There is no doubt that the average Nigerian is closely approaching the tap-out point. The catastrophic whirlwinds of harsh economy and insecurity have not helped matters. Unfortunately, both viciously reinforce each other. A poorly performing economy naturally creates hunger, anger and facilitate insecurity. Insecurity, in turn, creates environmental hostilities that work against entrepreneurship and good governance. But these are only the manifestations of a set of underlying causal factors. For instance, in explaining the underlying sources of insecurity, more fingers are always pointing at religious insurgents, ethnic militia, political thugs, with none pointing in the leadership direction. The same appears to be the case with the economy. Such excuses as declining global oil prices, droughts and poor agricultural yields, greedy entrepreneurs and so on make up the list without the leadership. Such escapist deflections of responsibility are undoubtedly behind our failures, particularly on the economic and security fronts.
Most people seem to agree that a good leader [or good leaders] should at least possess the following five qualities: vision, integrity, accountability, intelligence, and drive. As Jack Welch put it: “Good leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion”. Visionary leaders foresee the future, carefully identify, and strategically engage the human factors ideal for building up the country to the level consistent with the foreseen future. Such leaders ultimately build for future generations. Consequently, a good measure of a country’s future prosperity is the youth’s models. Second, good leaders possess integrity and are accountable. To have integrity means having the willingness and capacity to do the right thing regardless of who is offended, whether in public or secret. Complementing integrity with accountability makes a leader exemplary. Accountability requires that a leader takes responsibility for his team’s performance outcomes and accepts blame and credit where applicable. This brand of leaders also possesses the drive and are often primarily interested in getting things done whatever it takes.
Careful investigation of the exact origins of most of the insecurity crisis in the country today is easily traceable to the absence of one or most of all the five traits of good leadership mentioned earlier. The roots of Niger Delta militancy which lasted for close to four decades, was because of the poor vision and absence of integrity of the political leaders who saw but chose to ignore the budding crisis of marginalization. The physical deprivation and environmental degradation suffered by the Niger Delta region was indicative of the height of insensitivity and conscious decision of the Nigerian leadership to persevere in doing what was wrong despite the whimpers of pain echoing from the various marginalized communities. The leaders saw the region that was the source of Nigeria’s prosperity descending into the pits of poverty. Simultaneously, foreign multinational companies and the train of corrupt government officials overseeing the fiscal heist kept smiling to the bank in hard currencies.
Similarly, many unofficial sources trace the roots of banditry, to some political leaders, importation of mercenaries and political thugs from foreign countries to ensure that Goodluck Jonathan was not reinstated as the president even if he won the election in 2015. The mercenaries received promises of monetary and other compensation if they successfully made Nigeria ungovernable should he win the election. Fortunately for them, Goodluck Jonathan lost the election and, to the surprise of many, decided not to contest it as the ugly norm before then. Since the cow fell without a thud, there was little need to keep the imported mercenaries, and consequently, they could not access the balance of the compensation promised them. Frustrated, they regrouped in retaliation and started to terrorize Nigerians.
But even if that version is not credible, the truth is that the leadership of northern Nigeria has since political independence neglected the education of its children and youth. The leaders instead fed them with the opium of religion which was that Qur’anic education and begging in the name of God as Almajiris was preferable. Without education, these youth lacked the intellectual capacity to understand and question their political leaders misuse of their common fiscal heritage. In turn, it offered their leadership substantial headroom for corruption and the diversion of publicly owned resources into their pockets. The results are the bandits and terrorists that inhabit the wilderness and highways of northern Nigeria. The case is also not different regarding the audacity of the killer herdsmen. Gun-wielding and criminal pastoralists know that they are substantially immune from the penalties of the law for their atrocities because of the cover from the Nigerian political leadership, which heavily skews in favour of the Fulani ethnic tribe. The president of the country who belongs to the tribe found it highly challenging to condemn the excesses of these herdsmen. There are also many stories of double punishment of the victims of these criminal herders. A version of the report claims that some security and law enforcement agency leaders who majorly belong to the same ethnic group as the herders further punished the victims of these criminal herders that dared to report the infringement on their rights and compelled them to apologize for the same.
