By Mideno Bayagbon
Contact: 08055069059 (Whatsapp only)
rofessor Chinua Achebe of blessed memory in his seminal work on the many failures of Nigeria as a nation, put the blame squarely on leadership. The trouble with Nigeria, he noted, is simply “a failure of leadership… The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmarks of true leadership”.
Yet this is a nation which produced the likes of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Ahmadu Bello, Obafemi Awolowo, Pa Enahoro, Balarabe Musa, and the rest.
Among our many failures as a nation that Professor Achebe identified in the ten chapter book, which he published in 1983, are tribalism, indiscipline, corruption, false image of ourselves, social injustice and the cult of mediocrity.
And eight years after his death, Nigeria and its leadership cadre, failing to learn the invaluable lessons which the book tried to highlight, have sunk to a level, no one alive in 1983 could have dreamt was possible. Every one of the problems identified by Achebe, so long ago, is still with us; but at a more terrifying and calamitous level.
A careful study of the perpetuator of the leadership failure identified by Achebe almost 40 years ago, today, is the so called federal system of government which we pretend to practice. And it has become clear that if we don’t tame this monster now, the nation’s current descent into the abyss could accelerate into an implosion of unimaginable proportions.
What do I mean? Our current leadership recruitment process, under the presidential system is faulty and cannot encourage the breeding of good leaders.
Most of the leaders who have seized the corridor and room of power in the last 22 years have done so, not to serve their fabled constituents, but to feather their own nest. They are in politics, from all available indices because they see it as the quickest route to unearned wealth. Politics has become an industry to access the commonwealth for self.
Most of the people who have taken to politics are those without any verifiable pedigree. Ruffians, scammers, the jobless, the criminally intentioned have swarmed our corridors of power and the few true leaders have had to take a back seat. It is so bad today that no one who truly wants to serve, will venture into politics.
First let us look at the type of leaders the presidential system has thrown up since 1999 when we began this democratic march.
All agree that the best of us have left the worse of us to seize the reins of power. From the local councillor to the President of the nation, in 22 years, money, sheer devilry and impunity have ruled our politics. For the jobless, the deviously criminal-minded, politics has become the major route to unearned wealth.
Secondly, the presidential system is wasteful, stupendously expensive and is an incubator of corruption; at least our variant of it.
My contention is that the presidential system is bad for a poor country like Nigeria which also has the unfortunate distinction for profligacy and corruption.
Two houses of parliament of about a combined figure of 500 who live as Lords, and their leaders as wanton emperors, expend more on themselves than on the entire citizenry.
You seize power by any means, and the treasury becomes your fiefdom. The struggle for power becomes the struggle for access to state wealth and the privatisation of such into personal pockets. No questions asked.
That is why for example, the amount budgeted to oil the less than 5500 members of the National and States Assemblies is more than the total money budgeted for all levels of education in the country; for healthcare, for infrastructure, and so on.
In our current practice, we begin with Councillors, local government chairmen, house of Assembly members, leadership of the Houses of Assembly, Governors, commissioners, Special Advisers and Assistants; and then we move to the members of the House of Representatives, Senators, and the leadership of both houses and their retinue of aides. Of course the Presidency comes with a plethora of offices and positions.
In all of these, about 10,000 Nigerians from all the geopolitical space of the country are those in the room of power. To them, over 50 percent of the national wealth are dedicated. It is a sustained bazaar which is rather surreal.
The Presidency and all its appendages spend on itself thrice the humongous amounts the States and National Assemblies waste on themselves.
Take the instance of entourages of the high and mighty politicians in the country. A local government chairman wastes scarce resources of its local government area in buying frivolous but expensive SUVs for himself, buys back up security cars at an average of at least N1.5bn (One Billion Five Hundred Million Naira only). Of course, the wife of the chairman must also have her share of official entourage which may sink another N500 million.
You only need to see the entourage of the Senate President or the Speaker of the House of Representatives as an example of our uncensored profligacy. Their entourage and convoy almost rivals that of the US President and is far more than most of the Presidents and Prime Ministers in the world.
In their show of opulence and power, they parade at least 20 exotic vehicles in each convoy. This does not include the Police outriders. In their convoys, you will find at least two state of the art, bullet proof 500 SEL Mercedes Benz emblazoned with the National Crest, four powerful top of the range SUVs, at least a further four medium range SUVs, and a coterie of other vehicles. The cost of the vehicles on their convoys is nothing less than N2 billion each.
Lets not even talk about governors and their Alice in Wonderland convoys. Compare any of their convoys with that of say, the British Prime Minister whose official convoy consist of a Jaguar XJ Sentinel, a back up car and two security vehicles and two or four outriders and you cannot but wonder what truly is the problem with our leaders and their politics.
Compare their ostentatious lifestyles to the hunger walking naked in the nation where the minimum monthly wage is a miserly $55 (N30,000).
How do we defend such callousness, such insensitivity? Such wickedness? The answer, they say, is blowing in the wind.