WHEN Senate President Abubakar Bukola Saraki responded to former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s admonition on corruption and profligacy in governance the other day, he admitted that things are certainly not well with the way government’s business is conducted in Nigeria and that the people deserve better value for their money. But he went further to add that the blame for that belonged not only to his class but all of the nation’s leaders, especially since 1999. And he can hardly be faulted.
Saraki’s frank admission, indicting even the Obasanjo era as it did, is not only a relief but also holds an inherent promise that, with an acceptance of wrong done, would come a change of tack in the leaders’ conducts, especially the way they run Nigeria.
That Nigeria’s leaders have admitted failure, however, should not just offer citizens reason for gloating; there is a sense in which they must now learn to hold those leaders accountable in the discharge of their duties, and demand better management of the nation’s affairs.
Nigeria is awash with big men but not many with big ideas. People merely occupy positions of authority, but are bereft of big dreams and visions of greatness for the nation. They are irredeemably unwilling to sacrifice self for country and truly commit to serve the people. Such is the tragedy of Nigeria’s leadership question.
At a time when all stakeholders, including leaders at all levels and in all sectors in other countries, talk about the structures and strategies for the next level of development; when the ruling elite collaborates with think tanks, tertiary institutions and the intelligentsia to improve on technology for innovation and country competitiveness, the leadership in Nigeria has been too short-sighted and too self-involved to do right by Nigerians.
The current past-time in the country is, unfortunately, lamentable corruption at all leadership levels, corrupting even a few institutions left standing and putting up a feeble fight against the menace. There is so much noise about the disease but very little evidence of a systematic and strategic curative action that can endure. We must recognise that corruption in Nigeria is systemic and need to be dealt with as such. It is, therefore, not sufficient to hear such lofty admonitions by the likes of Obasanjo, and an admission of guilt by the current leaders, like Saraki. Nor is it sufficient to trump up the good intentions of leaders. What is needed is both a concerted action and a competent application to the urgent task of redirecting the nation on the path to true greatness. That is the leadership Nigeria needs.
No doubt, this nation needs a renewal of minds of its leaders and a commitment on their part to putting the people first. It deserves a leadership that will show the light for Nigerians to work their way to prosperity and unity. The nation needs leaders who can turn the current distressing economic condition into opportunities for the people to work harder and exploit all available resources for the country’s development. Nigeria needs leaders that can mobilise citizens to embrace self-sufficiency in food production, leaders that will steer this nation to fulfill its purpose and realise its potentials.
On the face of it, President Muhammadu Buhari, at the moment, seems to epitomise that kind of leadership, one that should be capable of setting the tone for national transformation. He has the integrity and honesty of purpose to mobilise the citizenry to roll up their sleeves to work and rebuild Nigeria’s broken foundation. But first, he must rise to the occasion. It would no longer do to tip toe or even overlook the big issues of our time. Bold steps are needed to tackle such major issues like enthroning true federalism, which is probably the greatest antidote to the current seemingly endemic challenges that the nation faces. Then there is the urgent issue of education at all levels. It is through attention to quality education that the nation can build a new solid foundation for development and hope to compete in the new world. Education is the weapon with which to shift the development gear a notch higher.
Of course, both the leaders and the citizens should know that corruption remains one of the greatest threats to the development of this nation. Therefore, the fight against corruption must be at once thorough and intense. There must be no room for shoddy or superficial handling of corruption cases. For long, the corrupt have literally got away with murder. We must boldly draw a line that says, never again. We should institutionalise the creed of crime and punishment. We must show that leadership carries with it privileges and responsibilities, and when that responsibility is neglected or privileges are abused; punishment should be severe, quick and inescapable.
As Nigeria’s past and present leaders ponder their burden of collective failure and guilt, they should also know that lamenting the wasted years is not enough. They must now all seek restitution, re-commit themselves to the service of the people only, and work hard to build a united, prosperous Nigeria.