By Anthony Kolawole
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail”— Ralph Waldo Emerson Perhaps, the famed global American-born poet, essayist, leading exponent of New England Transcendentalism discourse and scholar, Ralph Waldo Emerson was quite precise when he made this simplistic assertion. But he was sublimely communicating to the few favoured by leadership out of billions of people in the world.
He cautioned leaders never to be persuaded by vain glorification or egoistic walk-up to seek such exalted positions of superintending on others. I am sure Emerson knew, to his crystal mind that leadership positions anywhere or at any level attract some committal responsibilities. I think this great scholar must have had some Nigerian leaders in mind while thinking of this wit.
Nearly one and a half-decade later, his wisdom forms an impenetrable cloud on the shadows of some leaders in Nigeria. The problem with us as a country and a people is beyond the selfishness or self-gratification and the detached aura from the ruled. But we attach such positions to killings, maiming, bickering and even court enmity with everyone to possess leadership.
Till I became an adult, each time my father took me to the community church, I would often hear of the miraculous power of God Almighty. I never knew the power of its manifestation, until I became matured in Nigeria, sound enough to decode the preachments. Some of our leaders in Nigeria are the most prominent, but ungrateful beneficiaries of the power of leadership and its bestowments.
However, it is also only in Nigeria that some leaders consciously and viciously abuse the power of the ruled. Yet, tormented by invisible forces and an earthly persuasion for vanity, we often gleefully turn our backs on the leaders whose proximity and immediacy to us beckons for all niceties because they symbolize the most grandeur essence of our existentialism.
Today, we do not only adorn some of our leaders for neglecting or extending the King Pharaonic treatment to us. But we look at them as messiahs and put our God’s given precious hands together to clap, cheer and echo their lack of wisdom in celebration in embrace of our nature’s negative virtue of regaled foolery.
I may not have devoted decades to interrogate the ontology of Emerson. But I could not help it, after deeply reflecting on the current heat in the polity of my beloved country, Nigeria. What is in vogue now is the renewed wanton attacks and killings in parts of the nation.
And sadly, to the very limits of these gruesome, horrendous and ungodly carnages, the perpetrators and orchestrators of this mindless orgy of violence are our own kith and kin. No feasible explanation can ever offer the desired clue as to what has compelled the motivations of some citizens to vent this sort of devilish venom of other citizens.
What comes handy from the character of the killings, gleaned from the manifest character of the killings and arsons are its visible political undertones and instigations. The satanic quest for power and recognition.
A few days earlier, the two chambers of the National Assembly in some sort of coup, unanimously passed a no confidence vote on President Muhammadu Buhari for failing to tame the tide of armed attacks and killings of our people. And the lawmakers asked Mr. President to resign as the leader of Nigeria because he has failed in securing the lives and property of Nigerians.
As if this was not enough expression of rage by senior lawmakers, our national legislators also proceeded to pass similar vote of no confidence on all Service and Security Chiefs in Nigeria. And as the fury fulminated, they directed Mr. President in resolutions to sack all the security chiefs and Heads of all security agencies in Nigeria simultaneously for lack of competence and capacity to tackle emerging insecurities in Nigeria.
I found their positions faulty and like judges would always say, on “one count” of the senseless conviction that leadership of a country or a nation begins and ends with Mr. President. In the haze to condemn the President on the official podium of legislative chambers, they unwittingly severed themselves from any leadership burden and fixated their eyes only on the salvation Mr. President alone can offer to salvage the situation. Though the national parliamentarians, another set of leaders themselves could be right, as even publicly supported by minions with same mindset.
But I begrudge the national parliamentarians and their apostates for one reason. It is for their inclination for the somewhat criminal proclivity to play the ostrich, exempt themselves and every other leader, except Mr. President and the Heads of Security agencies in Nigeria. These are thoughts only aligned to persons who have accidentally found themselves on the corridors of power at the lower rungs.
Of course, I have no inhibition accepting the reality that Mr. President is the Chief Security Officer of Nigeria. But does it obliterate the fact that State Governors are also the Chief Security Officers of the domains they govern with magisterial aura and power; the communities where these attacks and killings occur and subsequently escalate to draw national and international umbrage? If Mr. President is so wrong for “consenting” to the attacks, as some debased souls qualify the ugly trend; what in their best of imaginations exculpates the States Governor from same leadership liability? The unanswered questions are a dozen.
