The Leadership Nigeria Needs

The Leadership Nigeria Needs

Monday, March 9, 2015 1:09 pm

By Isaac Adalemo

It is instructive that Panla (the name given to stockfish in Nigeria), arrives our shores without its head. There is a general adage in Nigeria that, the fish gets rotten first from the head. The adage implies that if the head is rotten, then, the whole body will in effect become rotten. What therefore is left of the headless panla, in fact, is tasteless, but it still serves as part of the favourite delicacy of some Nigerians. So, people cope with it like we are coping with the presumed headlessness of a nation as was discussed in the articles of Abimbola Adelakun in The PUNCH of Thursday, 21 June, 2012 and Eze Onyekpere on Monday, 2 July, 2012. The two articles continue to raise issues about the quality of the current leaders in our country. It is sad that a country like ours – 54 odd years after political independence– is still searching for the right type of people to lead her. Even now that we are about to go into an election, more than 75% of the known candidates are of the old stock that could not move us forward. From all the political parties, it is the same “Any Government in Power (AGP) men and women that are in the forefront of the campaigns for elective positions. It is more disturbing in that, when we started as an independent nation, we had focused men and women leading us the right way. The likes of the late Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Mrs. Funmilayo Kuti, Magaret Ekpo, Alhaji Aminu Kano and even Ladi Kwali (the great potter of our time), were men and women that were focused. So it was then with the then 30-year old Yakubu Gowon who led during our civil war! These people led, while others followed. Those were the good old days in our history. Eric Teniola in his article in The Punch of Tuesday 24 February, 2015, equally said, years back, Nigeria supplied nine out of the eleven field commanders when ECOWAS was formed in 1981. Today, it is Chad, Cameroon and Niger Republic that are assisting us to win the Boko Haram war! What an irony of what our Army has become. A neglected artery from our heart expected to pump desired blood into our body!

Several other Nigerians at home and abroad have over the years written about this issue of leadership which they consider as the main reason why we have not been moving forward as a nation. The leadership we had during the military era, was a forced one because it was regimented. The War Against Indiscipline, WAI era was when the unsmiling duo of Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idiagbon gave us some focus about orderliness in doing things. No sooner they were removed from office than we went back to our old ways of doing things. The KAI era that followed achieved very little to restore things to their proper places. That of the era of Prof. Jerry Gana’s “if you are a teacher, Teach well; if you are a Governor, govern well” etc. Those good attitudes are indicative of the good followers we could be had we had the right people to lead us. Good leadership needs good followership and vice-versa.

Several concerned Nigerians have defined leadership from several angles that there seem to be no words left in the dictionary to write further on. We have been told in papers, at conferences and seminars the qualities and expectations of good leadership. We are told, for instance, that the leader is a conceptualist. This is something more than being an “ideas-man”. It means being a leader with ENTREPRENEURIAL vision, who has time to think about the forces affecting the destiny of his institution or the group that he leads.

In Nigeria, the national or regional leader is often forced to pick men/women he has never met into his cabinet. Several criteria are often adopted to get a cabinet to work with the President/Governor. We consider criteria such as tribe, catchment area (also known as zones) etc. In some cases, experience is not considered relevant. We have relatively succeeded thus far in our Finance, Justice and Health Ministries because of the recognition that experience and professional competence are needed in those areas. We have lately too been told that we are achieving success in the field of agriculture. Why can’t we adopt this criteria in choosing men/women to man our various ministries? Or in other words technocrats that can move us forward. They are available here in Nigeria and in the diaspora. The President is even made (by his political party) to consider candidates who do not share his vision; thus right from the beginning making such appointees “learners” and they remain so throughout the period of their stewardship. The hordes of advisers are only advising themselves for the period of their appointment. We even had a leader who told us he was not bound to accept the advice of his advisers. Such people could choose not to give the right advice too. In other countries, things are done differently. The leader should know where the country should head for, to prevent what impeded advancement and how to remove the shackles preventing growth and development. Such a leader would chart the course and merely ask his people to cut a pathway through the bushes and forests to move forward.

The leader is able to distinguish between leadership and management. He sees himself as a person who leads people to do the right things, thereby making his lieutenants people who do the right things and thereby making them people who do things right. The leader therefore guides his deputies towards achieving his vision for his establishment even if such people were forced on him through party machinery. He thus becomes a coordinator of the activities of a group of managers or deputies through exemplary attitude of motivation, good leadership by example and also through understanding behavioural and psychological differences of members of the group he leads to achieve an overall positive corporate vision.

The leader, is always in front, not behind. This is what makes the leader a ‘front-runner’. We have noted in an article earlier that, what makes the Israeli Army unique, is the fact that their generals are the ones always in front at battle-fronts while other ranks follow. When a general falls, the next officer in rank, removes the fallen general’s ‘Apaulet’ and wears it immediately. At that point, all others accept him as the new Boss. Such leaders are better positioned to anticipate, identify, manage and profit from CHANGE. The vision of the new ‘General’ automatically becomes the belief of his men.

To run a country like Nigeria, we expect to see a leader who would have wise use of power to initiate and sustain action which would transform the country (defined in the widest sense) for the benefit of the citizenry. He must be committed and vision-driven to serve this great country. Through the provision of inspirational direction imbued with self-discipline and exemplary behaviour, he would have the ability to accommodate and show tolerance for other people’s points of view on issues in the process of decision making. This is especially important in a situation like Nigeria in which, the existence of multiple nationalities and sensitivities to issues can at times require careful handling. Our leader must possess the capacity to translate intention into reality and be able to sustain it.

Leadership could be: (a) authoritarian; (b) democratic or (c) liaissez faire. Each type of these leadership styles is suitable for some particular circumstance. Authoritarian leadership is usually tolerated during periods of crises when someone with strong will can take charge and deal with the challenges posed by crisis. Often, however, when the crisis situation has passed, the leadership becomes a problematic leadership unsuited to the period of peace following the period of disturbance. The leader who managed the ‘war’ very well may not manage the ‘peace’ satisfactorily. This was what ‘The Officers’ who overthrew Gowon out of power told us happened. In fact, this happened with Adolf Hitler in Germany, he exploited the situation and became an unwelcome dictator whose desire for power and conquest grew out of tune with the need and desire of the people for a peaceful existence. On the other hand, the liaissez-faire leader may provide or promote a high degree of freedom not suitable in a crisis situation.

In today’s democracy, a democratic leader is usually elected by the people and administers through consensus building mechanism and is therefore relatively slow in decision-making because it is usually consultative or participatory. It is a case of whatever affects all, must be approved by all, not forced down on all whether they like it or not. This type of leader is what we lack now in this country. Our next leader, President Jonathan or General Buhari or even any of the hordes of nearly 20 presidential aspirants, would need to note this.

Some leaders in our local communities, such as the Oba, the Obi, the Emir among others claim hereditary rights. Such leaders are said to be “born” not “trained’ and are credited with some form of hereditary genius which others are presumed to lack. Care must however be taken to distinguish between rulers and leaders in this regard. Nigeria has not developed politically to the level of producing families like the BUSHS’ or KENNEDYS’ of America. We do not need the Kingship – style leader but a politician-per-excellence leader. Lately however, names like, Akinjide, Fani-Kayode, Yar-Ardua, Saraki, Adegbenro, Imoke, Shagari, Balewa and a few others are emerging in our political system. Which means, we may in the near future, have a Dynasty too of the good old names of “The Young Nigeria” of early 60’s.

In the area of our justice system, fairness is synonymous whereas corruption always stands in the way of justice. Justice is not just ensuring equality. Justice or fairness goes beyond equality by taking into account the differing needs of people and the merits of the individual or group of persons. The factor that would ensure justice and fairness are equity, necessity and merit. Corruption militates against justice and actually promotes injustice. This is where current leadership and those before it has led us. We were lately told that a highly distinguished Judge has said that stealing is not corruption! It seems we are re-creating our own ideas about these issues. It is a pity indeed. However, John Eriamiator gave an idea of what the two “controversial” words could mean thus: “Stealing is committed when a person takes something which does not belong to him without the consent of its owner. Corrupt practice includes acts of dishonesty, acceptance of bribe, falsification of official records or private records for self interest or perversion of justice and inflation of contracts” etc. The truth really is that current leadership in Nigeria, because of how the government is structured, encourages open practice of both because of the way people who are caught with both acts are celebrated. A good leader should not be seen to either openly or privately encourage both acts. (sic).

