Nigeria is a federation of 36 states, 774 local government areas and six geopolitical zones, namely; North Central, North East, North West, South East, South South and South West, respectively. By current estimates, the country’s population is put at about 218.5 million people (Population Reference Bureau, 2022). There are over 300 ethnic groups living across Nigeria. Four groups – Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and Fulani peoples – make up around two thirds of the population (World Bank, 2018). Other large ethnic groups include the Ekoi, Edo, Ibibio, Idoma, Igala, Ijaw/Izon, Itsekiri, Gwari, Jukun, Kanuri/Beriberi, Nupe, Urhobo and Tiv (Izsák, 2014). It is also estimated that one in every six black persons in the world is a Nigerian. A land of contrasts and a melting pot of ethnic nationalities, Nigeria ranks among the foremost of Africa’s political and economic power blocs. Touted as the giant of Africa, Nigeria was until recently, the largest oil producer on the continent and the sixth largest in the world. Furthermore, the country is blessed with a vibrant youth population in the age bracket of 15 – 35 years, put at 64 million. Despite these great natural and human resources, Nigeria is poor. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS, 2019), 47 percent or 83 million Nigerians live on less than 381.75 dollars or 137, 430 Naira per year. This translates to $1.05 or N376.52, per day. This figure falls far short of the world average of $6,500, per year or $17.81, per day (Igwe, 2010).
Nigeria is not only ranked 152 out of 188 on the Human Development Index (HDI), it is also the poverty capital of the world, according to a report by the Brookings Institution, knocking off India from that unenviable position (This Day, 2021). The country’s negative poverty profile has remained the same even as I speak to you. With such profound human, natural, social and economic endowments, the questions to ask are: how did Nigeria miss the train and how did we get here? To say that Nigeria is bruised and battered is to put it very mildly. Some analysts have likened Nigeria to a knocked engine. Fixing a knocked engine, requires a clear and critical diagnosis of the faults that led to the eventual packing up of the car engine. In the case of Nigeria, to adequately answer the questions regarding how we missed the train or how we got to our present sorry state demands a holistic evaluation of our past. This is because as it is often said, those who do not remember the past are bound to repeat it.
This, therefore, is the fulcrum of my presentation. In doing this, the interrogation centres on how well or badly, Nigeria has fared in managing or mismanaging the following critical national issues in her 62 years of political independence:
(c) Human Capital Development (HCD)
(e) Democracy and Politics of Exclusion, and
Like all other social and management science concepts, several volumes abound in the literature on the concept of leadership. Very often, we hear of Leadership Summits and Workshops being organized by individuals, government and corporate organizations to hone the skills of participants about leadership and what it entails. The reasons for investing in such efforts are not far to fetch. The fortunes of a nation, society or people, rise and fall with the type, nature and quality of leaders such a nation, society or people is blessed with. Similarly, the success or failure, collapse or survival, progress or retrogression of a business, an organization and even a state, depends largely on the type of its leadership. For Pierce and Newstrom (2011), leaders are individuals who are capable of taking on ambiguous situations, interpreting these situations, and framing for the followers, an understanding of the situation and what needs to be done to move forward. This presupposes that a leader provides vision for the people he leads and communicates that vision to them in the best language they understand. His task is to help the people to succeed and he is successful if and only if the people are successful. Apparent from the foregoing is that a good leader must exhibit the attributes of servant-leadership; he must be principled, visionary, and knowledge-driven.
Leadership: The Nigerian Situation As noted in the introduction to this presentation, Nigeria is a land literally flowing with the proverbial milk and honey. Nigeria is the envy of many nations because of her enormous human and material resources. Sadly, however, despite Nigeria’s humongous endowments, the country is unarguably of one of the least developed in the world. A major problem associated with Nigeria is the nature of the leaders that have ruled the country, be they civilian or military. Chinua Achebe, one of Nigeria’s iconic and celebrated literary giants acknowledged this much in one of his delectable books aptly titled “The Trouble with Nigeria” (1983, p1), where he declared that: The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely, a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership. While other nations have been blessed with charismatic and visionary leaders, Nigeria is bedeviled with what Victor Dike (2013) calls ‘instrumental leaders’ as against ‘societal leaders’.
