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Nigerian Democracy And Challenges Of Nation Building



Ethnic and Religious Hatred and the Deceitful Campaigns in Nigeria By Salihu Moh. Lukman


Salihu Moh. Lukman

In the book, King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership, the psychiatrist, Arnold M. Ludwig, observed that ‘One problem in judging the political genius of rulers is knowing what they should get credit for. The situation for rulers is a lot different than for other kinds of professionals. With creative artists, scientists, military commanders, athletes, or surgeons, you have no trouble telling who should get credit for what. Creative artists paint, sculpt, build, and compose works under their own signature. Scientists conduct experiments and publish their results. Athletes compete against others in contests. Military commanders win or lose wars. And surgeons operate on patients and take responsibility for their lives. In contrast, political rulers often rely on expert advisors to help them formulate foreign, domestic, and economic policies. They also may delegate responsibility to their cabinet members, diplomats, and staff to implement these policies or even to start programs of their own. Also, unlike other professionals, they may be credited with the long-term effects of initiatives launched by their predecessors and be blamed for events beyond their control.’

In the Nigerian context, like every other country, the politics of judging leaders is very attractive. Everybody, perhaps except the leader, is expert and know much better. Depending on disposition and affiliation, leaders are either condemned or celebrated. There is no middle ground. Once leaders are condemned, there is hardly anything good that can be associated with that leader. On the other hand, if the leader is celebrated, every decision and action is right and supported. This is a very elusive reality, which requires caution. No leader can be a complete write-off or perfect. The inability to recognise the reality that no leader is a complete write-off or perfect further thickens the wall that separates citizens and governments. If democracy is to produce governments, which affirms the power of the people, the gap between leaders and citizens should be very small, in fact, ideally, it shouldn’t exist.T

That is theory. Without any attempt to review theories of democracy, debate about performance of leaders are necessary realities, which needs to be engaged especially if the objective is to influence decisions made by leaders. Often, the issue of influencing the decisions of leaders is lost because the act of passing judgement on leaders is dominated by election mindset that narrows interest to whether leaders should remain in office or not. It is hardly about influencing decisions made by leaders. An important pillar of democracy is rule of law based on which the tenures of leaders are clearly provided in the constitution of every democratic nation. But such provisions in the constitution will not resolve the challenge of ensuring that leaders meet the expectations of citizens, however defined. The ability of leaders to meet citizens’ expectation is an important requirement for nationhood.

Successful nations should have common purpose and strong national bond especially when created out of multiple ethnic and religious identities. Visionary and purposeful leaderships are expected to facilitate the emergence of nations, leveraging on strong national institutions, good governance, equity and justice, which enable each group to fulfill its aspirations. After all, a nation is an imagined community of people who share a common aspiration, which is realisable through the principles of justice and the rule of law as enunciated in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The major problem of leadership in Nigeria, at all levels, borders on skewed inclination to question of nation building. How can we manage our diversity and build confidence of citizens across every part of the country to have a sense of national belonging? Admittedly, this is one area, which all leaders in the country seems to have common approach largely because all leaders approach the matter very defensively. Everybody cries of marginalisation, unfairness and injustice, but only in relation to group interests, predominantly ethnic. Hardly, one finds any leader who is raising issues of marginalisation, unfairness and injustice not based on protecting the interests of groups they belong. Consequently, every problem of the country becomes interpreted based on such narrow group interests.

If the Nigerian nation is to be developed, there must be leaders who are broadminded enough to campaign for justice, equity and fairness beyond narrow group interests. Therefore, a major challenge of nation building in Nigeria revolves around how to produce truly national leaders. Is Nigerian democracy oriented to produce national leaders? It was the British Actress, Barbara Kellerman, in the book, Bad Leadership: What It Is, How It Happens, Why It Matters, who made the point that ‘political theorists have been more interested in the question of how to control proclivities of bad leaders than in the question of how to promote the virtues of good ones. Influenced by religious tradition that focused on good and evil, and often personally scarred by war and disorder, the best political thinkers have had rather a jaundiced view of human nature.’

Most debates or proposals about what to do to build the Nigerian nation is about what to do to control (proclivity) of leaders and hardly about promoting what they should do (good virtues). From all the public debates in Nigeria, leaders are already condemned, which weakened capacity of citizens to influence decisions they take. The conclusion therefore is that leaders are already bad. This is the reality. A nation cannot be built with negative attitude. Sadly, the preponderance of negative attitude further polarised the country. Even when problems of insecurity in the country reached the frightening reality whereby every part of the country is threatened, with grave danger to lives and property, public debate is reduced to passing negative judgements about actions or inactions of political leaders especially President Muhammadu Buhari and governing All Progressives Congress (APC), both real and imagined.

No doubt, both President Buhari and APC must be held accountable. But when issues of accountability are reduced to interpreting challenges to mean evidence of failure, it can only re-enforce the conclusion that leaders are bad, which may make it attractive for the campaign to remove leaders out of office. Most times, the debate about changing leaders is influenced largely by the frustration of getting leaders to meet expectations of citizens, often imaginatively constructed with hardly much clarity. So long as the determining factor in judging leaders is driven by the frustration that leaders are not meeting citizens’ expectations, prejudiced conclusions against leaders will be the case. What is it that needs to be done to ensure that leaders meet citizens’ expectations?

