BY Valentine Achum
In his book, The Trouble with Nigeria, late literary Iroko and master story teller, Professor Chinua Achebe, poignantly noted that the trouble with Nigeria is leadership failure. According to him, “there is basically nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air, or anything else”. The trouble with Nigeria, Achebe insists, is “simply and squarely failure of leadership”. Period! This is no mere story telling by the iconic story teller. This is “simply and squarely’’ the truth.
Over the years, we have had leaders who, prior to ascending leadership positions, are sold to the masses as beacons of hope amidst the misery viciously staring them in the face, courtesy of previous leaders. They cream their way into the hearts and minds of unsuspecting masses with their humble disposition, camaraderie, or seeming understaning of the plight and sufferings of the people, only to assume leadership positions and become total strangers.
They walk into our lives as a handsome gap-toothed “prince charming” with the promise and prospect of undying love, affection and understanding of our collective strife, only for them to use and dump us on the side walk for the next pretending and predating “Prince Charming” to rape us and dump us again.
They sing sonorous and sensuous songs of reforms, only to end up with ‘cacophonous choruses’ of deforms. They serenade the masses with pleasing and teasing tunes of prosperity, only to leave the masses grieving and grinding with elegies of poverty. They fly into office as angels, only to crawl out as demons. They vivaciously jog into office as heroes, only to sluggishly stroll out as villains. For the few with good intentions, they end up being corrupted by the bad ones. They ‘’go into office as doctors, and leave as patients’’.
In line with the above assumption, I dare say that the trouble with political leadership in Nigeria is the lack of a fundamental combination of patriotism and conscience. The former portends love for one’s own country, while the latter has to do with that part of your mind that cautions when you are about to do something morally wrong, and in fact still pokes you even after you have committed the wrong deed.
We have only had leaders who masquerade as patriots. Fair weather patriots! Leaders who feign to be patriots whenever it suits them. Leaders who call themselves patriots just for pecuniary profit, or for the sake of image promotion. Leaders who can only recite our national anthem amidst stutter and disaster, rather than with pride and nostalgia. Leaders who put on a ‘’not-my-real-face’’ cover of patriotism which veils the “real face” that lacks conscience. Also, some of our leaders actually think they are patriotic, but they really do not know what it means to be patriotic. They do not know that being a patriot involves loving the country, and not just a particular section of the country where they come from or own houses. They have no clue that being a patriotic leader entails running a country on a frontal and fatherly platform, and not from the parochial angle of party affiliation and tribal consideration.
We certainly need leaders who speak ‘‘Nigeria’’ much more than they speak Igbo, Hausa, or Yoruba. We need leaders who can do for the country much more, or at least as much as they can do for themselves. It is important to note that everything in a country is being conceived in the realm of politics (leadership). Politics (the master science) is regarded as the super structure, while every other thing such as the economy, security, etc. constitute the sub-structure. If the super-structure is faulty, the sub-structure wallows in decrepitude and cannot correct itself. It is the super structure (activities of political leaders) that either enriches or impoverishes the sub structure (the economy). Therefore, if the quality of our political leadership is good, it will no doubt have a corresponding effect on our economy. But if our political leadership is dysfunctional, same will happen to the economy. No wonder Kwame Nkrumah warned that “seek ye first the political kingdom, and all else shall be added unto you…”
Owing to this, there must be a complete restructuring of our leadership recruitment process. This restructuring must first take place within the political parties in Nigeria. It is sad to say that most of our political parties lack proper political ideology. In the U.S.A and Britain, the foundation of their political parties are well cemented with well-established and clearly articulated political ideologies which accentuate the complexion of politics played. In such places, politics is all about ideas. Even though Republicans have different political ideology from Democrats, one thing is sure; that the American public can, to a large extent, predict and hold accountable the kind of policies being made by whoever becomes President between a Democratic candidate, and a Republican candidate. It makes the American people have a clear vision of who to vote for, and therefore know what kind of policies to expect from the person they voted for.
This is why a proper restructuring needs to be done in all our political parties. A quality assurance mechanism needs to be erected to put an eagle eye and a biting teeth concerning the setting up and running of any political party in Nigeria to make sure they do not fall short of standards. There must be a process for proper democratization of candidacy selection amongst political parties to reflect the true choice and voice of the people.
This will spring up new leaders that are truly representative, responsive and responsible to the masses. Leaders who can do for their people much more than their people can do for them. Leaders who can do for their country much more than what their country can do for them. Leaders who must love their subjects, and not just a few of their subjects. Leaders who truly “belong to nobody, but belong to everybody.” Leaders we can trust and believe!
