Last Tuesday, the lot fell on former United States president Bill Clinton to point the way forward for Nigeria. At the THISDAY Awards in Abeokuta, Ogun State, where he was the special guest of honour, Clinton directly criticised Nigerian leaders for inviting huge problems to their country. The former American leader identified "three big challenges" facing the country as stealing of oil money, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and talent flight.
President Clinton had been diplomatic in his remarks, but he found no way of deodorising the stench that pervaded the entire country: "You haven't done very well with the oil money... poverty in the north is three times what it is in the Lagos area... you have to empower people so they can succeed in the town and in the world," he said.
Did the American say anything new? Not at all. But we expect the powers that be to listen because no less a personality than Bill Clinton has said it this time round. Had it been the opposition party that said it, the PDP or any of the attack dogs in the presidency would have since attempted to prove it wrong.
In a way, the first challenge President Clinton mentioned has been responsible for the two other challenges. Probably 80 per cent of the nation's oil funds goes astray or gets stolen. And because the nation's resources are in a few hands, the majority of Nigerians are poor.
Poor living conditions - lack of electricity, clean water, justice, health facilities, good roads and other infrastructure - have driven many talented Nigerians overseas. These are self-evident truths that even a blind person can see. Interestingly, Clinton spoke in the presence of serving and former Nigerian leaders that have contributed to the country's destruction.
We thank President Clinton for speaking up for the voiceless majority of Nigerians. Indeed, a country that exports 2.5 million barrels of crude oil every day at $110 per barrel has no reason to be poor. But ours has become a rich nation of very poor people. And it is amazing that, despite all the theft going on, nobody is in a Nigerian jail today for stealing public funds.
Apart from the lack of jobs and basic amenities, insecurity has discouraged talented Nigerians in foreign countries from returning home. Crimes like kidnapping and suicide bombing that used to be associated with foreign lands have come uncomfortably close to Nigerians at home. Many returnees have been kidnapped for huge ransoms or murdered outright.
Nigeria can be great, as President Clinton acknowledged, with the right leadership. Thirty years ago, a great Nigerian, Chinua Achebe, identified "a failure of leadership" as the trouble with Nigeria. Unfortunately, the country's leadership since then has been growing progressively worse.