The gap between the theory and practice of democracy will always be determined by the extent to which democratic leaders meet the expectations of citizens. Part of the indicators of weak citizens capacity to influence decisions of leaders should include the issue of whether the debate about failure of leaders is oriented to produce options in terms of policy choices. Once debates about failure of leaders are not substantively about policy choices, it highlights manifest weaknesses of democracy. The fact that Nigerian democracy is not able to overcome the manifest weaknesses of inability to debate policy choices, is responsible for why, for instance, candidates for elections at all levels continue to campaign for the offices they contested even after results are declared, and notwithstanding that they may have lost the election. Immediately results are declared, electoral contest moved to courts and the media. Victorious candidates and their parties and INEC, at best become respondents. And defeated candidates and their parties become the appellants. In the circumstance, the judiciary is then made to pass judgements almost coloured in partisan robes.

As things are, Nigerian democracy is imperiled to the extent that even the routine issue of day-to-day management of political parties in Nigeria has moved to the courts. Conflicting court orders are flying all over the place given by court judges. This has made the INEC Chairman, Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, while addressing the third quarterly meeting with political parties, on Monday, September 6, 2021, to exclaim that the situation of conflicting court orders ‘is compounded by cases on the leadership of political parties, thereby making the exercise of our (INEC) regulatory responsibilities difficult. It appears that in a number of electoral cases in Nigeria today, the settled law is now unsettled and the time-honoured principles of ‘Stare decisis’ does not seem to matter any longer.’ In other words, what Prof. Yakubu was drawing attention to is the apparent looming danger of judicial anarchy in the country with respect to management of political cases.

This is not a matter that should be taken lightly. The positive development is that the leadership of the judiciary in the country is already alert to this danger given that the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad has given queries to many of the judges in the country involved in giving these conflicting orders. However, beyond these conflicting orders, the need to sanitise Nigerian judiciary should be broadened to cover issues of ensuring that judges with underlying political interests don’t preside over political cases in which their interest’s conflict with their judicial responsibility. Once judges with underlying political interests are allowed to preside over cases in which their interest is already in disagreement with their judicial responsibility, their decisions can be predictable. Just review most of the Supreme Court judgements on electoral matters since 2019, for instance, including minority judgements. There are judges whose political leanings can be confirmed by merely looking at the judgements. The need to insulate Nigerian judiciary from unethical influences of partisan commitment of individual judges is an important requirement for both the development of democracy and nation building.

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The challenge of nation building in Nigeria must be broadened beyond just the simplistic approach of merely passing negative judgements on political leaders in the country. It is important that citizens recognise the need to prioritise initiatives to influence the decisions of leaders at all levels. For instance, regarding the challenge of insecurity, what actions do Nigerians want the APC-led government of President Muhammadu Buhari to do? Is the security challenge facing the country persisting because the government is failing to initiate the required actions? The encouraging thing about both President Buhari and APC leaders is that they are not in denial about the security challenge facing the country. This wasn’t the case under PDP especially when the problem of Boko Haram came up around 2010.

It is public knowledge that former President Goodluck Jonathan and many PDP leaders, at the time, alleged that the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East was sponsored by opposition politicians. Recall that when the Chibok abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls happened in 2014, the position of former President Jonathan- led Federal Government was that it was a setup, based on which the PDP- led Federal Government refused to mobilise the needed security responses for the rescue of the abducted Chibok schoolgirls. Also recall some of the recent wild goose allegations made by Commodore (Rtd) Kunle Olawunmi and Dr. Obadiah Mailafia to the effect that some people in government, including a Northern governor are the sponsors of Boko Haram and banditry. These were the dominant narratives officially adopted by the PDP-led Federal Government of former President Jonathan.

With all the lamentations about alleged inability of the APC-led government of President Buhari to mobilise response to end the security challenge in the country, around the second week of August 2021, the narrative is beginning to change. In line with the instructions of President Buhari, the security agencies are speaking the language best understood by the bandits and insurgents. All arms of the security agencies are fully mobilised and are working in a coordinated way to crush the bandits in Zamfara, Katsina and Kaduna forests. Interestingly however, there are Nigerian leaders who have dismissed the military campaign going on to crush the bandits. So-called media commentators, religious and other leaders have discredited decisions of government to shut down communication services, markets, etc. in the states where the military operations are taking place. A religious leader has already proclaimed that the military operations against the bandits will fail.

What a jaundiced view. May be Nigeria should return to the era when hundreds of millions meant for arms procurement to fight insurgency, banditry and other criminality will be diverted and given to religious leaders for prayers. Instead of mobilising security agencies to fight the criminals, resources being deployed to fight insecurity in the country should be given to religious leaders to pray for the bandits to come back to their senses. This is perhaps what Sheikh Ahmad Gumi is preaching when he insists that government should grant amnesty to bandits in the North just the way the administration of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua handled Niger Delta militants. Anybody who argues this way is already part of Nigeria’s national security problem. Nigerians need to rise to the challenge of regulating the conduct of so-called leaders, including religious clerics. Being jaundiced makes most of these leaders to be antagonistic to initiatives towards nation building.

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Beyond religious clerics, there are other categories of leaders in the country with similarly jaundiced views. Individuals, who in their own rights count as elders and have paid their dues to this country have become very vocal almost virtually against every decision and action of government. Ideally, elders should speak with strong moral voice based on capacity to say more than the ordinary on account of their lived experiences. But when elders speak with the same voice as that of politicians, it weakens their authority and diminishes their influence in society. If the weakness of politicians is that they are unable to project a national identity, how different could elders whose mission only seeks to entrench divisive politics in the country? The hallmark of being elders should be to bring something completely different from what the political class is offering. In which case, instead of claiming to be speaking as elders, so-called elders who promote Nigeria’s fractured reality should just honestly disclose all their political objectives.

