When Ayi Kwei Armah published his first novel, “the beautyful ones are not yet born” in 1968, precisely 49 years ago majority of Nigerians alive today were not yet born. I use the above caption intentionally because the issues he addressed in that novel regarding post colonial Ghana under its first President, Kwame Nkrumah remain embarrassingly pertinent in most if not all of the 54 countries in Africa. Bad governance with no sense of national orientation for the masses, mismanaged natural resources, undeveloped human resources with pervasive poverty and many more is the lot of the common people. Nigeria, Africa’s sleeping giant could have changed the course of things in the continent but her sleep seems everlasting. This article is another effort to reverberate our shouts for us to awaken as a nation, take our rightful place in Africa and give the masses the right quality of life they deserve as humans. We are not born Nigerians and Africans just to survive; we are born to live life to its fullest like our counterparts on other continents.
What on earth would make a nation pick an 82-year old man as an Ambassador? Why would a frail 93-year old hold on to power in a nation of about 13 million people? What justification does the man who has ruled Nigeria the longest number of years have to blame poor leadership for Nigeria’s retrogressive growth? With various African Presidents visiting overseas doctors for treatment, what hope does the common man have for modern healthcare? What would it cost us to develop our health system for the benefit of all Africans irrespective of status? It is my firm opinion that we have had enough dramas in Nigeria without adding any new episode. We ought to get serious and get things done purely on merit and in the best interest of Nigeria and Nigerians. When Justice Sylvanus Nsofor appeared before the Nigerian senate for screening as an Ambassadorial nominee, the blatant disregard for the Nigerian youths and young men and women was brought again to bear. The 82-year old nominee refused to answer questions including the singing of the national anthem and argued with the senators until they asked him to take a bow and leave the house. Should the senate not have deferred the confirmation of such a person based on his performance and his age? Our embassies outside the country are not the home they should be to our compatriots in Diaspora and picking characters like these to head such consular offices can only make this worse.
President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, the world’s oldest leader left for Singapore on March 1, 2017 for a supposed medical treatment for eye cataract whereas reports in private media suggest he has prostate cancer. The Nigerian President has remained in UK for medical treatment also in a clear confirmation of the poor state of the health systems in African countries. Anyone can be sick and require medical attention especially when one has attained the ripe age of 70 and above. Sincerely, the best wishes of every sane human being would be the quick and total recovery of the infirmed. The way our leaders in this part of the world go about their foreign treatments while leaving the healthcare systems in their countries to rot makes the sanity in the informed masses to be lost. While doctors and nurses are on strike in Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe travels to Singapore for treatment just as President Muhammadu Buhari remains in the UK seeing medical doctors whereas the Nigerian healthcare givers go from one warning strike to another every calendar year asking for bilateral agreements between their various unions and the Nigerian government to be implemented. So what is the fate of the vast majority who can barely feed talk less of seeking medical care locally or abroad. Need we wonder why the average life expectancy in Nigeria is about 50 years?
I opine that former President Olusegun Obasanjo (OBJ) deserves commendation for admitting to their failure as past leaders in Nigeria to follow the right path in bringing development to Nigeria. At the 2017 Annual Seminar of Kaduna Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture [KADCCIMA] where he was Chairman, he said the Nigerian government had over the years paid very little attention to the private sector. In my own words, and put simply, Nigeria has refused to develop because the leaders have failed to put the national interest and people’s welfare first. Interestingly, the same set of people has been in power in Nigeria since Independence and can be blamed for the backwardness of our dear country. When they are not in power, they have their crony or stooge installed for the furtherance of their visionless leadership. I do not mean to be impolite in anyway; a people that do not have a common national vision/mission statement can never have a leadership with a vision. Before you point to some documents like the constitution, let me mention that the credibility of that document which ought to be held in reverence has been the subject of vehement debate having been foisted on the people by the same cabal that has held sway in Nigeria since Independence. Being a mortal, OBJ would not have foreseen that the calls from the students of Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) in 1998 which went: “Uncle Sege, don’t contest” during his visit to Ife before the elections was to save him the trouble of failing twice as the President of Africa’s most populous nation. Despite being in charge as a civilian for 8 years after his first stint as a military head, OBJ squandered the golden opportunity to be Nigeria’s Lee Kuan Yew or even Nigeria’s Nelson Mandela. If I were in his shoes, my best bet after openly admitting to how they have failed Nigeria and Nigerians would be to start championing the course for the birthing of a new Nigeria that puts humanity ahead of materialism and selfish interests.
