Nigeria is a nation seemingly unaware of its greatness. Others are baffled as to why a nation, so blessed with human and natural resources has struggled to realise its true potential. Nelson Mandela spoke of this in a 2007 interview with Dr Hakeem Baba-Ahmed:
YOU know I am not very happy with Nigeria. I have made that very clear on many occasions. Yes, Nigeria stood by us more than any nation, but you let yourselves down, and Africa and the black race very badly. Your leaders have no respect for their people. They believe that their personal interests are the interests of the people. They take people’s resources and turn it into personal wealth. There is a level of poverty in Nigeria that should be unacceptable. I cannot understand why Nigerians are not more angry than they are.
Many Nigerian’s today are not aware of our great history as nation, particularly our role in the emancipation of African nations from colonialism. The greatest of our founding fathers, their history can help to build a stronger national spirit today; Mandela addressed this issue when he said:
What do young Nigerians think about your leaders and their country and Africa? Do you teach them history? Do you have lessons on how your past leaders stood by us and gave us large amounts of money? You know I hear from Angolans and Mozambicans and Zimbabweans how your people opened their hearts and their homes to them. I was in prison then, but we know how your leaders punished western companies who supported Apartheid.
Perhaps the greatest gap in our nation today, one of the most important barrie to development is a very clear leadership gap. Our public servants, politicians and civil servants seem to have a strong bias towards appropriation of public funds for personal use. This is a burden that has held our nation back and a burdened that has not gone unnoticed by Mandela:
What about the corruption and the crimes? Your elections are like wars. Now we hear that you cannot be president in Nigeria unless you are Muslim or Christian. Some people tell me your country may break up. Please don’t let it happen… Let me tell you what I think you need to do. You should encourage leaders to emerge who will not confuse public office with sources of making personal wealth. Corrupt people do not make good leaders. Then you have to spend a lot of your resources for education.
The opportunity is there for us to begin to rebuild our nation. It will not be a short-term quick fix and it will not be easy. Mandela offers some solutions to the challenges we face:
Educate children of the poor, so that they can get out of poverty. Poverty does not breed confidence. Only confident people can bring changes. Poor, uneducated people can also bring change, but it will be hijacked by the educated and the wealthy…give young Nigerians good education. Teach them the value of hard work and sacrifice, and discourage them from crimes which are destroying your image as a good people.