However one looks at it, there is no way a nation can be built with leaders and elders whose views are antithetical to national development. Nigerians cannot be facing the challenge of insecurity and some leaders are working to undermine the efforts of government to crush the criminal elements responsible for all the pains citizens are going through, including loss of lives of citizens. Anytime leaders dismiss actions of government against bandits and insurgents, they embolden these criminals to continue with their nefarious activities. Yes, Nigerians may be angry with government and our political leaders. On no account should anyone take advantage of the anger of Nigerians to furtively support criminal activities. There must be some defined boundaries to these debates, if at all the Nigerian nation is to have a common purpose and a strong national bond.

The good thing is that there are some inspiring exceptions that give hope that notwithstanding all our challenges, there is a good prospect for a Nigerian nation. One of such exceptions was demonstrated by Mr. Allen Onyema, the CEO of Air Peace, who on Monday, September 6, 2021 addressed Super Eagles player onboard Air Peace to Cape Verde for their World Cup Qualifying match. Mr. Onyema told the players that ‘you are not just going to play a football match, you’re going to carry on your young shoulders the aspiration and the hope of a nation almost in distress.’ He appealed to them to do everything they can to win the match for the country. He pledged an award of N20 million once they win the match. Mr. Onyema’s inspiring words of encouragement to those young Nigerian players, among many other positive factors, must have contributed to the 2-1 victory of the Super Eagles against Cape Verde on Tuesday, September 7, 2021.

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It is quite therapeutic hearing those words from Mr. Onyema. We need more leaders in this country like Mr. Onyema. In particular, we need more leaders like Mr. Onyema in politics. If Nigerian democracy is to develop the capacity to drive processes of nation building, our political parties must develop capacity to recruit leaders like Mr. Onyema. There are many leaders in Nigeria in the mold of Mr. Onyema from every part of the country. The big barrier against recruiting them into politics is that debates about expanding membership of political parties is limited to protecting the personal ambitions of political leaders. Largely because political debate is almost all about ambitions of political leaders, nationalists of the mode of Mr. Onyema may just be limited to being financiers and sponsors of candidates for elections, and in return get rewarded with contracts, etc.

It was the US Republican Party member and former Congressman, Edward Royce, in the book, Classical Social Theory and Modern Society, while recalling Emile Durkheim’s teachings of political sociology, who argued that ‘One reason democracy is the dominant political system in the modern world, …is that it fulfills a pressing societal need. Under the governance of pre-modern regimes, society’s affairs are carried out according to habit, tradition, and “blind routine.” But given the complexity of the modern world and the everpresent necessity to introduce changes and enact reforms, society can no longer function effectively without the heightened capacity for reflection, deliberation, and innovation that democratic government makes possible. In the simpler period of the past, “things go on happening in the same way.” But survival in the modern era depends on the state being able to make constant adjustments, respond thoughtfully to the flux of circumstances, and plan for the future with intelligence and foresight. Democracy is the government of choice in the modern world, … because of its superior capability as society’s brain.’

Our politics in Nigeria starts and ends with who will be the candidate for election. More clearly stated is which part of the country will the candidate come from? Promoted largely by Nigerian elites who most times position themselves to emerge as the main beneficiaries of such campaign, the major focus is reduced to which region of the country produces the president. Whether such president can respond to challenges of the region he/she comes from is another matter entirely. Champions of group interests then suggest that such candidates can ‘fulfill’ our pressing needs. Questions of justice, fairness and equity are confined to rationalising group interest even when for instance upholding the group interest means higher levels of injustice against other groups (blind routine). Nigerian democracy needs to evolve new political negotiating frameworks to guarantee that electoral contests facilitate constant adjustments to respond to the state of instability Nigeria finds itself.

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While it is true that ethnic politics will always be part of our national life, it is important that Nigerians are able to engage these issues based on the recognition for a superior commitment to building the Nigerian nation. The underlying issue is to ensure that beyond condemning or celebrating leaders, Nigerians should come up with specific governance and political reform proposals aimed at facilitating regional developments as part of leadership negotiations. A situation whereby regions or ethnic groups produce presidents and at the end of their tenure nothing in terms of physical development of the region to justify the emergence of president of Nigeria from such region is simply unacceptable. For instance, what was the benefit to the South-West throughout the eight years of former President Obasanjo? Or what was the benefit to the South-South to justify the six-year tenure of former President Goodluck Jonathan?

May be the current anger against President Buhari is because development initiatives of APC government are skewed in favour of the North. If that is the case, then most of the 900 active road contracts, covering the construction, reconstruction or rehabilitation of more than 13,000km of federal roads and highways across the country must have favoured the North. Specifically, Loko-Oweto Bridge, Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, Sagamu-Benin Expressway, the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway, Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Kano-Maiduguri Expressway, Abuja-Kaduna-Zaria-Kano Expressway, Obajana-Kabba Road, Ilorin-Jebba Road, Apapa-Oshodi-Oworonshoki Road, Bodo-Bonny Road in Rivers State, Keffi-Akwanga-Lafia-Makurdi Road, and several others should evidentially confirmed preference for the North.

