By Martin-Hassan Eze
Why must our own case be different? Why must we continue to lag behind despite the availability of unquantifiable human and natural resources?
When the sad news of the demise of the former Singaporean magical Prime Minister broke earlier in the year, my mind raced back to the above posers. Decades back, Singapore was held hostage by the demons of corruption, under-development and poverty like Nigeria but late Lee, by the end of his tenure as the Singaporean Prime Minister in 1990 changed the story having transformed Singapore’s pedestrian economy to an Olympian one. Today, Singapore is among the Asian tigers (Malaysia, India, and Indonesia) and Singaporeans are reaping the benefits of Mr. Lee’s remarkable and transformative leadership.
Our late literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe, in his masterpiece “The Trouble With Nigeria” was without water in his mouth when he opined that the problem of Nigeria is that of vision-less, aimless and weak leadership. Pitiably, after sixteen years of civilian rule, Nigeria is still battling with elementary issues like social amenities, infrastructure, job creation, rule of law and national security.
We started off with Singapore but today we dare not think of looking that nation into the eye. Achebe proved he was a core political doctor from his diagnosis. Yes, Nigeria has had many rulers but no leader. True leadership has remained an elusive trophy for Nigeria. Lee Kuan Yew was a true Singaporean patriots and national leader and his type is what we lack in Nigeria which of course is the bane of our monumental challenges.
Here in Africa, Ghana had Nkrumah, Tanzania smiled home with Julius Nyerere while Burkina Faso once enjoyed Thomas Sankara but Nigeria has been very unfortunate in terms of having a leader with the Midas touch.
It is a pity that not even our trios, Nnamdi Azikwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello can make it to the hall of fame if the annals and pantheons of charismatic and legendary leaders are mentioned in Africa. Azikwe once was the Zik of Africa but he ended up as the Zik of Ndigbo. Awo was a sectional leader that saw nothing wrong with sacrificing national interest on the altar of ethnicity. Ahmadu Bello cared more about propagating his religion than laying the bricks for
the development and growth of Nigeria. This informed Sadauna’s refusal to leave Kaduna and join Zik in forming a National Government in Lagos in the First Republic.
When democracy returned in 1999 Nigerians thought that Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo was the expected messiah but at the end of his eight-year tenure in Aso Rock he made nonsense of any legacy he should have left with the way and manner he promoted executive rascality, corruption and official brigandage. The late Umaru Yar’ adua should have cleaned the Augean Stable despite the flawed election that brought him to power, but death did not allow him to build a new Nigeria. The doyen of “fresh air” came on board as acting president and then C-in-C for four years yet he did not change the fortunes of Nigeria.
Today, Nigeria is divided more than ever before and development has remained a fairy tale read
on the pages of newspaper and watched on television screens. Professor Daniel Bell paid glowing tribute to the late Singaporean PM in these words: “Yes, Mr. Lee was an inspiring and charismatic leader, but that wasn’t his greatest contribution. Most important, he recognized and rewarded talent in other great leaders, such as Goh Keng Swee, and built up a meritocratic system designed to select and promote political leaders of superior ability and virtue: a system designed to outlive Mr. lee himself. That is Mr. lee’s greatest legacy.”
Born in September 1923, Lee Kuan Yew transformed the hitherto unknown seaport nation to a first-class industrial power in Asia. A towering leader like him is what Nigeria needs today. Our leaders must learn to think more of the nation and less of their pocket.
MARTIN-HASSAN EZE, a freelance journalist, writer and columnist wrote in from Kontagora, Niger State. He can be reached on 09056563790.
By Martin-Hassan Eze