Nasir El-Rufai on Friday In Search of Leadership (1) – Roots of Historic Crisis

Published:18 Jan, 2013

photo-6

Nasir El-Rufai on Friday
In Search of Leadership (1) – Roots of Historic Crisis
By: Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

In 2012, President Goodluck Jonathan’s New Year gift to Nigerians was a massive hike in the prices of petroleum products which ultimately translated into a tax of about N4,000 paid during the year by every man, woman and child in our country. The Kolade SURE-P bureaucracy alone consumed nearly over a billion naira of that surreptitious tax on offices, staff, travel and stationery.

In 2013, President Jonathan’s gift was to pollute the highways of Abuja with posters announcing that there would be no vacancy in the Aso Villa in 2015. In other words, the campaign to sustain the unprecedented insecurity, massive corruption, shameless fraud and social divisions that have become the official policies and outcomes of the Jonathan presidency has started – with all of us as spectators.

We all know the modus operandi of the sponsors of those “no vacancy” posters. They intend to take for Jonathan, the PDP nomination by any means necessary, ignore our votes and write the results of the general elections, declare themselves winners by significant margins, and attempt to compromise the Judiciary to uphold the electoral fraud – as they assume we will all sit back and let them. We must not, because if we do, our nation will continue to slide towards piecemeal societal breakdown or total state failure that will end up consuming every one of us.

As the campaign for the Nigerian presidency has started in earnest, it is vital that we give some thought to the issues of leadership, selection process, and credible elections and learn from the mistakes of the past. Over the next two weeks, this column will analyse and summarize the how we lost our way as far from good governance as possible. We will examine the extent of this institutional destruction and how it occurred, amidst the claims of good intention in some cases and complete malevolence in some. The purpose of this is not to apportion blame but to learn from past errors and move our nation forward. We hope to conclude with some thoughts about the issues to look out for in the emerging leaders for Nigeria (and Africa) in the twenty-first century.

We all know that societies make progress when visionary leaders emerge to organize and direct collective actions for peaceful coexistence, with sensible rules, clear incentives and sanctions that enable individuals realize their full potentials. The Nigerian nation first elected its leaders at both national and regional levels in 1960. Around that period, Malaysia, Singapore Botswana and Indonesia had their first set of elected post-colonial leaders going into offices as well. The Japanese had elected the first LDP government five years earlier in the aftermath of the American Occupation. Forty years later, these five nations in Asia and Africa have enjoyed democratic continuity, protection of freedoms and basic rights, rapid economic development and improvement in the quality of life for its citizens. Nigeria has not. What went wrong?

A little over five years into Nigeria’s Independence and First Republic, a group of young, misguided and naive military officers wiped out nearly all of the nation’s political leadership. The bulk of those murdered on January 15, 1966 were leaders from regions and ethnic groups other than those where the coup plotters hailed from. This coincidence or design of the actions of what I call the Class of 1966 led to mass killings, counter-coups and civil war laid the foundations for Nigeria’s unfortunate political, economic and social trajectory for the ensuing forty plus years. And Nigeria’s story is typical of most of Africa such that by 2004, five years into our nation’s fourth republic, the leading African politics professor at the Harvard Kennedy School published a scathing summary of the leadership failure in Africa in an article published in “Foreign Affairs” :
“Africa has long been saddled with poor, even malevolent, leadership: predatory kleptocrats, military-installed autocrats, economic illiterates, and puffed-up posturers. By far the most egregious examples come from Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Zimbabwe — countries that have been run into the ground despite their abundant natural resources. But these cases are by no means unrepresentative: by some measures, 90 per cent of sub-Saharan African nations have experienced despotic rule in the last three decades.

In what is an accurate description of these despotic and progressively appalling ‘leaders’ that foisted themselves on Africa usually through military coups or rigged elections, Rothberg continued:
“Such leaders use power as an end in itself, rather than for the public good; they are indifferent to the progress of their citizens (although anxious to receive their adulation); they are un-swayed by reason and employ poisonous social or racial ideologies; and they are hypocrites, always shifting blame for their countries’ distress.”