Additional confirmation should include the 156km Lagos-Ibadan Standard Gauge Rail, the first double-track Standard Gauge Rail project in West Africa (and the first Standard Gauge Rail project in Nigeria to be started and completed by the same administration). Also recall that the 327km Itakpe-Warri Standard Gauge Rail was completed by the Buhari administration 33 years after construction began. The 168km Abuja-Kaduna Rail project, and the 42.5km Abuja Light Rail project, both inherited from previous administrations, were completed in 2016 and 2018 respectively. The second Niger Bridge, originally conceived decades ago, is now more than 50 percent completed, and scheduled for commissioning in 2022.

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The narrow focus on individual candidates and where they come from has so far created a situation whereby political parties are nothing more than platforms for contesting elections. Specific commitments of parties to issues of nation building are taken for granted. Consequently, the true substance or content of politicians and how they will handle the task of building the Nigerian nation when elected, which will determine policy choices may only be speculated based on estimation of past experiences of candidates. The truth, however, is that the dynamic of public life is completely different and no matter the level of experiences, factors that would influence decisions of political leaders when in office are far more complex than what their past suggests.

Part of the assumptions that democracy is founded on the logic that political parties should have manifestos, which should highlight ideological orientations and commitments of leaders and members, is just redundant in our context. Any close observer will recognise that although there is a document called party manifesto, party members, including leaders are hardly committed, in fact, many are hardly conversant with provisions of their party’s manifesto. To a large extent, this accounts for why initiating policies and programmes based on provisions of the party’s manifesto is weak. How many party members, including leaders have gone through the party manifesto? How many party leaders can develop perspectives, which will highlight policy choices in lines with provisions of the party’s manifesto?

The consequence is that the only political contest that takes place is personality contest. To go beyond personality contests means that debate on perspectives should highlight possible choices open to governments. To what extent are political parties able to project the demands of Nigerians especially in terms of regional representations? Beyond the personality of candidates and their ethnic or regional backgrounds, what are the other demands of Nigerians from the other six regions? How can any candidate from any of the regions reconcile all these demands and make Nigeria home to all ethnic groups in the country?

If Nigeria is to emerge as a nation with common purpose and strong national bond, Nigerian politics must be developed such that political parties prioritise interest negotiations beyond the narrow electoral contest focusing on regional and ethnic representations. Specific regional demands for developments should be integral parts of any demand for regional or ethnic representation in the leadership of the country. Clear policy choices reflected in commitments of political parties based on provisions in their manifestos should be the driving factors for leadership negotiations. Opposition to leadership should not be simply about opposing ethnic and religious identity. Once politics is oriented around ethnic and religious identity, it will undermine capacity of leaders to mobilise Nigerians to have common purpose and strong national bond.

It is necessary Nigerians recognise that political parties are the most important democratic bodies to facilitate processes of nation building. All political parties should be able to have clear positions in terms of how they intend to mobilse Nigerians to have common purpose and strong national bond. Specific details of how that can guarantee justice, equity and fairness should be clarified beyond the personalities of prospective political leaders. Frameworks should be developed within political parties to ensure that elected representatives are committed to implementing positions adopted by political parties. Eventually, Nigerian democracy should graduate from a situation whereby electoral contests is all about personalities, to the level that policy choices are integral parts of electoral contest.

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Accordingly, if the narrative is that APC has failed, what is the alternative being offered by the opposition, including PDP? As part of the introspection required to strengthen the capacity of our parties, our leaders, and governments, we need to engage the debate based on assessment of what we must do to rebuild the confidence of Nigerians and regain their trust. In doing that, we need to restrategise and more effectively present the objective scorecards of governments at all levels since 2015 in ways that can truly demonstrate to Nigerians what has been achieved, and why despite what has been achieved we are having the challenges facing us as a nation. Nigerians need to rise above cheap campaigns of ethnic politics, which is now being used to promote hatred in the country.

Any leader or elder – politician, religious, traditional, irrespective of gender, age, and social class, who is promoting politics of ethnicity or campaigning against initiatives of government to fight criminality, especially in cases where activities of criminals are destroying lives and property of innocent citizens, such a leader or elder is also a security risk. As part of Nigeria’s common purpose, strong national bond to eliminate criminal activities of bandits and insurgents is irreducible minimum. The act of judging leaders, however well intentioned, must not serve as a cover to protect criminality. On the other hand, leaders who inspire national hope should be celebrated in the country and political parties must take steps to recruit those leaders into politics. The only guarantee that Nigerian democracy can facilitate nation building is when political leaders are able to graduate from being champions of small group interests to being torchbearers of our common purpose and strong national bond.

Similarly, our common purpose as a nation must enthrone high ethical conducts, especially in our judicial institutions. The integrity of judges must be revered such that the Nigerian justice system is insulated from partisan meddling, which then undermines fairness in granting orders by Nigerian courts with respect to political cases. Once the Nigerian judiciary is compromised, the rule of law will be undermined, which can only further widen the gap between political leaders and government, on the one hand, and citizens, on the other. If political leaders and governments are disconnected from citizens, the potential for common purpose and strong national bond will be weak.

Dr. Lukman is the Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum, Abuja. However, this position does not represent the view of any APC governor or the Progressive Governors Forum.


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Dele Jegede In Conversation With Prince Yemisi Shyllon
Prof. Toyin Falola


By Toyin Falola


Idán no dey read but Idán de pass.” 

“Idán no dey work but Idán dey eat.” 

