A man once asked God why he had blessed Nigeria so abundantly, a popular joke goes. Not only did the country have vast human resources, rich agricultural land and diverse mineral deposits, but God had placed immense quantities of oil and natural gas within its borders. “Surely this is unfair,” the man remarked, “especially when compared to what you gave other countries in Africa.” “Yes,” God replied, “I have blessed Nigeria abundantly in all these ways—but I made up for it by the quality of the leaders I gave it.”
Poor leadership has been Nigeria’s bane since independence. The low point was the dictatorship of General Sani Abacha, which ended with his Viagra-induced death in June 1998. Within a year after Abacha’s demise, Nigeria’s political prisoners (including the man who is now president) were released, and the atmosphere of paranoia and suspicion disappeared.
Wiebe Boer is the CEO of The Tony Elumelu Foundation and has served as an associate director at the Rockefeller Foundation's Africa Regional Office in Kenya. He has a PhD in African studies from Yale University.