Achum is a post-graduate student of the University of Lagos
Youths and the agricultural challenge
By Livinus Nnebedum
Agriculture is a noble, prestigious and lucrative profession that can no longer be left in the hands of old people operating with local farm implements in our villages. The use of human muscle as labour input and local implements like hoes and machets alone in farming cannot produce enough food for the teeming population of Nigeria. There is need for massive adoption of improved farming technologies by all categories of farmers across Nigeria. We also need to encourage the vast use of modern farm equipment including tractors and combined harvesters, among others.
Our youths loathe taking up farming as a profession. Agriculture as a natural science and a profession should be made more that ever before lucrative, interesting and attractive to the present youths and future generations. Some farmers today are better off as there are many billionaire farmers.
Many Nigerians are “soiling” their hands in agriculture and they are rich, literate and resourceful. lt should be recalled that in the 1980s, during the launching of Green Revolution, the first civilian President of Nigeria, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, launched the programme by tilling the ground at the State House, Ribadu Road, Lagos. In developed countries, they have billionaire farmers. The 39th president of United States of America (1977 to 1981) was Jimmy Carter and he is a peanut farmer from Georgia. He is a very rich farmer In America. Farming should no longer be regarded as poor man’s job. Farming is now a big business venture that should be given highest recognition in the society. Even in the Bible, Genesis chapter 9 verse 20, farming is recognized as the oldest and a noble profession where Noah was mentioned as the first man on earth to plant a vineyard.
Adequate provision of insecticides for pest control and herbicides for weeding at highly subsidized prices will help to reduce drudgery in farm operations. Simple and modified spraying machines likes knap-sack sprayers and hand-sprayers should be supplied alongside agrochemicals at subsidized rates and in sufficient quantity to reach the vast majority of farmers in their localities. In big commercial farms, the spraying of insecticides or weedicides/ herbicides is often done with the help of big spray booms attached to tractors. In some big farms, they use helicopters because large areas of land must be covered. These are innovations or modern technologies in farming today.
Making Agricultural Science a compulsory subject in primary and post primary schools up to JSS3 will help to encourage our youths to develop interest and acquire necessary skills in Agriculture. For this to be successful, the government should ensure the provision of enough teaching aids, facilities and implements in all the schools with enough teachers who specialize in Agricultural Science. Children should be encouraged to develop interest in the subject right from childhood. They should be involved in practical Agriculture both at home and in their schools. Regular excursions and field trips to Agricultural Research Institutes and Faculties of Agriculture in the Universities should be organised for the students. There is need to provide employment opportunities for school leavers and graduates of Agriculture. Job opportunities should be made readily available to the youths who have graduated in field of Agriculture. The government should provide adequate funds and other incentives to support Agricultural Research and Extension. Regular trainings and workshops are required for all personnel involved in Research and Agricultural Extension Including teachers in Agricultural Science courses at all levels, plus the farmers.
Complete mechanization of Agriculture has a great role to play in this millennium. The government should try as much as possible to make it work. There is still further need to subsidize those modern farm machinery like tractors, harvesters, spraying machines, seed planters, water pumps etc so that they become affordable to all categories of farmers in Nigeria. The use of farm machinery would make farming easier, save time and human energy and increase to a large extent productivity per acreage of farmland. Credit facilities should be made more readily available to farmers to enable them procure farm input.
Let the leaders of today and tomorrow recognize the rural or village small scale farmers who fed, “clothed “ and housed Nigerians during the Agricultural Boom of 1960s when Agriculture was the major foreign exchange earner and thus the backbone of Nigeria’s economy. But today, the “Mineral Oil Boom” has taken over. However, we shall continue to remember the role of Agriculture in the development of Nigerian’s economy.
Farming is a very good blue collar job that is as lucrative as white collar jobs but youths often ignore this and continue to search for white collar jobs where they can stay and work in air-conditioned offices. Most often, those so-called better jobs are nowhere to be found. In desperation, they go for other odd jobs like Motor Park touts or thuggery, street hawking at odd times, political thuggery and so on. Political thuggery is political indiscipline and it is not a good business.
It is good to note this because some of the youths who engage in political thuggery regard themselves as politicians. Agriculture can once again become the backbone of our economy. The present and future generations of Nigerians should not neglect it.
Nnebedum writes from Anambra State