Special Report

October 8, 2013

Great leaders beget great followers, great followers beget great leaders by Rotimi Amaechi

TIMIPRE Sylva and Rotimi Amaechi

*Gov Rotimi Amaechi

Being a paper presented by Rivers State Governor, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, at the 2013 Quintessence Ball and Awards ceremony held in Trenton New Jersey, recently

The difference between followers and leaders is that followers need leaders to help them follow what leaders themselves are following. This relationship takes the form of a shared response-ability to a shared calling. Both find each other in a true fellowship to create the world responsibly

— James Maroosis

INTRODUCTION: In dissecting the theme of leadership in African socialisation and the concept of followership, we can easily derive examples, inspirations and cautions from the ready examples which the continent provides. But first, the Dictionary meaning of the term ‘socialisation’. ‘It is a term used to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society’. Socialization is thus ‘the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained’

This, in effect refers to the fact that, whether as leaders or followers, we are products of our environment, culture, norms and beliefs. These in turn affect the direction of our society since both at individual level or at the level of policy-making, our actions are dictated by these norms imbibed at the various levels of upbringing and communal orientation. Therefore, you cannot separate the one from the other since both followers and leaders, so to say, fed at the same ‘fountain’.

*Gov Rotimi Amaechi

*Gov Rotimi Amaechi

The ‘African King’: In the words of Ali Mazrui, famous Kenyan writer-scholar, leadership in Africa falls into four broad categories. First is the intimidatory leader. Second is the patriarchal leader. Third, is the leader of reconciliation.

Fourth, is the mobilization leader. The intimidatory leader relies heavily on the use of force and coercion to have his way always. The patriarchal leader is the father-figure who commands neo-filial reverence. Meanwhile, the third type of leadership derives its effectiveness via tactical accommodation and a capacity to discover areas of compromise between otherwise antagonistic view points.

Africa provides an avalanche of examples, from the traditional, feudal, all-knowing, unquestionable emperors to military dictators and political overlords. They abound in the past and in the present. Africa has birthed the good, the bad and the ugly.

Perhaps the geographical size and cultural complexity of the continent makes this inevitable. In recent history, we easily point to leaders in the caste of the late Idi Amin Dada of Uganda and Emperor Bokassa of the Central African Republic, as a clear example of a coercive and intimidatory leadership, on the other hand, South Africa’s Nelson Mandela stands tall as a classic example of a reconciliatory leadership. Clearly, we can see the resultant followership and societal welfare engendered by the duo’s individual styles.

Norms must be ‘normal’: Ideally, leaders must be seen in the true light of what they are – persons called to serve and not to be served. In a fast-moving, democratic world, it is detrimental to continue to hold fast to the norms, cultures and beliefs that ensure our continued socio-economic enslavement. Leaders must be seen as ‘servant-rulers’. In a democracy, there must be a tipping point where the followers determine the direction of leadership. Africa cannot remain isolated from the rest of the world in terms of citizen power.

Africa, and indeed, Nigeria must remain culturally authentic but it must of necessity remain dynamic. The ‘normal’ world of today is a world that questions, that probes and that demands accountability from those who are elected to rule. We stand today at a critical point in the history of our great nation, Nigeria. The increasing mis-governance and the growing stifling of opposing voices is known to us all. Our patriarchal instincts cannot dictate to us at the times of decision-making – when our raised voices will make a difference. The discerning can hear the clear voice of change.

The people have a say, after all…The concept of leadership in African socialisation and followership shows that much of the time the people are unaware of their inherent ‘People Power’. Therefore we have a situation of servitude, trampling of rights, the stifling of opposing voices and the flagrant abuse of power. In the end we have a followership that is subservient, muffled, and unquestioning.

The people’s commonwealth is hi-jacked by a select, powerful few and transparency, accountability and good governance are thrown to the whirlwinds. Consequently, Africa continues to tag behind in the league of global development. How long should this continue?

‘Like followers, like leaders…’ It is often said a people deserve the leaders they get. This may not be true at all times, yet it holds a lot of water in a good number of African countries.  Without any doubt, both followers and leaders are products of their society. The society can therefore only reproduce itself.

Therefore, for the followers to earn good leadership, for the followers to see dreams of development and improvements of the society and the people crystallize into reality, the followers must be prepared to re-invent themselves. They must be prepared to be accountable, transparent and mean well for the collective good of the land in their ‘micro-governance’ levels. As the proverb says, ‘you cannot throw stones from a glass house’ or, better still, ‘he who must come to equity must come with clean hands’.


Having examined the above, do we throw our hands in the air and ask: ‘What can man do?’ as many are bound to say in these days of uncertainty?

The people are the core determinants of the dynamics of every society. It is common place to hear in Nigeria that ‘our votes don’t matter’, but I tell you that through constant participation and insistence on transparency and accountability in the electoral process, the people can eventually have their way and the system has no other choice but to be straightened out.

The people remian the power-base of the nation. They determine the quality of leaders they get, and determine the direction of the governance. They can monitor accountability in governance and the strategic direction of the country. Never forget that the voice of the people will continue to remain the voice of God.

True, there is always a tipping point…

In the words of Michael McKinney, “Followership, like leadership, is a role and not a destination.”And, for Barbara Kellerman, “Followership does not mean changing the rank of followers but changing their response to their rank, their response to their superiors and to the situation at hand.”

I therefore strongly believe that as Nigerians emboldened by the love of country, we must stand up to the challenges of the moment. We must stand up, as they say, to be counted. We must question the status quo within the ambits of the law. We must ensure probity. We must fight within the ambits of the law to ensure that Nigeria realizes its greatness in the comity of nations.

Sooner than we imagine, our children will ask us what parts we played in the affairs of our nation when it mattered most—as active, patriotic actors or passive and passive citizens, even traitors? That time is nearer that we assumed all along.

If today or tomorrow we have a failure of governance, how can the governed heap all the blames at the doorpost of the government when they did not carry out their civic obligation of lending their voices at critical times?

We have in our hands, today, the power to steer the affairs of state. We have the power of ‘the Voice of the People’ – our mandate. Luckily, trends in social media and the globalization now ensure that nothing is hidden any more. From our various corners, we can awake and make a difference. We can hold our governments at the various levels accountable. They are not gods or masquerades; they are flesh and blood. We can hold them accountable.

Today, we can truly rise to be the citizen-kings that would produce and sustain the ideal leadership that our progenitors, our future generations would be proud of —a Nigeria that truly embodies its capacities, its potentials, the Pride of Africa and a testimony to the world!

No one says that the road to Realization will be paved in gold. No one says Change will go unchallenged by the unchanging Status Quo. Yet no one doubts the divine truism in the time-tested truth—THE VOICE OF THE PEOPLE REMAINS THE VOICE OF GOD!

Truly, followers are leaders. Truly, you can be the change that you so passionately yearn for!

God bless the good people of RiversState!

God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

God bless you all!