Passing the Buck for Nigeria’s Development Failings

Passing the Buck for Nigeria’s Development Failings

Penny Wisdom

By Emeka Uzoatu

Over time, Nigeria has exhibited a great skill at the passing of things. Yes, Nigerians, without exception, are adept at the skill. Be it salt on the dinner table, cigarettes at the neighbourhood speakeasy or the ball in a football game. 

Ab initio, this aptitude is most amplified in that beautiful game played with a round leather ball mostly. Never mind that one in which the object of play is oddly shaped. Any wonder it cannot really make it here or elsewhere in Africa. Save, of course, in the southern part.

Anyway, suffice it to note that the speed with which our players passed the ball at the 1994 World Cup easily made them the darling team of the competition. In fact, the alacrity they applied to the skill from defence to attack became the case-study of many a FIFA coaching clinic. 

Like in the game against Bulgaria, our first ever in a Mundial, for instance. The ball was said to have had the propensity of consecutively being moved from our goal area to the opponent’s last third in split seconds. In a series of consecutively programmed moves, this had the overated Carpatians virtually chasing shadows the whole match long.

However, like every other thing the country is good at, its gregarious people have always ended up overdoing it. Thus, they have ended up passing even the inimical things that have portended ill to them. Things that, had they held on to its good aspects only, would have seen them counted among the first eleven in the comity of world nations.

This, sadly, is most pertinent in cogent developmental affairs. Ranging from the tangible to the unseens. Like is still within rememberable recall, time was when Africa’s most populous nation led the world in many things. Like the export of palm oil, groundnuts and cocoa. Now these privileges have been passed to more ambitious nations. 

Inclusive here also, like mentioned above, numbers such intangible, much-sort-after credentials like happiness. Although the West inarguably bests the rest of in development indices, it has often emerged that they were often found wanting in happiness credentials.

Yes, long before that flamboyant statue-erecting governor of a southeastern state established a ministry for it, Nigerians had been confirmed the happiest people walking the earth in the past. They wonder now why the hell we have wittingly or otherwise passed the accolade to even less-populated enclaves. And now even his state has been turned upside down.

Well, just don’t ask me where we learnt the odious routine of passing the good on. Nevertheless, I can hazard a flying guess. You see, the root routes all the way back to the positive. Specifically to when, way back then, Africa’s abject underdevelopment in the midst of plenty puzzled all and sundry.

Abuja satellite village, waiting for development.

Like all can recollect, the most plausible explanation for this abnormality had come from the Diaspora. Yes, all the way from the late Guyanese historian, academic and political activist Walter Rodney in his seminal book titled How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. In the bound volume, he was able to limn out how the opposite places were traded.

Ever since, it had become de riguer for any blundering Nigerian to pass the blame for his failure(s) on someone else. Husbands would rather they blamed their wives for every misdemeanours in the family. Likewise, brothers would turn on sisters while children, in turn, would blame parents. And so we roll.

And these unmindful of another positive development in that line. After all, when the 33rd president of the USA, Harry S. Truman assumed that exalted office, he had the phrase ‘The Buck Stops Here’ displayed on his desk in the Oval Office. Iterating thereby that politics was unlike the game cards were the buck kept passing to the front of whose turn it was to deal.

Fast forward the rigmarole to our present-day predicament. Ever since our ruling president mounted the rostrum, the rhapsody had been to blame his predecessor(s) for all his ineptitude(s). 

Now in office for a whopping half-a-dozen years, he is still adamant in the claim that the mess he inherited is irremediable. As though he had not been instrumental to the truncation of the Second Republic that easily was when the waters overflowing the stern of our democracy birthed.

Which has always been the problem of Africa’s age-old romance with developmental economics. Focused on ‘improving fiscal, economic and social conditions in developing countries’ it’s apostles end up misapplying its complementary agenda of applying the prerequisite economic analysis to the problems facing their nations.

More often than not, time-tested applications are sacrificed on the altar of nepotism, favouritism and outright illiteracy. Workable solutions are neglected either because they are beyond the capacity of those in charge or would expose their brazen chicanery.

Like our renewed zeal for loans. Despite the stringent conditionalities attached to this. When the West demurs, we turn to the East, sometimes staking our sovereignty en route. It does get as messy as we using more than three quarters of yearly budgets to service the loans.

Or having to insist on the open grazing of cattle in the 21st of all centuries…

We can go on, but he who fights to death, will not live to fight again. 

Emeka Uzoatu, a seasoned journalist and writer, is the editor of He writes the occasional column, Penny Wisdom.