By Banji Ojewale
In 1983 Chinua Achebe, a late Nigerian writer and critic, was a lone voice as he mourned the death and dearth of strategic leadership in his country.
His intervention through the slim nonfiction, The Trouble with Nigeria, was mocked when it wielded the sledgehammer on Nigeria and argued that flailing leadership was primarily responsible for the country’s seasonal misery and crises. This eminent novelist of universal acclaim held that poor management of our enormous resources was the cauldron brewing the challenges besieging the land.
But a great community of critics rose after reading the book to give their fellow critics a sarcastic riposte: the troubles with Nigeria were too complex to be dealt with so simplistically in a small book and by attributing them to one single origin.
Now, 38 years after, what we discover is that Achebe was so awfully right. We missed his point, and this has been pushing us into avoidable pitfalls over the years.
But, according to Andrew Umoru in his book, Tomorrow’s Leaders, we must go back to the grave issues of leadership in Nigeria and Africa or forever stay in the margins of development, our ginormous resources notwithstanding. He presents the case that your latent endowments, even if they seem inexhaustible, are helpless, hopeless and hapless, in the hands of incompetent overseers. Umoru says these bestowals may be natural or created through human or technological feats. Yet, they will remain in a state of inertia until effective and what he calls, strategic leadership arouses them.
Umoru writes:’’ The vast human and material resources and opportunities in the continent (of Africa) require leadership to manage into the success we all desire. With good leadership, Africa can rise beyond imagination and join the comity of nations regarded as the economic superpowers today…A continent that has the most endowed and fertile lands of our world and the richest continent on earth in terms of natural resources has become so damaged through bad leadership that the world is wondering what’s going on there…What Africa needs right now is charismatic, conscientious and visionary, young and agile leadership to…bring development in every sector.’’
Here, Umoru drops out of the crowd. If he has all along joined in the singsong of leadership as the missing link, his book now offers a paradigm shift. Our quest for meaningful and result-delivering superintendents, he insists, must go past the present. Society must have its feet in today and cast its sights on tomorrow. What he proposes is a comprehensive picture that draws the youngsters into the net of operations. Hitherto, it had been a succession of sluggish and senile sets of the oldies recycling themselves all over the continent.
We can’t afford to export this deadly and unhelpful leadership style into the future, according to Leaders of Tomorrow. Its author asserts, ‘’The best way to predict the future is to create it,’’ quoting America’s Civil War President Abraham Lincoln. And the ideal way to go is to give the youth encompassing empowerment.
Although there isn’t any chapter wholly dedicated to the youth in the six-chapter book, the entire work is a discourse on innovative and dynamic leadership which the jaded can’t give. Andrew Umoru would therefore agree with the English philosopher, Francis Bacon (1561-1626), who declared: ’’Young men are fitter to invent than to judge, fitter for execution than for counsel, and fitter for new projects than for settled business.’’
The book’s plunge into various leadership models derived from classical principles and other spheres of human activities like literature, sports, history, military, religion, commerce, politics, culture etc. reveals the catholic mind of the author. So, the reader will find references to such celebrated names as Alex Ferguson (sports), Wole Soyinka (literature), Winston Churchill (military history), Steve Jobs (innovation), to establish the point that good leadership must deliver results in order to receive applause and move society into the future.
The one thousand and one management theories Andrew Umoru advances have been described as ‘’the management theory jungle’’. But, ironically, the author himself thickens the forest with a bigger tome. Thus, this small book has become a massive heuristic fortress of facts and figures to be foraged by the true seeker of acceptable models of creative leadership. You emerge from its labyrinth desiring to know more.
Despite these pluses, the book hasn’t been able to shut out the printer’s devil: he was given too much freedom to cause a lot of spelling and grammatical mishaps.