he job of leadership is toxic in a country like Nigeria. Most people who aspire don’t know what they are up against. Some don’t see beyond the glamour. For some it is the ego that drives. And yet for others, the access to power (for whatever use it could be put to), and of course, money are the driving forces. I have seen many instances where those who are outwardly wealthy get into politics, purportedly to serve their people, but in fact to get richer, secure themselves with state power, or in many cases, launder criminal wealth or use the opportunity to steal massively to repay some of their bad loans. Sometimes when one looks at our political horizon, it resembles a graduate school for criminality. A solid career in crime, obtaining without consent, advance fee fraud and such like, is now a precondition for ‘success’ in Nigeria’s politics. In fact, your ability to have shown how merciless you are in squandering the commonwealth, is an added advantage. The story is told of how a man who was rejected as treasurer for a town union in the east of Nigeria because he was known to be frisky with money, was later fully supported to become a representative in Abuja. For the political role, his ability to pilfer from the centre was deemed as an advantage.
The case of Imo is quite interesting. Imo happens to be one of the most enlightened states in Nigeria. Imolites have brains. In the East of Nigeria, Imolites could be said to be the most learned – where Anambra people are the ones with the most flair for business. But in general, Imolites/Igbos are a tough bunch to govern. Their standards are stratospheric. There is a sociological explanation, which includes the civil war experience (which toughened these people a lot more), and the itinerant nature of Igbo businessmen who can be found all over the world – from where they quickly learn and see the achievements of other people, and step up their expectations.
The psychology of leadership Nigeriana because of the patronage system that underpins our politics here, is that to those close to a leader, with whom he breaks bread, confides and positions financial advantage, the leader is an unquestionable angel and a performer. To those once removed from that cycle, the leader is another thief. And there will never be enough money to show magnanimity to all the people at once. This is part of the reason why we have a crisis of leadership in Nigeria. Our standards are low, and if we could find an averagely communicative and sincerely selfless leader, with some average vision, he will be hailed as a performer, so long as he maintains a grip on the media.
My anger has been without limit since I saw the part demolition of what is obviously the tallest monument in Nigeria; Akachi – the hand of God – built by the Okorocha government in the heart of Owerri. I recall writing gushingly every time I visited the East in the last six years. First it was Enugu. Very organized under Sullivan Chime. Classy in many parts. Then it was Awka and Owerri where I saw some of the best infrastructure in Nigeria. The Igbos take themselves very seriously. But no matter how one does that, you have to sometimes remind yourself of your humanity and fallibility. The East of Nigeria is that region that can more easily move on to modernity if they are so determined and this is also because of the exposure of too many Igbos to the infrastructure of Asia, America, Erurope. The Yorubas are more immersed in deep intellectualism and philosophy, and less adept at material development. I was in the East when Nnamdi Kanu was about to bring that whole region down with him by inviting war home (for the second time in less than 50 years). I met and discussed with many educated people who supported him and explained to them why what Nnamdi was doing was a very stupid idea. The lovely bridges in Awka, the amazing monuments in every village/town roundabouts – I recall what I saw at Nanka, Agulu, Awo Omamma, Orlu and many other places – the many mansions of Abiriba, Igbere, and indeed EVERY part of Igboland, built with so much tears, sweat and blood, would have been reduced to rubble by now – or at least threatened. Luckily Nnamdi failed, only to appear in Jerusalem, otherwise he would have deployed a people’s angst to further traumatize them.
Akachi does not belong to Okorocha. Not even to Imo State. It is our own attempt at Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty, or Senegal’s 49 metres tall African Renaissance Monument. At about 70 metres high it is an unwitting effort for Nigeria to tell the world that we are capable of abstract thought. It doesn’t have to be perfect – abstract thoughts are never perfect, just like the art of Van Gogh and the rest of the masters. It also does not matter who was the initiator. What matters is that we should have someone to challenge others to think. In the South West where I am from, I am often disappointed. I know a lot of our friends from the east laugh at us. I mean, I passed at least 100 kilometres of smooth road build by state governors between Awka and Owerri via Agulu, Nanka, Ekwulobia, Aguata, and so on, and I was agape. Anyone who passes that road will weep, passing the barely 30 kilometres dug up, and pothole-filled disgrace that they call a road between Akure and Ikere Ekiti – the only connection between two of the most ‘intelligent’ states in Nigeria. I just googled and found their governors promising that Federal Government will come and ‘dualise’ the road. Shame.
That people will justify any Dike, Tochi or Obinna to come and destroy a monument built with public funds under the guise of obtaining some court judgment is beyond condemnable. Whatever Ihedioha builds in that state could be easily destroyed as well and we may never get beyond the vicious cycle of destruction and demolition. For those that don’t know, state governments, under our extant laws, own all lands and ancestral owners of areas claimed by government are only entitled to compensation. No one owns any land permanently under the current Land Use Act. You can only ‘occupy’ for 99 years renewable. It is the same way in most other countries. This was done also, to ensure some families don’t turn themselves into feudalists forever. Let the government be able to reallocate land, develop the nation, build monuments, and acquire land to resettle displaced people among other social duties. Let people who come into money find land to buy too.
Someone from the state responded to me when I complained on twitter that Akachi was a viable tourist attraction. He said tourists should go to Oguta Lake. That is a typical Nigerian mentality. You see, the first level of tourism is naturally occurring phenomena like lakes, waterfalls etc. But a self-conscious people will build on that. It is the difference between a nation selling crude oil, or selling petrol and other secondary and tertiary products in the same way as our economy is unable to get beyond first base – primary products – so also has our thinking around tourism. It was just so disheartening hearing Imolites inputting negative spirituality to Akachi. The idea behind the monument is actually Christian. On the stairs as you climb you are entertained with reading verses of the Bible written on scroll-like sculpting on the wall. At some point we must try again. I am indeed sad. Never should we desecrate a work of art. Sad.