Chances are that if you ask most Nigerians about what ail the country, ranking near the top on almost all the responses will be a lack of quality leadership in the country. Indeed, former Archbishop of Lagos said as much recently upon his retirement, that ‘‘Although government has come and gone in the country, both military and civilian, most of them did not have the interest of Nigeria or Nigerians at heart. They were in power to sustain their own personal agenda and their activities revolved around their own narrow circle of friends and appropriations outside government.”
Of course, the Archbishop knew what he was talking about. After all, whenever we lament a dearth of infrastructure, epidemic of corruption, decay in the education or health sector or the poor governing structure of the country year in, year out- what we speak of is a lack of leadership to fix these problems, or sheer lack of will (spine, some say) by those parading themselves as leaders!
When we lament the insecurity or unemployment in our land, what we speak of indeed is a lack of good leaders committed to fixing them for the good of all. Essentially, Nigeria has been blessed with the most greedy, selfish and self-hating leaders of every tribe, hue and color in human history!
Think about it, a lack of selfless leadership ensures that leaders make short term calculations for their own self interest like third term bid, repeated electioneering without a chance to win- instead of building up, persistent bending of rules to retain oneself in power, nonchalant attitude towards building self sustaining institutions to prosecute the war on corruption and of course turning such endeavor into a tool to silence internal or external opposition.
If selfish and greedy leaders were bad, a worse kind of leadership (the worst being a combo) perhaps is the weak one as we are currently entertaining in Aso Rock. This leadership style unfortunately also has its day (many times) in Nigeria, starting from the first, second and fourth republic; and yes, that interim government! Leaders without spine ensure government soon becomes a laughing stock, ensuring the perpetual ban of our collective hopes to the dark alleys of regression. Decisions are made and changed, and we all look like fools. Corruption is rife, and the so-called “spineless leader” can do nothing about it! Nigerians unfortunately, bear the brunt.
So more than fifty years after independence, we are still in this endless search for durable leadership. What will give, and where are the leaders? Instead of gripping about the problems, how about we figure out why it has been near impossible to produce good leaders and go about solving that first? Going to basics, it is often said that every society deserves its leaders. This is an about way of saying, leaders are only a reflection of their followers. So if you have selfish, greedy and weak leaders then they only must have been a product of selfish, greedy and weak willed people!
In Nigeria this is true, even for you my readers. How many Nigerians will come out of a comfortable living and thrust themselves into the hard work of organizing their fellow citizens to change the current paradigm? Are there leaders who for no promise of quick return of riches, put themselves to the arduous tasks of educating their fellow citizens, organizing, fixing community problems and empowering ordinary people instead of enjoying the borrowed heat of the enemy’s fire in distant lands? I dare say, not many!
Don’t get me wrong, we’ll return home if there is promise of business (self). If there is promise of appointment (self)- perhaps they will go. If there is a promise of a multinational expatriate work (self)- Nigeria begins to sound better. But to otherwise jeopardize our comfortable and secured living for that mess? No!
In fact, from the angle of weakness, the moment we smell that Ghana must go, the faster we lose our moral high standing against bribery, corruption and the plague of kick backs that is destroying our country. We are a people of quicksand morals and selfish ambitions. Indeed, a friend once told me that there are only two types of Nigerians: those who are stealing and those who are waiting to steal! How sad!
Essentially, the greatest problem that stands between Nigeria and good leadership is that good, honest Nigerians are as selfish as the bad, dishonest ones! They are so selfish, they’ll keep their goodness to themselves, their families and pledge allegiance to every other land but theirs to escape the reality of a morally bankrupt society! Educated, smart and reliable Nigerians rule politics out early, and warn their children to stay away from it. The dumber, more rascally you are growing up- the more likely you will end up in the corridors of power! No wonder, Nigeria is a mess!
In Nigeria, leaders are rare; those that are far and in-between have no substantial base and power or/and lack the organizing ability. The current crop of leadership lack the mental backbone, the moral foundation or intestinal fortitude to orchestrate any sort of meaningful reforms that will remake the country the way it really needs to be. Both the government in power and its cheerleaders, and those erstwhile men of power (like El Rufai, Fani Kayode and co) are not really rooting for Nigeria when they argue; they are in this for themselves!
The only way we can begin to turn this around is for the few good people (maybe like you my reader) to begin to identify and organize themselves far before 2015 towards making a difference. Town hall meetings need to begin to make it difficult for riff-raffs to win primaries in any party. We need to start organizing to demand that our vote count and anti-intellectual provisions in the electoral law that prevents e-voting should be removed immediately.
Nigerians must also demand that corrupt ex-leaders and their baggage men, be retired from politics permanently. We don’t need old, moribund ideas masquerading as fresh ones because the current occupant of Aso Rock is a non-starter. Was it not their horrible attempt at leadership that produced him? IBB, Obasanjo, Buhari, Fani Kayode, Goodluck Jonathan, Edwin Clark, David Mark, Jerry Gana and whatever is in between them must go!
These crops of leaders have failed, and it is time for good Nigerians to rise up and reclaim the country from these failures! And yes, being cynical and feeling powerless about our current circumstances to be so immobilized to push for change is exactly where the current crop of so-called rulers hope we find ourselves. But I hope you shake that feeling off; it won’t be easy, but the earlier we start: the better.