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The kind of leaders Nigeria needs, by Okogie


Anthony Cardinal Okogie

Archbishop Emeritus of Lagos, Anthony Cardinal Okogie, has blamed poor leadership skills as the reason why Nigeria still remains impoverished. And to come out of it, Okogie said the country needs leaders that would inspire and harness its population to move the country out of economic deprivation.

Speaking in Lagos at this year’s Anthony Cardinal Okogie Annual Lecture, with the theme, ‘Economic Empowerment As A Pre-requisite For Nation Building,’ Okogie said such leaders must be cosmopolitan and not parochial in outlook, be able to differentiate between being principled and being rigid, as well as understand that the purpose of leadership is to protect and empower the citizen.

According to him: “These are the qualities we should look for in those who are now campaigning for our votes in the 2019 elections. If we are to build our economy, if this country is to move millions of her citizens out of poverty and build a nation, she needs leaders who will unite and not divide, for it takes the combined forces of Nigerians across religious and ethnic divides working in solidarity to build an economy.

“Where we have leaders who manipulate our diversity to enhance their electoral fortunes, it becomes impossible for Nigerians to collaborate in solidarity, impossible to join hands together and work for a peaceful and prosperous Nigeria.

“We must learn that national integration is a prerequisite for economic prosperity. We cannot exchange goods and services when we do not trust each other; we can only exchange our nuisance value.

“That is precisely why this country is in dire need of leaders with pan-Nigerian temperament, leaders who will recognise and promote the potential in every Nigerian, irrespective of ethnic or religious affiliation.”

Okogie, who believes Nigeria’s misfortune is not often caused by corruption, but failure on the part of leaders to make good policies capable of moving Nigerians out of poverty and significantly reduced corruption.

While calling for the amendment of the constitution as the panacea for a new nation, the Archbishop Emeritus, said: “In any case, we cannot fight corruption without strong and credible institutions. We cannot have strong and credible institutions if our constitution is dangerously defective. Our current constitution, with the big government it has legitimised, facilitates corruption.

“A constitution that makes us spend an enormous percentage of our annual budget servicing government, makes it lucrative to be in government by hook or crook and leaves us with a lamentably dilapidated infrastructure.  A constitution that dispossesses Nigerians of their wealth, placing such wealth in the hands of the government, impoverishes the people and renders them incapable of moving out of poverty.

“But to be a new nation, Nigeria needs far-reaching constitution amendments. Nigerians need a constitution that takes back Nigeria from its politicians and gives Nigeria back to Nigerians. Nigeria needs a constitution that takes its wealth back from political office holders and politicians on whom we spend so much to maintain in office, despite their deficiencies in matters of management of people and resources.

“We need a constitution that gives the land and its wealth back to Nigerians, because unless Nigeria is given back to Nigerians, they shall remain impoverished by their leaders, incapable of moving out of poverty and derided in the comity of nations.”

He added: “We cannot build an economy without building a nation, neither can we build a nation without building an economy.

“Our failure to make good use of the wealth of this country or use it to improve the quality of life of our people is a grave sin of ingratitude to God, who, in His benevolence, has given us this beautifully endowed land. We in Nigeria must repent of this grave sin, lest we further endanger the land and its people.

“As we approach another year of elections, let this be a litmus test for those who are asking for our votes, those who wish to be re-elected and those who wish to be elected, whether they understand that the current constitution and the political arrangement in this country facilitate poverty, and how they intend to address this issue of constitutionally promoted politics of poverty and insecurity.”

He stated that Nigeria cannot move out of poverty if young Nigerians cannot gain access to good quality education, saying it is not a matter of promising tuition-free education in government-run universities that are on again and off again, while politicians send their children to the best schools overseas.

Okogie said quality education accessible even to the poorest of the poor is the objective of the Foundation. Saying: “We do not want any Nigerian child to be left behind, for every Nigerian child is an asset.”

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Anthony Cardinal Okogie
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