LEADERSHIP and patriotism are two intertwined virtues most times precariously misplaced in myopic assessment. Literally speaking, a leader may simply be referred to as a person who leads his people, or in the case of a product or contest, that brand or competitor always ahead or outshines others.
In our political parlance, it is usually taken for granted that the emergence of one actor above others in a political contest automatically conveys on that personality the leadership status. Perhaps, some form of cloud has impaired us from knowledge of a necessary ingredient consequent upon which a leader can be said to emerge. One of the compulsory ingredients is patriotism.
The Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary simple defines a patriot as one who loves and who is ready to defend it against an enemy. It therefore makes it mandatory that for a true leader to emerge, he must be one not given to political pornography but exudes the love for his community, area, state or country as the case may be. He must be able to see beyond the day, and must resist the urge to jump ship because the crowd is going in a particular direction.
Leadership comes with challenges and for a lily-livered person, a confused scenario may create or lead to dire consequences. Moses suffered that fate in spite of all his efforts, commitment and service.
His inability to resist the pressure of the people, in spite of his superior over them, cost him his place of honour in the Promised Land. True leaders should not be scared of taking decisions that are in the best interest of their followers, especially where such leaders have the mandate to take such decisions.
Who would have imagined the recent outpouring of emotions and praises for the departed Ikemba Nnewi, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu some 30 or 40 years ago? The torrents of posthumous dirges have indeed thrown in the arena the much talked about leadership issues in Nigeria.
From the announcement of his passing on to eternal glory on November 26 to the internment of his remains on March 2, it had been bountiful harvest of eulogies from all corners of the country.
Nigerians were glad to even hear the belligerents in the nation’s civil war accept that what the Ikemba who was once branded a “rebel” did when he did it, and under the circumstances then was to fight injustice against a people and not to fight his country.
History is replete with nationalists who made sacrifices and commitment and gave in their youth, time and resources to a cause, yet no one appreciated them until many years after they had left the scene. Cases are legion with leaders whose actions were barely understood or tolerated and whose memories were later to evoke appreciation.
Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the great Zik of Africa, and Pa Obafemi Awolowo with others remain the doyens of our nationhood. Upon their roles to gain an independent country is our national anthem couched with the phrase: “The labours of our heroes past shall not be in vain”. Yet, they were not spared while they were with us. \
A renowned writer in his attempt to x-ray the problem with Nigeria, had posited that the basic element of the country leadership misfortune is the seminal absence of intellectual rigour in the political thought of our founding fathers.
But what lessons are there for us? For today’s leaders, the guiding principle I believe and rightly too, is for us to maintain an equilibrium in our service to the masses. This is achievable if we can in the submission of Chinua Achebe be bold to rise against social injustice and the cult of mediocrity in our service to our people by bringing merit in service back to our political agenda.
We do not profess to any monopoly of knowledge neither are we to show that we are made in the mould of the wife of Ceasar who is without blemish and can do no wrong. We do not advocate that as a leader, he or she is infallible, thus not receptive to corrections. No. That is only the prerogative of our Saviour Jesus Christ.
As long as we are human creatures, we will definitely make mistakes owing to flawed views or even beliefs. It now resides in our ability to distinguish our vision from the dungeon of intransigence and make the right move. What is important, according to a thinker, is not to be defeated in thought or actions but to forge ahead bravely.
Corrections and criticisms should not evolve as a vocation but for the overall interest of the people whose mandate the leader holds. No. Neither is he a person who merely mouths highly sanctimonious, papal and salutary doctrines without matching same with actions. He must be ready to do that which will get him a deserved place in history which may be recalled during or after his lifetime. No matter whose ox is gored, the leader must show example, since example, they say, is better than precept.
Unfortunately, today we have almost a near saturated criticism bank where professionals have emerged, and the return-on-investment, so rewarding. Anybody, I mean anybody, can say whatever he likes once he is satisfied in his pocket conscience he has insulted a leader, whom ordinarily generations from his lineage cannot measure up to by any standard.
Again, that is the sacrifice as those who are scared of heat, don’t go the oven. The ugly aspect is that the ultimate goal even among the so-called critics who become willing tools in the hands of vicious opposition is to, if possible, derail the train and collaterally compound the challenges of the leader as well as the sufferings of the same masses they pretend to protect. They apply their “jobs” as tools for blackmail and ‘settlement”, at the expense of the masses welfare.
Woe upon the leader that dares to call their bluff. Yes, hell will be let loose, albeit for a period. But that will not stop the determination of any selfless leader to etch his name in gold. Any leader who is able to utilize the opportunity in his service to his people would have justified his conscience that he had done his bit.
The impact may not be immediate, but with an eye on the next generation rather than the next election, the end will justify the means and vindication will be certain. The consolation here is that ultimately, history will vindicate the just.
Governor T.A. ORJI is the governor of Abia State.