Courage that inspires
During this last week, a couple of memorable events took place which may prove to be catalytic in transforming the thinking and behaviours of Nigerians especially regarding nation building. One of the biggest challenges that we have had since the return of democracy is the lack of courageous voices, who are ready to speak prophetically and powerfully about some of the fundamental ills of our society, and hopefully inspire the average Nigerian to start to think differently about some of the ‘lies’ that our leaders and political elite continue to feed us.
In far away Berlin, on Tuesday, April 4, Reverend Father George Ehusani, a Catholic Priest and Executive Director of Lux Terra Leadership Foundation received a special award in recognition of his work in the area of human rights, inter-faith dialogue, democracy and good governance from the Konrad Adenauer Foundation (a German foundation named after the Chancellor of Germany who succeeded Adolf Hitler after World War II). A day later, HRH Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Emir of Kano gave a fiery and insightful keynote at the Kaduna State Investment Summit. Both men, representing the traditional and religious institutions of Nigeria, renowned for their courageous thoughts, words and actions that can inspire the kind of transformational change that Nigeria needs.
There are clearly a number of problems with the Nigerian society, and top of the list includes the high-levels of acute ignorance that most people have when it comes to the fundamental issues of our society. Our typical greedy and corrupt leaders use ethnic and religious sentiments to continuously put a wedge within any attempts that Nigerians seek to have regarding confronting their biggest enemy – the evils of corruption, ethnic/religious bigotry, and poverty created by some of the fundamentals – a week Federal structure; constitutionalized mediocrity a la Federal Character (Quota); over-bloated public service; and poor quality of education (or its complete absence) in most parts of the country. All of these, built on a foundation of male chauvinism, widespread immorality, and a degenerate level of indiscipline.
Prior to 1999, activists including, Fr. Ehusani fought hard to bring down the one common enemy of military dictatorship, but perhaps under-estimated the rot that the many years of militarism had caused or would continue to cause within the polity. Since 1999, we have only had leaders who have either been too busy building their won political kingdoms, fighting their enemies and leaving the grass to suffer, or corruptly enriching themselves while the rest of the country remains impoverished. They have kept us distracted with all sorts of so-called religious or ethnic agitations so that they can continue to achieve their selfish agenda, and we too have responded, rather sheepishly in line with the evil script that they have written.
The poor, uneducated Nigerians are more than happy to feed off their handouts and half-hearted promises, selling their votes and freedom for a few mudus of garri. Those who are slightly more educated get their heads twisted in false ideologies and became the “human bodies” that they use for their various guerilla and terror campaigns, and perhaps the worst category of all – the so-called educated, enlightened and exposed (the category to which you and I belong) who refuse to participate in partisan politics, calling it a dirty ‘game”; cannot get off their beds on a Saturday to exercise their electoral franchise because according to them “their votes will not count”; spend more time in idle gossip and chatter complaining, whining and doing nothing; are too busy building their careers and business empires only to lock to lock themselves up in bullet-proof cars (Black Maria) and electric wire-fenced homes (prisons); and of course those who pretend to be on the side of the people, and representing the “new generation” only to get in and do much worse than the people they replaced.
So, what Nigeria needs is a fresh crop of political leaders who have the sincerity of purpose exemplified by people like Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso) and Jerry Rawlings (Ghana) who inspired their people not just by their radical thoughts and words but by the radical acts of humility, sacrifice, service and courage that inspired their people and the rest of the world. Each time I encounter friends from my generation seeking political office, I am circumspect – hoping that their intentions are pure, and that they will not go down the disappointing path of the countless others that have gone before them.
Nigerian also needs followers who are armed with the truth, who can see clearly and decipher the rubbish that crooked and deceitful leaders feed them. To achieve this, we need the kind of straight-talking, no-nonsense inspiration that people like Ehusani and Sanusi offer. We need a real breath of fresh air in our society, a wave of thinking that challenges some of the myths, urban-legends and convenient half-truths that have taken over our national discourse over the last two decades. My experience from teaching leaders and helping build organizations over a similar period suggests that ‘inspiration’ is the ingredient that is most effective in creating transformation, and that it is from courage that this well-spring of inspiration will come.
Barrow is a teacher of values-based leadership and strategy with Learning Impact NG
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