Both the awful economy that exacerbates the insecurity condition and the implicit but direct facilitation of insecurity by our leaders find an explanation in their abandonment of their supposed commitment to upholding the Constitution. Even though our Constitution is utterly defective and in good conscience does not qualify as one, our leaders who swore to keep them always immediately abdicate that responsibility. We are the victims of the “rules of men” against the rule of law that should be in operation. For instance, commitment to the rule of law would have prevented the diversion of the funds meant for facilitating the education of young northern kids, which is mainly behind the banditry we experience today. Commitment to the rule of law would have prevented the pervasive corrupt enrichment culture depriving the country of its desired prosperity. Besides the commitment to the rule of law is the gross absence of vision. A pedestrian example is the government’s refusal to learn from other countries regarding animal farming, which constantly kindled the discord between crop farmers and herders. Setting aside the selfish goals of assuaging tribesmen’s wishes, enacting laws compelling the farming of ruminants in a fixed location would have eliminated the crop farmer and herder’s crisis several years before now. The same absence of vision has made the country consistently fail to realize that we cannot rely on fossil fuel for longer. Technology is fast advancing beyond the level of vast need and demand that have sustained our reliance on it for survival over these years. The same poor vision also explains why we never took advantage of the enormous dollar revenue generated from these resources to develop strategic industries and social and physical infrastructure that would have expedited our joining the ranks of the developed world. Instead, strategic myopia combined with the lack of commitment and integrity among the leadership has successfully turned Nigeria into the field of hunger. Hungry and frustrated people are usually angry and always eager to unleash their fury on themselves.
Nigerian leadership’s sowing of insecurity is compounded by their ineptitude. While strategic myopia is a factor, it is nevertheless messier when combined with the lack of the minimum level of competence required for the occupied positions. This embarrassing level of ineptitude in the leadership has equally negatively affected the Nigerian public sector. If a leader does not possess the competence to occupy an office, the resulting mediocre quality of supervision, governance and inspiration will manifest in performance. Such performances create a mismatch between public expectations and actual results. The resulting frustration and discontent inevitably find outlets in crime and unacceptable behaviour. Examples from Nigerian history are inexhaustible. Consider how much improvement in employment had government functionaries effectively utilized budgeted funds to provide public goods as desired. Unfortunately, the combinations of strategic myopia, lack of integrity and accountability, and ineptitude have landed us in the current situation where up to 45% of our citizens are unemployed while headquartering the world’s poor. That also explains why our roads, farmlands and our bushes are very unsafe.
Recently, there was in wide circulation a video of a Fulani bandit who swore in the name of God that it is the government officials that are arming them. In the video, he claimed that their natural occupation was herding the cattle. Their career shift happened when they started receiving arms from the government to create instability. This allegation against the government and its leadership seems to be under the carpet now. We have not heard much about the government stating and clarifying its position on the matter. The young man’s claim also seems to corroborate several other claims concerning the use of helicopters to drop arms for bandits in several bushes in some northern parts of Nigeria. The government eventually responded by declaring Zamfara state a no-fly zone and partially confirming those claims’ veracity. The question, therefore, is: are all those funding these criminal activities, not leaders? It is only a person in a leadership position in government or its security arm that can order the arming of civilians. But it is not only in the arming of bandits that we have seen the direct involvement of our leadership in the democratization of crime and insecurity. Political thugs and their criminal squads are always the creation of politicians. In their bids to secure political power at any cost, they adopt, enlist and arm young and unemployed persons into criminal gangs specifically to terrorize their political opponents and their opponent’s supporters. At the end of the electioneering season, these recruited thugs enter the society as new additions to the criminal population.
The fish rots from the head. The leaders are to blame for Nigeria’s terrible economy and insecure environment. Until we are blessed with a president with the will to bequeath on Nigerians an acceptable Constitution and completely overhaul the Nigerian justice system for efficiency, the Nigerian leadership will continue to create fertile grounds for crime and insecurity. 2023 is by the corner, and exceptionally long lists of interested candidates appear from every nook and crevice, including those with shady agendas. It might also be an opportunity to make one big step closer to creating the Nigeria we desire where the law will indeed rule.
Frontpage August 18, 2021