“Idán no dey stress himself.”

“Idán no dey talk but na idán dey make sense pass.” 

“Idán fit dey sick, but idán no go die.

“Idán no dey watch car for road, na cars dey respect Idán. “


    Surfing through the internet in the past few days, you might have come across the various uses of Idán by the youth in Nigeria, especially my boys and girls on street corners, my adopted home. Idán would directly mean mystical magic and its adaptation to describe a person’s position as an extraordinary, outstanding, non-conformist in some instances, outliers or other forms of descriptions that the Nigerian youth use to eulogize themselves. 

“Idán ni Toyin, Baba Toyin

Falola Idán gangan! “

Recently, the internet has seen different waves and versions of Idán. From the Idanship on the streets to the crowned Idáns in the four walls of any institution and the silent Idáns making moves and strategies like Sabinus. The Idáns are truly sabi and have proven to be the uncrowned Kings in their games over time. A masterpiece of their idanship is multifaceted as it cuts across borders into different spheres. It would have been interesting to see these sets of individuals line up to get awards or recognitions, but that would go against the creed and the essence of the sayings. After all, Idán no dey find awards, na awards dey find Idán.  Curiosity might pick one interest in understanding how and why this term became attributed to define Nigerian youth’s doggedness and resilient spirit. Nigerians and Nigerian youths are Idáns; everyone needs to start acknowledging that.

The role of the youth in the country’s development and its projections and potential cannot be underestimated. With over 57 million youths and the Idán potential each of them possesses, Nigeria could be on the path of regaining its position as the heartbeat of the continent and setting the standard for many other nations in the world. Hence, while we discuss the degeneration of many African countries and the level of development and then consider the potential of the African and Nigerian youth, there is a confidence that with the right channels and explorations, the nation and the continent might be the global focus of development.

    Nigerian youth are idáns largely because of their ability to survive any situation and still become outliers when the odds dictate possible failures. Hence, they have managed to successfully, against all odds, to keep the country in the limelight. Their abilities to survive make them the very adventurous Idáns that put them in direct competition with other youths of other countries they have found themselves, despite the limitations of being in a foreign land and policies that favor home countries. In 2017, the Nigerian government stated that the population of Nigerians in the diaspora is not less than 17 million. That was 6 years ago. In March 2023, the National Identity Management Commission stated that the Nigerians in the diaspora had an increase in the number of NIN by 563.57%. Jápa is idán; to survive in Chicago is idán!

There is a projection of a massive increase in the number because of the high influx of Nigerians into other countries in the past four years. Most Nigerians in the diaspora are youthful, and there is a high tendency that most old folks got in their respective countries at a young age. Nigerians are in virtually all countries, so, country wey Nigerian Idáns no dey, no dey, or e no get level. Na idán dey run things, dey make am get levels. The Nigerian Idáns do not mind if the country is a conflicted region or the negativities predominant there; they adapt and seize available opportunities no matter the hardship. Idán no dey run from challenges, na challenges dey run from Idán.

It is no news that despite being Africa’s largest economy, the Nigerian economy’s reflection on the Nigerian youth has been problematic. The high poverty rate, weakness of the Naira, infrastructural challenges, poor social service delivery, limited job opportunities, ethnic conflicts, terrorism, and other social troubles have created great challenges to the nation’s growth. These shortcomings have continued to deal a blow to the country’s different aspects of human and material growth. Hence, to have large numbers of mediocre, less dynamic, and unenterprising youths in such a society in the face of these challenges would not be surprising. I mean, there are readily available excuses. Despite this, a very encouraging percentage has outworked and outwitted the system to create a meaningful life for themselves. So, when we talk about their triumphs in other nations, you must know that there are millions of Idáns back home than positive outliers in the face of de-capacitating challenges. They have grown to be experts and skillful fellows that have drawn the international markets, hence, the comfort of national development. The idâns can be found across all fields doing what they know best and surviving in even things they do not know. 

A walk around markets like Alaba, Onitsha, Ladipo, Ariaria, Computer Village, Katangua, Balogun, Osodi, Dugbe, Bódìjà, Oil Mill, Kasuwar Kwari, Sabo n’Geri, and Zaki Biam Yam markets, one would see the hustling spirit, creativity, the resourcefulness and Idán moments of the Nigeria youths. For instance, the Alaba and Computer Village markets in Lagos State have gained an international reputation as they stand as the home of solutions to all electronics and electrical problems. Thirteen young Idáns established Alaba, becoming a huge international space for performing Idán. The computer village, largely populated by youth, has become Africa’s version of the Silicon Valley. These markets have become the country’s starting points for many millionaire Idáns.

Politically, the youths have also demonstrated the tough spirit to withstand pressure and spearhead a movement that campaigns against corruption, bad government policies, and mismanagement of public authorities and funds. The early post-Covid period brought together a movement that changed the course of the country’s political voyage. The movement started amidst the cry for a reform that would lay the foundation for a new Nigeria as was hoped. Despite the fallout at the initial stage, an offshoot of this movement became apparent months before the just concluded general elections. A political movement that many never expected could last rose to threaten the ranks of opposition parties in the country. Even in defeat, as it later turned out, the exploits within two years affirmed to many Nigerians that change was possible. The Idáns of the no-structure party convinced Nigerians that the youths truly are a force to reckon with. The EndSARS movement also brought about reforms that have started the foundation for youthful participation in politics and manners of governmental relationships with the people. Now, the youths have dared to contest and have started occupying public positions as elected officials; they are also gradually becoming the pillars of the political determination of the nation. These feats would have remained a fairy tale if strong-hearted ones had not taken the initiative. Idán no dey tire, Idan presses on!

