Tunde Leye: Those That Want To Lead Nigeria Must Answer This

In my piece on Monday http://ynaija.com/tundeleye-africas-leadership-crisis-y-frontpage/ , I spoke about the leadership problem in Africa and how we have ended up with men and women who lack a clear ideological framework for running the countries that they rule and whose wizened fingers hold on to the reins of power in a death grip, leaving us with a majority of African countries run with an “anyhowness” that is not present anywhere else in the world.

This, coupled with free money from extracting natural resources as well as the banality that is foreign aid has continued to support this generally clueless leaders across the continent through a mix of the extremely complex patronage networks this free money enables them to create and the oppressive security/law enforcement that does not hesitate to unleash violence of varying shades on the citizenry in order to keep the status quo. As it is in many cases, the good men Africa had at the dawn of the independence waves died young.

I zeroed in on Nigeria which has a semblance of democracy, but which is essentially a state run on the elite consensus of organizing what is really an expensive tug of war to determine which section of this elite will control access to the free oil wealth and rearrange the patronage networks for the intermediate periods. In the last paragraph, I gave an overview of the types of questions we need to begin to ask the men and women who want to lead the country at all levels. Whilst I understand that we are limited in options available to make a choice for at the ballots to whoever the main political parties produce (at least until the independent candidature proposal the National assembly is considering becomes law), it is important to bring up these issues. It doesn’t help matters that the exorbitant fees the parties attach to the forms for indicating interest in political office is more than most Nigerians will earn for many years of honest work.

These absurdities abound because of the way our system is set up and it is not a political party problem. It is a political class problem and politicians will do it whichever party they belong to, in order to ensure that those who have not had access to free state money like them are unable to participate in the political process. This is the strongest case for independent candidature and I am glad that the national assembly is considering it very seriously.

I am under no illusions that voting in Nigeria has gotten to the stage where the vision and clear execution plan backed by ideology of the contestants and their party will be the critical swing factor in determining who the people will vote for. It therefore follows that this will not be the biggest issues on the minds of the politicians who want to win these votes. However, slowly but surely, a more educated and conscious populace is emerging that will begin to ask these questions. And it is important to put these issues out here and maybe give some focus and direction to the thoughts of these people. So in a series of follow up articles to the first, I will be highlighting key critical areas I believe every serious government needs to focus on for the next couple of administrations in Nigeria. In this article, I will share three of them.

• Creating Other Lagoses – Lagos currently has more than half of Nigeria’s production capacity. Businesses who want to make real money in Nigeria are forced to have at least an office in Lagos. People troop into Lagos daily at an alarming rate. To put it in business terms, Nigeria has concentration risk in Lagos. The most baffling thing is that Lagos offers no advantages that many other places along the coast in Nigeria do not offer. All that Lagos has is the presence of tradepoints via land, airports and deep water seaports. If we replicate these advantages in strategic places along the coast, we will create more Lagoses, decongest Lagos, diversify our risk and create the platform for an explosion of production since the production capacity of Lagos can be replicated to varying degrees of success. It is what those that colonized the continent of Africa did, therefore it isn’t rocket science. But any government that doesn’t have such plans and the political will to make it happen is not yet serious about unleashing the potential in Nigeria
• Trade Hub Nigeria: Studying the history of West Africa, many of trade routes that connected the outside North, West and Central Africa passed through the empires and city states that now make up Nigeria. Nigeria is the most strategically located country to serve as the trade hub for the three African subregions.

In fact, one of the reasons that the volume of trade within Africa is so low at the moment is because Nigeria has not taken advantage of this strategic positioning. We are the crossroads of these three subregions but our focus on oil revenues has not opened our eyes to the huge potential revenue that passing all that trade through our borders will bring to us. Universally, being strategically located along trade routes is a sure way for a state to become wealthy. This ties into the first point nicely. Things like port congestion and overload happen today because Lagos is overburdened. Hence we need the politician seeking office to tell us how they will tap into this potential and begin to drive trade through the new Lagoses they build aggressively and transform Nigeria into the trade hub of Africa.

• Plans for Modern Rail: Nothing caused economic growth of the interior of countries and the breaking down of centuries long cultural walls like rail travel in the past two centuries. In fact, the unlocking of the economic potential of the United States is directly traced to the the advent of railroads crisscrossing the country. Nigeria’s rail systems has begun to show signs of life under the current administration. However, the life is a jaundiced one, with the revival of trains that cannot compete in the 21st century. Tied again to the last two points is this third one.

Anyone that wants to lead the country must share a detailed plan for, not the revival of the old rail system, but the creation of an ambitious modern rail system that can turn us into the trade hub that our geography gives us the potential to be. We need ambitious building of these types of things with creative use of financing and serious work on legislation that makes such building difficult if not impossible. The plans we must hear must provide us with details on how these challenges will be dealt with as well as measurable timelines for performance measurement.


Article written by Tunde Leye


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