By Asunmogejo Yusuf Olawale
The excitement and happiness that greeted the Nigerian people on the eve of Oct 1, 1960, significantly when the Union Jack was lowered for the Nigerian flag are inestimable.
Many Nigerians at that time were fulfilled and demonstrated a lot of hope on the benefits and prospects of having to witness a new era of an all-inclusive government and political freedom.
At the start of the nation’s self-governance on the 1st of October, 1960, there was calmness and unity among the Nigerian people, respect for the laws of the land, and good prospects for growth.
Agriculture was a boom to the Nigerian economy, thereby increasing the nation’s economic opportunities and currency value.
Despite the fluctuations in the world prices from 1960 to 1961, the Nigerian GDP was at a growing rate because exports were on the increase.
Also, food produced by farmers were sufficient to feed the entire nation. Several developmental strides were witnessed across every sphere of the country as a result of the infrastructure put in place from the proceeds of the farm produce.
The coordinated efforts between the federal and regional governments in 1962 birthed the First National Development Plan. This plan was established to enhance the participation of states in the nation’s economic activities and to create a map for regional governments through its resources to provide the necessary infrastructure for its people. There was no doubt that under the leadership of Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as the Prime Minister and Chief Nnamdi Azikiwe as the Head of State and those of the regional leaders, the nation was progressing aggressively.
Some of the developments in the Western Region include; the completion of the Cocoa House in Ibadan, infrastructural development such as the construction of schools and primary health care centres, and industrial development such as the establishment of Askar Paints, Phoenix Motion to mention but a few. In the Eastern Region, there were cocoa, palm groove, and rubber schemes for agricultural produce to increase the proceeds of cash crops in the region. The discovery of oil in the area in 1965 also became a promising source of income. On the other hand, there was a boost in the groundnut and cotton industry in the Northern Region.
Moreover, steel mining was also not left out as a viable source of income for the region’s growth.
Despite having different tribes in Nigeria, only the three major ethnic groups dominated the nation’s power. Problems began to loom when the Nigerian elites who took over from the colonial masters were faced with challenges of tribalism. There were difficulties at the central government to form a sense of identity and belonging. These unrelenting cases of tribalism led to a series of supremacy battles among the various ethnic groups, and it resulted in the hijack of the central government by the military.
It is pertinent to reiterate the fact that as the time when the Nigerian Military hijacked the central power, the whole of Africa was also experiencing a similar phenomenon. It was no surprise from many observers from Western Europe.
In January 1966, the first military coup took place and ever since that time, the nation has witnessed series of military hijacks from the influential army officers on account of incapability of the predecessor to provide visionary leadership, tackle corruption, promote economic activities and development and foster unity among the Nigerian people.
Many Nigerian elites believed that the hijack by the military truncated the developmental strides of the growth and development of the country. While many Nigerians expressed a feeling of hope that when democracy is restored all past glories would be redeemed, some were conscious not to take the democratic government so seriously because of what happened in the past democratic government.
Twenty years down the line into the democratic government, the majority of the Nigerian people have continuously stated their disappointment on the series of threats obstructing the growth and development of the country. Some of the threats voiced include; lack of visionary leadership, increased crime and terrorism, corruption and abuse of power among leaders, economic instability, and unemployment.
The first point of focus on the threat obstructing the growth and development of the Nigeria of today is the lack of visionary leadership. It will be biased to state that military intervention was the only problem for the country’s lack of quality leadership. The civilian administration has over the years failed to govern the Nigerian people in a way that guarantees prosperity and stability.
This statement can be attested to from the opinion of Chief Chinua Achebe in his book titled “An Image of Africa and Trouble with Nigeria” where he stated that Nigeria’s trouble is the failure of quality and visionary leadership.
The inability of the Nigerian government to quickly provide a means of curtailing the spread of the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic also reflected the country’s lack of quality leadership. It is no news that the virus has successfully spurred the economic crisis in Nigeria, with many employed youths losing their jobs.
On top of that, critical sectors of the economy have witnessed lack of exemplary leaders.
Both the public and private sectors have suffered leadership gaps. Unfortunately, religious and academic institutions have experienced lack of quality leaders who are willing to sacrifice their skills, expertise, and time in running the affairs of these institutions to foster growth and development in the country.
Secondly, the issue of corruption cannot be overemphasised. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian leaders and has led to the denial of the citizen’s civil rights.
According to Transparency International in the year 2019, Nigeria was ranked at 146th in corruption perception index out of the 180 countries measured.
Corruption is perceived to exist among the Nigerian people. Some intentionally sell inferior and substandard products to customers to make more profits. Besides, public institutions have also lost their prestige due to rising cases of corrupt practices and abuse of trust and power among its leaders.
In addition to that, the Nigeria of today have been tested by increased crime and an unrelenting campaign of terror and attacks that in the south, civil unrest threatens the safety of the people, to the east; there is increased kidnap of expertise and influential Nigerians, and to the north; Increased banditry and Book Haram insurgents have threatened the lives and properties of the Nigerian people.
Similarly, the Nigeria of today have witnessed aggressive economic declines and has moved from its past glory of being a producer nation to a consumer nation. The Nation has also witnessed a collapse in oil prices coupled with the Coronavirus pandemic. The World Bank
Development update on the 25th of June, 2020 stated that if quality and effective economic policies are not quickly implemented in the spike of the pandemic, the nation will go into a severe economic recession.
From critical observations and analysis by political, economic, and administrative experts, one common point of focus to secure the future of Nigeria is having the right leadership. Once a quality, credible, and visionary leadership is put in place, all other predicaments of the Nigeria of today will be a thing of the past.
Good governance and leadership should be the bedrock of all the government systems to easily map out path-breaking policies, strategies, and ideas that promise rich dividends to the Nigerian economy. Based on inherently acceptable value, credible leaders will help to bring the best out of the youth of today. There is no doubt that with the right systems in place for the youth of today, the youth will have its place to secure the future of Nigeria.
Interestingly, good governance and leadership will ensure the widespread participation of the people, transparency in government, accountability of the dealings within the public institutions, responsible and responsive leaders at the realm of affairs of the state, and respect for the rule of law.
To the ordinary Nigerian people, this would translate into free, fair and credible elections, unlimited access to necessary infrastructure, transparency in public service delivery, the security of lives and properties, creation of employment opportunities and an enabling environment for businesses to thrive and lastly, the timely dispensation of justice.
Finally, no doubt looking back into the past as an informed citizen will cause one to ask an essential question of “how did we get here”.
As blurry as the future of Nigeria may look today, there is still a much widespread believe that with collective progressive initiative coupled with the right leadership from the economic, administrative and political leaders, the country will not only leave its current state but build a social contract that will leave the question of “what else do we want” on the lips of the Nigerian people.
Asunmogejo Yusuf Olawale writes from Lagos, Nigeria.
Contact him via: email@example.com,
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