Another famous show of Idanship in Nigeria by the youths could be attributed to the excellent dispositions towards the entertainment and hospitality industries. Young Nigerian musicians, actors, writers, and even chefs have plied the path of greatness in their careers, beating all marks to achieve greatness and setting the nation on reputable global maps. These laudable acts became possible due to the multifaceted factors employed. Through its divisions, including film, music, comedy, fashion, and literature, the industry explored the borders of creativity well by encompassing innovations with rich African history to promote their Craft. The need for a digital revolution and the use of social media has helped bridge the goals between local audiences and their international counterparts. 

These, coupled with partnerships with existing industries from other parts of the world, raw talents, creativity, and individual perseverance, have propelled it to a global powerhouse. The industry can boast confidently of young enterprising entertainers with numerous awards to their names and international reputation. The face of global music has been changing with the promotion of Afrobeats and the adoption of African music cultures. Tems, Burna Boy, Wizkid, Sikiru Adepoju, Jenn Nkiru, and others in the diaspora like Henry Olusegun Adeola Samuel (Seal), Helen Folasade Adu (Sade Adu), Lekan Babalola, Hakeem Seriki (Chamillionaire), and Kevin Olusola have all won the Grammy Awards with several others having been nominated. Several of them have performed on international stages with tens and hundreds of thousands of audience, even more than local musicians in those countries could pull. 

Davido’s live performance at Fifa World Cup, Tiwa Savages’ King Charles III Coronation performance, and several other songs from Nigerian artists have become some of the most streamed globally. Aside from these musicians, performing artists like Lateef Adedimeji, Kunle Afolayan, Mr. Macaroni, and Taooma are Nigerian entertainers who have broken the mark in their trade, adding to the long list of those making the continent proud. Most importantly, these Idáns are influencing cultures across the world. I must also commend the achievements of Nigerian sportsmen and athletes like Victor Osimhen, Asisat Oshoale, and Tobi Amusan in contemporary global sport, without forgetting those that have set the marks in the past. 

One might have wondered what fate Nigerians have in the academic world. Have the youth been able to go against all odds despite failing systems and challenges like the ASUU strike? Nigerians keep setting the standard among their counterparts around the world, and there are various reports of their possibilities of doing well when they get to the midst  of students from other parts of the world. “Idán too sabi”

    However, before you fall for phrases like “Idán no dey read but Idán de pass,” “Idán no dey work but Idán dey eat,” “Idán no dey stress himself,” “Idán this,” and “Idán that,” you must know that what characterizes these Idáns is their hard work and low-key efforts that have made them stand out. While those statements might just be comic expressions by the youth, they are understatements of Idán’s huge efforts to disguise. Else, you run the risk of becoming Àdánwò.

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My Country Our Country Called Nigeria



Readers’ Showers Of Encouragement
Prof. Tony Afejuku

By Tony Afejuku 

    My country called Nigeria which is your country their country our country is an extraordinary country of evasions. We don’t need to prove or disprove this as the fact everywhere on the ground, in the sky and on and in the waters and on the underground carefully and easily formulate this claim that is more than a claim. The position or truth of the matter of my claim is that my thought and mind and head and heart are on a common platform with the movement of what you might or should accept as a point of view that is a point of view that is obviously and really more than a point of view yearning for a revolution. And do I really mean a revolution? And to what end and purpose is the revolution? To prove that Nigeria does not belong to the bigwigs, the top bureaucrats, the Aso Rockists, the presidencynologists and the rest of the exploiters and oppressors of  the people, the masses, the middle classes, the academics, professors, teachers, students and workers of all shades and colours generally.

    When I saw what I saw and which you definitely and probably saw a few days ago on telly, our blood, your blood and my blood, certainly boiled and craved for the blood of our oppressors and deceivers – all of them. Of course, I am referring to the spectacle of the inauguration of the new president, yes, of the new president, the sixteenth president or President the 16th, of Nigeria. The Abuja Eagle Square event beamed live in our rich television stations showed our elegant oppressors in their rich and real measure of oppressive and exploitative value. And your blood was pierced and wounded to the extent that you wanted immediately counter-measures of the severest and worst kind to take over your country from the decadent personages of decadence, who have ruined and are still ruining your country my country and our country they desperately want to own as their personal country and property.

    My spirit of populism rebelled against itself and its allied spirits when the deceiver and dissembler of a military general of Daura was being given his final respect as president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces of Nigeria that were significantly armed warriors against the people and masses in a manner that confounded even their sensibilities and sanity. The general was getting his final military salute and was leaving us to rot and perish in our annihilated states after a presidential election that our exquisite justices are now presiding over on the grounds or no grounds of petitions of petitioners from APC’s rival political parties and their presidential candidates.