According to Dike, the instrumental leader uses power and influence, primarily in the pursuit of private (personal, close family, cohort) goals. Community objectives are secondary to an instrumental leader. The main concern of the instrumental leader is how he can use his office to achieve personal objectives. He may not be lacking in social/ community commitments but in practice, more considerations are given to the self over the interests of the society which he governs. Unlike the instrumental leader, Dike noted that a societal leader is visionary, charismatic and altruistic. He resigns voluntarily if he thought of himself to have failed but an instrumental leader continues to hold on to power so long as his personal objectives are achieved. It is surprising that no President or Head of state has ever resigned voluntarily because he has failed to serve the people right in Nigeria. Nelson Mandela, former President of post-Apartheid South Africa was a shining example of a societal leader, who refused to run for a second term, even when he was prodded by the people and even as the constitution permitted it. With the exception of a few set of First Republic leaders, almost all other Nigerian past and present leaders are instrumental leaders. Given that Nigeria has had the misfortune of being ruled by instrumental leaders, it is therefore not surprising that a majority of them have failed the people on several fronts. One area that many Nigerian leaders have faltered is in their ability to give or adequately communicate their visions to the people and to carry the citizenry along with them. A leader that is unable to make his followers to ‘see’ his vision and key into it is as good as a visionless leader.
For instance, while past and present Nigerian leaders introduced a number of ‘development plans’ under such bogus names as “Structural Adjustment Programme” (SAP), “Vision 2010”, “Vision 2020”, “Seven-Point Agenda”, “Three-Point Agenda”, etc., such interventions have hardly made any discernable difference in the lives of the average Nigerian because of the lack of vision and sincerity of purpose of the promoters of such programmes. Many Nigerian leaders have also failed to inspire the masses to good and noble deeds. They have failed to inculcate morality into the people. In fact, they have failed to lay good examples, both in words and in deeds. It is unfortunate that there is no leader in the country’s body polity that the youths are looking up to for mentorship. The implication of this is that there is trust deficit in the leadership of the country. Even some of those who rose to power on the back of their acclaimed past integrity have disappointed the people. Gone were the days when many Nigerians were eager to hear the ‘New Year message’ of Mr. President because they were expecting good news. Since the messages these days do not inspire confidence in the people and are often times, reminders of broken promises, the leaders have lost the respect and trust of the majority of the people. During campaigns, many Nigerian politicians promise among others, to eradicate corruption, deal with insecurity and revitalize the economy. Sadly, however, upon assuming office, they observe such promises often in the breach, thereby eroding public confidence in governance.
Economy It was Karl Marx, the cerebral German-Jewish scholar, economist, lawyer and philosopher, who once described the economy as the critical infrastructure on which the political, social and other superstructures of society are built. In other words, the economy of any nation not only signposts the direction to, but also provides the much needed oxygen for driving its overall human, political, social and industrial development. Without a sound economic base, the foundation of a society may be imperiled. The developed industrialized nations of America and Europe, notably England, Germany and Spain as well as the Asian Tigers: China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore, etc. owe their global visibility and recognition to their formidable economic might. America for instance, is today described as the world’s policeman, not necessarily because of the size of its military but because its economy is topnotch. As it is often said, America is so powerful globally, that once America sneezes, the world catches cold! Historically, Nigeria is a mono-product economy. In other words, the Nigerian economy is largely oil-based. Nigeria is a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Its membership of the organization dates back to 1971. Nigeria is the most populous country within the OPEC but in terms of daily oil production, it is ranked sixth within the organization with a daily average oil production of 1.830 million barrels per day (mb/d). In terms of oil reserves, Nigeria’s OPEC ranking is eight, with a reserve of 37.046 billion barrels, as at the beginning of this year.
However, being a mono-product economy, Nigeria has been exposed to the shocks associated with fluctuations in the international oil market. Economically, Nigeria’s single-product status is not entirely a bad thing. In fact, the discovery of the first Oil Well in Oloibiri, Bayelsa State, in 1956 and its subsequent harnessing, marked the beginning of the country’s journey into stupendous oil wealth and the resultant initial socio-economic development witnessed in the early 1970s and 1980s.The period culminated in what later became known as the oil boom era when one of the country’s leaders was quoted as having said that Nigeria’s problem was not money but how to spend it! This was also described as the golden phase in our nation’s economic history. Studies indicate that because of the huge foreign exchange earnings from the sale of crude oil, the country’s currency became globally competitive. At that time, our currency was very strong in the international market to the extent that one US Dollar exchanged for 70 Kobo – less than one Naira. That was way back in 1974, it was said that Nigeria was so rich that we could lend money to the International Monetary Fund, IMF. Owing probably to a lack of foresight, the administration at the time, went on a spending spree instead of making judicious use of the economic windfall of the era. For example, the country embarked on a number of largely uneconomical jamboree projects like the Africa Festival of Arts and Culture, famously referred to as FESTAC 77.
