Dictators in A “No Grow” Nation?
by: Idumange John
Since some hate-mongers and faceless groups started the insult they call the campaign
for General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida Rtd, one issue I have deeply thought-through
is the knotty challenge of leadership failure in Nigeria. If Nigerians could
campaign for a man who inflicted a mortal injury on democracy, it is then
necessary for the progressives to work out strategies to free Nigeria from the
stranglehold of the cabal and move to the next level. It is the less
intelligent populace that would forget the havoc caused by the IBB phenomenon,
and for those who have not lost their humanity, they can only vote for any
acronym associated with these odd Roman alphabets - IBB.
It is not just lack of democratic credentials that make IBB not eligible to
contest, it is the atrocities committed by the man. I could still feel the cold
shudder that ran down my spine that woebegone day, my auntie announced to the
elders that her husband, a major in the army, from Ijaw of Nembe extraction and
an intelligence officer had died in a plane crash. With the bread winner of the
family summarily dispatched, the family was thrown into mourning and suffering.
That was exactly the way Dele Giwa’s family might have felt when their bread
winner and ace journalist was abbreviated by that monster of a letter bomb
carefully packaged to do violence to robust journalism.
Again, Nigerians said nay to the IMF loan, but IBB took that loan against all conventional
wisdom. It was the loan that culminated in the anti-SAP riots that led to
bloodletting and chaos. At this critical
moment, Nigerians need leaders whose hands are not stained by corruption and
any other iniquity. Prove I’m corrupt IBB asked. This is a challenge thrown by
former Military President – Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida to Nigerians. I think
IBB is right. In the eyes of the law, a mere accusation is not sufficient to
convict a person, and in this case, those who assert that the self acclaimed “evil
genius” is corrupt. I buy into IBB’s argument with the conviction that his
challenge is one too many for our learned men. Apart from the Late legal icon
Gani Fawheimi, it is not to my knowledge that any Lawyer or Activist for that
matter has taken IBB to court. Every where, and anytime, IBB is tried in the
mass media and the court of public conscience.
Why persecute a man who can be tried under our municipal laws, who has
indeed not been tried? Better still, why has the array of legal engineers not
tried IBB who is believed to rank among one of the most corrupt leaders in
Africa in the law court? In this matter,
I do not apportion blames to the Economic And Financial Crimes Commission (
What is common knowledge is that IBB is generally believed to be one of the most corrupt military rulers Nigeria has ever had. In terms of primitive
accumulation and kleptocratic tendencies, IBB may be comparable to other
primitive dictators like Eyadema of Togo,
Mobutu Sese Sekou of Congo Democratic Republic, Sukarno and Soharto of
Indonesia and Ferdinand Marcos of the Philippines. No sane nation, no matter
how under-developed and ideologically leprous can tolerate a kleptocrat like
IBB who, more than any leader damaged the ship of state.
Every democratic nation seeks to move to the next level- a level where people enjoy
basic socio-economic rights and effortlessly manage their own affairs. Nigeria
needs to move to the next level because there is now controversy whether Nigeria
is developing, stagnating or even retrogressing. Economically, Nigeria can be
said to be retrogressing because The next level anticipated is a level where
Nigeria would embrace good governance, economic development and social progress.
Nigeria is harassed by bad statistics.
Is it true that Nigeria is an unfinished State? If yes what is left to be finished and for how long
shall our leaders squander the opportunities at nation-building. Nigeria
runs around a vicious circle of poverty and bad governance because the leaders,
at every turn of events defy the higher laws of politics. Nigeria is perhaps
the only nation that has defied the organic concept of growth. Every passing
day people make reference to the past as a glorious past and the present as
years of missed opportunities. The future is visualized as bleak. About fifty years after independence, the
nation still wrestles with the same problems she inherited from the colonial
masters. Such basic problems as water supply, power supply, job creation,
health and education infrastructure. For the youths of Nigeria who were denied
the benefit of seeing yesterday, the future does not exist.
Nigeria is a strange nation that is not underpinned
by universally accepted norms of
civilized existence. The nation also lacks ideology because it will be
counterproductive to vested interests and emasculate the overwhelming forces of tribalism, regional diversities and cultural
chasms arraigned against the nation. In place of a national ideology, there
exists intense devotion and adherence to primordial allegiances of ethnic
chauvinism, religious bigotry and other centrifugal forces. This explains why Nigeria
has remained a captive State that is dominated by powerful ethnic social forces
constantly in conflict over material reward of State power. In spite of efforts
to fight corruption, Nigeria has remained a victim of high-level corruption,
bad governance and cyclical illegitimacy.
It is not surprising that we honour those who make money without questioning the
means yet we preach morality in State Houses and the pulpits. Some pulpits have
been transformed into money spinning centres where the prosperity preachers
desecrate the temple. As a nation we have not realized the catalytic role of
education in development hence we have not accorded it a priority. We have
deleted the concept of social justice and sacrifice in our collective lexicon,
and any nation, which fails to enthrone social justice, is marked out for
From basic education to the tertiary level, there is public outcry about the declining quality of the product of our educational system.