But let me narrow the narration down to States Governor, other leaders and a docile public. I am regrettably perplexed at the obstinate display of complacency. No citizen, indigene, National parliamentarian, State Assembly member, councilor, Speaker of a State Assembly, political party chieftain, elder statesman, stakeholder or religious and traditional ruler is ready to prod the Governors or one another to answer to deteriorating insecurity in their immediate domains.
Former British leader, Winston Churchill told us that, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” We can all be great people and great states only if there is the zeal to accept the burdens of our societies rather than engaging in the Nigerian famed cliché “blame game.”
What everyone thinks about is to scold and lampoon President Buhari for failing to arrest the precarious insecurity situation in the country, confederated and governed as independent units. And each one of them is ruled by a different, constitutionally recognizable set of leaders.
Brandon Sanderson is quite vocal that “The mark of a great man is one who knows when to set aside the important things in order to accomplish the vital ones.” These leaders at the lower rung are usually at the fore front of collecting huge federal allocations for governance of the states, including monthly millions of naira for security votes, which are not utilized for the purpose.
That’s the only time they display mutual friendship with Mr. President, but they effeminately shirk from vital responsibilities of the states. And it behooves on us to tightly hold these leaders first because there is wisdom in Max De Pree’s wit that “Leaders don’t inflict pain, they share pain.”
But the masses keep mute and everybody maintains an annoying silence. This is where we have got it fundamentally wrong! We want change, but because of vicarious interests, we condone so much of rubbish from those who lead us at our doorstep, only to mount a nonsensical pressure on the Federal government.
We are deprived and denied by our immediate leaders, yet we prefer a docile posture. We have lost our dignity and voices because of the indignities smearing the portraits of otherwise worthy men and women. Thus, we freely donate our lands and destinies to a horde of ravenous leaders, but find the escape route in blaming Mr. President.
We easily forget the admonishments’ of the first Afro-American President of America, Mr. Barack Obama who said; “Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” Or have we ever reflected on Napoleon Hill’s persuasions that “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve?”
Finally, renowned global physicists and great scholar, Albert Einstein uncovers the veil on our eyes that “Wisdom is not a product of schooling, but of the lifelong attempt to acquire it.” Why are we lacking this wisdom?
It’s bemusing that leadership at almost all strata in Nigeria today is navigated from disappointingly loose angles. If there is no nation like Nigeria and her people, whose leaders use their helplessness to exploit them, squander their destinies and at the same time, we single sing white-knuckle ballads into our acquiesced ears.
Benjamin Disraeli warns that only “the fool wonders, the wise man asks.” We have rendered ourselves to praise-singing and sycophancy for some leaders, especially States Governor for too long. They accumulate salaries and fail to pay pensioners. They fail to employ the youths and yet expect peace. But we follow them like fools to chant the long and weary songs on their lips that the security agencies are not doing enough.
Why have we refrained from asking publicly whether our governors have done enough to solve the problems afflicting us with the enormous resources at their disposal? Barack Obama again pricks our conscience that “One voice can change a room,” or “Our destiny is not written for us, but by us.”
The Governors do little or nothing for their states. They are only State Chief Executives when it’s time to share the security votes and only realizes it’s the duty of President Buhari and the security agencies to put off the fires they ignite secretly underground. But we say nothing! It is time to remind them that we must get to work and kick-start something about the security situation in our domains and the country. It is the duty of the President, much like ours!
You cannot eat your cake and still have it. The Governors conspicuously embezzle security votes, yet pray and expect that people go to bed as excited citizens. It’s impossible? They arm political thugs when elections are close and abandon these youths once elections are over. Who is fooling who? Who expects a hungry man to go to bed, whilst his gun is warming the inside of his cupboard?
Let me leave you to reflect deeply on the words of Kahlil Gibran. He pleads that “Keep me away from the wisdom which does not cry, the philosophy which does not laugh and the greatness which does not bow before children.”
Kolawole PhD is a University lecturer and wrote from Keffi.