By Ike Abonyi
“The most serious failure of leadership is the failure to foresee”– Robert. K. Greenleaf.
This week’s discourse is from my compassionate side prompted by the agonizing and debasing lives of Northern youths being watched daily in the news media searching for means of securing the necessities of life.
In a normal clime where leaders stay accountable to the led, political, economic and military leaders past and present from Northern Nigeria should all be ashamed of what is happening in the region since the fallout of COVID-19 in the country. Northern leader’s failure to foresee the situation in the North today marks them out negatively in the field of leadership. Every Northern leader should consider him or herself liable for the emerging consequences of glaring let-down in leadership to the region and the country.
When in 1983 Nigeria born international novelist and political critic, Prof. Chinua Achebe published a 68-page treatise he titled, ‘the Trouble with Nigeria’, Northern Nigeria was in power and the book was actually designed then to catalyse the leadership to adjust its ways and follow the path of purposeful leadership. In the book Prof. Achebe was unambiguous in his analysis as he laid the trouble with Nigeria squarely and unmistakably on the failure of leadership.
Thirty-seven years after that publication, Nigeria situation has not shifted for the better in any way and the same North is still in power. In the 60 years of our nationhood, persons of Northern extraction whether in military or civilian have been in charge of the county’s political leadership for over 44 years in this order – Tafarwa Belewa, 6 years; Yakubu Gowon, 9 years; Murtala Mohammad one year plus; Shehu Shagari, 4 years plus; Muhammadu Buhari, 2 years plus; IBB, 8 years; Sani Abacha, 5 years; Abdulsami Abubakar, 1 year; Umaru Yar’Adua, 3 years; Buhari again, 5 years and still going.
It would therefore be empirically safe to say that if the trouble with Nigeria is failure of leadership, the region that has over 73% of political power control can be said to have contributed the significant chunk of it.
What we are seeing today coming out of the North, her citizens being carried in containers like cargo and in trailers and lorries covered with animals and tarpaulin in search of livelihood down South who was in power for only 16 years calls for a resetting of political leadership in the region and indeed the country. It also amply underscores the fact that holding power is just for self-aggrandizement of a few not for their people.
Recently some Northern leaders under the umbrella of Northern Elders’ Forum berated President Muhammadu Buhari’s five year reign and concluded that it has failed the North and indeed the entire country in all ramifications. I would have been more at home if such sweeping remarks had come from the youth who can claim not to be involved, but coming from elders most of whom were part and parcel of the 44 year reign of the North, leaves a lot to be desired. If they were not frugal with the truth, they would have said in all honesty that most leaders of the North since 1960 have failed both the region and the country woefully.
Yes, Buhari’s flop is significant being on the throne now and having elevated failure of leadership to an unprecedented height, but truth remains that his is just a layer on top of a foundation. With largely no exclusion all Northern leaders are guilty of leadership by delusion. All along they have pretended to be fighting for the people and protecting their religious interests while in truth oiling themselves and their families.
Most of these elders making noise about Buhari today have their children and relations in blue chip organizations in oil sector, the Ports Authority and the Central Bank of Nigeria without merit and without any tangible contributions to improve the living standard of the people.
How many of them invested in education which is the main area badly needed by the region? At independence in 1960, schools in the North were below 50 while over 800 existed in the South, yet there was no effort to close this gap even with obvious massive increase in population in the North. Today out of the 79 private universities in the country, North-East and North-West have only five.
Most of the educational institutions at primary and secondary level in the North are owned by missions and Southerners. Where have all these Northerners invested to help the growth of the ever growing population? Just recently some Northerners said that power cannot return to the South in 2023 because that’s the only thing they have, the South controls the economy and the other sectors.
If after 44 years of 60 years of our nationhood, the North is not able to develop themselves in other fields except in politics then something is fundamentally wrong. The situation in the North today attests to it that politics does not enhance livelihood if it’s not played with development in mind. In these 44 years, Northerners have been dominant in all public institutions where the nation either spend or make the hunk of its revenue, NNPC, Customs, Ports Authority and the Military.
The truth about easy money made in politics is that development is never in focus and that is exactly the problem of the North today. The latest poverty record released by the National Bureau of Statistics shows that Sokoto State, the seat of the almighty Caliphate since ages is at the bottom of poverty index in the country.
Sokoto is where politicians trip all the time to lobby for anything meaningful in government. Why can’t the Caliphate be Nigeria’s own Dubai attracting Islamic investors all over the World? Was Dubai not a desert the other day but now mesmerizing the World in all sectors? It’s now apropos that all the talks about North being master in politics in the country have proven to be fallacious when weighed against the contest of human and material capital developments.
It’s now becoming very manifest that all the resistance to political change from the region are self-driven by lazy political oligarchy clinging on to power and afraid of hard work and creativity which will be the basis of survival in a restructured Nigeria.
The notable existing structures in Northern Nigeria today were built by the self-reliant leadership of Ahmadu Bello as Premier. Ashanti people of Ghana have a proverb which says “when you follow in the path of your father, you learn to walk like him.”
But not so for subsequent Northern leaders who rather than follow in the footsteps of that iconic leader, instead put off their thinking cap if any and clutch brief cases for free oil money at the centre. And when they get this money instead of investing rightly they seat on it like kings and Emperors dishing out an unending ancestral assets.
Now that oil money is fast depleting, what North needs is creative leadership that would turn its abundant potentials into gains. Not people who will build more Mosques and Churches and do nothing to develop the human minds to properly understand the God they worship in these places.
If late despotic leader, Gen Sani Abacha had utilized the staggering funds he looted in his five year reign some of which is still being returned from abroad to develop the almajirai in his state of Kano, they would not have been in such pitiable conditions. If President Buhari one of the most admired leaders by the almajirai after the talakawa icon, Mallam Aminu Kano had used his five years in power so far to attend to these critical sector of his politics, they would not have ended up as endangered species they are to themselves and to the country now. Instead he chose to invest in building Expressway to Niger Republic opening way for bandits and herdsmen to traffic.
The other question is, what did you do with the power in your hand, was it fairly and justly handled? For instance for 30 years from 1987 to 2017, the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) was domiciled in the North through the abracadabra politics of the military era, but within two years of a Southerner climbing it through Justice Walter Onnoghen he was schemed out disgracefully in the name of politics, for a Northerner to continue, how will God of justice look at a situation like this of destroying somebody’s hard earned career for power.
The dehumanizing pains Northern youths are currently going through across the country are clearly an outcome of failed leadership who closed their eyes to facts of development and chose to indulge in self-denial and deceit. Now reality has arrived and like chicken has come home to roost. It’s from these abandoned youths that herdsmen and bandits are harvested. I like therefore to end this conversation that find most Northern leaders old and new guilty as charged with this warning from English naturalist, Charles Darwin that: “If the misery of the poor be caused not by the laws of nature, but by our institutions, great is our sins.” May God help heal us of our hypocrisy in leadership.