In the recently released results of National Examination Council, only
2% made 5credits including Mathematics and English. The system produces
graduates that can write good formal letters. Spoken English in Public Schools
is deteriorating. At the work place, poor quality of education is reflected in
the very low productivity and job performance of graduates which is not matched
with the quantum of certification. There
now exists a credential gap and no body has raised alarm. When a nation fails
to invest in basic education, it is inadvertently mortgaging its future and
Public officers at all levels of government are dominated by powerful mandarins who
use their positions for empire-building and cultivate personal militias to
secure their estates acquired with public resources. It is then understandable
why fifty years of independence have
yielded largely stagnation, regression or worse. The result is that, over the
years, tragic consequences of this are increasingly clear: a rising tide of
poverty, decaying public utilities and infrastructures, social tensions and
political turmoil, and now premonition of inevitable drive into conflict and
violence. Our cherished values are fast fading. Values such as
honesty and hard work, probity, accountability and community spirit are being
replaced by dishonesty, greed and individualism and the leaders are all too
happy to allow the system to run its full cycle.
The area of governance and democracy is where Nigeria faces the greatest challenge.
Over the years, the nation has been striving at good governance in principle,
and good governance has only remained a good intention. Political office
holders do not sufficiently adhere to the basic tenets of constitutionalism and
the rule of law. Our electoral system is far from transparent and even Prof.
Maurice Iwu, whose tenure expires in June does not make any pretence about it.
He has admitted that INEC has failed yet he would want to sit-tight in office.
It is heart warming that Acting Governor Goodluck Jonathan will overhaul the
electoral system sooner than later, for Nigeria to conduct credible, free and
In the foreign policy theatre, critics argue that Nigeria’s domestic ecology does not
support her foreign policy posturing as ‘giant of Africa”. Nigeria has been benevolent to other nations while
Nigerians are humiliated even among the contiguous States, subjected to
xenophobic attacks abroad amidst apathy on the part of the Nigerian government.
Nigeria exhibits false generosity abroad in order to create a wrong impression
that the political economy is healthy. In Africa, Nigerians suffers rejection
and even maltreatment wherever they go. Nigeria’s foreign policy suffered
severe misfortune under Chief Ojo Maduekwe of the Citizen’s diplomacy fame.
Nigerians expect a more pro-active diplomacy under Odein Ajumogobia. Nigerians
need a diplomatic regime that is capable of protecting their lives and property
anywhere in the world.
The Acting President has to take five bold steps to reposition the nation. First, since the
nation’s resources are controlled by a few buccaneering compradors, these
people must be dispossessed of the resources of the nation.
The privatization exercise in Nigeria in the past passionately supported the clever
tricks of transferring the ownership of public corporations to private
investors, but the Dangote’s and Otedola’s will argue strenuously that their
aim is to make such corporations work. This class must be resisted by any means
Secondly, government has to pursue the Amnesty Programme with zeal, as peace in the Niger
Delta Region is key to the development of the country. Oloibiri the symbol of
crude oil in Nigeria has a spiritual significance and the non-development of
this cradle of Nigeria’s oil economy bodes-ill for the whole nation. The
Federal Government has to make frantic efforts to ensure uninterrupted flow of crude oil to lubricate
the economy, lest the economy gasps for breathe. The Acting President should
honour Oloibiri with an Institute of Petroleum Technology and not a museum.
This is not too much to do.
Thirdly, apart from fixing power, the present administration should re-brand those at
the top echelon of government. The challenge of governance rests squarely on the
shoulders of the leaders-whose duty it is to chart a road map for moving the
nation forward. The Power Holding Company Plc
constitutes another demon harassing this blessed nation. If a government is
incapable of providing the basic social amenities, then there should be no
reason why the people will continue to tolerate mismanagement and ineptitude. It
is not enough for the Acting President to take the saddle but to be conscious
of the fact that there are people who reap enormous benefits from the poor state
of power supply. The Acting President has to watch out for saboteurs and fifth
columnists even at the Presidency and the Ministry of Power.
Fourthly, the present strategy of rebranding favours the ‘brown envelop’ and bazaar paradigm,
with a chorus of “Nigeria, good people, and a great nation”. For the masses,
rebranding efforts should be geared towards
poverty alleviation, with a new approach. In the cause of distributing
the envelops, so much would be stolen by the same class of kleptocrats. In
fact, kleptomania has been so entrenched in Nigeria that it is near impossible
for any public officer to live without one form of peculation or another.
Kleptomania has become a brand name for Nigeria. The Nigerian political
landscape is tainted with near absence of ethical values and common etiquettes
and this affects the behaviour of public officers. The re-orientation has to start
at the Presidency.
Finally, If Nigeria were a great nation, why has the nation spent 50 years visioning
without any concrete result? Why are we visioning in the dark without power
supply? Why is poverty so endemic and pervasive that the youths who should
constitute the “locomotive” of development are emigrating to greener pastures
abroad. Who then is quarreling with Ghaddaffi about the disintegration
hypothesis put forward by the strongman of Tripoli?
The present administration should understand that the Nigerian masses have been
most cheated because most of the promises made by public office holders on the
soapbox have not been fulfilled. Since we do not have the esoteric power to
conjure extra-terrestrial beings to manage our affairs in this country, it may
be necessary to advise public office holders to that their actions or inactions
in matters affecting the people would determine the well being of society
tomorrow. Nigeria cannot afford to remain as a no grow nation or a failed
Idumange John, is a University Lecturer and Activist