Nigeria as of present and perhaps for the greater part of the last two decades, bears marked similarities with Great Britain coming off the Second World War. Having spent much of its resources in trying to bolster its reputation and fight for its own interests in the First World War, Great Britain spent much of the 20 years between 1919 and 1939 actively chasing the economic prosperity that the participation as one of the core entities of the war had stalled. It expanded its claims as a colonial power and did well to hold down much of the regions it already had listed as its colonies. Investment in the development of infrastructure and resources with a long-term goal of financial prosperity was the main objective and in the ten or so years it must have taken to setup formidable systems, a lot of sacrifices had to be made. The European continent for much of the twentieth century was rife with suspicion, distrust and some level of insecurity; there was always the risk that at some almost arbitrary point, a bordering neighbour of one’s own country might declare a war or begin a new period of invasions that would spell stagnation, hunger and deprivation for one’s country. To this effect, Britain was not excluded. Led by a series of experienced hands that had people like the famed Churchill Winston who led the country for two different terms between 1940 and 1955 where his sheer will and stubbornness on his refusal to seek a peace treaty with Nazi Germany although all sides of the war had spent themselves into a stalemate that had lasted for almost two years, would persuade the Americans to come into the WWII and turn the tides against the Germans. In many ways, the reality that we see today might be credited almost solely to Mr. Churchill. However, it was not all rosy. Along with many before him like David Lloyd George, Stanley Baldwin and Neville Chamberlain, Winston was also charged with leading an austere Great Britain who had to ration food, money and other resources between what was left of her citizens. It was wartime and in truth the need for older men like Churchill and Baldwin was understandable; no one did war like old men. These ex-soldiers had seen the worst of it and were hard to surprise when issues about war came into the discussion. They attacked with nihilistic brutality when it came to war planning; they were dogged and embodied the notion that even when winning was impractical, losing remained far from optional. Other than in having to endure an austere Britain, the people were affected by austerity measures as the healthcare budget of the NHS for considerable periods was drastically reduced and legislative gaffes that would fail to deal with issues like the Great London Smog of 1952 did a lot to underscore how out of touch with reality the older generation of leaders had come to be. As a matter of fact, in a matter of less than a week, around 14,000 people would lose their lives to something between the impoverished, debt laden parliament wanting to maintain appearances to their people; severe air pollution and an act of god. This particular event would significantly mar Churchill’s legacy. This, coupled with a new movement for nationalism which swept through most of the British colonies from which massive amounts of wealth was obtained, a transformative process that would see the older folks being gracefully phased out of power, opening ways for the future involvement of the virile, radical and forward thinking ideas that youthful leadership offers and in time, restoring Great Britain to the upper echelons of global powers which it has maintained till date.
In an accurate sense, the Nigerian analogy is apt in that, the older generation of leadership, having struggled and often times lived way below the expectation set for and by them, much like the Prime Ministers of Old Britain, make an uncompromising effort to hold on to power despite the apparent unfortunate realities; despite the cries and sufferings that so unwaveringly plague the lands of their births, the country they hold so dear and in such high esteem; despite the infirmities of body, mind and soul and the frailties exposed by time as it leaves no fruits on the trees that they personify. I strongly believe that they hold on not because they mistrust those coming after nor because their aged hearts still spill over with the mellifluousness of good intentions; I believe that they hold on so desperately because they are afraid. Afraid of the conviction that accompanied the promises made and the burden of expectations that returns with that particular boomerang; afraid of seeing others who they have regarded as inadequate and inferior make manifest the promises which they, the shrewd and wise, have failed to live up to. You know, African parents admitting to younger people that they were wrong and as such, rather than let that reality come to life while they step aside, with all good intentions, they would rather hold on just that much longer and die on the throne because quite simply, the dead owe no debts. Not to the future, not to today, nor to the past. But without getting things overly wrong, Churchill of old wasn’t a bad leader, not any worse than most good ones are. The inefficiencies of Churchill and most in his shoes are similar to what Nigeria faces today: you are good at something but that something isn’t what is need today. The longer they try, it most likely is to translate into more wasted time that could be put into the development and execution of fresher ideas that older minds are just too inured with the monotony that comes with the experiences of life, to even incept.
Often times, courage is little more than a decision not to run away. With that supposition however, the uncertain future remains a place to which experience would rather not venture even when the conditions of the present have become untenable and unliveable. Nigeria however, remains a peculiar country that shares a rich history with the British through colonialism and today, shares an aspiration to follow an almost exact replica of an American styled republic that has mixed the story of the British influenced historical beginnings with the anarchistic evolutionary progression of American nationalism. In all anyway, it may be quite difficult to be sure that a renewed brand of leadership in the same age grades as those who fought for and won Nigeria’s independence would be what is required to break the nation from its self-imposed chains of backwardness but the existing reality is proof that the current system with its array of heads has not exactly brought about the progressive future the founding fathers of Nigerian nationalism hoped for. Not too rule might not be the miracle most Nigerians hope for but it gives the assurance of knowing that a new approach is being taken in an attempt to quell an age old problem.
“They think me a monster and maybe so but it takes a monster to defeat Hitler.” – Winston Churchill