Before independence from Great Britain, the majority of the blame regarding the turbulence of the country was directed at our Colonial masters. It’s been over sixty years since they left but our turbulence as a nation has continued unabated.
Who then should be blamed for the turbulent journey of Nigeria? Bad weather, the citizens or the leaders.
As a mathematician, I would like to approach this discussion by appropriating percentages in order to properly highlight the contribution of the players.
In my analysis, forty-five per cent of the blame goes to the leadership cadre of the country. A leader is supposed to be a person who leads a group of people to achieve a common goal but unfortunately, this can’t be said about the crop of leaders in Nigeria. After our independence in 1960, the mantle of leadership was handed over to our founding fathers. Many countries envied our envisaged predicted progress but in a jiffy, the military staged a coup that dislodged the country. The coup happened because of corruption by officials, the Western Nigeria crisis, the intention to install Awolowo as the Head of State, the domino effect from coups outside Nigeria and the personal ambition of the coup plotters. One begins to imagine how corruption found its way into the system to the extent that the army had to conduct a series of massacres to oust their government. This stunted us because sanctions from the Western world limited our progress. When the military assumed office, many thought they would be saints capable of transforming the nation. Unfortunately, they were not. Seven months after the Aguyi Ironsi was installed, northern officers who labelled the previous coup as an Igbo coup coupled with the fear that “the Igbos were getting too big for their boots” staged a counter-coup. General Yakubu Gowon being in power stirred the affairs of the country during a crude oil boom. During this period, Nigeria made a lot of money to the extent the leaders did not know how to spend it. If the leadership was visionary, it should have taken steps to plan for the future like the Arab nations. Agitations from the Eastern region soon resulted in a civil war that claimed millions of lives and properties. This brought the country to a standstill and caused a great setback to our development.
Gowon had promised to hand over power to civilian rule but started playing games with the handover. This prompted General Murtala Muhamed who felt cheated for masterminding the counter-coup to stage a bloodless coup. Immediately he took over power, he was regarded as but some power-drunk soldiers who also wanted to taste power, unfortunately, killed the reformer.
General Obasanjo took over power and after conducting an election, Alhaji Shehu Shagari became the first democratically elected president of the country. During his tenure, he made agriculture, industry, housing and transportation the major economic goals of his administration. His “green revolution” increased nationwide agricultural productivity but due to staggering corruption, insecurity and indiscipline as claimed by Major General Buhari, his government was toppled. This move truncated the flow of democracy and landed us with sanctions. The military government of Buhari truly reduced the cost of governance, instilled discipline and fought corruption but it was marred by human rights abuses that negatively affected our development trajectory. This contributed to his overthrow by General Babaginda who conducted an annulled election that has continued to haunt the nation. When power was given to the interim government of Ernest Shonekon, General Abacha forcefully received power. His government was characterized by massive corruption, state-sponsored murder and assassinations.
Historical records also reveal that there were full-blown cases of corruption during the reign of the military. This implies that only the khaki differentiated them from politicians in Agbada.
After our return to democratic rule in government, the country has continued to enjoy trickles of progress accompanied by a windfall of corruption. Money meant for the upkeep of the public continued to be laundered by a select few occupying the corridors of leadership. The leaders who should have been servants have turned the table around to be served. No wonder, billions of naira are spent to cater for the National Assembly while ordinary citizens grapple to feed. When a country borrows money for development, they use the funds judiciously but in our case, our leaders borrow money for laundering purposes that keep generations unborn in perpetual debt.
On the part of the citizens, I wish to apportion thirty per cent of the blame to them. Although these groups of people don’t occupy leadership positions where they can make impactful decisions, their daily activities have continued to hamper the progress of our dear nation.
During election periods when credible leaders are supposed to be elected, many citizens join forces with greedy leaders to frustrate the electoral process. Thugs for instance who steal ballot boxes and cause mayhem during elections are from the citizen pool. Their activities continue to deny the country from electing trustworthy leaders with the capacity to stir the country in the right direction.
Closely related to this is the issue of corruption among citizens. Many Nigerians engage in corrupt practices daily to the detriment of the country. Citizens for personal gain at the detriment of the nation, illegally mine natural resources like petroleum, gold and coal. This short change reduces our revenue and makes us resort to borrowing.
As one flips through the international news headlines, it is not uncommon to hear about Nigerian citizens being arrested for crimes like smuggling, trafficking and cyber-crimes. All these activities give the nation a bad name and often discourage the foreign community from investing in Nigeria.
During the last administration, there were reports about the vandalization of rail tracks in order to get peanuts to the detriment of the smooth running of the transport industry.
In spite of the security architecture of the country, insecurity has continued to thrive because of the involvement of the citizens. Banditry and Boko haram for instance which has continued to hamper our national progress in Northern Nigeria is engineered by fellow citizens.
Globally, many people have been canvassing for food security. This has prompted the leadership in Nigeria to subsidize farm inputs for farmers. Instead of these inputs being given to farmers, citizens acting as suppliers hike prices and divert them to increase food insecurity.
In this analysis, twenty-five per cent of the blame will go to environmental forces. From independence, a series of coups made the nation unstable for businesses, education, tourism and health care to thrive.
The civil war also contributed to making the country unstable for economic growth. This resulted in the mass exodus of Nigerians to foreign nations.
The war between Russia and Ukraine has contributed too. In the past, one could get a sizable loaf with 200 naira but that is not the situation presently. Nigerians now have to part with a hard-earned thousand naira before their demand for bread can be satisfied.
Climate change has also contributed to the stunt of the country’s process. Due to the effect of climate change, the agricultural sector finds it difficult to produce enough food for the citizens and generate revenue for the nation.
In 2020 when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out and brought the country to a standstill, much revenue which may have been used to develop the country was lost due to job losses and low production. If the pandemic had not struck, the country would have been miles ahead in terms of development and standard of living.
In conclusion, countries like Singapore and China in spite of the unfavourable environmental conditions were able to progress through the intersection of good leadership and citizens. A student who scores 75% on an examination has made an A grade which is excellent. If the leadership and the citizens of Nigeria work together in honesty in spite of the environmental challenges facing the country, we will be able to overcome the turbulence in our journey to greatness as a nation.