NIGERIAN LEADERS AND STRONGER NATION BUILDING

By Timothy Choji

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The quality of leadership goes a long way in determining the level of development in any nation. Nigeria, the most populous black nation in the world is not an exception. Various leaders were in charge of affairs in the nation from the time it became part of the British Empire in 1901, through the period of colonial rule, until October 1, 1960, when it gained independence.

During the colonial era, Nigerians began the quest for self-rule through various nationalist movements led by prominent leaders such as Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Sir Michael Okpara, Chief Samuel Akintola and Chief Anthony Enahoro amongst others. The struggles of these famous leaders led to the country’s attainment of independence on October 1, 1960.

From the time the British Union Jack was lowered and the green-white-green flag hoisted, Nigeria commenced self-rule. From 1960 to 1963, Nigeria enjoyed her first democratic rule under Nnamdi Azikwe as President and Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa as Prime Minister. These leaders ruled with so much patriotism laying the foundation of what is today Nigeria.

Their patriotic efforts were short-lived as the country experienced her first military coup d’état in 1967. This led to a bitter, bloody civil war that lasted three years.

The military rule and civil war retarded developments in the country as the moderate successes recorded during the first three years of independence were completely eroded. Millions of lives were lost with billions of Naira worth of properties destroyed.

The military held sway until 1979 when power was democratically changed with the election of Alhaji Shehu Shagari as the president under a presidential system of government as against the Parliamentary system that was overthrown in 1963.

After just four years three months, the military struck again, retarding once again the modest achievements recorded by the civilian administration. Each time the military struck, there was a setback in the level of development and some of the best leaders were denied the opportunity to lead the country to its Eldorado.

Nigeria had several military dictators who in one way or the other, also played their role in the building of modern Nigeria. They included General Muhammadu Buhari from 1983 to 1985 and General Ibrahim Babangida – 1985 to 1993. Chief Ernest Shonekan ruled for only three months – August to November 1993, before he was overthrown by General Sani Abacha, who later died in office in 1998. He was succeeded by General Abudulsalami Abubakar who mid-wifed the birth of a fourth republic in 1999, which ended three decades of alternating military regimes.

President Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn in on May 29, 1999.  He ruled for eight years and was succeeded by Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. who ruled the country for three years. Following his untimely death, Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, his Vice President took over the reins of power and ruled for five years. President Muhammadu Buhari succeeded him on May 29, 2015.

Remarkably, despite going through military and civilian rules, the country has continued to grow from strength to strength, with significant developments recorded in all sectors of the society.

From less than five Universities in 1963, today Nigeria can boast of 45 Federal Universities, 52 State Government own Universities and 99 private Universities. These citadels of learning are complemented with several Federal and State-owned Colleges of Education and Polytechnics. These institutions of higher learning have been established to lay the foundation for the development of the country under different leaderships.

Indeed it has not at all been a bed of roses; the country has in recent times faced security challenges from religious crises and the Boko Haram insurgency to agitations for self-rule, armed banditry, kidnappings and many other forms of thuggery and civil disturbances. These have in no small way affected the smooth running of government, thereby slowing growth in the country.

Despite all these, the country has remained united and indivisible, becoming stronger by the day.

Nigeria has also produced global leaders over the past decades, including some who are currently serving the international community. They include Chief Emeka Anyoku, the former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth of Nations. Currently, there are the likes of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the World Trade Organisation, Amina Mohammed, Under Secretary of the United Nations and Mohammed Barkindo Sanusi, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

As the nation presses ahead with the desire for greater development, it is hoped that more and more of the younger ones will be given the chance to show their worth and contribute their quota at the leadership level.

 

PIAK

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