Prof. Niyi Akinnaso of Temple University in Philadelphia United States, in a well researched piece in his column in The PUNCH, Tuesday 20 September, 2011, defined political corruption as “the misuse of position or power for private gain. He identified the factors that promote corruption to include weak governance, lack of transparency and accountability, as well as a weak criminal justice system. He asserted that these factors are abundantly present in Nigeria where a “self-centered ruling class” whose concept of governance is characterized by an “it’s our turn to eat’ philosophy” has “normalized corruption as part of political culture” so that it is no longer seen as an aberration. The consequences of corruption include expatriation of the country’s wealth resulting in the impoverishment of the majority and the deprivation of the country. Funds that would have been used to provide enabling facilities are embezzled, siphoned and shipped abroad into private bank accounts. Those in this category are thieves – please: and they help in CORRUPTING this society. Infrastructural facilities are either not provided or are poorly maintained and allowed to rot away. This negatively affects the economy. Industries lie comatose and opportunities for employment are drastically reduced resulting in a high rate of unemployment.

Having now espoused on the type of leader Nigeria needs, it is important, indeed mandatory, that people now craving to be elected either as President, Senator or House of Representatives members in the country should do a re-survey of where things went wrong and listen to the voice of the people. The Yoruba say, when a young child falls, he gets up, and just walks away. But an elder, would look back and check what went wrong before moving forward. He thereby moves forward with better focus and the ability to avoid a recurrence of the mistake(s) which caused the fall earlier experienced. The problem of joblessness for a greater number of our populace and with thousands loosing their jobs in the banking and manufacturing sectors is a pointer to chaos.

Since, as they say, the devil finds work for the idle hand, the socio-economic impact of this is usually a heightening of social or civil unrest that further worsens the prospects for job creation and economic development. The ranks of the hopeless poor continue, as a consequence, to swell; leading to higher levels of insecurity and socio-political instability. Instability in itself promotes underdevelopment and uncertainty that leads to a downward spiraling of well-being. In the face of all of these, people device various means of survival, the most pervasive of which is the resort to base and primordial sentiments within which ethnicity and religion loom large. Ethnic and religious considerations override other considerations, threaten national cohesion and make it difficult to ensure justice and good governance. Militancy, accompanied by civil and sometimes armed disturbance, often results from perceived social injustice. The immediate impact is the introduction of instability into the social system. We have seen these happen in our Riverine areas and currently inflicting heavy wounds in our Northern territories.

Socio-political stability is both a by-product and a necessary pre-condition for economic growth and good governance. It is therefore imperative that every effort of government as well as the governed be directed towards the entrenchment and maintenance of socio-political stability, be it in politics, religion or general governance. Since, good governance is predicated on good leadership, good leadership must be transparent and accountable. We cannot but agree with Mr. Owoyemi, former President of ICAN who reportedly said in a publication in The Punch, 20 September, 2011 on page 13 that, “the country needs committed leaders who would lead the fight against poverty and corruption while fostering good governance at all levels.” He spoke well, we hope all our aspirants for the 28 March, 2015 and 11April, 2015 elections are listening.

President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari would be advised to read the back page of The PUNCH of 4 July, 2012 for the advice of Sabella Abidde. It is worth reading. The principles enunciated in the four tenets of Rotary International provide a guide to good governance at all levels. The imperativeness of good governance, leadership and accountability in Nigeria should be recognized and upheld by the people we elect to rule us.

-Isaac Adalemo is an Emeritus Professor of University of Lagos and Andrew Aroloye – is a retired Director, Centre For Educational Technology, University of Lagos.

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