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Leadership: Nigerian Style

June 16, 2009

It is because of lack of leadership in Nigeria that invokes chain reactions in that particular land and clime. I don’t think I have written any published commentary without my recourse to leadership. In Nigeria, both the leaders and the led have their own chunks of blame, but I always focused on leadership, because it is the duty of the leadership to whip the erring led into line. I quote my friend, Prof. Pat Utomi again, that everything stands and falls on leadership. If the teenage children of a man go astray, the chunk of the blame goes to the man, who is not able to rule and control his home; in other words, he is a failure. Since we have returned to democracy, Nigerian festering problems should be the ownership of Olusegun Obasanjo and Umaru Yar’Adua; no spin doctor can change that.

In Nigeria, leadership is not taken seriously and every Tom and Harry thinks that he or she can lead. Leadership is complex and challenging, and in a country that wants to progressive, the process of selecting leaders is tortuous, brain tasking, free and fair. In USA, I watched with keen interest, the selection of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the most powerful nation one earth. The process almost took two years. The heat was very unbearable, a consistent and drawn out war between the Liberals and the Conservative, and the media were not left out in the most celebrated show ever happened in the history of mankind, because Barack Obama was involved. That was the greatest rebranding America has ever engaged with the world; that an outstanding free and fair election threw up a Black man of African descent to power.

In Nigerian case, leadership is the easiest concept, because what does it take to loot the treasury, appoint loyalties to ferry money overseas, register fake companies by proxy and award contracts to self? The road to leadership in Nigeria is by killing, distributing cache of ammunition to unemployed youths and street urchins, either to intimidate an opponent, kill and maimed or to make an easy access for election rigging and snuffing of ballot boxes with fake voting papers. The process that took America two years of hard and intelligent primaries to the final general election took Obasanjo one day to hammer other aspirants down, to choose Umaru to represent PDP. Fortunately, I was in Nigeria for vacation, so I watched it all. When there was a problem in Imo, Obasanjo flew to Owerri with his gang, and at the Grasshopper Stadium, he announced that Araraume had been kicked out of PDP for taking PDP to court. Baba hated the rule of law. In my hotel room in Abuja, I shook my head and concluded that Nigeria would never survive unless it changes the way it does business.

With the way we do business in Nigeria, good, intelligent and effective people can never found themselves to lead. Politics in Nigeria has been reduced to the game of idiots, mediocre and riffraff. The citizens who are supposed to choose their leaders have been disenfranchised, beaten down and discarded while only 10% of the few privileged ones impose their cronies on all of us. Foshola Babatunde knows very well that Lagosians put him where he is today, and that Dude has sworn not to falter. Today, he is giving Lagosians the fruits of democracy. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi is living up to the billings and he is steadily transforming my own garden city. He refused to negotiate with the criminals. He is not stopping there; he is reaching the nooks and crannies of Rivers State. Without the Supreme Court, Obasanjo could have done a permanent damage to Rivers State through his own brand of warped and twisted democracy.

Free and fair election is the only process by which Nigeria will get to its God endowed potentials. The International Human Rights Watch has again come out with a damning report on Nigeria. This organization has again reiterated what many of us have been writing that Prof, Maurice Iwu should be removed as INEC chairman. My own take is that Iwu has assumed the sobriquet of election rigger and a wiling tool in the hands of dirty politicians who never wish Nigeria well. The organization also painted a gloomy picture of corruption in the high places. By the time Umaru disgraced our own Ribadu out of the anti-corruption agency was the time the fight against corruption came to a screeching halt; and all was done with a fanfare to protect James Ibori and his cohorts. Nigerians are angry, but they are helpless because they tolerate corruption. If the majority stands up and say enough is enough, things will change in Nigeria. This is the area I have problems with the led. Those kidnappers, who prefer this ugly name to armed robbers, can align themselves with the civil society, labor and other pro-democratic movement to ground the government of Umaru to a halt by unwavering civil disobedience; demanding better government or nothing. Kidnapping and militancy are doing more damage to the nation, worsening the plights of the poor and they are not the answers to the degree of injustice pervading the nation. When investors run away, who provide employment to the teeming youths?

Bad leadership runs in the veins of the privileged few in Nigeria. We are bunch of opportunists and those who are out can do anything to belong to the crass class of looters. Remember, how the dead Adedibu told the whole nation how respected Dora Akunyili begged him to become a federal minister. The left behinds in Nigeria have nobody to fight on their behalf except the labor, the civil society and the honest pro-democracy groups. The war between the rich and the poor can never end, but in the Nigeria, the difference is that the rich there wants the poor exterminated by all means. In USA where I live, the benevolent rich establish private foundations to fund programs that benefit the poor. Nigeria is a funny place indeed.

Poor and mindless leadership in Nigeria is choking everything to death. Nigeria should take a stand and look backwards whether we are moving forward or regressing. What are the effects of bad leadership on education, power supply, road constructions, clean water supply, urban renewals, health care system, employment opportunities, safety, social services, pension, steady salaries to workers, child care and maternal survival, longevity, public morals, Police, military and cultural revival? One person can make a difference and if the occupant of Aso Rock is an idiot, the whole nation will become idiots by induction. On the other hand, if the occupant of Aso Rock is a sage, the whole nation will be responsible, committed and progressive. The reason is because leadership is influence.

Our so called leaders know the right thing to do, but lack of citizenship is their greatest problem. They have no love for the country and this is the greatest test a leader has to pass before wearing the toga of leadership. That the Governors Forum has to enter into memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Kennedy School of Government, Harvard for leadership training is the most shameful thing those pinheads can do. I was disappointed that Comrade Oshiomhole was a party to that show of shame. The Governors Forum can enlist Harcourt Foundation, Los Angeles in association with the Lagos Business School, Lagos and we will knock sense into them on how to lead Nigeria. I promise you; all the experts will be Nigerians. If it is not a way that involves ferrying money outside the shores of Nigeria and shaking hands with White men, they are not interested. Pinheads!!!

Another farce in the leadership style of Nigeria is the ethnic considerations. Prof. Chukwuma Soludo did wonders as the Central Bank Governor within the five year term he was there. Everything he did was in the national interest, but a few backward Northerners were hell bent on removing the man that save Nigerian economy from world wide economic devastation through epiphanic bank consolidation and other economic decisions. Their reason was that Soludo took some decisions that were not in the interest of the North; so the nation has to suffer because of the foot-dragging North. Is this not the same North that produced the progressive Nuhu Ribadu and Nasir El Rufai?

If Nigeria should operate on policies that favor the Igbos or Yorubas or the Urhobos or the Ijaws and not Nigeria, then we are in leadership jungles. Since after the end of the civil war, the Igbos and the other minorities have never produced neither head of state during the dark days of the military nor president in the present democratic dispensation, so which program will favor those entities? This is what we get when a country is led by a hard core ethnic loyalist. Is those ethnic configurations not subsume of Nigeria or is Nigeria a subsume of the ethnic stripe? We are still a light year away from civilization, too bad. Time will tell whether Lamido Sanusi was drafted to Central Bank to serve the interest of the nation; to improve on the sterling prints of Soludo or to serve the sectional interests of the few cave-like mindsets of the North. Sanusi, without doubt, left good prints at First Bank, so let’s watch his moves at the nation’s apex bank.

Chukwuma Iwuanyanwu is the Executive Director, Harcourt Foundation, Los Angeles.

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