By Abdulrasheed Ibrahim, Notary Public
One of the factors militating against the development of this country is that most of our contemporary leaders are not reading and learning anything. There is this saying among the school pupils in the United of America (USA) that “reading makes you great”. Sometimes I laugh and shake my head when some of our politicians in government say they are going overseas for retreats, seminars or conferences. What have they been learning from those trips and if actually they have learnt, how have they applied that knowledge to the development of our dear country? There is this Yoruba proverb that says: what you embark on trip to Sokoto for is right inside your Trousers. The fact that the pronunciation of “Sokoto” as a city and “Sokoto” meaning Trousers in Yoruba language sound very similar is the wisdom behind that proverb. We live in a country where most of our leaders and those being led are not interested in reading. Reading and writing are among the factors that distinguish most of our contemporary leaders from some of our past leaders like Dr. Nnamid Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello to mention just few. The three Nationalists were privileged almost at the same time to be the Premiers of the Eastern Region, Western Region and Northern Region where they keenly engaged in competition in terms of developing their respective regions.
The competition was not restricted to aggressive development but extended to literary engagement. Chief Obafemi Awolowo seemed to be the first to throw up the literary challenge by coming up with his autobiography titled “AWO” published by Cambridge University Press, London in 1960. Sir Ahmadu Bello took up the challenge by coming up with his titled: “MY LIFE” published by the same Cambridge University Press in 1962. Bill Clinton, a former President of the United States of America must be greatly indebted to late Sardauna of Sokoto for using the same title for his own autobiography. Dr. Nnamid Azikiwe had to wait till 1970 before coming up with his own titled: “MY ODYSSEY”, first published by C. Hurst & Company and later by Spectrum Books Limited. You can see that despite their active involvement in politics and the struggle for the independence of our country at that time, they still created time to engage in intellectual and literary activities. Apart from this they went about delivering great, brilliant and inspiring speeches. For instance the collection of speeches of Chief Obafemi Awolowo are now contained in the book series of VOICE OF REASON, VOICE OF WISDOM and VOICE OF COURAGE published by Hon. Olaiya Fagbamigbe, a member of the House of Representative during the Second Republic. According to Hon. Fagbamigbe in his introduction to the VOICE OF REASON published on 1st October 1980:
“I wish to thank Chief Lateef Kayode Jakande, now Governor of Lagos, for permission to select the speeches in this volume from his unpublished manuscript of a collection of Chief Awolowo’s speeches which he titled POLITICS OF PLANNING…”
By this assertion everyone should now know why the late Lateef Kayode Jakande (LKJ) still continues to live positively in the mind of the people particularly the Lagosians where he ruled for just about four years. He was a success story in Lagos State because he read and learnt a lot from his big boss, Chief Obafemi Awolowo. When he was going into government he armed himself with the unpublished manuscript called the “POLITICS OF PLANNING”. Most things Awolowo did in the old Western Region, Jakande replicated them in Lagos State during his reign. In my Tribute to Jakande at 89 about four years ago I said:
“…Just like the way Awolowo established the first Television Station in Africa in the old Western Region in Ibadan, LKJ also established Lagos State Television (LTV) .Awolowo established University of Ife, Jakande also established Lagos State University at Ojo. Jakande during his tenure as Lagos State Governor built several Housing Estates in different parts of Lagos State which people today referred to as Jakande Estates or “Ile Jakande”. With this singular act of his, many Lagosians became house owners. He built several schools and hospitals apart from the massive Secretariat he built at Alausa , Ikeja which now housed the Lagos State Government offices. Today, Jakande remains an example of what an action Governor and a visionary Leader should be. He belongs to the class of leaders who actually knew what they were going to do in government when elected, unlike today when we have many people who are only interested in power but do not know how to make use of it to positively touch the life of those who elected them. Today we only have politicians who only believe in jumping from one political party to another.”
