By Godson O. Moneke
I CAREFULLY chose the above title to denote the crisis of leadership in all spheres of our life particularly political leadership at the state and federal levels. We blame everything under the sun for our failures and no attempt is often made by us to interrogate our respective senses of introspection.
We always blame everybody but ourselves. This idea of holistic self-righteousness is at the root of our leadership failures and underdevelopment. The leadership in all tiers and spheres has not been able to lift or raise Nigeria and Nigerians from the doldrums in which they are languishing.
There are visible absence of reflective thinkers amongst us yet we are keen to provide solutions to our problems. How can you provide a solution to a problem which you don’t understand? It is like a medical doctor prescribing treatment for a sickness he has not diagnosed. No scientist ever gives a solution without understanding the problem. There can be no answer without a question. These are fundamental to epistemology.
Some commentators have argued that the reason Nigeria is not competing well in the comity of nations is because those we have often chosen as leaders do not have university degrees and postgraduate education. Yet these people cannot point to any example in the world where leadership effectiveness is a direct correlate of the level of education attained by the leader.
Such people cannot differentiate between being a technocrat and being a leader. While all technocrats can be leaders not all leaders qualify as technocrats because being a technocrat is not a prerequisite. Therefore, not all technocrats qualify to be leaders.
Kurt Lewin, a social psychologist postulated that behaviour is a multiplicative function of Personality and Environment, ie, (P[i-n]xE[i-n]) where P is the aspect of the Personality and E is the aspect of the Environment. It goes without saying that personal characteristics are major determinants of leadership effectiveness than anything else.
Therefore, possessing the highest level of education or being a renowned professor is not a guarantee that the holder will be a successful and effective leader. It is the view of this writer that the major reason Nigeria is in a leadership quagmire is the growing propensity of our PhD holders and professors to abandon the ivory towers and research institutes to dabble into public sector governance.
Scholars with PhD and professors are trained to handle abstract issues which are foundational, they are not trained to dabble into the application of government principles where they are currently causing confusion. Somebody can be an academic giant but an intellectual Lilliputian. There is a world of difference between academic excellence and intellectualism.
So far there is no relationship between the level of education and effectiveness as a leader. For example, in Nigeria today there are governors of states who are professors or possess high education but there is nothing in their performances that stand them out in excellent stead above those that are not as educated. Like in all management theories and practices, personal attributes of a leader are the major determinants of effectiveness so long as the constitutional requirements are met.
A twitter influencer @segalink once twitted; in a country where loquacious pontificators are erroneously deemed to have competence or capabilities, based on the decibels of their noises, devoid of measurable track records, wrong hands are stampeded to power and the vicious cycle of elect and regret is reinforced. I can not agree more with the gentleman because I have a personal example.
This happened some years back in the course of my higher education. I was a member of the Students Representatives Council, SRC, representing my class in the legislative arm of the students union government. There was a young man who was a class my junior but who postured as vocal anti-corruption crusader.
This young man was so good in his art that we pushed him into the executive branch to sanitise and promote accountability in that important and rich arm of the students union government. When he got there, he became the biggest thief in the history of students unionism in the university. Although he was later impeached, it was just too late as he had robbed us blind.
This is what is happening in Nigeria. Otherwise dubious and incompetent people confuse us with their high education, sweet tongues or highfalutin vocabularies and when given the opportunity to lead you find out that they are fake and have no moral scruples. Take a look at our experiences in the southeastern states and you can tell the story better.
It is a truism that power is never given but taken by whoever desires it. But nobody ever acquires power on a platter of gold without working for it. The unfortunate thing is that some people want power to be thrust on their laps but it doesn’t work that way. Partisan politics is one career people hardly retire from because the longer you are into partisan politics, the stronger you are, all things remaining the same.
I find it absurd when some people insist that others must retire so they can shine. It doesn’t work that way. Your success in a partisan political career is independent of your neighbours progress in politics so why do you want to do away with him? What is required to prevail is a healthy competition and understanding of the dynamics of partisan politics within a particular milieu.
I have read the agitations by the younger elements that the older men should retire so that they can flourish. I see it as a lazy man’s approach for any young man to demand power to be dropped on his laps. Power is never given, it is taken. All the people who are called old people by the youths of today were very young when they became successful in partisan politics whether under the military or civilian administration.
Since Nigeria’s political independence, the oldest person to become the President of Nigeria is the current President of Nigeria but he had been a military Head of State at a younger age. So he entered military politics and made a success of it in his youth. Whatever position he finds himself now were never dropped on his laps. They were products of hard and meticulous work.
The late Anthony Enahoro, Mathew Mbu, and some others like them became federal ministers in their early twenties. General Yakubu Gowon became Nigeria’s youngest Head of State in his thirties. Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu just clocked thirty years when led Biafra attempted secession. Sam Grace Ikoku contested election against his father Dr. Alvan Ikoku and defeated him.
