2009 and the Nation we created: Are you not Appalled?

By Victor E. Dike

As 2009 comes to an end we are once again compelled by our social and moral commitments to appraise the activities of the leaders of the Nation we created. Many Nigerians are so mired in their personal struggle for economic survival that it has become impossible for them to keep track of the activities of the leaders. But this writer who has been watching their political behavior with keen interest wonders if they realize that Nigeria is not their private property. A number of weird things have taken place in Nigeria during the period. During his inaugural speech, in May 2007, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua promised the nation that he would be a "servant-leader" (see Estelle Shirbon, Reuters, May 29, 2007). What does it mean to be a ‘servant-leader?' What does it take to be a ‘servant-leader?' Who is a "servant-leader?" Does Umaru Yar'Adua have the "servant-leader" characteristics?

However, Robert K. Greenleaf who coined the term "servant-leader" in an essay, "The Servant as Leader" (1970) listed some uniqueness of a servant-leader. According to him the term ‘is deep-rooted in the concept that people would first choose to serve and then lead for the good of the community the leader serves.' A ‘servant-leader' is first a servant. And as Greenleaf (1991) has observed "…the best test (of a servant leader) … is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?" Meanwhile, Spears (Fall 2004) has identified ten fundamental characteristics of a ‘servant-leader': 1) Listening intently, receptively and with reflection; listening to identify and help clarify the will of the group; 2) Empathy and understanding of others; acceptance and recognition of others' unique gifts and spirits; assumption of good intentions of others; 3) Healing self and others; 4) Awareness, both self and general; 5) Using persuasion as opposed to coercive compliance; 6) Conceptualization and the ability to "dream great dreams"; 7) Foresight through an understanding of the past, present realities and consequences of decisions on the future; 8) Stewardship-"holding something in trust for another" (Peter Block); 9) Commitment to the growth of people; and 10) Building community (Dike, October 14, 2009).

The question becomes, is Umaru Musa Yar'Adua practicing what the concept of "servant-leader" symbolizes? We all know that Yar'Adua was not aspiring to be president; and he does not draw political powers from the people, but from the bunch of crooks in his party. After over 2 years in office he has not made any difference in the lives of the citizens. Nigerians have not been healthier, wiser or freer under his leadership. Major policy development of the Yar'Ardua administration revolves around the unrealistic aspiration to transform Nigeria into one of the first 20 largest global economies by the year 2020 (Punch, March 17, 2009). And before that he flashed the Seven-Point Agenda, namely building "power and energy; food security and agriculture; wealth creation and employment, mass transportation, land reforms; security; qualitative and functional education and pursuance of the rule of law." Nigerians have seen similar economic packages before that built high expectation and hope, only to be disappointed. Preponderance of evidence shows that all the agenda are not working. But the drumbeat has been rising to a deafening height since he assembled a 405-member panel to realize the Vision 2020 project (Daily Trust, Feb16, 2009).

Thus it has been all promises without results. Shortly after he assumed office Umaru Musa Yar'Adua promised to declare a state of emergency on the power sector, instead he declared a state of emergency on his health by jetting off to Germany for medical treatment, leaving behind millions of poor Nigerians to die of minor ailment in the poorly equipped and poorly trained and unmotivated medical personnel in the local hospitals. The unprofessional manners with which his administration tried to manipulate the issues surrounding his health problem in September 2008 (following his 17-day absence from Nigeria) show that Yar'Adua is not a ‘servant-leader.' As you read this piece President Yar'Adua is "healing" himself with public fund in King Faisal Hospital, Jeddah Saudi Arabia, instead of equipping the local hospitals to heal the entire society. Nigerians are not certain of the nature of his ill-health or when he is expected back to resume the business of governance. It is not a crime to get sick as any person can take ill. But as a president and public servant Umaru Musa Yar'Adua has no private life; whatever affects him, including his health, is a public matter. While wishing him a speedy recovery, it should be noted that his ill-health has added its dose of tension and uncertainty in the society. Most of his ministers, governors, legislators and others top officials do not use local hospitals when they need medical treatment.

Another bogus policy being thrown about by his administration is the re-branding campaign trumpeted by the Information and Communications minister, Dora Akunyili and the buy ‘made-in-Nigeria goods and services' crusade of Achike Udenwa, Minister of Commerce and Industry (Daily Independent, October 23, 2009). Rhetoric alone cannot make the nation an economic super-power. History shows that no society has become an industrialized nation without technological capability (Mohan, 2003). Those who are involved in the bogus re-branding project seem to forget that they are guilty of not patronizing ‘made-in-Nigeria' goods: most of them do not use local hospitals. And most of their children attend foreign schools and universities; they do not invest their looted money in the local economy as they stockpile them in foreign banks and go on vacation abroad, etc (Dike, Daily Triumph, Nov 4 & 5, 2009). The funds being wasted on all the impracticable projects could have been wisely invested on public infrastructure and education to grow the economy, create jobs and stabilize the polity. The re-branding campaigns cannot eradicate corruption and fix the erratic power supply and the pot-holed roads. Neither will it clean up the heap of trash littering the streets or change the mentality of the leaders. The campaigns will not persuade the world to recognize Nigeria as a "Great Nation" or to buy the poor quality made-in-Nigeria goods and services. Nigeria can only command the attention of the international community with good governance and high quality goods and services. As George Washington Carver has said, "There is no shortcut to achievement. Life requires thorough preparation."

