Introduction: Last week, we began this series with a discussion on how imperative it is that Nigerians begin to examine the quality of the leaders that they elect to represent them on the national stage. With a lens on the 2015 general elections (that draws ever-closer), and the political posturing by individuals and groups that are gearing up to contest in our favorite national charade – democratic free and fair elections – we examined parts of Han Fei Tzu’s ‘Maxim of the Worthy Ruler,’ and put forth some criterion (based on Tzu’s maxim) that we can use to gauge our next generation of leaders.
This week, our point of reference for this discussion, will be two of the laws from Robert Greene’s celebrated but equally contentious bestseller, The 48 Laws of Power. The two laws in question are as follows: “Do not commit to anyone” (Law 20) and “Despise the free lunch” (Law 40). These laws, as explained by Greene, show that everything worth having has an associated cost, and to attain a degree of power over those in or with power, one can trap them by offering them free services or gifts. Owing to the aforementioned fact, using these ‘laws’ as guides, we will focus on one of the principal but oft-overlooked characteristics of great leaders: freedom. ‘Freedom’ within the context of this article, shall convey an independence and a lack of indebtedness (political or otherwise) to individuals and groups like: the political godfathers; the political, cultural, social and religious special-interest groups and; the financial sponsors that help to propel candidates victory.
On a side note, drawing upon last week’s article on ‘The Worthy and Enlightened Ruler,’ Nigerians must also understand that some obstructions to the effective leadership of our country in the past, have not been people or groups, but ideas that are radically contrary to the collective ideals of the Nigerian people. As much as leaders may put themselves in the debt of the aforementioned categories of people, leaders may also constrain themselves by not being able to look past their own stubborn notions, and thus cage themselves in their schemes.
With the aforementioned as a guide, let us begin.
“By maintaining your independence, you become the master of others…” – Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power.
An independent people, must be led by a leader who is only dependent on the people. Hence, the New Nigerian Leader, in the pursuance of his duties, must not be beholden to any one man, or group, or notion – but to the Nigerian people in our entirety.
According to Robert Greene, “What is offered for free is dangerous” because “it usually involves […] a hidden obligation.” For example, before elections, political endorsements usually come in the form of money, statements of approval or support, and outright campaigning for candidates. Nevertheless, the New Nigerian Leader must show that inasmuch as political endorsements and donations are crucial to his political career, he will not barter his political independence for the post that he is seeking – as this would limit his effectiveness if he were elected. Because of this, Greene advocates that to be free of such obligations, one must ‘pay their own way’ for anything that is worth having.
One way that the New Nigerian Leader will be able to ‘pay his own way,’ is to seek out the mandate of the people by taking any case that he must present, directly to them – and not only to the ‘leaders,’ or the special interest groups. This is because even though he might require the skills and resources of the ‘leaders’ and the special interest groups to get things done, with the mandate of the people, in time the ‘leaders’ and the special interests will have no choice but to fall in line. As a consequence of this, instead of the closed-door, backroom, full Ghana-must-go politics that we have experienced in the past, the New Nigerian Leader must be a front-and-center; propose, explain, and elaborate; campaign-in-the-hot-sun; campaign-when-its-raining kind of leader. He must tell us why he wants the job, and must show that he will work hard to get it. He must pay the full price of winning in a democracy. In other words, he must not only have the most attainable and attractive proposals, but he must reach out and connect with the people. By so doing, if he wins, he will not only have secured a title or a position, he will also have the will of the masses behind him. Not just the money of the few.
(Note: For the purpose of this article, ‘leaders’ (with quotations) shall be defined as: individuals that have achieved a degree of influence over people and/or resources).
In addition to wielding the force of the masses through their mandate, even though he must be free of the shackles of political indebtedness, he must know that to a certain degree, his powers are also limited to the directives of the masses. In this regard, the New Nigerian Leader must stand above other leaders as a Freeman with the will of the masses, and below the masses as merely a custodian or embodiment of their collective will.
As the New Nigerian Leader will be regulated by the decrees of the many, he must also remember that he is also the caretaker of the few. He must realize that his job is not to focus solely on appeasing or appealing to only the majority, but to put forth and enact solutions that will bring about the greater good with their previously attained mandate. As a result of this, the New Nigerian Leader must demonstrate to the majority, that although their explicit approval gives him power, it does not specifically translate into him being a complete slave to their demands, but an independent and neutral mind who is always open to their requests, which he must weigh and deliver (or not deliver) based on facts, reason, and faith – the only three things to which he must be a slave, and which he must reconcile within himself before he makes any decision.
If the New Nigerian Leader makes campaign promises to secure the mandate of the people, if elected, he must work to make sure that such promises come to fruition, otherwise, he shall lose the one thing that keeps the ‘leaders’ and the special interest groups from being constant obstructions – the will of the people.
Similarly, it is important to note that although the New Nigerian Leader must show his level of independence, he must not be a maverick for the sake of being a maverick. What this means is that the New Nigerian Leader must not dance to the beat of his own drum simply because he can, but he must listen to the various sounds and rhythms around him, before he chooses and synthesizes the sounds that would make the best songs.
A leader who is independent-minded, who knows that his powers can be checked and withdrawn by the people, will work hard to ensure that the people see that he is working to bring about the best solutions to the problems that they face. Some of the simple problems that we face in Nigeria today, like ineffective appointees chosen to hold offices due to political indebtedness will be curtailed. Other problems like the inability to adequately punish corrupt officials because they have the backing of one ‘godfather’ or the other – to whom many of our leaders are beholden to – will also be minimized, and in time, eradicated. In spite of this, it is only with a Freeman – an individual who has been entrusted with a collective will, and whose only debt is owed directly to the entire nation – that we can truly start to bring about positive and long-lasting change in Nigeria. But, we must start now. Because, the future is fast upon us.
Let’s continue this conversation on Twitter. Follow me @OluOne .