The Nigerian Leadership Puzzle

The Nigerian Leadership Puzzle

Some of you might find this hard to believe, but Africa is the world’s richest continent in terms of natural resources, with about 50% of the world’s gold and 3.1% of the world’s oil reserves. Furthermore, some parts are also highly fertile; in Nigeria, a seed will sprout anywhere it’s dropped, irrespective of if care was given to it or not.

However, despite the abundance of natural resources and a growing workforce, Nigeria constantly struggles to hold onto its most valuable resource – people. Some of you may have heard about the issues the country faces from people dying of preventable diseases to the growing insurgency occurring in the northern part of the country (i.e. Boko Haram, a self-named branch of ISIS). On top of that there is instability in the country’s economy and the aforementioned issue of Brain Drain. But these problems are not the biggest problems that Nigeria and other African countries face, as they are all a direct or indirect effect of one major issue – leadership, or a lack of one.

The word ‘corruption’ has become synonymous in the minds of Nigerians when the topic of leadership is brought up. Nigerians have come to believe that everyone involved in government, or in any position of power, is dirty and selfish. Even if a politician begins as a beacon of hope for change, it’s only a matter of time before they are collecting bribes, or practicing nepotism, and thus are seen as corrupt.

Corruption has gone from a mere act of accepting bribes to a complete state of mind and way of life. For every good leader, there are 100 selfish ones, and with the increased practice of nepotism, safeguards put in place to protect citizens and the rule of law have become obsolete. A notable example of this was in 2013 when then Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan, granted a presidential pardon to the former governor of Bayelsa state, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, who was convicted of money laundering. Although this sparked anger amongst Nigerians, Goodluck Jonathan made the infamous statement that “Stealing is not corruption.” This demonstrates a flawed political system spawning from greed and in most cases, ignorance. How did we get to this point and what can be done to combat this?

Many people believe that colonisation has been a key factor in why Africa and in particular, Nigeria, is what it is today. But while it is easy to blame colonisation for today’s corruption, the answer is not so simple.

The truth is that Nigerians, like humans everywhere, are inherently self-seeking. In the words of Adam Smith, “it is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest”.This is not to say that colonisation did not leave scars in Nigeria, but that current citizens also had (and still have) a role to play in this issue.

The first step that should be taken to turn the issue of leadership around is the re- education of the citizens. According to the Nigerian Corruption Survey in 2017, only 5.3% of Nigerians will either refuse to pay a bribe when asked or refuse to accept when a bribe is offered to them. If the other 94.7% suddenly find themselves in a position of leadership, this cycle of corruption will only continue – corrupt practices seem to be built into the mentality of the country. Another important point to address is the problem of tribalism. It is not uncommon to find a department in the civil service filled with the tribesmen and village friends of the politically powerful, and most of the time, they lack the skills or qualifications needed to carry out their roles effectively. While tribalism originally stemmed from the forced amalgamation of the northern and southern parts of Nigeria in 1914 by Lord Lugard, it’s high time for the country to realize that irrespective of tribe, unity is strength and division is weakness.

However not all hope is lost. There are good leaders in Nigeria today, and there have been numerous good leaders in the past. One such leader was Dora Nkem Akunyili, the Director General of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC). Under her leadership, counterfeit products that posed a large problem to the Nigeria market was eradicated in a few years, something that her predecessors struggled to do. If more individuals can prove as dedicated and as steadfast, however long the night, the dawn will break for Nigeria and her citizens.


BY: Simi Olojo


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