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Nigeria needs more than leadership change

PEOPLE are corrupt. The elite don’t care. The leaders steal from the people. Everything is falling apart and no one is doing anything about it. These are just some of the complaints regularly made by Nigerians about Nigeria.

There’s no doubt that these are valid complaints. Indeed, the car bombs which hit the capital Abuja recently ­— as the president and other heads of state gathered to celebrate the country’s 50 year anniversary — have highlighted that there are serious unresolved issues that Nigeria is contending with.
Widespread corruption, disenfranchisement of the people, greed and fraud have profoundly impacted the nation for years, resulting in a country that is operating well below its full potential in nearly every area.
Just last year, Princeton Lyman, the former US ambassador to South Africa and Nigeria warned that the country risked becoming irrelevant if it did not catch up with other, better-managed African countries, such as Ghana, who are gaining prominence on the international stage.
As Nigeria celebrates 50 years of independence, it is clear that a major social and political transformation is needed if Nigeria is to move from being one of the poorest 20 countries in the world.
It will take more than a reshuffle for Nigeria to capitalise on its oil revenues (it has the capacity to produce over 3,2 million barrels of oil per day, yet only produces about 2,224 million due to unrest and security concerns in the Niger Delta); advance its technology sector, and massively expand the overall wealth and health of its general populace.
The old defunct way must be replaced with a new way, based on collaboration, a focus on the greater good and a bottom-up, citizen-oriented approach to leadership that will propel the country to greatness.
Nigeria’s transformation goes deeper than just changing leadership, building new roads, creating new policies or even having consistent power. The real transformation lies in the hearts and minds of every Nigerian, regardless of socio-economic status.
Lee Kuan Yew’s transformation of Singapore from a colonial outpost, poor in natural resources with no real national identity, to one of the most developed nations in Asia was based in large part on his ability to unite the Singaporean people and to engender in them a sense of pride in themselves as the ones to make the difference for their country.
Singapore provides a good example for the country and Nigerians must take the focus off the country’s problems and start talking about and working towards the country’s possibilities. It is time to start looking at Nigeria’s gifts rather than its deficiencies.

NewYork-based British/Nigerian commentator Lola Adesioye is a regular contributor of commentary and features to a range of media including The Economist, The Huffington Post and CNN.

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