Sylva Nze Ifedigbo
Popular Nigerian stand up comedian Basket Mouth in one of his acts stated that while other countries of the world were bedeviled by one form of natural disaster or the other, Nigeria’s own nightmare was Bad Government.
It would amount to perhaps, the understatement of the century to repeat here that the reason why we are where we are as a country-one of the more popular countries that has not shown any capacity and which certainly will not be meeting any of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015, is solely due to a consistent failure of leadership. Chinue Achebe thought so, I think so too and indeed, a whole majority of Nigerians think so too such that we have come to sort of accept it as our lot-our own natural disaster like Basket Mouth would say.
If we all seem to agree that bad leadership is our problem, what then is the solution?
People while criticizing the Government often say things like “if I get in there, I will do bla bla bla” but history has shown that when they did get there, they performed even worse. Successive military governments often cited corruption and derailed leadership as reasons for over throwing the previous government, yet before long they them selves get thrown out for the same reason. The conclusion therefore points to the fact that we’ve been having the wrong notion of what leadership is all about and our approach to solving the problem has equally been wrong and futile because we have been treating leadership as a title or a position of authority.
Naturally, it is more difficult to learn new ideas as an adult. A popular Igbo adage has it that you don’t learn the use of the left hand in old age. So also, you don’t learn to lead a people aright when you get into power. I often argue that leadership workshops or seminars organized for our leaders are a pure waste of money as it can not make them change. This is because we have leaders who are ill prepared and ill equipped to handle the responsibilities of the position they found them selves in and in most cases they get to those positions either by rigging, federal character, quota or biased appointment. They are thus lacking in the moral pre-requisite for leading and like they say in law, once a process is wrong, the following actions that are a fall out of the initial process are equally wrong.
I wish therefore to opine here that leadership is an attitude not a position or title.
Leadership includes simple acts we carry out in our every day lives that portray who we are as an individual and the content of our character. Such things as not walking on the lawn, not beating the traffic light, not thrashing the road from our car, not messing up a public toilet, not posting a wrong time while signing at work, etcetra.
It includes our response to situations and our ability to make informed decisions at every point in time even when it is inconveniencing. Leadership is being able to motivate others and inspire them into attaining their full potentials as individuals especially by showing good example. It encompasses selflessness, dedication and steadfastness.
It is only when we raise a generation of Nigerians who have the right attitude that we would be able to solve our leadership problems at the top for someone who has had it as an attitude to be at school before 8.00am will also not fail to turn up to work at 8.00am and when he/she becomes a Minster, no worker in the ministry will dare turn up late because the boss him self doesn’t. That is leadership.
The fear I have however for my country is that those right attitudes are currently scarce in her youths who are soon to take over the public positions of leadership. In the contrary really, we have a generation that is so in tune with the failures of the past, have perfected it and are eager to take over so as to unleash the worst forms of leadership the world has ever witnessed.
I know some people would not want to agree with me and perhaps will call me a prophet of doom. They would want to argue that there are many young Nigerians out there who are breaking new grounds in all fields of life which gives the hope that all would be well for Nigeria in the future. I wish I could share that optimism. While I am also an incurable optimist, I am also a realist. No need saying a cup is half full, when you know it is half empty and fast going down.
The solution?: Change.
No one person can bring up a formula for solving Nigeria’s leadership woes. The solution simply lies in a genuine change in our attitudes as individuals. I am a big supporter of a reintroduction of civic education in primary and secondary schools and perhaps even the universities. If the family units can not teach us to act right, then I guess the schools will.
Also, I challenge our Men of God both Christians and Muslim to go beyond talking about witches, and wealth or about how one religion is superior to the others and start teaching their congregation how to become better people, inculcating in them the right attitudes that make for good leadership. The religious institutions should also be a strong voice against bad leadership and must begin to see it as their responsibility to save the society from final collapse.
The private sector must also step in. Though I don’t have statistics, but I am quite sure that the numbers of NGO’s on HIV/AIDS in Nigeria are perhaps ten folds more than those that deal with capacity building and reformation especially among youths. While AIDS is a big problem, I wish to state that bad leadership is even more deadly for it takes a good leader to make the better policy and supervise same to help those suffering from the disease. Civil society must begin to pay greater attention to leadership development and begin to work towards raising a new generation of leaders who have the right attitude to be leaders.
In the light of the above, I wish to commend the efforts of LEAP Africa, the Africa Leadership Forum, GOTNI, Ngozi Nwozo of the Nation Newspaper, The Future Nigeria team and the National Reformation Project of Rev Ogbueli of Dominion City. These few I know of and others who have been committed in raising us new leaders deserve to be commended. But their efforts are still at best insignificant considering the population of this country.
We need leaders, not rulers and leaders are those who have got the right attitude. The time to raise them is now.
Sylva Nze Ifedigbo