The Euphoria and optimism that accompanied the independence of African Nations have evaporated, often in the most brutal manner, leaving the continent not only in a situation of unprecedented poverty but also in a frightening level of socio-economic decay.

Millennium Commission Report, 2001

What a dark week it has been for Nigeria. 

I never really liked associating myself with politics and all its complexities. This mentality was particularly influenced by the negative perception of politics in Nigeria. The term politics or politician was and still is synonymous with negative characteristics and heavy with baggage (e.g. corruption, rent-seeking and nepotism) to name a few.

I recall having a discussion this one time with a close friend of mine. She very casually told me that I spoke like a politician. Although I did not know exactly what she meant, I remember at that instant, feeling extremely offended. From that moment, I find myself constantly trying to ensure that I do not “speak like a politician”.  

Also, in a country like Nigeria, where there is this false illusion of a “democracy,” I wasn’t always comfortable vocalizing my thoughts and opinions on emerging issues. Hence, my opinion on anything related to politics was nothing but whispers.

But I’ve evolved, not just in my understanding of politics, but in what I believe it should really be about. Actually, I like to think that I’m more interested in good governance as opposed to politics itself.

I never truly realised how much the action and inaction of politicians affected me as an individual, and society as a whole. I always thought about politics, policies and governance as something I had to be isolated from. I assumed that by electing government officials, anything related to governance was ideally up to them. As a citizen, I had to play the role of spectator and eagerly hope that they deliver their exaggerated election promises.

However, with the recent turn of events in the country, I have come to the realization that politicians, government officials and the overlooked street-level bureaucrats play such an important role in the lives of every single Nigerian. A role that I fear most of them take for granted.

While other African countries are progressing, we are regressing. Look at countries like Rwanda and Botswana, and the failure of the Nigerian government becomes as clear as crystal. From being one of Africa’s largest economies to now being referred to as the world’s poverty capital. How the mighty have fallen.

In the past week, we have witnessed numerous deaths across the country. Over 200 people were killed in violence in Plateau state. Then the Lagos- Ibadan expressway accident occurred, killing at least 9 people and leaving a few injured. Just this year alone, 1,813 people have been killed across 17 states.

Nigeria does not seem to place value on human lives. A country that does not value its people can never truly develop. Not only because life is sacrosanct, but because human capital is one of the key drivers of productivity and in turn economic growth.

Nigeria’s problem is multifaceted. I genuinely do not know where to start from. But I like to think that the most immediate and perhaps the most important challenge we face is that of leadership, or the lack thereof.

Myopic “Leaders” 

Most Nigerian “leaders” are shortsighted. They constantly fail to see the bigger picture and this heavily impedes their ability to make sound (economic and political) decisions. There is a global wave of growth and development that has been unleashed by the rapid advancement in technology and automation. Once we miss this opportunity, we will be stuck playing catch-up. The greatness and positive references that were once associated with Nigeria will become a thing of the past.

“Nigeria used to be  ……..”

“Nigeria had so much potential but,  …….”

I strongly believe that when leaders at all levels of government start to act in the best interest of Nigeria collectively, significant progress will be achieved.

Leadership is a decisive factor in the transformation of any society. At all levels, leaders are required to steer development. It is the vision of the leaders that drive growth. Once again, I refer to Rwanda and the transformational leader Paul Kagame, who has led the country through its formative years. His leadership is seen to have mobilised and organised movements that propelled change and renovated Rwanda both economically and socially.

Singapore is also a perfect example of how effective leadership can revolutionize a nation. Lee Kuan Yew restructured Singapore from a third world country to a global economic powerhouse in just three decades.

Nigeria, please take note.

But, citizens also need to do better.

Citizens and civil society organizations need to engage leaders and demand accountability. It’s one thing for citizens to constantly express their views on social media, and another to actually translate that rage and frustration into action. Oby Ezekwesili (the No-nonsense woman activist) epitomizes what the average Nigerian should be; resilient, fearless and brutally honest, holding the government accountable for their every action. .

 

Thanks for Reading,

Stephannie