COVID-19 Shutdown: Sober Reflections On Nigeria’s Political Leadership By Favour Morenike Olawumi

With the government-ordered lockdown in full and partial effect nationwide, it is unsurprising that countless reactions are being raised by Nigerians that directly bear on the quality of life in Nigeria. 

I watched popular Nollywood actress, Ada Ameh, rant bitterly about the inadequacy of power supply amidst the compulsory order in place given by the government. As I rose from my bed, my concerns and appraisal of this country took on a reflective curve, and I’d like to share a few thoughts. 

It is instructive that complaints such as the one raised in the index video aren’t new. We’ve always had it bad in this country with regards the availability of basic amenities such as electricity, clean water supply, good roads and a functional transport and housing system. An intrinsic link can be drawn between the poor systems we have in place and the questionable political and economic leadership that we’ve had to endure over the years. Emphasis are laid on the word “endure” while Nigerians are touted to be innately patient, tolerant and resilient, it is safe to say our patience as a people and community has worn thin over the years and the biting remarks, retorts and criticisms that have been flung the way of our leaders are justifiable and past due. We need to reboot, there is nobility in long-suffering but no laurels in suffering without end. 

As an individual, who has worked within the private sector and, who has also set up personal businesses, I am not immune to the peculiarities of Nigeria especially with regards to the ease of doing business. Government policies and stifling regulations coupled with unreliable power supply, an ineffective transportation system and an unstable currency has meant that progress is made at the pace of a snail at best. Even in the arena of money-making, Nigeria will frustrate you.

I have reached the conclusion, one undoubtedly shared by many Nigerians, that our country’s problem is one of poverty of quality leadership and ideas. Our leaders are usually unprepared for office or, buffeted by the privileges of office, aloof to the sufferings of ordinary Nigerians and the challenges of the Nigerian life. An often ignored point in the discussion of our ineffective leadership, however, is the possibility that our leaders glorify poverty as evidence of righteous living and justify each complaints of provisional inadequacy by the response that they lived their lives under the same conditions and as such cannot fathom the rationales for our demand for better living conditions.

Let’s make some concessions. We’ve never ever had stable power supply in the country amongst other amenities. Most of our elected leaders grew up under these conditions, and may have become conditioned to accepting such inadequacies as the “naija’ life that brooks no urgent demand for reform and change.

It is, however, not entirely equitable to make comparisons between that generation and ours. It was a little better then than now. With a comparatively lesser population and stronger naira, the early years post-independence was significantly better than now, the opportunity for progress and the finesse of the best of this country to keep it abreast with modernity in structural and social development was squandered by the same generation that today do not see the point in improving the standard of living of Nigerians. While the world moves on to greater heights, we are literally stuck in the mentality of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.

As we outline possible solutions to the Nigerian problems, it is perhaps time we stopped voting for leaders who, having grown up in apparent and relative suffering, are still comfortable with allowing such embarrassing misery persists in the country. A leader like Buhari, for example, is ill-equipped to appreciate the need for urgent reforms in electricity and water supply having moved on from the pedestrian life of the arid north to one of privilege and class at the expense of state resources. 

We need a new set of leaders who are widely read and travelled, who have an appreciable sense of the dynamics of good living and who would be embarrassed by the failure to provide basic social amenities for our people having lived or experienced life in saner climes. We need creativity in government that goes beyond the traditional way of doing things, an accountable leadership open to innovative ways of doing things and avoiding the primitive accumulation of personal wealth at the expense of infrastructural growth and development. 

It is rather embarrassing that the ‘giant of Africa’ is suffering massive blackouts in the middle of a stay-at-home order. Our leaders, who are quick to apply the rhetoric that, “this problems will not kill us but make us stronger”, are unfortunately wrong. The absence of basic amenities kills the national pride and patriotism, further ridiculing our nation on a global stage.

This period should be one taken for sombre reflections. It’s the year 2020, and we neither boast of reliable water supply nor power. This is not the path of a progressive nation and unless we begin to elect leaders with clear focus and sense of direction who have lived and appreciate the good life, we will continue to “suffer and smile”.

Olawumi, Chief Executive of Dumota.com, is a Lagos-based financial analyst

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