonable felony trial began, the then Judicial Service Commission (JSC) headed by Sir Adetokumbo Ademola clearly acting on instructions from Balewa government, had carefully “promoted” the Acting Chief Justice of the High Court Justice Charles Onyeama (since Justice De Leastang was then on leave) to the position of Federal Judge in the Supreme Court, leaving the more partisan Justice Sowemimo as Awo’s trial Judge. In parenthesis, Justice Onyeama had been so promoted ( albeit for just 21 days for which he could not even enter the Supreme Court for one day) due to his impartial role during the National Bank probe, so the authorities could not trust him to do the hatchet job of jailing Awo, hence this “promotion”!
It is unfortunate that this same method was used twice under the Jonathan administration. First it was used in the case of Justice Ayo Salami, when he was suspended erroneously by the NJC, and on his reinstatement by the same body, the former President suddenly became more Catholic than the Pope as far as the law is concerned. It has also been used against former Speaker, Aminu Tambuwal, President Jonathan’s arch-rival, when suddenly his case was reassigned to a more partisan judge!
I recently saw a picture from the Western Region crises in 1962, showing some parliamentarians jumping over the fence to make their way into the hallowed chambers. If we argue that our democracy was still in its infancy then, can we still assume we are not growing at all when the same thing repeated itself this time at the national level for the world to see? Are we moving forward at all as a nation?
That also reminds me. The State Security Service (SSS) men “invaded” the Akwa Ibom State Governor’s Lodge recently. I still ask myself if we learnt anything from the invasion of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Data Centre in Lagos last year. Or did we learn anything from the so-called Watergate break-in in the 1970s in the United States!
Does it not bother people that when people talk about the best of Universities they talk about the “First Generation” Universities? What then happened to the new ones for which billions of naira had been allocated? Last year, I went to one of those recently built “universities” to apply for a teaching position. Had I not seen “Federal University of …” written at the entrance, I would have argued I was at the wrong place! Is this one of the “universities” for which pocket tearing amount of money was allocated?
A friend of mine was to travel to Canada on a Student’s Visa recently so I accompanied him to the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos. I saw the beautiful British Airways aircraft. I equally admired the well-maintained Kenyan Airways just like I saw the South African Airways. I didn’t come close to sighting any “Nigerian Airways”. My first instinct was to loudly ask for clarifications. For the records, Nigerian Airways once served as a model for air travel in Africa (including Apartheid South Africa) but that glory has been surpassed by those that are not ordinarily supposed to be in our class at all. This is the result of stagnation or lack of growth!
My take is that all the symptoms of stagnation are with us as a nation. This is why we must put on our thinking caps and be creative. Relying on the old ways of doing things is and will always be counterproductive. If in the 21st Century we still struggle with organising free and fair elections, it only shows that we have refused to grow.