The only reason that question would arise is Paul Kagame, under whom Rwanda is punching far above its weight. Rwanda is developing at a faster rate than Nigeria. What could be the reason?
First off, Nigeria is a far, far more complex proposition. But there is every reason to believe that with a leader with the appeal, vision, intellectual breadth and organizational skills of Paul Kagame, Nigeria would measure up far better. Even with all the complexities of Nigeria.
But…Rwanda has been able to overcome, indeed leverage its civil war, while Nigeria is beleaguered, yet, its own.
Kagame has been able to get all Rwandans to buy into a one vision, like no Nigerian leader has been able to.
Nigeria is struggling with resource-curse, which corrupts politics, policy making and much else.
Nigeria awaits a leader in the mould of Kagame who can rally its ethnic and religious divide with a common national vision. It will require a combination of charisma, political dexterity and iron will. Kagame has repeatedly demonstrated those.
An Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor who United the German States into one great nation.
It is massive void in our national life.
Nigeria is a big, complex, truly multicultural country with massive human and material resources still in search of its soul. Nigeria – if it can leverage it’s massive material and human resources -could be to Africa what China is to the world. With the right vision. But, like an elephant, it will take it a while to get on it’s feet and run. Like China. China is one of the world’s oldest civilization, yet was several times ran over by far smaller ones like Britain and Japan. That’s history now, after it came to terms with itself, politically. Today, China rules the world, like Napoleon predicted, centuries before.
But it took Mao Zedong who passed China through the gains and pains of the Great Leap Forward, civil war with the Kuomintang, the Cultural Revolution, etc; and then Deng Xiaoping, etc.
Rwandan is like one of Nigeria’s 36 federating States. In Nigeria, a visionary like Paul Kagame will find it hard to build the required consensus across it’s squabbling disputation elite, to buy into one collective vision. He emerged by force. That’s not possible in Nigeria, certainly a tougher proposition. In our nearly 60 years since independence not one institution or individual has been able to dominate the political space for any material length of time to make a difference. Not even the military. That is not necessarily a plus. But then, none of those players can be compared to Paul Kagame.
Indonesia, a country of comparable complexity and population was able to come off economically because Suharto was able to dominate the country almost absolutely for decades. But then, the founding fathers before him codified a collective vision for the country independent of religion and colonial history. Nigeria’s founding fathers could not agree on a collective vision for the country, and we are groping along. However slowly, Nigeria is lumbering forward. Institutionally. In the absence of a law-giving, visionary leader. The question now is giving life to these imported structures. It takes a culture, a certain world view and thought process to give it fruition.
The biggest challenge Nigeria has is to make Nigerians believe in their country. They don’t. They believe the worst things about their country. Our favorite pastime is to run our country down. Daily. Arrogantly making a show of our ignorance of what other countries have gone through to arrive at where they are.
And we always shift the responsibility. To the British. To the military. Etc. Nigeria’s best was seen when the civil society came together and forced the military to give up power. Sadly, civil society has failed to check the excesses of body-building politicians getting away with impunity.
(Recently we saw how the Bar Association shamed itself in arguing for a technicalities of separation of powers over a serious moral issue concerning the country’s Chief Justice’s integrity. A prominent Catholic priest and newspapers joined in editorials haranguing the president’s action to suspend a suspected thief presiding over his own case. That’s the height of repeated cases of senior judicial officers, judges, found with vaults filled with foreign currencies in their homes freed on technical grounds. Hardly a sense of lasting outcry. We are becoming accustomed to such. That will not happen in Kagame’s Rwanda)
Rwanda, having more or less settled the political issue is able to squarely face the bread and butter i.e. economic development issues. Festering political questions and fiscal distortions plus the Resource Curse/Dutch disease, makes Nigeria’s economy a distribution, instead of a production, economy. Politics is about sharing the National cake, Federal revenue. Not baking it. Oil revenue merely circulate through the banks. Not much value-adding production.
Nonetheless, I resist cynicism and negativism … with historical perspective and understanding of human nature, Nigerians are no different from people anywhere. Nigeria is one of the freest countries in the world, politically. Nigeria has never stood still in any way. Not politically, economically nor socially. It is evolving. Too slow, perhaps.
The country will pick up pace developmentally when its elite – the Press, Civil Society, etc, not only the political class – begin to take advantage of this freedom to evolve ideas-driven politics and truly become a genuine moral compass and custodian of values for the country. One hopes that’s not as far off as it seems.
The failures of the The Press- arguably one of the freest in the world, – the trade Associations, Professional bodies, Chambers of Commerce, Socio-cultural groupings, Religious leaders, etc i.e. the extent to which they are able to take advantage of our nascent democratic institutions to set the agenda, is what is writ large in our political life, leadership and statehood.
The quality of national debate is less than desirable. Reflects, if not feeds, Executive Councils.
Laws passed and policies are a reflection of the quality of lobby by respective interest groups and their motives as much as the quality and commitment of the average legislator and government officials.
So… why don’t the leaders of Nigeria replicate the example of Rwanda? Because they are yet to believe, much less fully commit to the Nigerian project. The way Paul Kagame has been able to get all-hands on deck in Rwanda.