The failure of leaders, especially at the formal sphere has increased the relevance of ethnic leaders, militants and primordial warlords. Of course, the masses themselves live as if under a spell. Disappointed by regime after regime, government after government and leader after leader, they give obedience on the surface, more to avoid oppression and death than out of loyalty, love and patriotism. Their souls have been so mangled and corrupted that they have nothing but cynicism and disregard for the state, the custodians of power and state policies. They have adopted coping and survival mechanisms to make it through the confusion and uncertainty in which they find themselves. To get any service from government agencies, they first prepare the bribe, then the required fee. They know that if they do not do so, there is no chance on earth that they would get any service: job applications, national passport, driver’s licence, import licence, building permit, vehicle licence, tax clearance, national ID card, you name it.
Many have retreated into community, ethnic, religious and other demonic and occultic enclaves as they hope endlessly for political rationality, sensitive leadership, and adequate democratic spaces in which to survive. In other instances, Nigerians abuse the name of God as the Almighty is invoked at the slightest opportunity even while perpetrating evil against individuals, community and the entire nation. A few have designed ways to use religion, especially Christianity to get rich and further impoverish the already poor. It is no wonder that one can find twenty branches of the same church or denomination worshipping the same God on a single street in most of our major cities! Only recently have some church leaders come to declare that fasting and prayers can not change Nigeria. In large measure, where is the leadership from the religious leaders? It is not enough to speak after every religious clash. Prevention is better than lamentation!
The “elasticity of hope” in Nigeria is just incredible. In spite of the rascality, corruption, arrogance, insensitivity and socio-economic violence unleashed on the majority by the minority power-elite, a revolution has not taken place even if anger and disillusionment often result to pockets of open resistance. Hope is almost becoming the opium of the Nigerian: e go beta, God dey, “tomorrow will be better”, “when my child grows up I will eat my share of the cake” are used to rationalise tolerance for bad leadership, corruption and bad governance!
So, in conclusion, what brand of leaders do we need in Nigeria? No one can deny the positive value of good leadership to a family, business, community, or nation. Even religious bodies and NGOs cannot thrive without good leadership. This is because good, accountable, efficient, effective, sensitive and God-fearing leadership brings hope, courage, peace, and encourages productivity, creativity and innovation.
Good leadership builds bridges and bonds of tolerance, inclusion, pluralism, love, friendship and partnership. Good leadership helps people to bear the pains of setbacks while inspiring the generality to reach the highest points of their productive and creative abilities. Good leadership is pro-people especially the youth, women and physically challenged. It is pro-community, pro-environmental protection, pro-social justice, pro-accountability, and pro-democratic in disposition. We have lived through all brands of leadership in Nigeria and we all know the opposite of good leadership. The consequences, pains, frustrations and embarrassment of bad leadership, at times quite demonic in manifestation, are there for all to see. This means that we cannot afford to continue to test the waters, give another chance to known crooks, accommodate incompetence, experiment with perpetual underachievers, tolerate persons that have no respect for the people and communities, consider persons with no democratic credentials, and give room, by acts of omission or commission to toy with our present and future again. We must remember, as one young African leader put it recently, that “one year of bad leadership can take us back ten to twenty years. In other words, one year of bad leadership can contaminate and destroy ten solid years of progress.”
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, the leaders that we choose at all levels and sectors must not be those that will undermine democracy, terrorise society, loot the treasury, build their own mansions and keep their own children abroad while making life hell on earth for the majority. We must pick leaders that value education, industrialization, infrastructural development, capacity building, and information and communication technology. We must pick leaders that understand globalization and glocalization; leaders that know the value of environmental protection, and understand that health is wealth. We must, set the local, sub-structural and internal facilities, policies and programmes in place appropriately and investors will come on their own rather than daily runs around the globe at huge public cost in search of investors that we never see. Once we restructure our society, strengthen structures of accountability and service delivery, have the right leaders in place, feed and employ our people, we would have fully re-branded our country. Tourists and investors would come on their own or with little motivation.
Our leaders, with all due respect, must have education, exposure, experience, competence, vision, integrity, dignity, commitment, and moral depth. They must have compassion, sensitivity, track record of service and identification with the people, and capable of privileging accountability, transparency, due process and service delivery. Our leaders of the future must be God-fearing, morally sound, spiritually confident, credible, honest, reliable, progressive, and with a sense of mission and sense of nation. Their loyalty must be to the State and not to a godfather, some shrine or to a hidden bank account. Their commitment to uplifting the conditions of the people, rehabilitating our dilapidated infrastructure and institutions, empowering communities and constituencies and building lasting bonds of friendship and partnership across ethnic, religious, regional and gender lines must be absolute.
The leaders we identify and pick to manage our lives, resources and future must have courage to admit mistakes, correct errors, alter our decadent past, build new opportunities, support radical ideas, attract investments, and bring our nation at par with the rest of the world in every way. Nigeria’s future leaders must know Nigeria and the world.
In this era of globalization and instant information, we cannot afford to manage ignoramuses, people who hate reading, and those that will rather die than think. Our leaders must understand and appreciate good governance as the foundation of social justice, rule of law, equity, popular participation, mobilisation, and sustainable development. Good governance enhances patriotism, honesty, new leadership and unity because it puts the people as the core of politics, policies and social actions. Ladies and Gentlemen, our new leaders must be humble but tough, caring without being careless, and loving without being stupid.
Finally, our new leaders must be persons that can appreciate the beauty of our communities and country, the sacrifices of our past heroes and heroines, the central place of women in our national development, the boundless energy of our youth, the productivity and energy of our workers, the indomitable spirit of our armed forces, the creativity of our traders, the strength of character of our traditional and religious leaders, and the innocence, purity and smiles of our babies, who invariably represent our boundless future.
For those of us in this room today, I have the following prescriptions for you:
” If you cannot be a leader, be an informed, active and alert follower;
” Set goals in life and identify the methods or mechanisms for achieving them;
” Prioritize goals and strategies;
” Rediscover yourself, learn to strategise, identify partners and always have a plan B;
” Re-examine your approach to work, life, neighbours, associates, community and the nation;
” Learn to share responsibilities, learn to give and not always expect back on the spot;
” Build good will: it is much more durable and rewarding that kickbacks or instant bribe;
” Re-dedicate yourself to family, community and nation;
” Develop a guiding philosophy for relating to colleagues, community and nation;
” Have a world-view and try to understand the world from a patriotic;
” perspective and be sure to do some reading to expand your horizon;
” Learn to listen to those around you, irrespective of class, gender or identity;
” Be willing to tap into the pool of knowledge, experience, and ideas around you;
” Respect yourself, respect those around you, avoid negative cliques, and petty attitudes e.g. backbiting and lies;
” Learn to be a team player; do not underrate or ignore anyone or ideas that you are not familiar with;
” Put the people and the nation first.
I thank you for your patience and may god continue to remain with you all.
Ibadan, March 12, 2009