Rotberg went further describing the consequences of this continent-wide failure of leadership as these leaders replaced the colonialists without doing more – but did everything to destroy the bases for economic growth, social equity and fairness in the nations they ruled and ruined:
“Under the stewardship of these leaders, infrastructure in many African countries has fallen into disrepair, currencies have depreciated, and real prices have inflated dramatically, while job availability, health care, education standards, and life expectancy have declined. Ordinary life has become beleaguered: general security has deteriorated, crime and corruption have increased, much-needed public funds have flowed into hidden bank accounts, and officially sanctioned ethnic discrimination — sometimes resulting in civil war — has become prevalent”

Long before Rotberg, and nearly 30 years ago, Chinua Achebe observed in his book “The Trouble with Nigeria”, that the problem of our nation was fully and squarely the failure of leadership. This remains true today in Nigeria and indeed as Rotberg summarized so succinctly in most of Africa. As observed earlier, leadership is important in any social grouping, but far more central in Africa to the overall success and wealth of nations than anywhere else in the world because we happen to have weak institutions in the continent.

Thanks to malaria, the British never intended to remain in Nigeria for long, investing only in the minimal but necessary institutions and infrastructure to extract, transport and export natural resources to Europe. Contrast our situation with the Caribbean nations, Namibia, South Africa and Kenya for instance, where the more friendly weather and lower malaria intensity persuaded the British colonialists to plan for long-term settlement, and Nigeria’s colonial legacy is more clearly comprehensible.

At independence, our “Founding Fathers” inherited sound but relatively weak institutions, confusing property rights and minimal infrastructure. The new rulers merely supplanted the colonialists and adopted in totality the defective governance structures suited to colonial exploitation, and nothing more. A simple example was (and still remains) the total absence of a mortgage system – which the colonial administrators did not need as they have their mortgages set up in Britain!

None of our founding fathers thought it fit to think of designing and entrenching one with the attendant need to clarify and codify formal property rights! Needless to add that the easiest way of creating a virile middle class is through widespread home ownership, and until we created a pilot mortgage system in the FCT in 2005-2007 to enable public servants and the general public to purchase over 30,000 houses in Abuja, no one bothered to try. Sadly, our successors failed to convert the inchoate pilot into a complete national program of home ownership financing, as envisaged.

In the 1960s and the 1970s, our best and brightest university graduates joined the public service. The honest and those with educational, integrity and leadership pedigree and skills went into politics. Public servants were well paid and assured of their security of tenure. Politics attracted those willing to serve. Political parties were funded by membership contributions. Elections were relatively clean and largely reflected the will of the voters. The coup of 1966 ended these positive trends that would have truly built a democratic, merit-driven federation in the long run.

The murder of political leaders in 1966 without trying them and finding them guilty of any offence, and affording the assassins immunity and protection from court martial by the indecision of the Ironsi administration ensured that coups would remain a recurring decimal in our polity. The coups of 1966 made political assassination a crime without sanctions in Nigeria. It also made politics the vocation of the bold power seeker rather than the honest public servant. The purges of 1975 however well-intentioned were executed in a way that destroyed security of tenure in the public service, and made the best and brightest look for other options to live well, and safely. Illegitimacy and poor economic management gave rise to the endless appeasement of citizens and public servants using salary reviews (Adebo and Udoji by the Gowon Administration alone) and incessant creation of non-viable states which destroyed the basis of our federalism.

Public services and infrastructure provisioning were politicized and thousands hired without regard to quality and standards – and Nigeria became a real rentier state in which those connected to military regimes became rich overnight without any abilities, hard work, innovation or rational basis. Our traditional rulers which supplemented the weak formal governance structures were converted into the tools of the military by compromising them through intimidation and systematic corruption. Independent voices – from civil society, the media and conscientious people like Gani Fawehinmi of blessed memory – were similarly targeted for purchase and conversion, and failing that repeatedly imprisoned.

