He took over the reins of leadership nine years following Nigeria’s most devastating event: the Biafra civil war, and three years after a bloody coup which saw the brutal murder of Nigeria’s head of state. In four years he had overseen the rejuvenation of Nigeria’s economy. Nigeria was becoming rich again. Which translated into the rise of contractors for government projects.
Roads, Steel companies, entrepreneurs grew their businesses, government knew its role, to build infrastructure for businesses to thrive. But as usual, this was all brought to an unusual stop. Like Tafawa Balawa before him, we shouted corruption for every rich person we saw.
Every rich person was either a ritualist or a corrupt man. Businesses that thrived on government infrastructure were seen as corrupt. And we brought in a government that led to one of the most depressed periods in Nigeria’s history. Laws to stop the corrupt, froze the atmosphere for businesses.
We went as far as flogging marketers and Nigerians. Changing currencies at some point (worst economic policy). Every locked down business and destroyed empire didn’t bring the promised prosperity. Destruction of our rich only made the masses poorer (as was in Moa’s China 1949-1976).
Sadly we as a people never asked what happened to the so ‘much money’ of 1979 to 1983. One would think the ensuing poverty would have vindicated the man. But no. Somehow we are a people more comfortable with mutual poverty. We rather have every neighbour poor than being rich with some richer.
Better put, we are okay without power so long as our neighbour has no ‘NEPA’ too. (Why do you think we look through the window?) I honestly think we are cursed to repeat the errors of our fathers. RIP Shehu Shagari, our lost and unappreciated genius.
Department of Electrical Engineering, Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State