What happens when an organism suddenly stops growing? If we agree with the evolutionists that the main purpose of life is growth or “to evolve”, then the extinction of certain creatures like dinosaurs from planet earth might be traceable to the fact that they suddenly stopped growing. A cell that stops growing and 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.

In his book, There Was a Country, Professor Chinua Achebe concluded that Biafra’s hopes, aspirations, determinations, and resilience to secede from Nigeria (1967-1970) could be summed up in one word: leadership. This conclusion is valid till this day and that is why I chose to title this article There Is a Country.

An organisation that does not inject fresh ideas or new blood, sooner or later faces the inevitable. The most our leaders do is replace themselves with their children and children’s children. Little wonder you have recurrent names like the Shagaris, Balewas, Akintolas, Fani Kayodes, Nwekes, Obasanjos  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 is my long held view that our present crop of leaders are everything but creative. This was why Chief Obafemi  Awolowo opined in his book Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution (1966) that our leaders lack “comprehension, mental magnitude and spiritual depth…”. Invariably they do not see beyond their noses. Like incompetent physicians, our leaders administer doses of the same drugs to different ailments or symptoms. They live the lives of twentieth century deep into the twenty-first century. This explains why twentieth century ideas are still fresh in their minds. An example is imperative at this point.

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It still baffles me that someone like General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), perhaps the only reference made to anti-corruption crusade in Nigeria at age 73, still aspires to be Nigerian President. This is after his previous stint as Head of State (1983-85). The question then is: Where are our young ones? Where are the leaders of tomorrow?

Does it not bother you that when we talk about our best universities, we talk about the “First Generation” universities? What then happened to the new ones which have gulped billions of naira? Recently, I found myself in one of those newly built “universities”, and if I had not seen “university” spelt out at the entrance, I would have argued I was at the wrong place! This was one of the universities for which pocket tearing amounts were allocated.

A friend of mine was to travel to Canada on a student’s visa recently, so I accompanied him to the Murtala Muhammed International 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 to 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 twenty-first century we cannot organise something as simple as free and fair election, it only shows that of all the countries in the world, there is a country that has refused to grow. I pray that is not my country.

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So while Achebe said, “There was a country whose people were full of hopes of a land flowing with the proverbial milk and honey but were disappointed due to failure of leadership” writing about Biafra, a country that never was, I am writing of Nigeria, a country that is, but has deliberately refused to grow.