Our human capital infrastructure – schools and hospitals suffered irreparable damage under the years of misrule. Systematic under-funding, capricious appointments, poor pay and frequent killing of university students led to the collapse of our tertiary educational and health institutions. The leadership had no clear interest in developing the Nigerian state. Their wealth is in Switzerland, France, Germany, Lebanon and Dubai. Back in the 1980s, they began the practice of sending their children abroad for education and healthcare and therefore had no interest in the deteriorating quality of our schools and hospitals. Their holidays are spent in Europe, America and Asia, so felt no need to develop our urban areas or our immense tourism potentials.

These ‘prestigious’ practices of depending on foreign schools and clinics then assumed the status of national culture of the successful so virtually every middle class family now strives to copy these ‘standard operating procedures’ of the ruling elite. On the positive side, the ruling elite kept our nation united after the first Class of 1966 had plunged us into a needless civil war. The Murtala-Obasanjo administration gave us a presidential constitution, a local government system, the Land Use Act and the new federal capital of Abuja. The Buhari-Idiagbon regime rekindled our notions of patriotism and discipline, and showed the will to try the ruling elite for corruption without fear or favour.

However, the sum total of these is a country that is over 52 years old but not yet a nation. We have a generation of Nigerians who have never known when the Nigerian state functioned, and served the people. We have young people – about 5 million achieve the voting age of 18 every year – that think they can only pass exams through cheating, paying or sleeping with their teachers. And even if they are qualified and passed the job interview, they can only get a job when they have a godfather to intervene. Merit, performance or hard work as ingredients of success, are totally unknown to this generation. The ruling elite have given birth not to Generation Next but one of “Anything Goes” – a generation without hope, with bewildered parents unable to understand them and give them succour. And only a courageous, focused and inspiring leadership can change them and give back hope to the nation.

Many of us that are older than 40 years of age are part of this chequered history, and therefore must take full or partial responsibility for the current state of affairs either by our acts of commission or omission. As Edmund Burke observed, all that is required for evil to thrive is for good people to do nothing. Many of us have done nothing thereby encouraging the growth of evil in our land. We have a choice of ending this by standing up to the ruling party and what it represents or accelerating towards complete breakdown of order in our nation and respective communities. How do we restore hope in our younger generation, our nation and democracy? We will attempt an answer next Friday.

Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai

Related Posts

Recent Posts

Edo 2016: Of Afemailand, Its Politics And Legacies by Daniel Afekhume

A video emerged last week where a dispassionate President Obama was telling the Black Community that it will be a "Personal Insult" to himself and Michelle if blacks don’t come out in their numbers to vote Hillary Clinton. His argument was that Trump was coming to destroy his "legacies" and by extension that of African-Americans. In the same light, I wish to state the Edo Governorship election of Sept 28th is one for either the preservation or destruction of the...

Boko Haram Leader Shekau Mentally Ill – Army

The Nigerian Army has described the embattled leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau, as mentally ill following the release of the latest video in which the terror group leader denied claims made by the army that he was seriously injured. “The video has shown beyond all reasonable doubt the earlier suspicion that the purported factional terrorist group leader is mentally sick and unstable,” the spokesman for the Nigerian Army, Sani Usman, said in a statement on...

Ambode Seeks Stronger Tie With Judiciary

The Governor of Lagos State, Akinwunmi Ambode, has called for the continuation of the cordial relationship and peace, which he said exists between the judiciary and the executive arm of government in Lagos State. The governor, who described the judiciary as the last hope of the citizens, also admonished the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Oluwafunmilayo Atilade, and the rest of the judges to continue to dispense justice with the fear of God. Ambode...

Edo guber: IGP Idris orders restriction of movement

The Inspector-General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has ordered restriction of movement during Wednesday’s governorship election in Edo State. He also ordered the activation of the revised operation plan for the election. The operation plan, according to a statement issued in Abuja on Monday by the Force Spokesman, Don Awunah, is expected to guarantee free, fair and credible election, secure electoral process, enable eligible voters exercise their franchise freely and voluntary, protect election materials and officials and ensure adequate security before, during...