    Buhari was nothing but a killjoy. His regime in the main was a call to arms and decadence and hatred. Man against man. People against people. Ethnic group against ethnic group. Section against section. Clan against clan. Rank against rank. Brother against brother. “Class against class” – as Jean-Paul Sartre would put it. Under Buhari there was quarrel everywhere. There was warfare everywhere. “With a patient, mortal enemy, no quarter can be given: it is kill or be killed, there is no middle way. And no time for sleep.” I remember this quote which I am lifting from Jean-Paul Sartre’s essay on Paul Nizan. Buhari rekindles this in my mind that is thumbing through articles and essays and books of all regimes of decadence and of tyrannical tyranny and despotic despotism which Buhari is an exquisite essence of. May Buhari and his kind of flatulence never see the light of day again in our land – this land of lands and lands that must remain our own forever and forever. I call upon all of us who are ready to formulate now a forever programme of populists and populism to keep us on the alert and programme of populists and populism to keep us on the alert and stimulate our streaks and vitality of dissent any time any day anyone with the propensities of Buhari and his team of crushers dares to emerge again in my country your country our country which they do not own because it is not theirs to own.

    Our ethical and moral populists must be prepared to plant in themselves deliberate hardness against the strongest inclinations that will compel any future president of Nigeria to trample on the autotherapy of any Nigerian. It is important to stress this point. Each populist must be prepared as never before to challenge any negative and anti-people policy and feature in the physical and mental make-up of our president, this president or any other president.

    In his inaugural speech on Monday, May 29, 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose presidential fate and destiny are still distinctly un-settled and unstable dared the people with his arrogant declaration that oil “subsidy is gone.” At the time of my doing this column in the deep night of Tuesday, May 30, 2023, the negative effect of the declaration had already sent wrong or malicious signals about his less than one-day presidency everywhere in the land.  The Jagaban must not be a killjoy like the Daura personage of malicious hatred for the generality of the people of our country. If I was in his shoes (but I won’t because I can’t because of my calling), I would have garlanded myself in the wish to be soothed by the people by, for instance, warming towards our university egg-heads by releasing to them their seized salaries of eight months or so on account of their legitimately legitimate strike. President Tinubu must realise that the people and masses up to now still feel a profound mistrust of him and his political party following what Buhari did to them and the way and manner INEC conducted the presidential election and declared Tinubu the winner. The Jagaban must give thought to this. By the way, I have in my possession his 11th January, 2012 well thought-out essay when ex-President Jonathan dared to excise oil subsidy. Let me quote the Jagaban: “By this sly piece of paper, the federal government breached the social contract with the people. This government, which owes its existence to the people’s desire to be governed by someone more humble than elitist, has turned its back on the collective will.  By bureaucratic fiat, government made the most fateful economic decision any administration has made since the inception of the Fourth Republic and it has done so with an arrogant wave of the hand as if issuing a minor regulation.” The point I am making here is that he who has become our sixteenth president must encourage the people and masses not to lack enthusiasm in his presidency no matter how short or how long it may be. And our acceptance of him must be based on his shining presidential policy that must not be short of patriotism that should give us recuperative strength and powers. 

    The Populist Movement consisting of selfless veterans and non-veterans of the same selfless hue is absolutely alive. Nigeria must remain your country my country our country in the true spirit of your country my country our country. In this wise our pleasure must be full of patriotic perplexity. And we must luxuriate in the intoxication of this perplexity. The expectedly measured grace of the new landscape which you must lead and inspire us to recreate must be part of the substance of it – and should extend beyond that. The rest will be captured in my fresh patriotic poetry in the making. 

Afejuku can be reached via +2348055213059.

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Remembering The Aworeni Clan Of Ile Ife: Connecting Educational Experiment And A Philanthropic Spirit



Mr. Abimbola Aworeni

By Tunji Olaopa

This piece, for me, is an exercise in hagiographic historical reconstruction, as well as a celebration of friendship. There are so many gaps in our sociocultural histories and trajectories that require intellectual attention and cultural curiosity in ways that increasingly fill out the history of ideas, figures and issues in our social history. I believe the Aworeni clan of Ile-Ife constitutes one of these  critical points of history that require filling out. And with most sociocultural histories, one can only keep putting the puzzles together without ever achieving a perfect and coherent fit. One can only hope that a significant dimension of the objectives of journalism and media reporting in Nigeria will be diverted to the excavation of such histories that serve as the foundation of a people’s sense of self and of cultural knowledge. 

Anyone familiar with the educational trajectory of the 1970s and 1980s in the Southwest would immediately remember the name of the ‘notorious’ Chief Johnson Adedapo Aworeni of the Adesola High School fame. I came into the knowledge of his notoriety as a student of Awe High School, where Chief Aworeni was once a principal. Chief Aworeni, as I will narrate in a moment, was an educationist and philanthropist of the sort whose activities had a most unintended consequences that seemed to undermine his objectives of allowing so many children to achieve educational advancement. This endeavor cast Chief Aworeni in a bad light as someone who bastardized the essence of education, something that the Awe people—from many of my pieces about my hometown—take very seriously as a sacred issue. 

Chief Johnson Adedapo Aworeni

And so, in 1989, while I was at the Lagos State directorate of the Mass Mobilization for Self-Reliance, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER), I met one Abimbola Aworeni at the Thorburn Avenue, Yaba office. When he introduced himself as “Bimbo Aworeni,” that last name struck a historical chord immediately. I was quick to pose the next logical question: “Are you related to the Chief Aworeni of the Adesola High School, Ibadan fame?” Of course, he was! He was one of the sons of the great and “notorious” chief. And in a typical lively and jovial manner that I would grow used to, Abimbola owned up and made fun of the extreme qualities of his father. But then, he celebrated him as “a unique philanthropist and a kindhearted lover of the downtrodden who will give all to give others a better life.” 

