As a background to this piece, the ‘culture’ of celebrating first 100 days in office is traceable to President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States of America.
He came to office in 1933 at the height of the Great Depression and wanted all Americans to know that he was going to get to work right away to improve their lives and he absolutely delivered. His first 100 days (Opens in new window) included tons of enormously effective and popular programmes, legislation, and public-works projects (part of his New Deal (Opens in new window)) to get the country working again.
All presidents since then have been measured against this standard.
In a similar manner, a few days ago in Nigeria, precisely Thursday September 7, 2023, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Senator, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, seventeen state Governors serving their first term of office celebrated their first 100 days in offices. Not even their counterparts serving their second term were left out in this orchestrated celebration.
Comparatively, while President Franklin D. Roosevelt celebration remains remarkable and a reference point years after; as it was loaded with tons of enormously effective and popular programmes, legislations e, and public-works projects (part of his New Deal (Opens in new window)) to get the country working again, that of Nigeria on the other hand, particularly as celebrated this year was stripped of masses-centred programmes and laced with commissioning of cosmetic projects that only exists in frames.
Undoubtedly, the year’s celebration has become a sure sign of reminder that the situation (poor leadership) in the country is not party, tribe/ethnic, religion, state governors or federal government specific. It more than anything else supports the time honoured belief that there is a total national leadership collapse in the country from ‘top to bottom’. A brazen manifestation of a bunch that is yet to internalise the fact that power is nothing but the ability to achieve the purpose and strength required to bring about social, economic, political, cultural and religious changes.
Viewed broadly, this piece, from the account of recent days, is of the views that the nation’s leadership is not lacking in vision but their vision more often than not is not masses-centred. Even those that could qualify as people purposed are without clear definition, the goals to be achieved, or the means chosen to address the problems and to achieve the goals and making the entire narrative a crisis is that the system has virtually no consideration for connecting the poor with good means of livelihood-food, job, and security.
This is the only possible explanation for the situation.
For me, it would have been better for these leaders to be silent about the celebration and allow the masses to speculate on their performance, than trying to prove a point of performance, and through the process confirm the obviousness of non performance.
Also troubling is the fact that this shoddy performance and poor scorecard may likely continue until the present crop of leaders productively looks back to draw both inspiration and lessons from the nation’s forgotten pacesetters and forbearers such as Pa Obafemi Awolowo, the late premier of the western region of Nigeria; Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe and Ahmadu Bello of Eastern and Northern regions respectively; Pa Michael Ajasin of old Ondo State and Ambrose Folorunsho Alli, the one-time Governor of the now defunct Bendel State.
Indeed, to any student of history, these facts should not be a surprise. There was no record that the above mentioned eminent Nigerian leaders celebrated 100 days in office. Yet, the track record they left behind is not only exemplary but impressive. Even if they did, it was not at these cosmetic and annoying levels.
Maybe I am missing something here but, this piece believed and still believes that what today’s leaders need is to study these departed pacesetters, nationalists and nation builders, to study their history, study the actions of these eminent men, to see how they conducted themselves and to discover the reasons for their victories or their defeats so that they can avoid the later and imitate the former’.
Aside from assisting the nation not to wander in dilemma, the above action is important as knowledge will forever govern ignorance. And people who want to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.’
Take, as an example, as documented in his Path to Nigerian Freedom (1947), without celebrating 100 days in office, Pa Awo drew the first systematic federalist manifesto. He advocated federalism as the only basis for equitable national integration and, as head of the Action Group he led demands for a federal constitution, which was introduced in the 1954 Lyttleton Constitution, following primarily the model proposed by the Western Region delegation led by him.
As the premier, he proved to be and was viewed as a man of vision and a dynamic administrator. He was also the country’s leading social democratic politician. He supported limited public ownership and limited central planning in government.
He believed that the state should channel Nigeria’s resources into education and state-led infrastructural development. At considerable expense, he introduced free primary education for all and free health care for children in the Western Region, established the first television service in Africa in 1959, and the Oduduwa Group, all of which were financed from the highly lucrative cocoa industry which was the mainstay of the regional economy.
Under his leadership, nobody needed to fly to Canada or the UK to go and look for an education. It was here. People from Canada were doing Commonwealth exchange; coming from Canada to go and study at the University of Ife. If you want to go out, it was just for the fun of it not because the education here was inferior to what you are going to get outside.
Chief Michael Adekunle Ajasin, former Governor of old Ondo State, whom many describe as the moving spirit of the Free Education Programme of the defunct Western Region, and Ambrose Folorunsho Alli (22 September 1929 – 22 September 1989), the first civilian governor of the old Bendel State, shone like a billion star in the areas of education, infrastructural provision and nation building. They shared similar but interesting attributes worth emulating by Nigeria’s current crops of leaders.
Ambrose Alli, for example, was a member of the constituent assembly that drafted the 1978 Nigeria constitution. He joined the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) and ran successfully as a UPN candidate in the Bendel State governorship election of 1979 and won the election. He founded Bendel State University now Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma. Many campuses in Ekpoma, Abraka and Asaba were established during his tenure. However, with the creation of Delta State by the administration of Gen. Babangida, the university became two universities, namely Delta State University, Abraka and Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, posthumously named after him.
He brought massive development to Bendel in different sectors, from the establishment of numerous post-primary schools and tertiary institutions to the massive construction of roads and housing. His main thrust as governor was to increase educational opportunities. He established over 600 new secondary schools and abolished secondary school fees.
Apart from the establishment of the university, he also established various Colleges of Education in Ekiadolor near Benin City, Agbor, Warri, Ozoro, and three Polytechnics, with a College of Agriculture and Fishery proposed for Agenebode.
He also established four teacher training colleges to supply staff to the new schools, as well as several other higher educational institutions. Other reforms included abolishing charges for services and drugs at state-owned hospitals and eliminating the flat-rate tax.
His administration carried out massive construction of roads to open up the rural areas. In the housing sector, he built low-cost housing estates in Ugbowo, Ikpoba Hill in Benin City, and Bendel Estates in Warri. As Governor, he always wore sandals, joking that he was so busy working in Government House that he never had time to buy shoes for himself. When Ambrose Alli left office in 1983, he retired to his family house.
Aside from the above account, we are equally witnesses to the fact that in the Midwest and Bendel State of old, there existed government-owned companies established by the then leaders. They were established to among other aims create employment while bringing revenue to government coffers.
Those were the good old days!
Today, there is no doubt any more, that Nigeria is at a leadership crossroad.
Utomi Jerome-Mario is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA).