As we are all aware, Nigeria is faced with many economic and social problems of stupendous and frightening proportions. Many of these problems, such as unemployment, extreme poverty, ethnic and religious issues, have been there since independence. Fifty-six years after, we are yet to make headway out of these evils.

So many intelligible solutions have been proffered by our past and present political leaders but these challenges are still there. Late Chief Obafemi Awolowo once said “Ethnicity and religion undermine and threaten our national concord and sense of oneness.” He further stated that unemployment breeds frustration, resentment and anti-social tendencies; that poverty breeds envy and hatred of the affluent, antagonism to society at large and rebellion; that ignorance breeds misunderstanding, promotes oppression and exploitation, and eventually provokes social clashes and collision. Since independence till date Nigeria has produced about 15 different leaders (both military and civilians) yet none of them has been able to deliver our mother land from these evils bedeviling her. Two of them President Olusegun Obasanjo and President Mohammed Buhari were opportune to rule Nigeria both as military and civilian leaders. (Their efforts actually seem like nothing in many quarters. Perhaps, this verifies the fact that military or civilian rule is not the main problem).

So who will save us from this current path of economic and social downturns? Is it the old generation of politicians who had everything perfectly planned out on paper but were unable to lay a solid foundation for the country? Or the current crops of politicians who are ready to take advantage of the gullibility and ignorance of the people to get to power, only to serve their own selfish interest. Can we depend on those leaders who shun our hospitals to go abroad to treat headache, or the one that schooled in the country but didn’t see any school in the country good enough for his children to attend? This type of leaders can’t save our mother land. If the hospitals and schools in the country are not good enough for them, then they are not fit enough to lead us, after all it’s their responsibility to fix them. Some of them do one small project and they begin to make noise. Maybe we should remind them that providing the people with good roads, water, electricity and other public infrastructures is the reason why we elected them in the first place, so they shouldn’t come and be bragging about it. After all, they didn’t provide anything with their personal resources; they are not doing us any favour! 

In the buildup to 2015 elections, some were carrying the message of transformation and others pursuing a change agenda. Be it transformation or change, if it does not create the enabling environment for businesses to thrive, give employment to the army of unemployed youths, put food on the table of our people and if it does not guarantee our security and freedom, deal ruthlessly with ignorance and injustices in our society, it is meaningless. Even after 56 years of independence, there are many patriotic Nigerians who have not given up on their mother land while many others don’t think anything good can come out of our “Jerusalem”. They think we are already a failed state. Though I strongly disagree, if these challenges are not properly handled we might end up as one.

I know we are all praying for a miracle, the followers of the two dominant religions are praying, so also the traditionalists. And I know that the Man up there hears prayers. But we must not forget that faith without works is death. It wasn’t faith alone that revolutionized the economies of countries like Malaysia and Singapore; it was a combination of faith and work. Malaysia, a multi-ethnic nation like Nigeria, is said to have been able to maintain ethno-political balance, with a system of government that has attempted to combine overall economic development with political and economic policies that promote equitable participation of all race. Also, Singapore, a small and under-developed nation, has emerged from tumultuous financial, social and political changes over the years to become the first world metropolis that it is today.

Nigeria is in need of a visionary leader who has a clear mental picture of what Nigeria should be and is ready to give it, whatever it takes. A leader who will refuse to be tribalized or religionized but only see himself as a Nigerian. We are in stern need of a “do leader” and not one that makes unnecessary noises or sets up endless committee without acting. Every nation is unique in its own way, so in our case, we need not just a good leader, but someone who is not afraid to step on toes of the “godfathers” and dismantle the “cabals” that are profiting from the disorderly state of Nigeria.

While we are still thinking of the other attributes of the kind of leader we need, we must be wary of those professional politicians who want to divide us along ethnic and religious line, or who want to mock us and take advantage of our weaknesses by trying to buy our conscience with branded rice, meats, oil and other souvenirs. These politicians do not have anything to offer but are only after naked self-interest. Our nation is never in short supply of intellectuals with these attributes mentioned earlier that can make our mother land great. Some of them have even attempted politics in the past but our system frustrated them out, either because they don’t belong to a popular political party or because they refuse to toe the line of those in the game before them whose pocket is deep enough to respond to our immediate greed.

I submit therefore that the task of building our mother land is not in the hands of our leaders alone, every citizen has a part to play to make her great. We must look beyond our immediate benefit and think about the future of our children who are the next generation. We must look beyond political parties and beam our search light on individual candidates. Where our leaders fail to live up to expectation, we have the constitutional powers to remove them. America was built by Americans; Britain was built by Britons.
Only Nigerians can build Nigeria.

Shola Olayiwola is a freelance writer. He loves to write and defend the course of his country.