In ordinary language, missing link refers to a thing that is needed in order to complete a series or provide continuity. Some events in modern Nigeria could drive patriotic and well-meaning Nigerians into irresistible nostalgias. For instance, if Nigeria built many of its infrastructures including hydro dams, roads, bridges, and textile companies when Nigeria was not an oil producing and exporting nation, it sounds inexplicable that the same country is unable to even fix such infrastructures after they were allowed to collapse. This points to a missing link. Comparing between governance, leadership styles and sense of responsibility of today’s leaders with those of some decades back, one is compelled to also insinuate that there apparently exists a missing link.
In the 1960s and 1970s, young Nigerians in their twenties and thirties occupied top leadership positions. For example, General Yakubu Gowon became Nigeria’s military Head of State at the age of 32. At 25 years of age, late Dan Masanin Kano Alhaji Maitama Sule became minister of mines and power in 1954. Late and former President Shehu Shagari became a member of the Federal House of Representatives at 29. Under military rule too, most military governors were in their early thirties. In 1966, General Hassan Usman Katsina became the Governor of Northern Nigeria at 33. Others include Colonel Sani Bello who became the Governor of Kano State in 1975 at the age of 33; Commissioner of Police Usman Faruk who in 1967 became the Governor of North-Western State at 32; and Murtala Nyako who at 33 years of age became the Governor of Niger state in 1976. To a large extent, this group of relatively young Nigerians and military officers effectively managed their positions of leadership and authority.
Many of the powerful positions of influence controlled by Nigerians in their youthful ages in the past are today dominated by men in their fifties, sixties and even seventies. Few people in their forties now make it to governorship, senatorial and state legislative positions. It is natural to allude and believe that the more inexperienced and younger a person is in age, the more likelihood for him to hold raw views or judgments, undertake naïve actions or take unwise decisions. By the same token, it is natural to expect that the older a person is in age, the more chances for him to have refined views and better judgments. He is also likely to be more matured in his actions and wiser in his decisions. Scientists argue that wisdom does come with age; suggesting that knowledge and experience are compelling enough to empower older people to make better decisions. Based on this line of thinking, one would probably be right to state that the set of leaders in the 21st century Nigeria are more physically, mentally and psychologically predisposed, and therefore, better prepared to serve Nigeria than their counterparts that governed the country 60 or 50 years ago. Given their dispositions therefore, today’s leaders have better opportunities to orchestrate good governance and succeed as public officers in their respective leadership positions.
Sadly, the situation is rather disappointing, particularly in the area of governance. Critical issues of national development are almost becoming overwhelmingly intractable. Corruption seems to be at the center of all problems confronting us as a nation. I find it difficult to understand why the country cannot tackle certain challenges in the apt manner they were addressed when younger persons were in charge. One is provoked to insinuate that many of today’s leaders who are older in age lack the thinking, judgment, maturity, and commitment with which younger people led Nigeria six decades ago. I think there is a missing link somewhere. Indeed, the missing link is not just one. They are many. What are these missing links? The missing links, in my opinion, may include leaders’ abysmal deficiency in their fear of God, gross deficit in wisdom, and the near absence of all the virtuous qualities required of a person in a leadership position including humility, self-sacrifice, sincerity of purpose, sense of justice and fairness to all, as well as leading by example.
A young leader would tend to get it right and consequently take his community, state or country to greater heights if he remains honest, just, committed, and shuns greed. Unfortunately, these are the crucial links that are missing in many of our 21st century leaders. On the other hand, the probability for a leader to succeed would be limited if he allows himself to be ‘led’ or misled by dishonesty, injustice, greed, arrogance and sentiments. There are bound to be problems in a country where majority of leaders and others in positions of power and authority fail to allow the fear of God to permeate their thoughts, words and actions. Our collective inability to create a space for this fundamental missing link in our hearts possibly explains our failure as a nation to change the country’s narratives of underdevelopment, unemployment and pervasive poverty.
The missing link phenomenon isn’t peculiar to governance or political leadership alone. It also exists in matters that relate to knowledge and religion. For instance, scholars of the 19th century Sokoto Caliphate made more intellectual contributions to knowledge than Muslim scholars in modern Nigeria. Shaykh Usmanu Dan Fodio, Shaykh Abdullahi Fodio and Sultan Muhammad Bello wrote volumes of books on various aspects of Islamic religion at a time when they lacked everything that provide comfort and luxury in modern life including cutting-edge beds and mattresses, cars, portable water, electricity, air-conditioned rooms, computer desktops, laptops, mobile handsets, and printing machines. Unfortunately, contemporary scholars that have unhindered access to these modern appliances have failed to intellectual impact as much as the 19th century scholars did. There is also a missing link here.
Similarly, cases of religious bigotry, fanaticism or extremism in the early part of the 20th century when those who had adequate knowledge of religion were fewer in the country were not as rampant as they are today. It is worrisome that religious violence is more pronounced now that there are more people with deeper knowledge of religion than when scholars were fewer. May Allah (SWT) guide us to restore all the missing links that are lost in our public and private life, amin.