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Nigeria@62: The mixed fortunes of her diversity and the 2023 agenda

By Adewale Qudus Lawal   Many have continued to wonder why “good” people become otherwise when they get to the corridor of power. They wonder…

By Adewale Qudus Lawal


Many have continued to wonder why “good” people become otherwise when they get to the corridor of power. They wonder why Nigeria still remains underdeveloped despite her enormous human and material resources.

It is unarguable that the indices of development that saw the western and continental Europe countries changed their fortunes during the Industrial Revolution of the 18th century were and are present in the area that makes up the Federal Republic of Nigeria today. Nigeria has all it takes to feed Africa and hold sway in the international community.

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Leadership is not the only bane of Nigeria’s development but also, the system. This system is the country’s plurality. This diversity brings forth the type of constitution the country is governed with. Consequently, the end product is the abysmal mismanagement of human and material resources.

Nigeria has the largest number of sub nations in the world. The number of ethnic groups and tribes in Nigeria is yet to be accurately documented. This is actually a spanner in the works of the country’s development. For instance, Yoruba is a major ethnic group in Nigeria but the number of sub nations with distinct cultures under it is more than what is obtainable in many countries of the world. Among the Yorubas, there are the Ijebus, Remo, Ekiti, Egba, Ijesha, Owu, Ondo, Ilaje, and Oyo among others. These are distinctive people with sub tribes.

The over 400 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria have their sub nations which make the diversity of Nigeria one of its kind in the world. This diversity has not been properly managed. Thus, it has become a mixed fortune for the country and a threat to its existentiality.

This plurality is affecting national development in policy formulation and decision-making. Every leader, by default, (constitutional provisions) tends to satisfy the interests of the various ethnic nationalities at the detriment of national development. While developed countries of the world build their successes on using the right people for the right job, Nigeria is forced to prioritise where a person comes from.

Developmental projects are not situated based on needs and necessities but to ensure that every part of the country gets a sense of belonging. For instance, crude oil is deposited in the South-south region of the country. To maximise its benefits, refineries ought to be spread across this region but a refinery is built in faraway Kaduna, in the northern part of the country. More examples of this abound across the federation.

Elections and appointments which ought to be based on capabilities and competence are rather based on giving every part of the country a sense of belonging. The principle of federal character has slowed down the pace of Nigeria’s development. It has killed competence for mediocrity.

The civil service which is the engine room of governance is run on the basis of federal character. Recruitment, promotion and appointments are not based on competence and capability but rather, on a quota system just to ensure that every part of the country is represented at the expense of getting the right people for the job, irrespective of where they come from. Nigeria can never be great with this kind of policy.

The education sector is not spared. Admission into unity schools and tertiary institutions are largely done base on where one comes from. If the best brains are left out because their likes are many in the particular states or region they come from, for a people whose prerequisite is based on giving them a sense of belonging. How do we expect the country to develop?

Nigeria’s diversity should not be an excuse for relegating competence for mediocrity. Every state of the federation has a comparative advantage over others, while some have absolute advantage. They have their own areas of strengths and uniqueness that can be developed to bring the best out of them. Rather than reducing every state to the same pace of development. These states can manage their diversity better rather than being managed by a government at the centre.

If Nigeria must escape from her present state of uncertainties, efforts must be expended to give individual state opportunities to thrive at their own pace. 

Everyone must not go to universities to become successful as literacy level is not measured solely with tertiary education. The most important level of education every citizen must acquire is basic and secondary education.

Everyone must not work in the civil service to be successful. Neither does everyone need to be politicians. Technical education is key to national development. Nigeria is an untapped resource. Many human and natural resources are lying unused and undiscovered.

The crop of leaders that will form government come May 29th, 2023 have herculean tasks before them considering the present state of the country’s socio-economic sectors. But the good news is that, as cumbersome as these may appear, they are surmountable.

The amount of money the leaders spend on governance is preposterous. All duplicated offices must be collapsed. All agencies with similar functions must be merged. Nigeria does not need a bicameral legislature. We do not need to copy everything our colonial and neocolonial masters do verbatim. The Senate and its members must be on a salary scale as the civil servants. The House of Representatives must be scrapped. Aides and advisers of government must be drastically reduced. The presidential fleet must be depleted.

States must be given access to explore and exploit the resources in their domains and develop at their own pace to save the federal government of the headache of which region or state to site developmental projects. The burdens of responsibilities on the federal government must be drastically reduced for state governments to handle. Education, internal security, health care, works, power generation, transmission and distribution must be left for the state to handle. 

Private partnership must be encouraged. While government regulatory agencies, particularly, consumer protection bodies must be strengthened to protect consumers from overbearing private companies. Provisions must also be in place for the federal government to check the excesses of overbearing states while the judiciary must be assertively independent to arbitrate not only on federal and state governments clashes but also to protect the rights of the masses.

In no time, Nigeria will be the pride of the black race and a country to reckon with in the comity of countries.


Adewale writes from Lagos, Nigeria