My curiosity about Abimbola’s father eventually led both of us into a lifelong relationship that ensured that we always were readily available to attend to each other’s need when the occasion arose. The past tense I have used for Abimbola Aworeni is indicative and tragic: he passed away on the 15th of May, 2023, and quite so untimely. This news is painful because no one should ever lose a dear one—Abimbola was a brother and a friend after my heart; and one of my regrets is that I was not able to keep up with his joyful philosophy of existence and relationship given that I was too taken in by the necessity of juggling critical professional and research responsibilities that prevented me from socializing and keeping up with equally critical relationships. And what best way to celebrate my friend than to begin a preliminary historical protocol of excavating the significance of the Aworeni family in the history of the educational and philanthropic dynamics of the Southwest. 

Let me complete the story of Abimbola’s renowned father. Chief Aworeni was practically a self-made man who started climbing the educational ladder with distinction from a very early age. The doggedness that saw him through secondary school equally kept him pursuing distinction all through a first degree in economics, a second degree in history, a postgraduate diploma in education, and a law degree all from the Universities of London and Ibadan. We will probably not know what turned Chief Aworeni’s attention to education, but he not only made the rounds of the most famous secondary schools in the southwest—Ibadan Boys High School, Oduduwa College, Ile-Ife, MacJob Grammar School, Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode Grammar School, Awe High School, Awe, etc.—as a teacher and principal, he also probably picked up, along the way, his populist orientation that made him one of the most influential philanthropists in the Southwest in his days. 

The Aworeni Scholarship came to signify the emergence of a spirit of unrestrained giving that was tied to the Ile Ife root of the Aworeni, but that transcended that cultural boundary to encompass all indigent students who qualified by simply demonstrating a need to learn. He demonstrated a cultural patriotism that was determined to lift all indigenes of Ile Ife beyond the limitations of ignorance into the sublimity of education and enlightenment. And his open-minded philanthropic philosophy would ensure that he threw wide the net of empowerment to as many as would be willing to learn. And it was only logical that Chief Aworeni would eventually establish a school to accelerate the realization of his desire to encourage many less privileged candidates to pick up a pen and get an educational foundation. The Adesola High School, Ibadan was the institutional embodiment of the Aworeni scholarship and the philosophy of empowerment that he stood for. 

And this is where the zeal to shine the light of enlightenment on many dark minds led to the opening of the floodgates that would burden quality education with the deadening quantity of overloaded classrooms. Chief Aworeni was not careful to measure his populist philanthropy with the realistic assessment that one school cannot take all comers. And this is not just about the available infrastructures; it was also about the quality of education such students can be provided with. A perceptive reader would have made the connection between Chief Aworeni’s educational experiment and Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s free education project. Unlike the former, the latter was founded on a well-laid out educational policy that also involved taxation to achieve a level of required funding that made the project a success. Chief Aworeni’s enthusiasm was simply borne aloft by his populist eagerness. It was as if Chief Aworeni was too impatient to countenance any hindrance—including educational planning—to his ultimate goal of adding values to people’s lives, especially the underprivileged whom the state had abandoned to themselves, and to a life of indistinction. 

This is where Chief Aworeni’s educational philosophy and philanthropic spirit should first be applauded. Azim Premji, the Indian businessman, aptly summarizes Chief Aworeni’s philanthropic sense: “The responsibility of philanthropy rests with us. The wealthier we are, the more powerful we get. We cannot put the entire onus on the government.” Philanthropy complements the efforts of the government in transforming the lives of the citizens; and hence, this made Chief Aworeni a significant part of the rendering of the educational history of the Southwest. Unfortunately, populist philanthropy does not always serve the objective of an education that is functional and optimal, especially the type that a citizen requires to become a good member of society. It would seem that this was the point at which people of Awe took exception to the educational “philosophy” of the great man. 

But then, maybe Chief Aworeni was just not well understood. This was definitely a man that was deeply motivated to domesticate his philanthropic spirit to the service of his community. That, all by itself, is a worthy contribution to the well-being of the community members, and makes the initiator of the community service programme an ambassador to note. It would seem however that the weight of attention has been focused more on the negative side of Aworeni’s populist philanthropy rather than on the larger picture of what he did and why he did it. We only have the collective appreciation of those who scaled through the overload of the Adesola High School, and the many others who benefitted from the Aworeni Scholarship, to thank for representing the success of the unsung philanthropist. 

At a deeper level, Chief Aworeni calls into play the relationship between education and philanthropy, especially in a postcolonial context like Nigeria where the state seems to have abdicated its responsibility towards the creative harnessing of the human capital that could be deployed towards communal and national development. It likely will be a difficult research endeavor to determine the extent to which the beneficiaries of the Aworeni scholarship and goodwill have contributed to the developmental dynamics of the Southwest. But there is no denying the fact that he did the best that he could within the constraints of his time and context, as well as the limited resources he had which he distributed with all joy to the needy.

No wonder my departed friend—his son—Abimbola Aworeni, who goes by such  nicknames as Bambo and Skolobi could be very proud of his “notorious” but unique father who damned every consequence to be relevant in his own way. He loved his cultural root; and he loved people even more, wherever they could be found who needed help to make their ways in life. And that was what he directed his entire life attending to. I am glad I met the scion of such a large heart. May the gentle soul of my dear friend, Bimbo, rest in peace.       

  . Olaopa is a retired Federal Permanent Secretary, and  Professor of Public Administration.


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