September 27, 2023

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Why Nations Fail to Develop: The Case of Nigeria (2).

5 min read

By Victor E. Dike.

If this writer may ask, are the mind-sets of Nigeria’s leaders “carved in stone?” Why is Nigeria difficult to change? Why has Nigeria failed to develop with abundant human and material resources at its disposal? Why has prosperity eluded the nation? Why are many Nigerians swimming in the deep ocean of poverty? Put differently, why is there a rising unemployment rate in the society? There are conflicting reports on the rate of unemployment in Nigeria because of paucity of data. Available pertinent information shows that Nigeria’s unemployment rate is about 24% (this is a very conservative figure). However, youth unemployment rate is put at more than 50%, which represents about 64 million people (“Rate of Job Creation Insufficient to Tame Unemployment in Nigeria,” 2014). But for the new Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), Nigeria’s poverty rate is hovering around 43.3% of the estimated population of 170 million (see Emejo, 2014).


It is proper to note that three groups of unemployed youths have been identified in this article: university graduates, high school graduates not yet enrolled in any university program, and those who did not complete high school education. Others who have added to the rising rate of unemployment include people who choose to leave their current job to retire, those who went back to school to acquire new skills and knowledge for another career, and those who take a position at another organization. It is, however, proper to note that most of the unemployed youths are vulnerable to antisocial activities as they are struggling to make ends meet without any form of government assistance.


Given the above background, the political leaders do not seem to be taking responsibility for these problems as everyone is blaming everyone else. Nigeria’s leaders, it appears, hate to be held accountable for anything. It is also proper to note that the root cause of the present social, political, and economic predicaments in the society is not the making of the leaders alone, but collective selfishness. Everybody in Nigeria, it seems, wants to be in a leadership position whether or not they have the skills and knowledge to stimulate a healthy competition, increase the wealth of the nation, and thus, create economic opportunity for everyone. Leadership is not about revenue sharing but about moving people to action to create wealth. These actions are possible with leaders who are committed to improving the living conditions of the people.


The challenges facing Nigeria appear to be deep-rooted in the mind-sets of the leaders and the nation’s extractive political and economic institutions (Acemoglu & Robinson, 2012). As a result, there is a serious disconnect between ego-system thinking and eco-system reality (Scharmer & Kaufer, 2013). It has aptly been noted that the state of our mind-sets or mental models (Senge, 2006) affect what we do—our performance, decision-making process, and how we manage ourselves. For Nigeria to move forward socially, politically, and economically, the leaders and followers (in collective leadership) should have a deeper shift in their mind-sets and gravitate toward “eco-system awareness” from their engrained “ego-system thinking” (Scharmer & Kaufer, 2013, p. 11).


According to Albert Einstein’s famous dictum, we cannot solve our present problems with the same level of mind-set or consciousness that created them. Meanwhile, because of the failure of the political leaders of Nigeria to change their mindset and embrace creative and innovative ideas that will transform and restructure the system, Nigeria’s non-functional education and health care systems will continue to threaten the growth and development of the economy as these are the engines that drive individual and national productivity. But “failure is not an option” (Blankstein, 2010, p. 1) for Nigeria. However, what Nigeria will become is the society the leaders and followers have decided to create. Without a doubt, majority of the people wants a leader who can lead from the emerging future possibilities.



This article revisits the issues of leadership and development in Nigeria as it attempts to investigate as to whether or not the leaders have any lessons to learn from Why Nations Fail and Leading From the Emerging Future. The books, as noted earlier, deal on practical approach to helping leaders shift their mind-sets from their ego-system awareness to eco-system reality and create inclusive political and economic institutions to empower the citizens to reach their full potential. This article, therefore, seeks to discuss some of the pertinent issues raised in the books as they relate to leadership and development problems facing Nigeria.


Research Method.

This article will attempt to provide an in-depth assessment of the forces that are preventing Nigeria from developing as it should with the abundant human and material resources at its disposal. As noted, information for this article was derived mainly from Why Nations Fail and Leading From the Emerging Future. Information is also gathered from the research and descriptive analysis of other scholars, analysts, and practitioners as well as recent newspaper and journal articles that are pertinent to the issues in discourse. Thus, the primary method of study was an extensive review of available related literature for an extensive and in-depth description and analysis of leadership and development problems in Nigeria and their implications in the society. The sources of the information were thoroughly evaluated and analyzed to determine their authenticity.


Problem Statement.

Debates about why Nigeria has failed to develop as it should with abundant human and material resources at its disposal have been raging for decades. Some have noted that the problem is due to the absence of effective leadership. Yet others have observed that Nigeria is stuck in its present sociopolitical and economic predicaments because the leaders have been unable to change their mental models (Senge, 2006), which has prevented them from building critical institutions and infrastructure capable of transforming the society into the 21st-century system. Yet the political leaders who apparently have “fixed mind-set” appear to think that Nigeria can be transformed into an industrialized society without changing their mentality, reframing their meaning of leadership, building functional institutions, and designing and implementing pro-growth policies. The political leaders of the developed countries could not have transformed their economies into the healthy and productive state they are today without shifting their mentality that enabled them to lead from the emerging future.



Victor E Dike, an author and international development expert sent this piece from United States.



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