Diminishing leadership

As I struggled through the Ibafo/Mowe perennial traffic gridlock along with other frustrated motorists last Monday evening, what struck me was the glaring evidence of absence of governance and lack of ambition of our southwest political leaders to work for public good just like their illustrious first republic politicians and trail-blazers. The solution to the traffic problem in that portion of the road is simple for those who understand government is service. This portion of the road was reduced to one-lane because of the over 20 years ongoing reconstruction of the 120 kilometre Lagos- Ibadan Express road, a brain child of Gowon regime that took only three years to construct in the late seventies.

Then Ogun State in its wisdom then decided to create or tolerate the existence of markets and bus stops at the foot of the pedestrian bridges at Ibafo and Mowe. The governor and the local council chairman ought to have realized that was a license for commercial bus drivers to park indiscriminately, a development that most often resulted in three or more kilometres long traffic gridlock. And in the absence of traffic wardens, trailers, fuel tankers laden with inflammable petroleum products, passenger buses and cars dangerously compete for the right of passage. It is however possible that the governor, Dapo Abiodun has not experienced the nightmare that portion of the road has become for motorists since many of the southwest governors are said to move around by leased helicopters. But that cannot be the case with his state government officials and local council representatives who cannot escape passing through the route even if with their police escorts.

It is an irony this is happening in Ogun State known for public spirited individuals in and out of office. We remember with nostalgia the selfless services of public-spirited giants such as the Simeon Adebos, Ransome Kutis, Tai Solarins, Ayo Adebanjos, Bisi Onabanjos, Osobas among many others. We also remember

Chief Obafemi Awolowo, president of Action Group, a political party adjudged the ‘best financed, and most efficiently run political party in Nigeria” which faithfully implemented its party’s manifesto of “Freedom for all and life more abundant through Freedom from British Rule, Freedom from Ignorance, Freedom from Diseases, Freedom from Want”. Richard Sklar (1963: 422) The legacies of these public spirited leaders remain not just unmatched, what we have tragically witnessed in Ogun State and by extension the whole of southwest since the beginning of the fourth republic in 1999 is diminishing leadership.

In this regard, Ogun State in recent years has produced a governor Gbenga Daniel whose major legacy was locking up his state House of Assembly after chasing elected lawmakers out of town with thugs. He was also on record as ferrying desperate ex-President Jonathan seeking re-election to Isheri North area of the state where he was misled to commission an empty swamp as completed project.

Gbenga Daniel has his parallel in Ekiti. Governor Fayose did not just chase state lawmakers out of town, he stationed thugs at the state borders to prevent them from returning to the state to campaign for re-election. Like Daniel, Fayose was also on record as dragging ex-President Obasanjo to Ekiti to commission a non-existent N14b poultry farm forcing Obasanjo, a successful chicken farmer in his own right, to wonder why Fayose’s poultry farm was without characteristic fowl-smell.

We have no evidence other southwest governors of the fourth republic showed any inclination towards leaving enduring legacies like the 1952 -62 team did in the departments of education, health, establishment of residential and industrial estates, the Oodua conglomerate, agriculture and general infrastructural development. Most of the once flourishing companies the new inheritors of power inherited collapsed under their watch. Like Glo and MTN, Oodua governors secured telecommunication license, but it was bungled because of their self-interest as against public interest. The 1952-66 team had cattle ranches in four different parts of the old Western Region. Today, the new inheritors of power in the southwest have no plan on how to meet the demand of their people who like the Epicureans consume 10,000 heads of cows daily.

The southwest is also today characterized with infrastructural decay with Ondo and Ekiti, like Osun and Oyo, Oyo-Ogun and Ogun and Lagos, unable to maintain their interstate roads. With the exception of the brief period of Tinubu and Fashola, Lagos is not different from other southwest states in terms of infrastructural decay. Mile2- FESTAC LASU roads remain a nightmare to motorists and residents. Akinwunmi Ambode derailed Fashola’s National Theatre-Okokomaiko light-rail project. It has taken both Ambode and Sanwo-Olu more than two years to complete a one kilometre rehabilitation of Ojota-Odo Iya Alaro portion of Ikorodu road. Access and inner roads in most other Lagos communities including Oworonshoki, Bariga- Ilaje-Akoka St Finbar’s University of Lagos road collapsed over two years ago.

However, it must be acknowledged that diminished leadership and disappearance of public-spirited leaders is not the exclusive preserve of the south-west region. The north has since 1999 continued to also experience diminished leadership. The legacy of Ahmadu Bello, the Sadauna of Sokoto for whom “independence was but the fulfillment of Britain’s frequent promises to restore the Hausa-Fulani Islamic ruling class to power”, who therefore dedicated himself to building a nation as a compliment to the building of the Fulani empire by his great-great-grandfather remains unmatched.

Reminding current northern leaders of Ahmadu Bello and his 1952-66 team’s selfless service to the people of the north, Nuhu Ribadu, the former EFCC helmsman not too long ago said: “It is important to state that with scanty resource, they were able to maintain law and order and ensure effective security of life and property for this vast region. They built Ahmadu Bello University, the largest in sub-Sahara Africa; they built Ahmadu Bello Stadium, one of the largest and best in Africa at that time. They built NNDC, the largest black owned conglomerate in black Africa; they built many textile factories, good roads, marketing boards, efficient water supply where it was available and good sanitation, well planned urban areas with trees and good hospitals with ambulances; good primary and secondary schools; Kaduna Polytechnic that is the largest in black Africa.

This same “Northern Nigeria which Sir Ahmadu Bello led at independence which is now 19 states and over 400 local government areas,” according to him, “got a total of N8.3 trillion from the federation account between 1999 and 2010, with little to show for it.”

With over 50% of children of school age out of school in most of the northern states, mass unemployment, widespread poverty, kidnapping, banditry, cattle rustling and general insecurity, there is no doubt the current unambitious northern politicians like their southwest counterparts have betrayed the people on whose back they rode to power.

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