The people's enthusiasm and energy has been sapped by ‘politics of unreason' and false promises. As Adlai Ewing Stevenson Jr. (former Governor of Illinois 1949-1953) has observed, "Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for." At the end of 2009 millions of Nigerians did not earn the minimum required to sustain the most basic existence as the scourge of corruption has grounded the society. The political leaders are corruption-fighters by the day but they are corruption-breeders at night. The people's expectation of ‘democracy' is far removed from the realities. They expected a ‘democracy' that would improve their living conditions but the brand of politics and ‘democracy' being practiced today has immersed the people in untold economic hardship and misery. Many people are daily struggling for economic survival while the politicians have unlimited access to the treasury. Despite the nation's abundant oil wealth available indices show that more than 70% of the population is living on less than $2.00 (two U.S. dollar) a day. The nation is still facing the challenges of refining crude oil and making fuel available for domestic use. Are you not appalled? The year is ending with another scarcity of fuel that has pushed up the cost of transportation, the prices of food items, and other goods and services in the society. Social infrastructure remains dilapidated and workers are often denied their salaries at the end of the month. Yet the politicians are drumming their war on poverty.

Worse still, Nigeria has been abandoned; nobody is certain who is the leader.

While the EFCC is harassing the poor and powerless the corrupt gods in corridors of power are walking the streets freely. The Judiciary is worsening the situation. Recently, the Federal High Court in Asaba gave James Onanefe Ibori a fantastic Christmas gift by nullify the 170 fraud charges against him. But by protecting particular individuals from the wrath of the law the government has, as Gunnar Myrdal observed in the fifties, created "tumours of partiality and corruption" in the society. With the 2011 elections around the corner the hired thugs of the political gladiators are kidnapping their political opponents and relations for ransom. The politicians are now dragging about their ubiquitous Ghana-must-go bags as they crisscross the nation buying votes for the 2011 elections. Also, they are now busy shifting from one party to another like Sand Dune to realize their selfish political ambition without the INEC blinking. The INEC is a law of its own as the National Assembly cannot dictate for the agency what it should do. Can the nation have a free and fair election in 2011when the INEC is being controlled by the ruling party? Party primaries are still not what they should be; during the recent primaries the political parties selected the consensus candidates of the godfathers instead of voting for all the contestants.

As noted earlier, more often than not, the Judiciary would pervert justice to please the political gods. For instance, the Supreme Court has handed down more political than judicial rulings. This was the case when Amaechi (Rivers State) who did not contest an election was made the governor of Rivers State; and recently it ruled to in favor of Charles Soludo to become the PDP candidate for the February 2010 Anambra governorship elections despite the fact that he was not elected through proper party primary. The disorganized primary is a harbinger of what the 2011 general elections would be like. The Yar'Adua administration cannot put a finger on one thing it has accomplished! The magnitude of security problem is frightening. Traveling on land is as hazardous as traveling by air as armed robbers are terrorizing motorists even with the Police standing by the corner. The government has failed to motivate and equip the Police with appropriate gadgets to protect the society from the menace of armed robbers. And the Police takes bribe as low as N2 (two naira) and would violate the civil and human rights of any citizen who question their authority. It has been a terrible year - a year a Nigerian with al-Qaeda connection was arrested trying to blow up a Delta airline. Those who survived 2009 should thank their God.

As the world swings into 2010 Nigerians must begin to plan on how to restructure the nation and destroy the old and dysfunctional ethos (nation/culture) they created. According to Gerald Grant (1988), ethos is the sharing of attitudes, values, and beliefs that bond disparate individuals into a community. The problem with Nigeria is that the leaders are not effective "change agents." They do not have the vision and moral purpose to effect positive social change. As Fullan (1994) has aptly noted, ‘Systems do not change themselves' but 'people change the system.' However, ‘personal change is the most powerful route to system change.' Nigeria is not going anywhere with the present Leadership without a Moral Purpose (Dike, October 14, 2009). To lead Nigeria to greatness and prosperity the economy managers (CBN and National Assembly) must adopt appropriate monetary policy (CBN) and fiscal policy (National Assembly), to grow the economy and create employment. It is difficult to manage a complex society such as Nigeria when the people are hungry. As we step into 2010 our New Year resolution should be to resolve the wrongs in the society by electing credible individuals in 2011. Nigeria needs leaders with better mind-set and vision to solve the nation's myriad vexing problems - those who would commit to the ideals and virtues of democracy with exemplary actions and practices. Shifting away from the dysfunctional culture we created would place the Nation on a higher sociopolitical and economic pedestal in 2010. Nigeria deserves nothing less! Happy New Year, Nigeria!

Victor E. Dike is the author of Leadership without a Moral Purpose: a Critical Analysis of Nigerian Politics and Administration, (with emphasis on the Obasanjo Administration, 2003-2007), North Charleston: South Carolina, BookSurge Publication, October 14, 2009. For References and additional information, please visit, http://www.csjhd.org or e-mail the author: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..