Nigeria: A Nation Of Squandered Opportunities By Hamza Ibrahim Baba


There were cheering looks on our faces, there was optimism on the land, there were flicker of hope amidst hopelessness. It was May, 2010 when Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn in as President and Commander in Chief of Nigeria Armed Forces. For the first time, Nigerians irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation were unanimous in giving someone from an humble background the benefit of doubt. For the first time in Nigeria’s five decades of existence, a Phd holder from a minority tribe, assumed the mantle of leadership. Nigerians staked everything on the new president right from the beginning when he revealed that he had no shoe during his formative ages. There was that general belief that a level headed person from a background that has never had the opportunity to rule Nigeria had miraculously stumbled on the leadership of the most populous black nation on earth.

Nigerians had every reason to give President Jonathan’s government a benefit of doubt. Having emerged from years of misrule and dictatorship from the military plus squandered opportunities during the last 8-year administration of former president Olusegun Obasanjo, it was generally believed that Jonathan would be a breadth of fresh air. That was the reason why this writer participated actively in the Breath of Fresh Air Campaign in Kano. Despite the looming danger of extremists who called us all sort of unprintable names, we convinced ourselves that Jonathan must be given a chance to prove sceptics wrong.

Unfortunately it was we who were wrong! 

There were general expectations that the president would use his humble background, his “goodluck antecedents” to turn around our fortunes without fear or favour. We had expected him to consolidate on the gains of his predecessors like amnesty, dredging of river Niger, power sector reforms. We had expected him to fight corruption to stupor without fear or favour. And above all we had expected him to run a simple and modest government devoid of reckless spendings, profligacy and display of affluence.

To our collective chagrin and let down, he has chosen the path of globe trotting instead of concentrating on our numerous domestic problems. He has chosen the path of dictatorship and vindictiveness instead of promoting democratic ideals. He has chosen the path of crushing any dissenting voice instead of a more subtle approach of negotiation and give and take. He has surrounded himself with old people who have outlived their usefulness instead of the younger vibrant generation. He has chosen the path of shielding known and confirmed criminals instead of threading the path of honour and integrity. He has chosen to unleash ex-convicts, ethnic warlords and sectional leaders to abuse and insult Nigerians instead of bridging gap and promoting peace.  

Our president waste no time in soiling the name of our country. From the incidence of the Africa Union, AU anniversary in Ethiopia, to his pronouncements on Boko Haram, to his numerous display of shame across the globe, our President has left nobody in doubt that he has transformed himself from shoeless background to a promoter of graft, wasteful expenditures and show of affluence amidst poverty unrivalled anywhere in Africa and the world in general.

Ostentation I call it. Kenyans were bewildered and amazed by the massive show of affluence by our president and his entourage. They were intimidated by Nigerians’ display of wealth when they know back home, we are afflicted and devastated by misrule, corruption, diseases, militancy and Boko Haram insurgency. If they were astonished by the shameful display of seven presidential jets, they were certainly shocked with the the convoy of 33 posh vehicles that conveyed the president’s entourage around Nairobi reminiscent of the Idi Amin of Uganda and Mobuto Seseseko of Zaire formerly Democratic Republic of Congo.

All these are happening when Nigeria is experiencing dwindling revenues occasioned by oil bunkering, increasing militancy and deteriorating insecurity in the north. This is at the time the Federal Government budgeted only N2 billions to revive the economy of north east. 

It is not too late for Mr President to wake up from his delusional thinking that Nigerians will accept rigged elections in 2015. Let him do some reality check. He should start with tackling the unresolved cases of corruption against his kitchen cabinet members, address with genuine interest the Boko Haram insurgency, embrace all Nigerians irrespective of their ethnic or religious affiliations, commence an honest move to bridge gaps and promote unity and internal cohesion among all the ethnic nationalities, not a jamboree of national conference. Only this and more will reassure Nigerians that he mean well, not a mere rhetoric of Transformation Agenda which even Mr President himself knows that it’s not working.

Hamza Ibrahim Baba is a Health Management Expert. He writes from Abuja 

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