Watching the ongoing machinations in the Nigerian polity, one cannot help but wonder at the tragedy this nation has become. Whilst our leaders are busy squabbling over personal interests and ambitions, the average Nigerian is facing unprecedented challenges on every front.
Killer herdsmen have virtually laid siege to farming communities and are seemingly at liberty to kill and pillage. More people are believed to have been killed in Nigeria this year from the attacks of herdsmen than in war-torn Syria and Afghanistan combined. The story is no different on the economic front.
We now have the unenviable position of being the poverty capital of the world; a damning indictment of the collective leadership of the country, both past and present.
In the latest World Health Organisation (WHO) ranking of world healthcare systems, Nigeria is fourth from the bottom, above the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic and Myanmar.
It is no wonder that at a time when average life expectancy is rising across the world, Nigeria is one of only six countries with an average life expectancy of less than 55 years.
Meanwhile, our president and the entire political leadership are quick to fly to the United Kingdom unashamedly, at great cost to the country, to avail themselves of the health services their peers abroad have built for their people; the same health services they have collectively denied the masses of Nigerians.
Regrettably, Nigerians cannot claim to be innocent bystanders in the tragedy we now live as a people. We have a knack for electing our second – rather than first – eleven into office and then expect a different outcome! Worse still, we refuse to hold them accountable, and even make excuses for their incompetence.
One hears unfortunate statements like: The president cannot be everywhere at the same time; he is an old man; he is trying his best; and on and on, the excuses go.
On the recent floods, one hears the same oppressed masses repeating the same shameless government narrative – that it is the people’s fault for putting rubbish in gutters and blocking drains.
Perhaps if the government built gutters and drainages with covers, like they do in other countries, the issue of people putting rubbish in open gutters would not arise.
Perhaps if state governments and local councils provided households with refuse bins and ensured that these bins were collected on a regular basis, people would not have any excuse to pile refuse in street corners.
Perhaps if government enforced their own planning laws, no one would erect structures on flood plains. We are where we are for no other reason than corruption and the gross incompetence of Nigeria’s collective leadership over the decades.
Many have argued that by our docility we have created a political class that has become accustomed to treating the electorate with contempt.
Where else in the world would government workers and pensioners be owed, in some cases, over a year’s wages without any outpouring of rage in the streets.
We have a president, in a democracy, that rarely does live press conferences, except perhaps when he is cornered abroad and is compelled by protocol to take questions from the media.
Obviously, the president’s advisors do not to see the importance of him submitting himself regularly, as a matter of course, to the media’s questions on issues of concern to citizens.
Sadly, in Nigeria we seem to elect monarchs into office, who relate to the people, not as fellow citizens, but as subjects.
As we approach 2019, it is critical we look outside the present crop of failed politicians who are once again parading themselves as candidates for the presidency.
We need a new style of leadership and governance that is responsive, intelligent and draws from a new sets of values.
The challenges we face as a country are complex and require a much younger person with energy and a sharp mind.
I hold no brief for the vice president nor claim to know him but every time you hear him speak or address an audience at home or abroad, you cannot help but wonder what the country would look like if we had more of his ilk at the helm of affairs.
Professor Osinbajo epitomises the change Nigeria needs at this juncture of our history – the change he is unable to deliver by virtue of his current position.
Watching the vice president in a canoe reaching out to people ravaged by recent floods was a classic example in ‘servant leadership’.
Every time he has had the opportunity to step into his master’s shoes, he has done the same – endearing himself to the people; dialoguing and empathising with them; as well as holding public officials to account.
There are several examples of the latter, the most recent being the summary dismissal of the former head of the Department of State Services.
By this singular ‘brave’ act, he called impunity to order. This is the kind of leadership Nigerians have been craving for – one that will curb impunity and hold abusers of power to account.
I dare say that being presented with the same set of circumstances, his boss would have procrastinated and dithered and dithered and dithered, empowering impunity by his silence.
Many argue that the best times of this presidency have been the short periods when the vice president have been in charge.
The relative peace we have in the Delta region today, with oil production levels above two million barrels a day, from a low of 1.4 million, is largely down to Osinbajo’s leadership style and instrumentality, especially in the 59 days he first acted as president in 2016. He has those vital leadership qualities that have been lacking in a succession of Nigerian leaders.
Like some of us who asked people to give Buhari a chance in 2014, the journey for Nigerians these three-and-a-half years has been painful.
Whilst there have been limited successes in some areas, overall the experiment has been a disaster in leadership. As a nation we have never been this divided along regional, ethnic and religious lines. Where once we had cracks, we now have chasms and the buck must stop with the president.
President Buhari will do the country a great service if he were to step aside and allow Professor Osinbajo to run in his stead in 2019.
Professor Osinbajo may be Nigeria’s de facto ‘prime minister’ with his varied roles but power resides with another.
We cannot expect a different outcome with the same crop of politicians once again parading the rostrum. George Orwell, the author of the best seller Animal Farm once remarked that, “people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims but accomplices.”
How desperately we need real change in Nigeria; how desperately we need a leader with vision and the will and intellect to actualise this vision.
The tragedy for Nigeria as 2019 looms is that there is no John Magufuli (Tanzanian president) or Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghanaian president) or Paul Kagame (Rwandan president) waiting in the wind, nor Professor Yemi Osinbajo.