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Prince Charles Dickson: Nigeria’s nonstop high margin for error

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By Prince Charles Dickson PhD

A leaky roof tricks the sun, but it does not deceive the rain. Running in the rain, falling in the river, nations that lie to herself live with flesh but are skeletons—AbdulChukwudi Balogun

I centre my admonishment for this week around the National Day Rally Speech of the state of Singapore.

It was a lengthy rallying speech that touched on several facets of their national life by their 70-year-old leader. It is pertinent to note that the speech took place at the Institute of Technical Education ITE. (kontri wey sabi) I wait for that day, a Nigerian leader will take education as the belt of policy drive in the land of many doctorate degree holders yet millions of out of school children and labour issues that last months between teachers and government while universities are shut.

The Prime Minister spoke in Malay and Chinese, followed by English (that was diversity in action, but here we are still dancing our ethnocentric parapoism and religious jingoism of bitterness). He touched on COVID19 extensively, I loved it so much when he stated, ‘every death is one too many…’ And I asked myself can our leaders make that same assertion and I wondered if at all Nigerian lives counted or even mattered.

Key to their success was the high level of trust in their society. Evidently that is one ingredient lacking in the Nigerian construct amongst many others. He said in Singapore people worked with and not against one another.

Their government upheld the trust by being open and transparent. This is very strange in our government and governance spectrum, one littered with errors. In Singapore, they had each other’s back, in Nigeria na all man for himself, na we be government, we do everything for ourselves, who do us?!

Brother Lee Hsien Loong discussed strategic challenges of their external environment, he outlined how the US-China relations will affect them, Russia and Ukraine and China and Taiwan and more, he maintained his nation will avoid being caught up in major power rivalry. Despite the peace they had enjoyed for long, he admonished his countrymen to be prepared psychologically by being real, should things go wrong.

These are things that cannot be said in the same breath when we discuss Nigeria.

He asked that his people must not be divided whether by race, religion, income, social differences, or place of birthIf we are taken in and divided, we will stand no choice but, united, we can deal with any problems that come our way…my country is not united, we are divided and multiplied by our differences!

He touched on economic issues, cost of living, disrupted supply chains. Speaking to the government’s efforts at supporting middle- and lower-income families, lightening the burdens on households. He said if the situation worsens, they stand ready to do more. In Nigeria, all the burden is on the masses, increased pump price for a commodity we are blessed with, when we pay taxes, it goes to private pockets, we borrow to eat, and one is in a state wahala be like wetin again.

The Singapore Dollar has strengthened, making traveling overseas more affordable. At home, it makes imported goods cheaper…yet he cautioned not overdoing things also. Can the same be said of the Nigerian space with her high margin of error?

His conclusion made me tear for my beloved Nigeria…He stated below:

Whether we are tackling COVID-19 and preparing for the next pandemic, dealing with geopolitical dangers and economic uncertainties, handling sensitive domestic issues, or planning and building Singapore for the long term.

With all these challenges, success depends on us getting three key master fundamentals right. We must always have a united people, a high-quality leadership team, and high trust between the people and their leaders. A united people, a high-quality leadership team, and high trust between the people and their leaders. These are essential if we are to respond creatively and resiliently to challenges, year after year. We may have the best laid schemes, but without these three fundamentals, they will come to nothing. I have emphasised these points over and over again, in different ways, because they are so crucial.

In particular, good leadership is non-negotiable. Look at the countries where governments are unstable and politics messy, swinging wildly from one election to another. Whenever things do not work, leaders are forced out, or resign en-masse. But even after changing teams, things fail to improve. Policies and laws either never make it through the political gridlock or they are made by one government and then reversed by the next. Often, it is not just the leaders who disappoint, but the whole system that has failed. The result is a devastating loss of faith: Not just in individual politicians or parties, but in the whole political system and the whole political class, and there is no way forward from there.

A small country like Singapore has zero margin for error. Not just Singapore’s continued success, but our very survival, depends on us having the right leaders.

Leaders with integrity, dedication, and competence; leaders with the conviction to make the tough calls and do the right thing, even when it may cost them some votes; leaders whom you can trust. We cannot afford any compromise on this.

Thankfully, for 57 years, over three generations, we have had leaders who have earned and maintained Singaporeans’ trust and confidence, who have worked closely with the people to deliver on sound policies, who have improved all our lives.

Never take this trust, nor this competence, for granted. Keep on working hard to find the right people, get them to serve, and help them to do their best for Singapore. It is our duty to extend our success formula into the next generation and beyond.

Leadership succession is therefore of paramount importance. When COVID-19 hit us, I had to put my succession plans on hold. Now we are learning to live with COVID-19, and entering a new normal. The younger ministers have chosen DPM Lawrence Wong to be their leader. I am very happy that the matter is settled, and my succession plans are moving forward again. I am also glad that from everything I see, Singaporeans are supportive of Lawrence and his leadership of the team. So, I ask you to give Lawrence and his 4G team – your team – your fullest support.

The next few decades will be bracing but exhilarating. I have given you my take of what we can achieve, and also what may go wrong. But with your trust, we can come through whatever difficulties await. With your support, we can turn hopes and dreams into reality, and united as one people, we can secure a brighter future in this uncertain world. Not just for now, not just for ourselves, but for every Singaporean child, for many generations to come.

My beloved Nigeria and Nigerians have refused to talk about their present, mock our past, so, how do we “Secure Our Future”. Leadership is negotiable here and indeed negotiated always amongst the best of evils. For us, not just leaders that continually disappoint, but the whole system that keeps failing.

With all our collective errors, there is loss of faith: not just in individual politicians or parties, but in the whole political system and political class.

Do we know that our very survival depends on us having the right leaders. Leaders with integrity, dedication, and competence. Leaders with the conviction to make the tough calls and do the right thing, do we know, will we act—Only time will tell.