Leadership and Sustainability of Democracy in Nigeria


Prof. Julius O. Ihonvbere, OGI, OON

Text of Lecture delivered to mark the Inauguration of the Edo State Chapter of the Yar’Adua/Jonathan Solidarity Forum, at the Oba Akenzua Cultural Centre,

Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria, June 27, 2009.

I thank the organizers for inviting me to deliver this lecture. I heartily congratulate all those being inaugurated today.  I do pray and hope that they will lead by example and lay credible foundations for the future.   Because it is an inauguration ceremony, this lecture will be brief and direct.  In any case, the PDP in Edo state is at a stage today where it cannot afford to engage in trivialities, double-talk and grandstanding.  We have been bruised, battered, humiliated, and almost caged. But thank God, we remain fully on ground, with able and capable leaders, so there is absolutely no shaking.  However, the way out of the present challenges facing the party is to sit down, reflect, be honest with ourselves, reorganize, re-strategize, refocus, reposition, and work collectively for the emergence of a true and even more powerful party in Edo State.  We must abandon our old habits if we are to succeed as a party.
We all know the problems or challenges of leadership in Nigeria and Africa.  Let me state clearly that it is the failure of leadership that has landed us in the wahala (trouble) we all face today.  If the LEADERS have been in charge just before and since political independence, then can we say that they have succeeded or done well?  Some Nigerians even believe that life was better under colonialism.  This is unfortunate because life can never be better under slavery, discrimination, domination, and colonization.  However, such statements are simply a measure of the general frustration and disillusionment with our contemporary leaders.  Let us look at the problems of Nigeria in the last twenty years: poverty, unemployment, insecurity, lack of water, lack of adequate housing, crime, corruption, rural underdevelopment, low industrialization, technological backwardness, nepotism, ethnic distrust, religious violence, deteriorating infrastructure, illiteracy, poor pay for workers, lack of social security, unreliable power supply, poor public transportation system, malnutrition, high maternal and child mortality, inadequate health services, political instability and rascality, I can go on and on.
Now tell me, are these problems not still with us today?  Are they almost solved?  Are they 50% solved? Are Nigerians happier today?  That is the crux of leadership and democracy.  Bad leadership cannot enhance democracy.  Bad leadership cannot promote accountability, discipline, social justice and good governance.  Bad leadership cannot encourage discipline, productivity, creativity, unity, and patriotism.  Bad leadership and bad governance are directly related.  But what exactly is good governance
By good governance we refer to the existence of an environment that promotes accountability, social justice, fiscal discipline and responsibility, transparency, service delivery and accessible leadership.  Good governance requires that the people remain primary in the deployment of governmental powers, the allocation of programmes and policies as well as resources.  Good governance demands a leadership that emanates from the people and functions within the context of dialogue, consultation, and constitutionalism.  In an environment of good governance, the public will and public good dominates and the people, their communities and constituencies are consulted before governmental actions are taken.  Good governance is about the people, their hopes, dreams, relationships, cultures, values, and general socio-cultural environment.  Can we say that we have been experiencing and enjoying good governance in Nigeria and Edo State in particular?  I leave that to your judgment for now.
The truth is that our leaders have, in large measure, failed us.  Not only have they failed to promote economic development to improve the living conditions of the people in general but they have also done everything to undermine all laid down rules and regulations that guide socio-economic and political development.  The evidence is around us in dilapidated infrastructure, massive unemployment and underemployment, breakdown of public institutions, general inefficiency, unbelievable corruption and waste, and the contamination of the souls of our people.
In government, political parties, educational institutions, businesses and at home, bad leadership spells disaster for all.  A business under bad leadership accumulates debts, declining profits, structural fragility and eventual collapse.  A home without leadership also culminates in crisis, violence, indiscipline, and collapse. A state or government with bad leadership lacks focus, discipline, credibility, capacity to deliver, and ends up inflicting pain and punishment on the people.  Democracy is about the people, their security, prosperity, progress and living conditions.  Any leadership or government that can not ensure and assure these conditions, or at the very least, be seen as capable of meeting these conditions,  can be described as useless.
As a young African leader put it not too long ago, “
Good leadership brings hope and energy to the people.  It attracts the best minds as well as local and external support.  Good leadership brings about quality and good governance, progressive policies, happiness in the people, and general dynamism.  Good leadership brings out the most purposeful, creative and innovative qualities of citizens and expands the capacity to share the pains of reform and to establish strong platforms of tolerance, mutual support, cooperation, innovation, and social justice.  In fact, no matter the level, there is no alternative to purposeful, honest, focused, dedicated, and patriotic leadership.  A good leader encourages the emergence of other leaders, encourages people to take charge and to want to make a difference (President Faure Eyadema, 50th Birthday Lecture for Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, Benin City, 2006).
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