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By Ahmed Yahaya Joe on facebook

50 years ago in 1969 Neil Armstrong became the first man to step on the Moon. Irrespective of who wins the presidential elections what lesson can we as Nigerians learn from the Moon landing? In 1957 the Soviet Union launched the first unmanned satellite to orbit the earth. By 1961 the Soviet Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit the world. At the end of the same year the Iron Curtain had launched 5 space shuttles. The Americans had none. That did not stop the American president JF Kennedy from declaring to his compatriots that “This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before the decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the earth”.

It was a tall order because the Americans had not even launched any manned satellite by then. That however happened in 1962 when the American John Glenn in 4 hours circled the world 3 times from an altitude of 162 miles. The normal cruising height of a commercial aircraft is 6 miles high. In 1969 Apollo 11 landed on the moon and successfully returned to earth after 8 days, 3 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds. The call sign when the shuttle landed on the Moon was: The eagle has landed. On the main screen at the Mission Control Center on earth Kennedy’s 1961 speech was scrolling followed by the words: Task Accomplished. The space race that started in 1957 was finally won by the Americans in 1969. The Space Center in the US was named after the Kennedy. The then US president was Richard Nixon his Republican archrival. The longstanding political bitterness between the 2 men did not affect the US space program despite the fact that the Democrat Kennedy had died in office 6 years earlier. The event was televised worldwide and broadcast on radio to millions of others including in the Soviet Union. Fast forward to Nigeria, a pathetically dysfunctional country where 60 years after national independence we are still eyeing each other through the prism of ethnic identity and religious affiliation. A country where State of Origin and not State of Residence is the major meal ticket cannot land on the Moon.

Ours is where a sitting president cannot give any cogent answer to the Almajiri problem because it might acknowledge his predecessor from the South in building special purpose schools in the North. Nigeria today needs a leader like Kennedy who will dream while awake and a Nixon that will cast aside political bitterness. The main leadership challenge in Nigeria is how to manage our diversity. What has happened the last few years is that Ijawization was simply replaced with Northernization. It is now time to break the jinx by externalizing our aggression like the Americans did with the Soviet Union. Nations develop when they have rivals to surmount. If there was no Japan there wouldn’t have been the Asian Tigers led by South Korea. India needs Pakiskan to excel and vice versa. Without Taiwan’s rivalry China would still be backward communist nation. Even under Murtala Mohammed the emancipation of Angola, Mozambique, Rhodesia and Apartheid South Africa was our rallying point. Without external rivals nations cannibalize themselves as we have been doing for decades. Leadership imagination is very crucial in turning the tide. Nigeria therefore needs a president that can think outside the box by creating an external rival that will unite us in a common purpose and direction. We can then land on the Moon instead of fighting each other.