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Institutions, leadership and the Nigerian reality

When old Carl Sagan somberly declared, “…we are no longer interested in finding out the truth,” he encapsulated a sentiment that echoes loudly in the…

When old Carl Sagan somberly declared, “…we are no longer interested in finding out the truth,” he encapsulated a sentiment that echoes loudly in the heart of Nigeria’s current political landscape. Reflecting on his words, following last week’s PEPT judgement, I was reminded of our collective apathy towards seeking the truth. It is not merely the lack of interest in the truth that troubles me but our willingness to accept the facades handed to us. 

There is no denying that our country, Nigeria, is going through difficult challenges and realities, some of which have threatened to rob us of the privileges of democracy. However, the essential soul of Nigeria is not lost yet, but our trajectory is testing its existence. 

Nigeria is, without a doubt, a country of immense potential. As Tinubu rightly pointed out, in India, we are not poor in human resources; rather, poor management and leadership are hindering our progress.

It is a reality to highlight the repeated idea that great nations are built upon the foundation of strong institutions. The institutions include our justice system, the EFCC, CBN, and a few others. These institutions support the government in achieving its primary role–establishing the legal framework for all economic activities. But these institutions are disappointing Nigerians. So, the current Tinubu government has a significant task: solidifying these institutions and breaking away from historical pitfalls.

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But there is an elephant in the room that we must address. Being in power and acting as though you are still in opposition is a contradiction that has obscured the incumbent party for far too long. It is like a bad habit, making it difficult to drop. They spent the last eight years blaming the 16 years of PDP for their failure, and it looks like they will spend the next four years blaming the last eight years of Buhari. 

We must be clear that governance is a responsibility, not a privilege, and it is time the ruling party embraces its role sincerely. The vision for a better future becomes blurred when the seat of power is constantly occupied with deflecting blame or pointing fingers—you cannot drive forward if you are always looking in the rear-view mirror.

Of course, we must remind ourselves of the bitter reality that the incumbent party would not have remained in power without collaboration from the people. There is a latent inference here, suggesting that perhaps Nigeria has long been held captive by mismanagement because some among the people have been accomplices in their own subjugation. This is a hard pill to swallow, but necessary to discuss. 

I keep asking myself, do these accomplices act out of fear, ignorance, or simple resignation to a perceived fate? It is a difficult question for me to answer. Sometimes, I think it is a mix of all, or maybe they have just become numb, thinking there is no alternative. And that is what breaks my heart.

It is heartbreaking to think that many Nigerians have reached a point where they have become tolerant of the very things that hold them back. But as someone who believes in the persistent spirit of Nigeria, I refuse to accept that this is where our story ends. Instead, I see these challenges as signposts on our journey, not our destination.

If there is one thing I have learned about the Nigerian spirit, it is that we are incredibly resilient. The history books are filled with tales of Nigerians who have turned adversity into opportunity. Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sardaunan Sokoto, the first Premier of Northern Nigeria, comes to mind. He displayed exemplary leadership by transforming Nigeria’s challenges into stepping stones for progress.

Faced with a region marked by diverse cultures and religions, Sardauna championed unity, emphasising the shared values and goals that bound the communities together. With a vision of modernising Northern Nigeria, he prioritised education and infrastructure as essential tools to bridge gaps and usher in development.

Sir Ahmadu Bello’s approach, founded on inclusive governance and strategic investment, paved the way for Northern Nigeria’s socio-economic advancement, showcasing his ability to convert adversity into opportunity. So, the question is not whether we can change our narrative but how soon we can begin.

The Tinubu government has a unique opportunity. To accomplish this, they must embrace a forward-looking stance, fostering an environment where institutions are strengthened, leadership is proactive, and the citizenry is actively engaged in nation-building. The administration needs to prioritise the welfare of its citizens, uphold human rights, strengthen our judicial system, and give independence to key institutions like the CBN, INEC and EFCC. The president wouldn’t need to travel to UAE to plead against the visa ban and foreign investors would have made tangible commitments at the G-20 if we had strong institutions. 

It is also essential for them to recognise that the government’s primary role is not profit generation, as with private entities, but to serve the public interest. Particularly, they need to ensure their policies do not target or harm the vulnerable and poor sections of society, given they owe their election victory to them. A key indicator of its success will be its ability to reduce the cost of living, making everyday life more affordable for the common people. 

The suggestion may sound simple. But it is a daunting task, especially for those who do not understand the role of governance and those who are self-indulgent.

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