The then General Yakubu Gowon administration also introduced the Jerome Udoji Commission which effected an upward review of the salaries of both public and private sector workers. The Udoji Award pumped more money into the economy, resulting in a slight inflation that affected the exchange rate of the local currency. There was also the uncontrolled importation of all manner of foreign goods into the country thus increasing Nigerians’ appetite for voluminous consumption. This trend sadly launched us into a society that loves to consume but lacks the patience and self-restraint that compels production. Regrettably, despite the country’s enormous oil wealth, nothing much was done to diversify the economy and turn Nigeria into an Eldorado. Rather, we literally went to sleep. And while Nigeria was sleeping and dreaming, other serious-minded nations reasoned outside the box and over took us in our developmental efforts. For example, Malaysia came to Nigeria, took away our palm seedlings and built a factory of it. Today, Malaysia is the world’s largest exporter of palm oil. The Defense Industries Corporation (DICON) located in Kaduna, was established in 1964, the same year that Brazil set up a similar outfit. Today, while Brazil exports high caliber military equipment, Nigeria’s DICON, only produces furniture, bullet proof vests, helmets and uniforms! Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, it may either interest or shock you to know that it was about this same period when Nigeria’s economy was so buoyant and we didn’t seem to know what to do with our fortunes that Dubai, which has now become a famous destination for Nigerian tourists, and luxury shopping, grew out of a desert.
Nigeria’s near total dependence on oil wealth characterized by profligacy and squander mania without regard for economic diversification has expectedly come with dire consequences. Our oil boom, literally became our doom. The country’s economic meltdown began towards the tail end of the Gowon administration and the Murtala/Obasanjo regime which initiated and implemented the Indigenization Decree, a policy that did not take into account, the strength of local entrepreneurs. The consequence of the indigenization policy was the departure of foreign companies like GB Olivant, AG. Leventis, J Allen, Lenard, Bata, Dunlop, BP, Esso and others from Nigeria (Braimah, 2021). The last straw that literally broke the camel’s back was when the Babangida administration in 1986/87, introduced the Structural Adjustment Programme, SAP, and other economic reforms such as the Interbank Foreign Exchange Market (IFEM) and the Second-Tier Foreign Exchange Market (SFEM). Those reforms forced the economy to nose dive, resulting in the Naira losing its vitality and becoming weaker against other foreign currencies. Since then, the country’s exchange rate has remained on a free fall.
Nigeria’s current exchange rate hovers around N700 to the Dollar. While successive regimes in Nigeria deserve a share in the blame for Nigeria’s economic woes, the fact however, remains that from exchange rate to inflation rate, interest rate and the general well-being of the populace, it is clear that the economy had become progressively worse compared to when President Muhammadu Buhari assumed office in 2015. Even though the President has recorded significant successes in the area of infrastructure, especially road construction and railway, such feats however, seem to have been dwarfed by the country’s current economic crises. For instance, Ayantoye (2022), quoting a report by the Financial Derivatives Company (FDC), noted that since 1999, the Buhari regime had performed the worst, across most economic indices. According to the report, during Obasanjo’s tenure, between 1999 and 2007, the average Gross Domestic Product growth was 7.7 per cent. It fell to 7.1 per cent during the three-year tenure of the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. While the GDP fell further to 5.5 per cent under the Goodluck Jonathan presidency between 2010 and May 2015, it dropped to an all-time low of 1.1 percent under the Buhari regime, the lowest since 1999.
For inflation, the average rate during Obasanjo’s tenure which stood at 12.19 per cent, rose to 13.18 per cent during the Yar’Adua era and fell to 9.70 per cent during Jonathan’s tenure. The inflationary rate rose sharply to between 14.07 and 18.6 per cent during the Buhari regime. It accelerated to 20.52 percent in September, 2022. On the percentage change in exchange rate, the FDC’s report added that it was 26 per cent during Obasanjo’s tenure; 27.4 per cent during Yar’Adua’s regime, 63.5 per cent during Jonathan’s years and it is now 150.2 per cent. In respect of external reserves, it was $43.17bn when Obasanjo left office; $32.34bn when Yar’Adua died in May 2010; $28.57bn when Jonathan departed in 2015 and as of now, it’s about $39.18bn (Ayantoye, 2022). The reserves, however, nosedived to an old time low of $15bn as at August 2022 (Premium Times, 2022).
Continues NEXT WEEK