PROFESSOR Felix M. Edoho, one of the erudite Nigerian scholars based in the US, on Saturday, took a hard look at the country at 51, and blamed all the unsettling security, political, socio-economic, religious and environmental problems on lack of leadership. He also took on Senate President, Senator David Mark, over his comment in the past, on the poor and telecommunication.
In an on-line statement to AkanimoReports, the scholar said, ''for most Nigerians, they had never seen a group of politicians so selfish, so greedy, and so ungodly than what they have had the misfortune to witness during the past 13 years.
''Stupendous amount of money is budgeted every year for works and transportation. However, Nigeria has the worst roads in Africa. Politicians loot the money meant for road construction. If they can steal the money and buy private jets, why build roads? Billions of naira are allocated every year for health sector. Yet our hospitals have no equipment and drugs. It would amount to gross irrationality to build hospitals and equip them if they can easily pocket the money without impunity.
''So, they can misappropriate the money meant for healthcare and go or send their relatives overseas for medical treatment. Our president almost died abroad. Our two first ladies, one former and the other then current, both died in foreign hospitals! And why would politicians use the money meant for education equip schools properly when they can steal the money and send their children to schools abroad?''
Continuing, he said, ''the older Nigeria grows, the more deeply entrenched the wound becomes. That wound is the sheer absence of leadership. Sometimes ago, a survey indicated that Nigerians were the happiest people in the world. To that must be added that Nigerians are the most patient citizens in the world. When one understands what leaderlessness has done to the psyche of the country and yet citizens remain happy and patient, then, one is compelled to conclude that Nigerians are a unique group of homo sapien''.
He said Nigerians' happiness and patience (read complacency) have contributed in no small measure to the leaderlessness of the country, adding, ''it is also plausible that Nigerians have triumphed over all odds and are doing well in all aspects of life in spite of leaderlessness.
''However, if Nigeria is doing as well as it has been doing without a leader, one can only imagine where Nigeria would be today with able and visionary leadership. Everywhere one looks in Nigeria, there are holes that need to be filled--holes in political arrangements; holes in economic system; and holes in our ethnosocial relations''.
In terms of political arrangements, Edoho said, ''we are yet to figure out how best to select our leaders and what should be their tenure in office. While the present design that allows two terms of four years each is barely 13 years old, our so-called leaders are already talking about constitutional amendments.
''This goes to illustrate the common understanding that constitution is never the problem, but the people who operate it. Although Nigeria is floating on petrodollar, Nigerian citizens remains unconscionably pauperized. Even as all the ethnic groups have been amalgamated as a nation for 51 odd years, no one actually knows what it is to be a Nigerian''.
Hitting hard on lack of leadership, he said Nigeria drills over 2.3 million barrel of oil per day. This figure, he said, places the country as the sixth oil producer in the world, next to Kuwait. ''Yet, Nigeria does not have a functional refinery. Nobody asks whose interest it is for Nigeria to depend purely on imported oil to fuel its economy.
''Estimates are that Nigeria has vast gas reserves and that it ought to be more of gas than oil producer. Yet, Nigeria's gas is flared by oil transnational corporations with impunity even when there are laws against oil flaring. At 51 years of age, Nigeria cannot boast constant and uninterrupted electricity supply for its citizens'', he said.
The obviously angry scholar querried, ''why should the Federal Government impede industrial development of Nigeria by holding relentlessly onto the power sector? Whose interest is the federal protecting? Is it proper to satisfy the greed of a few and cripple the whole nation? Where is leadership?''
According to him, when the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, deregulated the communication sector, Nigeria witnessed transformation in the information and communications domain. At least, Sen. David Mark, a former Communications Minister, is still alive to see that even the poor he did not believe deserved telephone are relying on it for their daily communications''.
The Jefferson City-based scholar then prayed, ''may the next 51 years be more eventful for Nigeria than the previous one gone by. May the holes in our national live and collective existence be filled. And may we have purposeful leaders who will be more interested in leaving legacies in Nigeria than edifices in foreign lands''. ENDS