The people we call old people started making waves in their youths. They did not ask anybody to retire and leave the stage for them. They worked hard for whatever they have achieved today. We should be reminded that the people we despise today as old were once young therefore, young people of today will become old people of tomorrow.
What therefore is the missing link? Our concern should be the growing incidents of failed children of eminent parents who want the good things of life but loathe hard-work.
Younger people have been governors and state legislators. Have they been outstanding in their performances? By 1999, some governors were less than forty years, what were their performance records like? Did they not loot the treasury of their respective states?
Were the state legislators who were supposed to act as checks and balances to these governors not hold themselves out as rubber stamps and complicit in the looting bazar? Yet both are young. The truth is that both the young people and the old people have been tested and found wanting. Therefore, the problem cannot be the age of leaders and similar demographics.
It has a lot to do with values systems of the Nigerian society. The person who aspires to lead must possess some qualities and characteristics which make for good leaders. There is the argument as to whether we need strong leaders or strong institutions. My position is that we need both considering our level of development now.
The ultimate desire is to create strong institutions but you need a strong leader who has leadership credentials including empathy and selflessness to build strong institutions. Singapore is an example, they needed a strong leader to build the strong institutions which they enjoy today making them among the best in the world within a period of less than fifty years.
Most personal attributes are innate in a person, a wicked man is a wicked man. A haughty and wicked person cannot make a good leader. Apart from character and competence, a leader must be a good and selfless man.
A disturbing trend is fast emerging whereby the youths are agitating for leadership for the simple reason that they are youths and ipso facto it is their turn to lead (loot the treasury). Apart from sheer pontification, no superior argument is adduced by them for wanting to take the commanding height of leadership in Nigeria. This type of mindset is frightening.
The vocal advocates who masquerade as social and human rights activists are often self-serving in their motives. The question I ask is; is this how we intend to build our society? On insincerity? Some people now go out of their ways to call out certain politicians not to contest elections because according to them they belong to the old order.
Such people refuse to tell us what the new order has done good to recommend them for a higher stake in leadership. I believe that everybody who shows interest in political leadership should be given the opportunity to contest and allow the people to make their choice. I deprecate situations where some self-serving but vocal persons harass and intimidate prospective aspirants out of a genuine contest.
The President-elect of the US is 78years but in Nigeria these noise-makers would shout that he was too old. The out-going President of the US is also in his 70’s , these noise makers do not see it only to turn back and make self serving prognosis for Nigeria. There are many countries of the world which Presidents are young just as there are those which Presidents are old.
Age has not been confirmed as a determinant for leadership effectiveness. Lee Kau Yew born in 1923 was the Prime Minister of Singapore for 31years (1959-1990) and his impact on the life of his people was unmistakable. He began to lead Singapore at the age of 36 and left Office at the age of 67. So it is not age that determines a successful leader but leadership qualities such as; VISION, EMPATHY, DRIVE, COMPETENCE, CHARACTER, SELFLESSNESS,KINDNESS AND PERSONAL VALUES.
If you have these qualities your age does not matter, age is just a number. US President-elect Joe Biden unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic Party nomination in 1988 (32years Ago), again in 2008(12 years ago) before clinching it and going ahead to win the US Presidential election in November 2020. Abraham Lincoln the 16th President of the US failed when he contested series of lower elections but he was not deterred or discouraged until he succeeded when he ran for the highest office, the Office of the President of the US.
If it were in Nigeria, the naysayers would have declared them too old and unelectable. These self-opinionated public commentators are not as altruistic as they keep posturing. They are only paving ways for their friends or whoever pays their huge bills. It is a grave pity that our public space is polluted with drudgery, trickery and frauds.
In summary, my position is that we should reflect and think deeper into why we often have political leadership failures at all branches and tiers of government in Nigeria rather than looking for quick fixes. The activities of self-opinionated public commentators who readily sell their skills to the highest bidders are very worrisome.
Whilst some Nigerians youths are focused, a good percentage of them are not different from those in the old order that they criticize. They are just disgruntled because they don’t have the opportunity to join the LOOTING SPREE. We must have a national conversation that focuses on self-reorientation in which public good is at the centre of our consciousness.
You should not badmouth any prospective contestant for political office on grounds of age, educational qualification , accident of birth, physical disability or social association because we have seen that these attributes have no bearing on leadership performance and effectiveness. For example, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), the 32nd President of the US had physical disabilities yet he invented what he called the NEW DEAL with which the US overcame the GREAT DEPRESSION and America’s worst economic crisis.
The people should be allowed to make their choices unhindered and live with a bad choice and learn their lessons. The arrogant disposition and self-righteousness of some egotistical public commentators should be discouraged . Most importantly, our youths should purge themselves of the mindset that the END JUSTIFIES THE MEAN. It is the MEANS that should justify the ENDS and not the other way round. This is how morals and values are edified in any society.
Moneke, a Fellow of the Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, and immediate past Executive Secretary of the Quantity Surveyors Registration Board of Nigeria, QSRBN, wrote from Lagos