Leadership: A tale of prosperity and poverty
The greatest events in the universe are, sometimes, not as great as the famous men and women who powered them into being, as unique events are ushered in by unique men and women. In the footsteps of progress, adversity trails behind. A constant reminder that progress must either continue to soldier on, or risk relapsing into its ominous clutches, that does no one any good.
The world is such a queer place of contrasting paradox. A situation where lavish prosperity is sandwiched between grinding poverty can be deeply troubling to the soul. It is like the story of a man who decided to keep his gold acquisitions enameled in bronze finishing to give a false impression about the extent of its true worth, effectively, placing him in a class he does not belong.
An eagle is never under the illusion that it’s just like other birds, neither does a lion perceive itself as a dog. In the world we live in, the word ‘potential” will only be reserved for the tombstone of the foolish. His potential knowledge is to be despised as he never applies it and his legacy, if inaction is one, is only fitting to be hung in the hall of shame befitting of cowards.
If Singapore is a textbook case of a country that punches above her weight, then, Nigeria can be likened to one that punches way below her weight; like a giant, afraid to deploy its power for the greater good. The Nigerian economy has not only produced multi-millionaires and billionaires, but has succeeded more in expanding the base of the pyramid where the numbers of the have-not continue to increase at a geometric rate. Uneven wealth distribution, in which the political class and their corporate cronies have become the greatest beneficiaries, continue unabated in a country, where most of the citizens should have no reason living in abject penury. The prosperity of a few has become the poverty of many.
The suffering and economic distress, currently, being experienced by majority of Nigerians is an indictment on the leadership of the country that has failed to live up to the expectations of ordinary citizens. Urban poverty in Nigeria seems to have overtaken rural poverty as the number of those who migrate from the rural areas to urban settlements seems not to have escaped the dragnet of poverty, whose presence, in every nook of our cities is becoming part of the landmark.
Nigeria is now within the bracket of the resource-cursed nations as there is nothing to show for her huge economic endowments as the 12th largest producer of crude oil and a major natural gas hub in the world. These oil and gas resources do not include the over 30 well documented mineral deposits in the country, according to Nigerian Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (NEITI), which evinces a country with stupendous wealth. Despite sitting on such wealth, Nigeria is almost at the nadir of the ladder in the global poverty index with almost 80 million of her population (64 per cent) living below the poverty threshold of less than two dollar a day according to the United Nation 2016 report on Nigeria’s Common Country Analysis (CCA).
The above contradictions exemplify the fact that the wealth of the country has not translated into the long anticipated prosperity for the citizens. Since government is created, not only to ensure a peaceful and orderly society, but to satisfy the happiness of the great majority, the extent to which this has not been achieved in the light of such enormous wealth, smacks of a disconnect of the political class from the yearnings of the people as the political class has not exhibited prudence in the management of the nation’s resources. It is difficult to believe that a country that has earned hundreds of billions of petrodollars since the discovery of oil, still unabashedly carries the insignia of a third world country when some of her less endowed contemporaries like Malaysia and Singapore have moved into second and first world cadre respectively.
The problem with Nigeria’s economic misadventure has more to do with self-sabotage than any external influence that might be impeding her economic development. To put it succinctly, Nigerians have become the worst enemy of Nigeria and urgent measures need to be adopted to save her from herself. If not, how can we explain the ignominious desire and willingness of our political office holders to loot the treasury of the nation to faraway European countries that may not even have any use for the money , as developed and advanced economies with thriving middle class societies. Colonialism may have ended with the advent of Nigeria’s independence in 1960, but our leaders have found a way to re-enact this ugly episode in what can be referred to as ‘self-colonialism. Their minds are in dire need of liberation; the principal love for country is almost non-existent, and we wonder why so many of our leaders would struggle to lead a country they do not love. How can they succeed?
Visionary leadership is the ability to transmute into reality the productive effort of our God-given imagination, or thought process, through diligent and effective implementation of good ideas that can shape our world for the better. While it is open to debate whether we have had more visionary leaders than visionless ones from independence up till this moment, one thing that can hardly be disputed is the fact that majority of our leaders suffer from a malignant complacency that makes so many revolutionary ideas, that would have turned our economy around for the better unimplementable but only good on a paper. We are a nation of economic blue-prints, workshops, road maps, and communiqué of several economic for a, that we have virtually lost count of their number. We have acquired a remarkable expertise in laying foundations in perpetuity for economic developmental programmes that never see the light of day. We can hardly point to a legacy economic project. What a waste.
• Ogla is a Lagos-based legal practitioner.