Apart from the Legal Profession, Journalism is another profession where continuous reading and research are required in the cause of lawyers or Journalists carrying out their professional duties and responsibilities. While Chief Awolowo during in his life time combined both law and journalism together, Jakande was only a journalist that reported events and happening. He maintained a regular newspaper column where he exhibited his literary brilliance and intelligence. A lawyer cannot be a good lawyer if he has no time for reading and research while at the same time a journalist cannot be a good journalist or columnist if he has no time to read and research widely. The duo of Awo and LKJ brought into politics what they had learnt from the art of reading. Describing his habit and attitude to reading, Chief Awolowo stated on page 70 of his autobiography:
“…I read widely as possible. This was imperative, because our circle, apart from being ‘gay and ‘political’, also wanted to appear literary and well-informed; and the habit of reading good books which I then cultivated has not deserted me. My literary acquaintances then were fairly large and varied: Shakespeare, Dickens, R.L. Stevenson, Emerson, Lord Avebury, Sir Walter Scott, Hazlitt, Elbert Hubbard and several others. Shakespeare is my favourite. I have read all his plays, and have re-read some of them- like Julius Caesar, Hamlet, the Tempest, Anthony and Cleopatra and Henry V – more than three times. Some mighty lines of Shakespeare must have influenced my outlook of life.”
This point illustrates the fact that reading and learning are parts of preparation for the position of leadership in every walks of lives. Reading widely is an act or habit that cannot be compromised by any would be leader or politician. Any professional that aspires to lead his people must be well read and well informed. A lawyer or journalist in politics must have no reason to fail in position of leadership. This was more the reason why the likes of Mahatma Gandhi of India, Margret Thatcher of the United Kingdom and Nelson Mandela of South Africa were very successful in their political careers.
As long as we continue to have leaders that are not well read, well enlightened and well informed, the growth and development of this country will be a mirage. We need leaders that are well abreast with what goes on within and in the other parts of the world. The country needs brilliant and serious minded leaders that can properly manage the available abundant resources to the advantage of Nigerian citizens. Leaders with mental capacity and ability to apply useful knowledge and information to the rapid development of the country. Recently , former Governor of Central Bank and Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi revealed how the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has been for years taken us for a ride in this country with fake information and data that are not realistic:
“NNPC tells us officially that we are consuming 66 million litres per day .We are consuming more than Indonesia, Pakistan, Egypt, Cote d’Ivoire and others.In 2019 officially, we were importing 40 million litre per day, In 2022, officially , we are importing 66 million litre per day .In three years , we have increased our petrol consumption by 50%. Please tell me , is it the population ? Is it the number of cars? Just ask yourself if it makes sense that in three years you increase your consumption of petrol by 50%. There is no reason why the Nigerian government should be in oil and gas. It has failed. By every measure it has failed…”
Is there any area where this present government has not failed in this country? Hajia Aisha Buhari, the wife of the President has actually admitted the grand failure. While she has been very honest to admit the failure and apologise on behalf of her husband who recently said that Nigerians were not praising him and his government is yet to officially admit the failure. It is very astonishing and painful that this was a government that came to power with the best of love and goodwill but is unfortunately taking its exit probably as the most hated government by Nigerians. When PMB and PYO were coming in 2015, I had the great hope for my country and I continued to argue that if we missed these two great gentlemen at that time from leading this country, we might not get it right again in this country. Why was I so confident then? It was because like many other Nigerians, Buhari with Idiagbon during their 20 months in power as Military leaders were able to wage serious war against indiscipline apart from the fact of instilling patriotism in Nigerians. That Osinbajo being a Professor of law and grandson – in- law to the great Chief Awolowo must be very familiar with Awo’s political philosophy as contained in what Jakande called “Politic of Planning”. I had hoped that the Professor would be coming with something like “Politics of Development” rooted from Awo’s political philosophy. But the story is different today.
There is no doubt that what we are facing today is the accumulation of bad leadership we have been having for a very long time now, but one keeps wondering why those that have no capacity or solution to the country’s problem continue coming forward to ask for the Nigerians’ mandate to rule at all levels of governments in this country? Let us look at the flood situation being faced by some States in the country today. This problem has been attributed to the periodical release of water from the Lagdon Dam in the Northern Cameroon said to have been completed 1982. According to a report, there was an agreement between Nigeria and Cameroon Governments that Nigerian government would also built similar Dams that would be meant to contain whatever water release from the Dam in Cameroon. The said Dam in Nigeria was to be known as Dasin Hausa in Adamawa State on which construction was started but was later abandoned by the Nigerian government. Since then whenever water is released from the Dam in Cameroon, the Nigeria’s government’s failure to build her dams causes floods. Can you blame Cameroon’s government for the failure of Nigeria’s government for decades? It was a former American President, Bill Clinton that said: “The glory of a good government is the welfare of its people. Good government rests on the rock of responsibility”. Can successive Nigeria’s governments that prefer inflicting pain and hardship on her citizens be said to very responsible?