No amount of intimidation will stop our reconstruction efforts — Shettima

Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno on Monday said he was going ahead with the planned rebuilding of damaged buildings in spite of recent attacks by Boko Haram insurgents in some parts of the state. Shettima stated this while interacting with newsmen in Bama, headquarters of Bama Local Government Area of the state. He was reacting to the recent attacks by insurgents at the border villages of Logumani and Dara/Jamal, where an army officer and two soldiers were killed. The governor, who relocated...

Despite recession, Dangote vows to scale up investments in Nigeria, Africa

In recognition of his immense contribution to human capital development in Africa through the establishment of businesses across the African continent, a United States of America-based Organization, Africa-America Institute (AAI) has honoured the President of Dangote Group, Aliko Dangote, with the “2016 African Business Leader Award.” The business guru was named and presented the award at a colourful ceremony held on the side-line of the United Nations Congress held in New York city, United States alongside other prominent Africans like...

Boko Haram: You have not seen the worst – Shekau

The leader of Boko Haram has mocked claims he was seriously injured by the Nigerian military and warned “you have not seen the worst yet”. In a video posted on social media, Abubakar Shekau dismissed claims by the Nigerian air force that he had been seriously wounded in a raid, telling them: “I will not get killed until my time comes”. The leader of the Islamist militant group also taunted parents of the kidnapped Chibok schoolgirls, telling them their children would...

Lagos begins enforcement of Ikoyi, Victoria Island clean-up

Four weeks after issuing public notices and ultimatum, the Lagos State Special Task Force on the Clean-Up of Ikoyi, Victoria Island over the weekend started the clearing of all illegal structures and shanties. The Clean-Up operation team which was led by the Chairman of the Task Force on Environmental and Special Offences, Supol Yinka Egbeyemi, commenced simultaneously in Ikoyi and Victoria Island at 8am on Saturday and has continued on Sunday morning. It featured the removal of kiosks, sheds by the...

Únity Schools Old Students’ Association (USOSA) Announces Date And Theme For 2016 Annual General Meeting

The Unity Schools Old Students' Association (USOSA) has announced November 4th and 5th as dates for its 2016 annual general meeting. According to details released by the organising committee, the annual general meeting is scheduled to hold by 10am on 4th November with a dinner set for the following day by 4pm. The theme for the 2016 annual general meeting is Education, National Unity & Security. The event will hold at Lekki Coliseum, Lekki Phase 1, Lagos.

Labour threaten to shutdown Nigeria over planned national assets sale

Oil workers, under the aegis of the Petroleum and Natural Gas Senior Staff Association of Nigeria, have threatened to shut down the country should the Federal Government carry out its plan to sell national assets to augment revenue shortfall. Also, the Trade Union Congress on Sunday said it would join PENGASSAN to shut down the country if the government remained adamant on its plan to sell some national assets. PENGASSAN, in a statement on Sunday by its National Public Relations Officer,...

NAF explores agriculture to empower barracks youths

Nigerian military is not left out in the nation’s search for a solution to the economic recession the oil-rich nation slid into few weeks ago, as the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadique Abubakar, is exploring agriculture to empower youths in barracks. He is confident that further involvement of youths in agriculture will deepen the economic diversification drive of the government. Nigeria is battling to get out of its present economic recession made obvious when the National Bureau of Statistics...

Stop terrorising Zimbabweans or we’ll impeach you – Church leaders tell Mugabe

He’s not as well-known as protest pastor Evan Mawarire. But this Zimbabwe church leader’s brave plea to President Robert Mugabe to stop terrorising protesters or face impeachment may attract the attention of the authorities. Already questioned by police and arrested at least once during the past few months, Bishop Ancelimo Magaya is one of five Zimbabwe church men who this weekend penned an open letter to the 92-year-old Mugabe asking him to “stop unleashing terror on citizens for expressing genuine...

