“Leaders inspire accountability through their ability to accept responsibility before they place blame.”
– Courtney Lynch
All over the world, we see the emergence of nations who have gone from underdevelopment to developing and are now modern developed nations. A number of these countries started the nation-building journey about the same time with Nigeria over 60 years ago, while some started after. Some have become part of the G-7 and G-20, competing with themselves in trade and industry, intellectual property, space development and tourism. Amazingly, millions of tourists from all over the world, including Nigerians, troop to these countries every year, thereby boosting their tourism sector and contributing a good percentage to their GDP.
Today’s modern Israel, for instance, started 60 years ago from the Negev Desert by the man referred to as the Father of Israel, David Ben Gurion. His name is seen on every monument in every city across the nation and one of the biggest and best universities in the world, Ben Gurion University, is named after him. The university, which is situated in the Negev Desert, was where I carried out my research in the science of desertification. It was in the same university where Ben Gurion assembled the best scientists from all over the world not only to tame the desert but to turn arid land into cities with rivers and oceans and in the process developed holy places that attract millions of visitors every year, followed by agricultural havens that can feed not only the people of Israel but some other countries around the world.
No country in the world, no matter how powerful, can afford to push Israel around because there are some countries that cannot do without Israel, especially on security matters. Neighbours of Israel like the UAE and most of the Gulf countries started to build their countries after Israel and have all become the choice destination for people around the world with their five-star airlines and infrastructures. The Tiger Nation also started nation-building after Nigeria, now India is seen as a developing nation steadily bringing its people out of poverty and underdevelopment.
Some of these nations came to Nigeria to study our agricultural development, especially in areas of palm oil production, cocoa and groundnut. Now, many are big-time exporters of those same agricultural produce, even selling to Nigeria in some instances. About the same developmental period, our Nigerian Police Force distinguished itself in many United Nations peacekeeping operations in troubled countries. A few neighbouring countries, for that reason, sent their police for training in Nigeria, but, today, the police only protect those who can afford them and are, therefore, perceived as the enemy of the people.
All these goes to show that Nigeria started well after Independence in 1960. We started to build on a few infrastructures that were left by the British, like the Lugard legacy that was apparent in Jos, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos and Ibadan. Also, there was the Independence Building in Lagos, which was the best and tallest building in the whole of Africa then. The building towered over the Race Course, now known as Tafawa Balawa Square, with a cricket and rugby ground, with the Supreme Court by the left and the National Assembly by the end. I recall then that there used to be a horse racing event at the square every weekend and this used to be of international standards. Countries like India, Pakistan, South Africa, Kenya and the West Indies that inherited similar infrastructures from the British are today hosting world events. Our country, Nigeria, missed out on all these because of lack of accountability and mismanagement.
Nigeria was the first in Africa to build a gateway that linked the rest of the world in telecommunication by NET (Nigeria External Telecommunication that later became NITEL). NITEL was to become the BT of Nigeria. But it went bankrupt and nobody has been made to account for the bankruptcy.
There was also the Nigerian Airways that started with 28 planes and inherited the infrastructure of BOAC (British Oversee Airways Cooperation, which is today’s British Airways). Nigerian Airways had branches all over Nigeria, including Lagos, Kano, Kaduna, Port Harcourt and Enugu, and also in New York, London, Nairobi and Paris. The debt they left in these cities around the world has made it almost impossible for any Nigerian airline to operate outside Nigeria without being subjected to answer for the debt that was owed. Again, who was responsible for any part of these bankruptcies or was anybody held accountable?
Considering that Nigerian Airways started before Emirates Airlines, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines and Kenyan Airlines, it is a shame that it is no more, despite efforts to revive it.
We built super-highways like the Lagos-Ibadan expressway but that fell apart in a period of 10 years. We built six refineries but in the last 25 years we have been importing refined petroleum products from countries that buy our crude while we watch the collapse of the refineries one after the other. We also built six motor vehicle assembly plants with a view to developing secondary industries and gradually reducing the importation of vehicles and parts; however, almost 40 years down the line, these assembly plants are still importing 100 per cent, whereas these plants should have by now been generating millions of jobs in the secondary industries built to support the assembly plants.
There were also the six steel mills, but they also met the same fate as our refineries. The secondary industries and the value chain from those industries were meant to give Nigeria industrial takeoff at that time and provide millions of employment.
If we must rebuild the country once more, we must begin by holding those that have mismanaged our resources accountable, instead of honouring them by naming monuments and streets after them. In the last few decades, we have continuously looked like a failed state but we must not allow that to happen because we have the resources to rebuild again, to rebuild well and constructively.
From all of us at Fight Against Desert Encroachment (FADE) Africa, we wish you merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.