] Olaoye] Wole Nigeria can rise again if...
Tqualifies to be numbered among the resource materials for the on-going conference. Author Usman is a veteran of the Nigeriancivilwarwhowasborn in Daura, raised in Maiduguri and now lives in Kano where he makesalivingasabusinessman.
Convinced that the root cause of most of our national problems is poor leadership at all levels of government, Usman urges Nigerians not to give up on their country. You could call this book Usman’s version of Chinua Achebe’s Trouble with Nigeria and you wouldn’t be far wrong.
With patriotic fervour and righteous indignation, Umaru Haruna Usman does a bit by bit assessment of the people, their attitudes, their leaders, the public service, the police and how the interplay of corruption haswroughtsubstantialdamage to an otherwise great nation. He believes that today’s general apathy and cynicism, the laid back attitude of Nigerians in the midst of endless provocation by corrupt,cluelessandsometimes depraved leaders, is the major causeofourunderdevelopment.
He chastises the regimes of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida and President Olusegun Obasanjo for causing the economic ruination of Nigeria. Over the years the total absence of visionary leadership has led to ethnic and religious agitations which divert the masses’ attention from real issues of economic emancipation and the harm caused by corruption. Instead of uniting against their oppressors, the masses of the Nigerian people turn against each other in centrifugal ‘indigene’ and ‘settler’ disputations.
Usman proposes that laws be enacted wherein all sectional and religious activities which threaten national unity would be considered treasonable offences. He calls for a ban on all ethnic organisations and suggests that citizenship should hree weeks on, and the delegates at the national conference are yet to settle down to real work. In fulfilment of my promise to present another perspective on how to resolve the various crises bedevilling the land, I give the podium today to Alhaji Umaru Haruna Usman whose work, CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP IN NIGERIA – the Realities and the Way Forward, replace ‘indigene’ or ‘settler’ in our national lexicon if we are to cobble the semblance of a nation together after the ruinous escapades of the military and their civilian accomplices. He frowns at a situation where schemes designed to promote national unity have been distorted. For example, in the National Youth Service Corps today there are sub-groups such as Christian Corpers, Muslim Corpers, and even tribal blocks that tend to create a “we-versusthem” mentality in young graduates who are supposed to have been weaned from the narrow-mindedness of their parents.
One of the major structural deformities is the bastardisation of federalism: a rabidly corrupt central government where states exist as appendages of the federalgovernmentandthelocal governments are glorified sidekicks of the states. The author calls for true federalism which allows equitable distribution of resourceswithrealdevelopment anchored in the grassroots.
He argues that the decline in the public education system, the lack of social infrastructure such aselectricity and good healthcare institutions, is a direct result of the malaise of poor leadership. The general indiscipline among the populace - from a carefree attitude to gross acts of impunity such as violation of traffic rules, lackofconsiderationandrespect for others and for constituted authority can also be traced to a failure of leadership. The masses see their political leaders behavinglikelordsofconquered territory, so they take a cue and lawlessness becomes the norm. He calls for total reforms in institutions of the state such as the police, contending that there oughttobeaseparationbetween federal and state police.
Although Nigerians of southern extraction may not agree with the author’s description of the perceived Hausa/Fulani domination of Nigerian politics as a “myth”, he nonetheless soundshonestabouthisposition, even if his attribution of ethnic and tribal motives to the actions of certain leaders from the south may sound stereotypical. But he is unequivocal in describing Babangida’s eight-year tenure as a disaster just as he dubs Obasanjo’s return to the presidency in 1999 “the great Nigerian mistake”.
Looking back at Obasanjo’s second coming the author says, “Nigerians should have listened to the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi who advised that if Nigerians insisted on installing Gen. Obasanjo as president, the man should first undergo mental (psychiatric) examinationbecauseofpossible mental disorientation while in prison”.
Away from recriminations and conspiracy theories both of which are found aplenty in the author’s attempt to interrogate Nigeria’s past from his own standpoint, the clarity of some of his perceptions, as evidenced by some avoidable mistakes in the book (such as suggesting that “the value of the naira fell from 1.00 to $1 to 115 to $1 under the Babangida regime) is suspect. Babangida may have been the worst thing to hit us since the Bubonic plague, but facts and figures must be treated as sacred. I hope such errors of fact, grammar and typos that dot the various chapters would have been removed in the next edition of this otherwise important book.
The author is not a fan of America and its Western allies and he dwells on that theme at length. He propounds several conspiracytheoriesbasedatbest on circumstantial evidence to show that the road to the West is not the direction Nigeria should be facing. I however consider his castigation of IMF and World Bank policies towards developing countries as justified consideringNigeria’sexperience under General Babangida, but then the real issue is the quality of people who mount the leadership saddle in Nigeria. China has manned its corner admirably; so have many other nations; let’s man ours!
Nigerians must now sit down and talk, says the author. The ongoing national conference may not have met his prescription in terms of membership, but it can at least proffer answers to some of the weighty issues he raises: What kind of political system do Nigerians want? The indigene versus settler issue; why haven’t we found a purposeful leader after Gen. Murtala Mohammed? Our inability to conduct a proper census; Equitable distribution of national wealth; true federalism; state creation; free education; social security; job creation; mutual respect and understanding among the constituent parts of Nigeria; general apathy among the populace; etc.
This book was described by Alex Akinyele as “a must read for all leaders – political, religious and cultural”. I concur, with the hope that the ongoing national conference will answer Usman’s questions.