Just like OBJ, President Muhammadu Buhari (PMB) has his second chance to salvage Nigeria. Will this be squandered or made the most of? Only time will tell but so far, it has not been good music to the ears after about 22 months in office. The many steps taken so far do not seem to be assured ones that can get our country to the Promised Land. The future of our youths and children remain uncertain with no concrete investments being made to reverse the same ugly trend OBJ admitted to recently. When our Ministers, Ambassadors and other appointees are 80-year olds how can we compete favourably in the 21st century? If the same people that could not deliver development 3 to 4 decades ago while still in their prime remain in charge of the affairs of Nigeria, how shall we become developed? Are we contemplating the effect of our decisions today on the beautiful ones not yet born? We must stop the wastage of generations in Nigeria. There are uncountable 40-year olds in Nigeria that can put Nigeria on the path to greatness! We must adopt a Human Capital Management system that will make the harnessing of these potentials possible across the country. People should not be political allies before they are given opportunities to solve begging national problems. There are stars in every generation and we must identify and use them right for national growth. How has the much publicized fight against corruption affected the man on the street? At a time when countries like Spain and Denmark are concerned about their population due to dwindling birth rate, we seem to see our vast population as more of a problem. Why are we fighting ourselves in the name of restoring security? When we celebrate that a notorious kidnapper has been killed, we ought to pause to think that but for the failure of leadership in the country, that so-called notorious kidnapper could have designed Nigeria’s first home-made aircraft or attained some other great feats. We ought to pride ourselves in our population and use it to great advantage like other countries such as China, Brazil, India etc are doing. Development and deployment of our greatest assets- the humans- is the way out for Nigeria. Recovered looted funds should be channelled towards these for a more peaceful country.
Corruption is not Nigeria’s biggest problem. Just like kidnapping, poverty, militancy, terrorism and other social vices, it is just an off-shoot of the biggest problem. Was it corruption that made OBJ cede Bakassi, a territory occupied mainly by Oron people of Cross River and Akwa Ibom States in Nigeria to Cameroon? Is it corruption that reduces the life expectancy of the average Nigerian to about 50 years? Is it corruption that makes us place personal sentiments and politics over merit in our public and private appointments? Is the agitation of the Niger Delta people corruption-related? What about the Independent people of Biafra? Would it be right to blame the baby factories where innocent children are sold on corruption? Is it corruption that makes majority of our kidnapped innocent Chibok school girls still missing? The root cause of all of these and other numerous vices we live with in Nigeria is because of Nigeria’s biggest problem – faulty value system. The wrong value system which promotes materialism over humanity drives the decadence in society which degenerates into the societal ills of corruption et al. Treating a fever resulting from bacterial infection with an antipyretic like Panadol will never restore normalcy to the person’s health until the right antibiotics is administered. Nigeria’s and indeed all of Africa’s current leaders should restore the dignity of their citizenry by putting a Human Capital Management system suited for the various countries in place. This is the only true hope for an African renaissance that will give our beautiful ones not yet born the glorious future they deserve. Typical evidence that supports my claims is epitomized by the ruling of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the Bakassi peninsula dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon. The ICJ judgement was based mainly on colonial era Anglo-German agreements that implied the transfer of Bakassi to Cameroon by the French after they received same from Germany who took possession from the Britons. Humanity being handled like items there! To prove again that Africa is yet to come off age in its Human Capital Management, the most recent xenophobic killings in South Africa targeted mainly at Nigerians is a shame to African leadership. Are the opportunities in South Africa so limited that its citizens cannot tolerate their African neighbours who choose to make this country a place of abode? Even smaller developed economies in Europe and other continents do not treat Africans who reside lawfully in their countries that way.
Governor Akinwumi Ambode is arguably the best performing governor in Nigeria today but his recent approach in turning Lagos into a Mega City calls our Human Capital Management System into question. The deployment of government security agents to seize bikes on Lagos roads and the purported plan to ban “Yellow buses”, the major means of transportation in Lagos from Lagos roads before the end of 2017 will certainly lead to serious economic challenges for the majority of people deriving their means of livelihood from these sources while causing major problems for the transiting public who rely on public transportation. Must Lagos bear the title mega city? If it must, should we not make the residents economically mega through deliberate human-centred interventions that will increase their earning power? In the metamorphosis of a city, some class of people should not be trodden upon, excluded or marginalized. Development that is not all inclusive is inhuman and destructive. A fourth and final evidence of the failure in our Human Capital Management system is the recent “change begins with you” campaign launched by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Truth be told, how on earth can the rich parents of a child who has been deprived the basic things of life have the guts to tell the child that change should begin with him? Change begins with the Nigerian masses whereas some of the highest paid public office holders are Nigerians in the time our economy is said to be in recession. The same attitude of throwing everything at the masses in the name of governance still seems to be the norm with the ruling class. In every functional country in every part of the world, the focus of leadership is the welfare of the people and societal development. Why are we so different in Nigeria?
The buck stops with the Federal Government because the power to drive change lies solely there. Our re-orientation efforts in Nigeria should focus on discouraging materialism while instilling values and virtues in our national life. If all the 36 states in Nigeria have a peculiar Human Capital Management System which develops and employs every person of working age, these states will be economically buoyant and salaries will not be owed. Leadership by example would set the pattern for a seamless actualization of this. Can our leaders just learn from the discipline and people-centric leadership of the late Julius Nyerere, the former Tanzanian President who at some point still wrote to his child’s headmaster to condone his delay in the payment of his children’s school fees promising to pay upon receipt of his next monthly salary as President of Tanzania? How about the current pragmatic leadership style of John Magufuli, Tanzania’s current President who someone coined a verb: to magufulify – “to render or declare action faster and cheaper; to deprive (public officials) of their capacity to enjoy life on taxpayers’ money; to terrorize lazy and corrupt individuals in the society” less than one month after he assumed office in November 2015? What has happened to the glowing legacies of our late sage Chief Obafemi Awolowo who gave Nigeria Africa’s first TV station amongst many other things like Liberty Stadium Ibadan and free education at all levels to mention a few? Let’s start building a future that our beautiful ones who are not yet born will be thankful to us for.