By Daniel Ukwu
For over one year now, the nation has been caught in the whirl of the battle between President Muhammed Buhari and corruption. Even his most ardent critics recognize this confrontation as necessary, albeit the disputes over the modus operandi. Anyway, a fight against anything as wryly duplicitous and malignant as corruption was never going to be widely welcomed. But despite the promises and claims by Buhari’s cavalry, posterity will be the only judge of this momentous fight.
No nation thrives under corruption, and so, Buhari’s war against corruption should be commended, especially, when assessed against his predecessors, who didn’t show such militant ardor in their perception of corruption. It won’t be so strange if Buhari’s cap is beginning to look like a saint’s halo in the light of the performance of previous administrations. For example, why didn’t previous leaders pay more a lip service to the fight against corruption, this malfeasance that has been blamed for every other thing wrong with the country?
Hopefully, every forward looking Nigerian knows that the challenge of Nigeria as a Nation is not in generating revenue given the abundant collective resource, both human and material, but in the management of the resources to the benefit of the citizenry. In this instance, has the teeming population been cursed with less visionary leadership? Successive leaders, at all levels of government, have been indicted in the court of public opinion for having gone into “service” to empower themselves, families and cronies, while impoverishing the rest of the citizens! Apparently, we have rich leaders, not visionary leaders. Do our leaders lack the sheer competence to lead, or the character to see Nigeria’s interest above theirs? Leadership, is not seen as a moral opportunity to serve the country, a chance to join the global acclaimed class of indestructibles. The late Nelson Mandela won freedom for his people by choosing to stand by them in South Africa rather than enriching himself. Singapore, South Korea, Malaysia, UAE and others have taken immense benefit from visionary leadership. When will it happen in Nigeria? Which of our past leaders can we collectively celebrate as a great, visionary leader? Recently, a Nigerian president was ranked by Forbes, the American business magazine, on the list of wealthy heads of states. Faithfully managing resources remains a daunting national challenge, rousing the question: What did our leaders do with our money? Inflation is in high double digits; industries are retrenching workers and winding down; workers are owed salaries. Conversely, the convoy of our elected leaders is not shortening; the apparatus of government is not in lack.
In July, when the nation marked the 50th anniversary of the coup saga, the point was widely made of how the military leadership dragged the nation through two tribally based coups into the pit of a civil war, the quest for tribal supremacy and dominance and the vicious quest for national leadership. The resonating consequence has been the itch by emerging leaders to seek personal aggrandizement and fuel wanton corruption. This has remained the bane of the nation, 50 years after as every leader refused to learn the lessons of history.
We blame the military for yesterday and today we blame our elected leaders. Who will rescue the nation and the people who bear the brunt of the unlearnt lessons? And this is where Buhari’s fight is significant. As an elected president, who in 1983 made his statement on war against social decay, will Buhari find the high moral ground to salvage this nation? Providence has been kind to Buhari; he therefore has a point to prove. Posterity will be harsh on him if he bungles it.
Buhari might not be towing a lonely path. Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo, also recognized the destructive tendencies of corruption and signaled his fight against it by establishing the Economic and Finiancial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Independent Corrupt Practices (and other offences) Commission (ICPC). How will posterity judge Buhari?
With so much expected of emerging leaders to lead the nation, the question is, what kind of leaders have we had? It was under subsequent military heads of state for example that corruption and duplicity became an art form; which of them managed to hold a credible election? How can Nigeria get a selfless leader who is ready to ignore tribal affiliations; a leader who will build trust and confidence into governance, a leader who will take the nation back to the path of glory, which hard work in the cocoa fields, on the steps of the groundnut pyramids and in the palm oil plantations had assured the nation? Instead of leaders building from the ashes of that era of glory, they have let the nation wallow in sectionalism and the prodigality of oil wealth, and its attendant dysfunction.
Until any quest for change includes changing how Nigerians elect their leaders to be more transparent, purposeful, and made accountable to those who elected them, then we have learnt nothing from history. Until a president sees himself as a leader of the country and not a representative of an ethnic section in Aso Rock, then we have not learnt any lesson from 50 years ago. Nigerians will be more united when a Yoruba man wins an election in Kano State or an Igbo man wins an election in Ondo State or a Northerner sits in the Abia State House of Assembly. The ethnic distrust, the reign of sectionalism might not be wiped away through any policy, but it can be erased through a change, yes, change of attitude by the leaders.
With the country so sectionalized to the point where a president will prefer to punish a geopolitical zone for not voting for him, it will remain a challenge before any leader could not fan the ethnic-based agitations. Every leader ought to recognize agitations as the yearnings of the people to be accounted for in the scheme of things, in a federation where consensus, equity, justice, harmony and coalition of interests, patriotism to the centre should be the mantra. The social reality today is an irony for a country so endowed. Nigerians are politically angry, economically hungry and socially militant. Millions of hapless Nigerians are wallowing in abject poverty, existing under primal standards of living. No jobs for teeming youths and graduates, while leaders are remain in the mode of the tendencies of the past-war years, individual and ethnic interests reign supreme. In these difficult times, Buhari excites the optimistic with his change mantra. President Buhari, posterity awaits you.
Ukwu is the Founder and Executive Director of Daniel Ukwu Leadership Foundation