will not remember how few the countries were in 1960 that could be
labeled as industrialized and developed nations of the world? Aside
leading world powers on both sides of the cold war divide, there were
very few industrial economies that stood out and above other peers at
the time. Even the People’s Republic of China with her vast populational strength was an agricultural economy under Chairman Mao
Tse Tung and was seen in the early 1960s only as a country with
enormous potentials. Nigeria too!
the post-civil war days of the early seventies, Nigeria was still
fresh under the guiding rays of the British leadership light.
Governance was systematic and stood for planning and structuring.
Successive five-year development plans showed paths of forward
movement. Many international observers were sure that the future of
Africa was to be defined by Nigeria. The booming oil market of the
time meant a welcome windfall and a potential tearing pace for
developmental strides. It was there and then that observers saw in
Nigeria the “Giant of Africa”. It was then that the enigmatic General
Yakubu Gowon knew that “Money is not our problem but how to spend it!”
was then. Today, sober realities have brought us back down to earth.
For reasons no one will be able to explain, the Nigerian is more
driven by personal and individual interests far above and ahead of
collective national interest. Very unfortunately and painfully, role
models are not seen in the successful executors of national agenda.
The ideals of charismatic historical leaders like Julius Nyerere,
Kwame Nkrumah, to some extent John Jerry Rawlings or just yesterday’s
Nelson Mandela count far less in terms of emulation. On the contrary,
Nigerians or the typical Black African will prefer to see and emulate
the pomp and pageantry of Emperor Bokassa, Mobutu Sese Seko and
similar government-made millionaires.
painfully simplistic psyche and deviant understanding of governance
seems to have defined the political DNA of black Africans across the
board and through the ages. Before providing for the folks, African
leaders would rather compete to ascertain who between them, flies the
most flamboyant and quality aircraft, lives in the most gold-decorated
mansion and castle, owns the highest number of assets, uses the
flashiest presidential office or has the most exotic banquet and
conference hall to show, etc. etc. On this, Nigeria has excelled
bountifully well through several decades showcasing mass poverty and
luxurious state apparatus in the midst of abundant resources.
African leaders will prefer to match or even supersede the standards
of the American President to the extent that Nigerian elites will pay
ten times the price of Air Force One for an armored and bulletproof
BMW SUV simply to look different and be a visible millionaire.
is the summary of the plague that has afflicted Nigeria since General
Olusegun Obasanjo handed over power to the constitutional President
Alhaji Shehu Shagari on October 01, 1979.
since, civilian government in Nigeria has ironically meant nothing but
to have ten times more leaders to nurture into the ill-affordable
world of government-made millionaires. Economic planning ceased to be
a viable element of government services while looting simply became
free-for-all at all levels of government. The impact has been
devastating. National infrastructure was struck by the premature
downward curve of the law of diminishing returns with all things not
being equal. The birth of the Shagari government ushered in a regime
of infrastructural neglect and decay. No more new power station was to
be built; no more crude oil refinery was to be built as well. The
power sector steadily grew into a comatose state and existing oil
refineries dilapidated and forced the regime of fuel importation into
Africa’s largest producer of crude oil. If you think that was all,
you’d feel a chill up your spine. These two sectors – key sectors to
Nigeria’s corporate development – simply got hijacked through the
years, by some powerful undercurrent mafia built up by successive
ex-leaders to strengthen their hold on the sectors while out of power.
Today, the mafia of these two sectors has become larger than life and
openly controls even the Presidency.
the power sector wrapped in crumbles, there has hardly been any means
whatsoever, of diversifying the nation’s economy. There is hardly an
enabling environment for investment where the cost of ordinary power
renders the cost of production horrendous in a society that accepts
corruption as a normal way of life.
Government after government has perfected the act of taking Nigerians
for a ride promising much and delivering pains. Yet Nigerians, who
ordinarily should be feeling the pains, have become the strongest
architects of destructive self-derision.
there is hardly any explanation for the outlandish conduct of the
oppressed folk standing up to defend the oppressor. Nigerians flock
en masse these days, to foreign countries in search of greener
pastures following debilitating pauperization. Nigerians live in South
Africa, China, Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea, Ghana, Thailand,
Brazil and many other countries that are either called emerging
economies or newly industrialized countries. Nigerians know what
development looks like. They know what Nigeria would have looked like
if it wasn’t milked dry. They know the different elements of physical
development and affluence.
they are not angry. This shocked Mandela. It shocks me and shocks many
other well-meaning observers. In place of anger, the number of
Nigerians have grown, who hustle to grab just one piece of the loot
from those at the top. Citizens of other countries in Europe and Asia
with a more normal political DNA and with far lesser problems than
Nigerians have shown what it takes to confront the thieving and
oppressive political elite. Yet Nigerians – as usual – imbibe the
self-delusional attitude of boundless wisdom from the backseat of
political sophistication. Nigerians advance self-defeating political
philosophies that simply end up making their leaders complacent in the
belief in the correctness of their misgovernance no matter what the
Today, Nigerians find far more plausible excuses for the failures of
their leaders than the erring leaders themselves would ever dream of
finding. They would deny any person the moral right to speak the truth
and bury that truth in the swamp of stench to the detriment of their
own betterment. Today, the words “moral authority”, “moral
justification” etc. have become holy hymns in Nigeria whenever the
need to kill the truth arises.
it have a consequence? You’d well be kidding me if you asked!
Nigeria’s government today has found a credible base and weapon to win
the heart and minds of Nigerians in the depth of their faulty
intelligence and self-destructive reasoning. The normal tradition of
fighting evil all over the world whenever it is uncovered has now
given way in Nigeria to a very dangerous and self-imposed tradition of
mobilizing all resources and forces available to prove and underscore
the defective “moral authority”, “moral justification” and “moral
right” of anyone who dares to uncover evil.
Nigerians are leaning back in praise of the boundless level of this
skewed logic and intelligence. Pardon me, but sometimes, I begin to
wonder in all seriousness if there is no element of truth to the
claims made by the American geneticist Prof. James Watson that
scientific tests have truly revealed intellectual inferiority in the
DNA of the African.
else can anyone explain that Nigerians suffering the pains of
underdevelopment will express more anger at people who draw attention
to the cause of serious and crushing problems they are experiencing on
daily basis than they do the leaders who refuse to address such
problems? How else will anyone explain the nature of priorities set by
Nigerians when it comes to seeking accountability and political
then should a government not take advantage in the realms of pettiness
to set up sting operations and let powerful mafia-men of the oil
sector off the hook with billions of loot in pursuit of a bad egg
seeking a few million dollar bribe, who could have been left for the
second stage? The imagination that this criminal collaboration is more
loudly applauded and exalted by precisely those who should know better
leaves more questions than answers.
comparison, the streets were left burning in Ukraine for many weeks
unending in the midst of frosty winter by folks who could not stand
the risk of delayed economic development through the government’s
choice of alliance with Russia as opposed to the European Union. A
problem that would have been just luxury for the living Nigerian! But
the problem is not better in other African countries for which Nigeria
may be just a mirror image!
Follow me on Twitter @FriskyLarrimore, Watch out for my new book
“Africa’s Diabolical Entrapment”
Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic
Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria!