By Henry OLAMIJU
“All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time. This, and not much else, is the essence of leadership.” — John Kenneth Galbraith
It’s another independence day, Nigeria’s fifty-fourth since it gained freedom from the British Colonial Masters on October 1st, 1960. As usual, all the ‘as it was in the beginning’ events that follow an Independence Day celebration have started in earnest: President’s speech, press release by Senate Leaders, Talk shows, Independence Day Jams and all other razzmatazz.
Even if there’s not much to celebrate, we can be thankful that we are still here. Despite the all the first republic bickering and the ensuing fratricidal civil war, the several military invasions, protests, lockdowns and all, we are still here as one nation. That’s a lot to be thankful for. If anyone doubts the need for thanks, they only need to imagine where we may be if we went down the path taken by some other countries. There’s not much to celebrate either. Our health systems are, at best, epileptic on the whole (of course, some states are doing very much better than others) and anachronistic; educational institutions are much farther down the depths than they were thirty years ago, civil service has lost its dignity, security of lives is at the rock bottom level (I hope we don’t find out the bottom is still deeper than where we are currently), power supply is medieval and the roads have become death traps for many travellers all over the country.
While it is said that every society deserves the leaders they get, it is important to realise that the leaders in turn are responsible for the direction their societies also go. A quick review of radio talk-shows and social media sites this morning paint a picture of citizens who can ONLY WISH things were better but seem to lack the power to make the change they want happen. In a society where memories of brutality in the military junta has instilled a background fear into the minds of the citizenry that expressing your views might end you in jail or by the hangman’s noose or the assassin’s bullet, many will just face what is front of them: food, shelter, love, career etc rather that bother about the needs of the society at large.
In this background fear does the current crop of leaders believe, that no matter how pushed the Nigerian is, he/she will take a lot indignities before he buckles and revolts. They ride roughshod on the rights of those who elected them into office and claim ‘immunity’. Even the traditional rulers do side with the government in power (and the government-in-waiting as the case is in Ekiti where they have supported Fayose’s pre-rule thuggery) against the populace they are to protect. Truly, the death of Nigeria is the end-product of its leaders.
From the look of things, Nigeria is at the rock bottom. It can only go up if it is to remain one indivisible Nigeria otherwise it ceases to exist as we know it. When one looks from the prism of hope and follow the current social media and real-life interaction among the youths of the country, what one would see is that in not a very distant future, Nigeria is going to rise from the doldrums and take its place among the nations of the world. It will wake up from the long slumber of decades and actively participate to the level it should in world affairs. One day, the labours of our heroes past shall not be in vain and the efforts of the heroes of today will bring joy to the generations yet unborn as we navigate our way to real nationhood.
One day, a boy born in a primary health centre in Kaura Namoda in Borno State to poor Fulani parents may decide to go Federal Government College in Port Harcourt, go to University of Lagos and then aspire to the highest political position in the land without fear of godfatherism, assassination, ‘stomach infrastructure’, Department of State Security and all other obstacles that mutilate Nigeria’s current democracy experiments.
One day, Nigeria will be the chief supplier of petrol, natural gas and electricity to West African nations while our University professors will chair institutions for policy, development and leadership not only in Africa but on a global scale. In those days, the Niger Delta will not boast of crude oil but of massive industries that export cutting-edge technology, first class Universities, fledging tourist cities etc. The Nigerian food produce will rank in the ninety-ninth percentile of world production and boast of world class teaching hospitals that push the boundaries of medical knowledge.
Mark these words: In those days, we will remember the leaders of today and we will place them on the weighing scales of justice. We will open inquiries and set up commissions to review the actions of the leaders of this present day and justice will be brought to their door if they are still alive. Even if they are frail in health, we will post doctors to them and still bring them to trial for the atrocities they committed in ruining this nation. Anyone found wanting will be recompensed appropriately.
It is therefore pertinent to warn the current leaders that when those days come, only the goodwill they have invested into Nigeria will be remembered, there will not be sacred cows for any reason; they have the latitude of time and opportunity right now to be on the right side of posterity by attempting to correct the status quo and clear the way for the new Nigeria.
Sound an alarm from the corridors of Aso Rock to the corner offices of the local government chairmen, from the high seat of the Senate President to the common seat of the state legislators, from the Benches of the Supreme Court to that of the lowest Magistrate all over the federation, sound the alarm that the day of recompense will come. Oh, how sweet it will be in those days.
For those who are wise, change your ways; for those who have itchy ears, I have a word for you: Get all you can, Can all you get and Sit on the can. Just know that same can will be full of gunpowder for you in those days.
There will be no witch-hunting because it will not be personal vendetta at work, it will be justice. Justice is a nation’s way of getting revenge and revenge, as an old Sicilian Mafiosi saying goes, is a dish best served cold.
Happy Independence Day Nigeria.
Photo credit: The Telegraph, UK
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