Insane Shekau must release Chibok girls unconditionally – Army

The Nigerian Army has described the controversial factional leader of Boko Haram terrorists, as mentally ill and unstable person whose end is near, despite issuing threats in the latest video. The Director of Army Public Relations (DAPR), Col. Sani Usman, in a statement yesterday, said the video clip is a mere propaganda and sign of desperation for a man who was reported to have been “Fatally wounded” in military air strike. “The attention of the Nigerian Army has been drawn to...

NESREA warns against cutting of trees without replacement

The State Coordinator of National Environmental Standards & Regulations Enforcement Agency (NESREA) in Kwara, Mr. Martins Enenwaene, has warned that cutting of trees without replacement leads to ecological imbalance. Enenwaene gave the warning while speaking with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Ilorin on Monday. He said that massive deforestation contributed to the destruction of properties by heavy storm. The NESREA boss said the state had faced different flood cases which were later traced to not having enough trees. Enenwaene said that, “NESREA...

Lungu Lied at UN Summit – Ex-Zambian Leader Scott

Former Zambian president Guy Scott has criticised President Edgar Lungu over the remarks he made during the recently ended United Nations summit in New York. Lungu told the UN 71st summit last week that Africa did not need any strong leaders but strong institutions, adding that his country endeavoured to build a peaceful, just and inclusive society “through the consolidation” of power. Lungu described Zambia as a democracy with an inclusive society where its people enjoyed many freedoms. “The importance of democracy...

BREAKING: Judge Withdraws From Nnamdi Kanu’s Trial

John Tsoho, the judge handling Nnamdi Kanu’s trial, has returned the case file to Ibrahim Auta, chief justice of federal high court, for reassignment. This was sequel to an application by the legal team of Kanu led by Chuks Muoma, claiming that the court was biased in its handling of the matter. “We are only asking the court to hands off; my client has lost confidence in this court,” he said. He claimed that the court was acting in line with the...

Minister Denies Spending N3.4bn On “Change Begins With Me” Campaign

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has demanded a retraction of libelous publications by the Daily Independent newspaper, Omo Bazuaye and Akin Fadeyi over “Change Begins With Me” campaign. The minister made the demand in letters written to the newspaper, Bazuaye and Fadeyi by Falana & Falana’s Chamber, a law firm of a renown civil right activist and lawyer, Femi Falana. The letters dated Sept. 19 and signed by a lawyer Oludare...

Patience Jonathan To Drag EFCC Before West African Court

Former first lady, Mrs Patience Ibifaka Jonathan has concluded plans to drag the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to the African Commission of Human and Peoples Right in Gambia. Sources close to the legal team said they took the decision to seek legal redress in a court free from manipulation. Already a new group, The Rebranded Indigenous People of Biafra (TRIPOB) has thrown its weight behind the decision to drag the EFCC before the African Commission of Human and Peopless...

Rihanna Named Global Ambassador for Childhood Education

Rihanna is “Work”-ing on education. The global superstar’s Clara Lionel Foundation has partnered up with Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen on a multi-year initiative to support education across the world. Through this push, Rihanna hopes to advocate for more than a quarter of a billion children who are not currently in school as well as about 330 million students who aren’t learning in the schools they’re in.

3 People You Should Never Take Relationship Advice From (MUST READ)

1. Anyone who is angry and bitter Was your best friend a jilted bride or a groom who was stood up at the altar? Don’t ask friends or family with a chip on their shoulder how to win at love. If you hang around them long enough, their attitude could rub off on you. Then no one will want to date you because you have such a bad attitude. Don’t let someone else’s bad experiences warp...

The 1 Thing Happy Couples Do Every Day

Happy couples communicate with each other. Constant communication seems so obvious, but it can easily slip through the cracks. In order to keep your relationship healthy and happy, there's three things you need to do to communicate successfully. 1. Express your needs and feelings. There's no way for your partner to know what you want out of your relationship if you don't say so. Make sure to clearly express how you are feeling —...