History has a role in nation-building. The exploits of founding fathers and past leaders are often the bedrock of the dedication, commitment and patriotism expected from the future generation. Where past leaders are people whose efforts have created undesirable outcomes, the future of such a country is blink, and the possibility of disintegration is always high.
I want to congratulate the 16th President of Nigeria, Senator Bola Tinubu. No doubt, you came, saw and conquered powerful forces, including the sitting cabals, to be seated where you are today and to book a ticket into the gallery of history in Nigeria.
The next few years will vindicate those on your side in the fight to fulfil your most extended ambition to be a president. I am proud; I predicted your emergence as a president in 2009; I wrote about the candidates to succeed Buhari if he continues to do the damage he started and found no one near your credible records in Lagos.
You are indeed the special one to correct the mess of the past administrations. I am happy you will not entertain any pity party nor blame your predecessor or the PDP’s sixteen years in power.
Nigeria’s current situation is beyond pity. As an unknown man said, ‘It is a pity that pity cannot be pity itself in a pitiful situation where pity is most needed’. The fact that you wrestled for the job, and fought your way to be the president makes it profound that pity is not needed in this pitiful situation of Nigeria.
As the 16th President of Nigeria, you are to recover the lost gains of the sixteen years of the PDP administration and ensure the decadence of the eight years of Buhari’s regime is not extended into another sixteen years of APC’s dramaturgy.
We know it will take much work for you to turn things around in the next four years to deserve another four to make it eight. It has to be only with turning our pitiful situation into a hopeful manifestation. You are therefore, a President called to salvage your predecessors, Nigerians and Nigeria as a country.
Their struggle for independence and to keep Nigeria as one had produced nothing but pains and suffering due to the structural and leadership succession model they created
Please permit me to make a role call and ask a vital legacy question afterwards. Obafemi Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikwe, Ahmadu Bello, Tafawa Balewa, Yakubu Gowon, Murtala Mohammed, Olusegun Obasanjo, Shehu Shagari, Muhammadu Buhari, Ibrahim Babangida, Ernest Shonekan, Sanni Abacha, Goodluck Jonathan, Musa Yardua, and all those who have governed Nigeria in the past or those who can directly or indirectly influence policies that could have to change the growth and development trajectory of Nigeria.
What would be their responses if you asked an average youth of age forty and below about these names? The above names are an edifice for Nigerians aged forty-five years and below. Unfortunately, these age brackets are more in number and are the future.
For Nigerians who cannot feed themselves, to a thirty years old male who cannot get married because of unemployment, an artisan whose means of livelihood has been destroyed and those who had lost relatives to the farmer-herder clashes, these names had no meaning to them, and of course, Nigeria is not a country for people who see no reasons to be proud as citizens.
To those who can ‘Japa’ because of the country’s risks, these names are not leaders but disasters which had turned Nigeria into a nation with resources the size of an elephant but with manifestation in the size of ants. To the families of these names, they are heroes because they left something for them in terms of family wealth, status and a name that could still open doors of favour for them.
But to the majority, these names are nothing to be cheerful about but edifices like airports, roads and public buildings. They are names of people that have given us a country where ethnicity, religion and tribal sentiments rain supreme.
I won’t want to single out Awolowo for his education policy in the Southwest, not to be tagged as an apologist. I did benefit from Awolowo’s free education indirectly. However, President Bola Tinubu was a protégé and a direct beneficiary of Awolowo’s exceptional vision. But Awo and Zik pursued personal ambitions and were as guilty as Balewa and Bello, who were focused on religion above development.
These past rulers, not leaders, have their names on Nigerian edifices and monuments. They are, however, worthless in the minds of the majority of the youth suffering from their inactivity and lack of decisiveness in building a progressive, united and equalitarian country.
Instead, they have left behind what we now witness as their legacy- insecurity, ethnicity and claims of dominations, killings, banditry, farmers-herders destructions, and calls for separations. They have made a mess of our unity and diversity in pursuit of their aspirations. Their struggle for independence and to keep Nigeria as one had produced nothing but pains and suffering due to the structural and leadership succession model they created.
Let’s list another roll call of names for the sake of comparison. Harry Lee Kuan Yew, George Washington, Jerry Rawlings, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, Paul Kagame and many others. In their countries, these names are symbols of unity and derivatives of nationalism and patriotism. They were founding fathers or politicians who turned the tides of the country against the undesirable outcome and created a platform for development and progressive reforms.
Let’s take Mustafa Kemal Ataturk as an example in line with the description I gave to Awolowo’s noble but eroded contributions among Nigeria’s past leaders who had created what we now manifest as a country. Kemal met and fought for Turkey, a predominantly Islamic state.
Unlike his Nigerian counterparts, Kemal transformed Turkey by embracing what could be called a Western education focusing on science, technology, national development and the education of the girl child. He reformed Turkey, making it a secular state by eradicating the Caliphate system, thus making the emirs less powerful and influential.
He replaced the Arabic script in the Turkish language with the Latin alphabet, emancipated women and made education compulsory for girls. He developed foreign policies that focused on science, technology and development above religion. Though not without bloodshed from the Islamic revolts, Kemal set Turkey on the path of secularism and growth we now see today.
Today, the Turkish GDP per capita was 9,661.24 USD in 2021, while Nigeria’s was 2,065.75 US in 2021. Turkey’s female-to-total population literacy ratio was 94.42 per cent in 2019, while Nigeria’s was 49.68 per cent as of 2022. The life expectancy ratio in Turkey is 76 years compared to 49 years in Nigeria as of 2020.
Nigeria is suffering as a result of our past leaders. Either their names will continue to be meaningless to our youth and have no place in our history, or we will have a total revamping of the country and salvaging their past leaders ineffective efforts if judged by the result we are manifesting. What are the legacies of our past leaders? Is it unity or economic development?
The only way out is for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to be the hero that salvaged our past leaders and made their names relevant in our history. That could be possible if we manifest our potential and create opportunities for Nigerians to be the best they can be in their country.
We need to create a country where the son of nobody can become somebody through hard work and commitment. To achieve this, our resources must be wisely spent on projects impacting people experiencing poverty. The effects of governance must be seen by people who are not privileged to belong to the family and close associates of the elected officials.
Can Tinubu turn things around for Nigeria and make the names of the past leaders meaningful to the young generation? Can he focus on the next generation rather than the next election to write his name in gold? Time is waiting to tell if prosperity will judge him differently from our past leaders, whose names are worthless than the edifice they are tagged with in the minds of Nigerians.