14th October, 2013
Last week, while receiving members of the House of Representatives committee on petroleum downstream who paid him a courtesy visit in his office, Governor Gabriel Suswam of Benue State stated that all Nigerians, including the political class, are to blame for the nation’s dwindling fortunes and lack of development.
“This is not the time to blame the president or those of us in government, as all of us must be blamed. We are all guilty as charged for the problems of the country. This is not the time to apportion blame. Whether you belong to new PDP or old PDP or APC. Whether you are in government or not, the question we should ask ourselves now is how have we contributed towards the development of our dear country? We are all guilty,” he said.
Governor Suswam’s speech sounds interesting and is pregnant with meaning, considering the fact that it is coming from someone who, lately, is one of the heads of the federal government’s team involved in a protracted, unsuccessful negotiation with the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU. The speech is also coming in the nick of time, especially now that the country is enmeshes in deep-throated economic crisis.
While that speech offers some insights on development theories in Nigeria, the fact that it is coming from him makes it a suspect. There is no denying the fact that the problem with Nigeria does not rest solely on the leadership question but also followership.
Yet Governor Suswan’s exhortation needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. While it is true that every society deserves the leaders it gets, it is also true that, over the years, Nigeria has been unlucky to have a crop of leaders who never took the country seriously. Every society, as the French philosopher, Jean Jacques Rousseau said is a social contract. It behoves the leaders, by virtue of the huge responsibilty the people place on them to make sure that that social contract works.
As the situation in Nigeria is at the moment, the social contract is not working. The problems bedevelling this country now are too legion to mention here. So it sounds hypocritical for people like Governor Suswam to start blaming everybody for the nation’s woes, when he and his ilks in government have failed to provide the leadership that the Nigerian masses need. The truth is things are not working in Nigeria just just because of the leaders and the governed, but mainly because the leaders have failed to lead, to turn the boiling caudron that are the Nigerian masses into an organised mass.
Rather than pass the buck, Governor Suswam should make use of this opportunity as a member of the federal government’ s team in its negotiation with ASUU to find a lasting solution to the crisis plaguing the nation’s education sector . It is because Nigerian leaders failed to lead by example in the past that we are in this logjam.
Governor Suswam’s speech, hypocritical as it is, is also a clarion call on Nigerians to take back the country. And we can only do that if we lead by example in whatever place or position that we are. Unless we do so, we will keep passing the buck. Nobody can salvage this country for us if we don’t take it upon ourselves to do so.