While bad leadership in this country has resulted to the springing up of terrorists majorly in the Northern parts of the country where many Nigerians have been turned to refugees in their own fatherland, the oil theft and other crimes continue majorly in the Southern part of the country. The solutions to these ;problems can only be tackled by leaders that truly know what leadership is all about and not the leaders that see leadership as an instrument of exploitation and selfish interest. Leadership is about service and well-being of the people as demonstrated by the likes of Zik, Awo and Sar’dauna when they were in charge. The position of leadership in this country at all levels should not be for every Tom, Dick and Harry but rather for those are well read and well informed with capacity to apply wisdom towards the development of the nation.
As long as brainless politicians are being allowed to rule us in this country, we shall get to nowhere. Experience has shown in this country that good leadership is not about big titles or chains of degrees but about vision, competency, patriotic, uprightness and selflessness.
Alhaji Aliko Dangote, the President of Dantoge Group recently said at a lecture to the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN) that : “Nigeria needs to henceforth, intensify effort at promoting industrialization with specific focus on the attainment of the following target in the next 10 years : 15% manufacturing sector growth, 20% manufacturing contribution to GDP….To achieve industrialisation goals, it is necessary for a nation to formulate plans and policies that will enhance and sustain industrial development…” . This can only be achieved under a focus and dynamic leadership and not under the present set leaders that are not committed to the rapid development of this nation. There cannot be industrial growth without a robust program that addresses the serious rural development and massive agricultural development through mechanisation. Chief Awolowo had long emphasised this decades ago when addressing the House of Representatives on 12th April 1961 on agricultural development. In making this point clearer as contained in the VOICE OF REASON:
“It is imperative therefore that agricultural development and industrialisation should both feature in our future Development Programmes. Let us recall the words of Professor Arthur Lewis that ‘if agriculture remains stagnant industry cannot grow’.”
Any talk about industrialisation without agriculture development cannot work. It has been very unfortunate that the successive governments rather than focus attention on agricultural development completely abandoned that sector to its fate. The oil and gas on which successive governments have placed heavy reliance has now proved to be a grand failure. Sanusi has now rightly advised the government to withdraw from the sector since all measures they have adopted have proved to be failure. Any serious government in this country needs the likes of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as a friend or special economic adviser on how the right things are to be done. But what late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu once called the leaders or Nigerians ’ hatred for the truth in his book: BECAUSE I AM INVOLVED truly depicted why the like of Sanusi had problem with those governments he had with worked as the Governor of the Central Bank and later as the Emir of Kano. Sanusi always finds it difficult to keep mute when things are going wrong. It is either you agree or disagree with him but you cannot ignore his analysis on issues. Have you not seen how he exposed the NNPC fake data and information? While many countries with oil are making serious money due to the crisis in Ukraine, Nigeria with her own oil is complaining of running into loss!
If we have been having leaders that are well read and well informed and also ready to learn from those that have done well in the past in this country as well as in other parts of the world, our nation would have developed beyond what it is today. But when you have leaders that derive pleasure in travelling around the world without learning anything there from to develop their own country, know for sure that the development of that country will be retarded. Azikiwe, Awolowo and Bello were at one time or other in charge of what have become about 36 States today, the trio used to engage in healthy competition to surpass one another in performance of developing their respective regions. That was the period when Nigeria had no oil but they mainly relied on the agricultural produces. Their competition was not limited to the economic development but also to intellectualism. Do we have such competition among the contemporary Governors in Nigeria? To the best of my knowledge in terms of intellectualism, it was only Mallam Nasir El- Rufai of Kaduna State that at one time embarked on intellectual voyage and came up with a book he titled: “Accidental Public Servant”. There is no way you can equate the people that read with those people that do not read as they are on two parallel lines. While the former group are always very brilliant and full of ideas, same cannot be said of those in latter group. May God bless Nigeria with the right leaders!
NOTE: Anyone is at liberty to disagree with my above submissions as I will surely appreciate a balanced, fair and objective rebuttal.
24th October 2022