Nigeria, as one nation, remains the hope of the African Continent, one that all of Africa has waited on for too long to lead the African renaissance. Several leaders have expressed this hope and frustration, past and present, including Nelson Mandela, Uhuru Kenyatta, Atta Mills etc. Our huge population, our geographical location, and multi-ethnic mix are all potentials we have failed to use to our advantage. It is time we started asking the right questions. What is wrong with Nigeria? What is wrong with her leadership? What is wrong with her citizens? Why has Nigeria failed to rise and be among the community of nations fifty-five years after her birth? Why do we keep electing or maybe accommodating leaders who are hardly ever prepared for the job or have the requisite skills to lead? How do we account for the near, if not total collapse of our institutions, including but not limited to our judicial systems, our school system, our religious organisations, our infrastructure, medical systems, energy systems, and indeed the confidence of an average Nigerian in our common ability to fix our problems?
We must admit that while there are no easy answers, these are questions we can no longer ignore or pass over. Now is the time to raise them, now is the time to engage the only country we have. I do not promise to proffer answers here; neither do I think we can tackle all these issues in a single article. I am only inviting us into what I will call “Operation fix Nigeria” as we prepare to start the New Year. We owe it to ourselves, our children deserve it, Africa is expecting it, and I am sure God is demanding it. There are no easy options, there never were. We just have to start acting now. In this edition, I hope to look at “Leadership, Attitude and the Biafran Model”. However, the first part of this article will focus on Leadership and Attitude with the second part focusing on the Biafran Model.
Leadership; I am amazed and I am sure you will be too, that ever since the days of Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikiwe, Nigeria has not been able to find a leader who could command respect around the world, inspire hope and confidence in Nigeria’s ability to lead Africa, articulate a vision to move Nigeria and the rest of Africa from a “maintenance” to a “thriving economy”. We have toyed about with leaders whose best has been colossal failure. Over the last 50+ years, under leaders from all stripes, military and civilian, we have seen our infrastructure deteriorate beyond repairs, the quality of school system degenerate to unsustainable levels, the professionalism of our military, the police force, Church ministers damaged beyond redemption. Today, we can only remember with nostalgia, when we had land phones working in our homes, pipe borne water flowing into our homes or public taps, medical care available to most Nigerians, school system with well trained and qualified teachers. The question then is: how did we get here? What went so wrong with Nigeria? How did we lose an entire generation to mediocrity, incompetence and ineptitude? These are troubling times, with very worrying signs. We cannot pray ourselves out of this mess. We cannot simply wish them away by outsourcing our responsibility to God. Miracles do happen. However, we must do our part as Nigerians, if God must do His.
Leadership is not only about elected or appointed figures with high positions of responsibility. That only captures a narrow definition of leadership. Technically, everyone in whatever position is a leader, and ought to act as one, as long he/she has some influence in others’ life. Acting responsibly in that position and aiding others under one’s influence to do the same is what leadership from below represents. Change does not always start from above. Indeed real and enduring change, historically, has always started from below; from committed citizens who have had it and are ready to say, ‘ENOUGH”. We have to grow up as citizens. Now, “growing up requires courage, it is a continuous process of exposing our vulnerable areas, areas where we have not developed mastery”. It involves embracing the dark and often uncomfortable realities we hate to admit even to ourselves. It requires the radicalism to hold oneself and others accountable for our service to others. This is what Ira Chaleff calls “courageous followership”; being responsible and holding others responsible. This is leadership from below, leadership at its best. Sadly, this is a deficiency we must embrace and redeem for Nigeria’s survival and thriving.