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Violence as symptom and effect of leadership failure

By Rotimi Fasan

THERE is no limit to what our glaring failure of leadership would cause Nigeria.  It may be no more than beating a dead horse to continue to gripe about the country’s want of visionary leaders. But it is much better to continue to call attention to our lack in this regard than to keep quiet. So much of what is wrong about Nigeria goes back to the kind of visionless leaders the country is plagued with. And if we hope to effect a change in our present situation, then we can hardly do better than holding people in positions of leadership accountable for all that goes on around us. It is true that we are all leaders in our own right. To the extent that we all exercise control over some aspects of our personal existence, we are leaders.

Even when our exercise of control does not extend beyond our circle of friends, family or relations, we remain leaders in one sense or another. Which is to say that leadership is not limited to only a particular sphere of life, in this case the political, as we are wont to imagine. But Nigerians in positions of national leadership, especially those in high stake elective or appointive offices, have a lot to answer for for this country’s failure to actualise its potentials. That Nigeria is in recession today is no thanks to the kind of leaders who have borne responsibility for this country. The state of the national economy has direct correlation to the predatory leaders who have managed the economy.

From the executive, through to the legislative and the judicial arms of governance, Nigerians have been done in by their leaders. These are people whose motivating mantra of leadership is: The self first. They are in office to cater first to their personal needs. That they have responsibility for those, the so-called ‘my people’, they claim to serve is always an afterthought. While members of the executive appropriate huge funds for their personal welfare and well being, the legislators make or amend laws, including budget proposals, in order to take care of their own personal needs as well. The judiciary, both the bar and the bench, remain on the sideline to interpret the law in ways that provide cover for the predatory activities of the other arms of government but ensures and assures their share of the stupendous pillaging of the treasury.

This is the situation in which Nigeria has found itself today. Ordinary Nigerians are neither sitting nor standing by idly. Everyone is looking for a way out of our hopeless situation in which the economy is grounded, workers are not paid, jobs are not available and businesses are failing. Everyone is now in the business of survival by and through any means. The path of least resistance now seems to be that of violence. Even when there are no reliable statistics available evidence around us indicates there has been an exponential spike in violent activities across the country. Of course, the first and most virulent aggressors here are the so-called leaders who don’t have to bear obvious weapons of violence to carry out their destructive acts.

The forms of institutional or systemic violence they unleash on those they profess to serve remain the basis of the other forms of violence that have overtaken the land. The sad irony of it all is that our so-called leaders have perfected various means of protecting themselves. The latest being the bill at the House of Representatives aimed at protecting identified looters of the treasury and the needless attempt to accord immunity to law makers as is being proposed in the Senate. While certain categories of executive officials are immune from prosecution, members of the judiciary have perfected ways to cover their track by allying with their counterparts in the executive and legislative arms. Those left to bear the brunt are the ordinary people who have no means of protection. It’s from among this category of Nigerians that we now find those whose antisocial activities are proclaimed for the whole world to hear.

Increasingly, violence appears to be the most convenient resort of this category of Nigerians. Ironically too, it’s their activities that Nigerians and the rest of the world get to hear about mostly in adverse light. But what we must not allow ourselves to forget is that the undisputable failure of national leadership is at once the cause, symptom and effect of the violence that is ripping Nigeria apart. The country is now in the firm grip of violence which is being democratised across the length and breath of the different regions and states. We see it in violent acts of robbery on the highways, attacks on entire neigbourhoods that are held hostage by criminal gangs, abductions of businesspersons, travellers and increasingly school children for huge ransoms. An underreported aspect of these various acts of violence is the proliferation of cult activities across our communities.

The spectre of cult activities was until recently confined to our institutions of higher learning. Then Nigerians associated cult groups with undergraduates and their sponsors within and outside the higher education system. Under various group names and operational bases, student cultists unleash violence on one another, killing and maiming one another and, sometimes, their lecturers. They rape, extort and bully one another in assertion of nebulous rights and exercise of power. Partly as a result of the growth of non-residential universities, itself the outcome of the impoverishment of the education sector, cult activities have gradually found their way among students living in off-campus residence. In this wise, violent attacks soon became rife in locations populated by students outside campus areas.

The army of jobless youth of okada riders, phone boot operators, barbers and other artisanal types that tend to congregate around student-dominated off-campus residences would sooner than later be recruited into the different cult groups with their origins in the campuses. When this is coupled with the fact that ours is a society historically run by politicians who belong in secret cults of different shades, people who get into office to uphold oaths sworn to in dirty shrines run by fetish godfathers and their ilk, it should then not be surprising that violence seems to be everywhere around us today. From the north of this country to the south, from the east to the west, many communities are being shut down by the violent activities of cult groups being run by youthful Nigerians. Members of these groups are not entirely unknown to members of the communities, least of all the so-called royal fathers and traditional rulers that are increasingly on the payroll of the cultists. Nigerians must rise today to reclaim their communities and country from the predatory leaders among us.




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