Prominent Nigerian author, Chinua Achebe wrote in his book ‘The Trouble with Nigeria, “One of the commonest manifestations of under-development is a tendency among the ruling elite to live in a world of make-believe and unrealistic expectations.” Decades later, his words still ring true as Nigeria continues to reinforce its reputation as an unserious nation, from the top down.
Under President Bola Tinubu, we are witnessing the same old story – a ‘cargo cult’ mentality that pervades the leadership, as Achebe described it. The belief that someday, manna will fall from heaven to shower goodies upon the people, without any real effort or reform on the government’s part.
President Tinubu and his team have promised Nigerians some sort of paradise, often describing Nigeria as “this great country of ours.” His decision to remove fuel subsidy, undertake reform taxes among others have received praise by some of his strong disciples.
Yet by nearly every metric, Nigeria continues to underperform. Inflation is at one of its highest, we reek of corruption, inefficiency, callous and environmental pollution. Any visitor to Nigeria can immediately attest to the disorder, vulgarity, dishonesty, and overall unpleasantness that makes Nigeria a frustrating place for its citizens to live.
Few months ago, a public agency toyed with the idea of increasing salaries of politicians, while federal lawmakers got vehicles worth millions of naira as they needed, ‘strong cars’ for Nigeria’s ‘bad, terrible and weak’ roads.
The latest example that epitomizes Nigeria’s unrealistic leadership is the outrageous size of the official delegation sent to attend the COP28 climate change conference in Dubai – a staggering 1,411 people. For context, far wealthier nations like Britain and the US sent delegations less than that size.
While the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Mohammed Idris slowly scrambled to clarify that only 422 members were directly funded by the federal government, over a thousand like Toke Makinwa and the Tinubu Sons still attended essentially as hangers-on to drink fine wine and enjoy first-class flights…all to discuss environmental policies that at least half the delegation likely knows or cares little about.
This is the unfortunate reality of present-day Nigeria – a nation blessed with abundant oil wealth, yet one where the elite class concern themselves more with padding expense accounts rather than reforming the economy, rooting out corruption, improving living standards, and moving toward sustainable development goals.
Until Nigeria stops perpetuating a culture of make-believe, as Achebe warned, we may never live up to our potential as the ‘Giant of Africa.’
The time is now for President Tinubu and others to take the country seriously rather than just paying lip service to reforms.
Only through credible policies, transparency, reduced corruption and waste can Nigeria ever achieve the prosperity and respect it deserves on the global stage.