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Nigeria’s leadership labyrinth

By Kene Obiezu
01 April 2022   |   3:32 am
A leadership question has continued to burn in Nigeria since independence was attained in 1960,but especially since a historic return to democracy in 1999.


A leadership question has continued to burn in Nigeria since independence was attained in 1960,but especially since a historic return to democracy in 1999. The fact that it took less than six years after independence for the military to determine that there was a leadership vacuum in Nigeria, and step in to supposedly salvage the situation through the military coup of 1966 remains a national tragedy because it prepared the grounds for the Nigerian Civil War of 1967-70, future military coups, and many of the difficulties the Giant of Africa has encountered in sixty-one years of its existence as a country.

Today, at all levels of governance in Nigeria, it is beyond doubt that good leadership remains a holy grail which continues to elude Nigeria. This fact grounds many of the challenges confronting Nigeria today because without good leadership, the country has become like a rudderless ship, one perpetually lurching from one storm to the other.

The early 1990s witnessed some of the most brutal military dictatorships Nigeria has known. The Babangida regime which among other atrocities successfully annulled the 1993 presidential elections conducted in Nigeria was followed by the unmatched brutality and brigandage of the Abacha regime which expertly combined horrific human rights abuses with a horrendous plunder of public funds.

Thus, it was with a mighty sigh of relief that Nigerians welcomed the transition to democracy which began in 1998 and ended in May 1999. It took the Grim Reaper to make the transition possible as the death did what the ruthless transience of power could not do in raking the back of the arrowhead of the regime.

Genuine change takes time so even the keenest watchers of events in Nigeria were not expecting Nigeria`s long delayed transition to democracy to birth immediate miracles in restoring the country`s lost glory especially as the military which had played such an ignominious role in setting the country many years back still lurked. Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo was elected president, becoming the first Nigerian to taste civilian presidency having tasted its military equivalent. There has since been a second.

From 1999 to 2007, Mr. Obasanjo laid the foundations for many of what still obtains in the country – the good, the bad and the ugly. His legacy which until 2006 was quite mixed was finally muddled when he tried to copy suffocating dictatorships across Africa by  attempting to amend Nigeria`s constitution to perpetuate himself in power via a third term agenda when the constitution only allowed for two terms of four years each.

Mr. Umaru Musa Yar`adua (of blessed memory), Mr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan have all come and gone since 2007. When the Peoples Democratic Party fell to an unprecedented defeat in 2015, in Mr. Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress (APC) came in to begin a new era that has been anything but new.

It has been seven years of the Mr. Buhari administration. The All Progressives Congress has remained the party in power in many states and local governments in Nigeria, yet Nigeria`s leadership conundrum remains. In fact, it appears that with each day that passes by, Nigerians lose just a bit more ground in the battle to enshrine good leadership at every level in Nigeria. But why exactly has good leadership continued to elude a country extravagantly blessed with the extent of Nigeria`s embarrassment of human and natural resources? Is it that the cook is not good enough or that she lacks the right condiments to express her culinary skills?

Some Nigerians have argued that those who currently occupy the halls of power are not to blame for Nigeria`s intractable leadership crises as they are themselves products of the society they reflect. They may be products of the society but just as the cesspool of corruption Nigeria has today become, they cannot be absolved of blame for Nigeria`s leadership difficulties. They, especially the ageing kleptocrats among them who have for years practically monopolized the levers of power in Nigeria, are to be put in the hot seat whenever Nigeria`s failing and flailing leadership is up for discussion.

But beyond them, Nigerians must look closely at themselves for the apple does not fall far from the tree.

Obiezu can be reached at