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Leaderlessness where ideas lead

By Kole Omotoso
16 December 2018   |   3:55 am
The world is at a point where something, one thing, happens driven by an idea. The Arab spring happens when a young man killed himself in protest against his unemployment.

[FILES] Nigerian police officers fire teargas at supporters of Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) as they protest against the imprisonment of their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, in Abuja, on October 30, 2018. – Nigerian police fired shots and tear gas at thousands of supporters of an imprisoned Shiite cleric in Abuja on October 30, 2018, just a day after three people were killed in similar clashes that sparked warnings to the government that a heavy-handed crackdown could radicalise the group. (Photo by SODIQ ADELAKUN / AFP)

The world is at a point where something, one thing, happens driven by an idea. The Arab spring happens when a young man killed himself in protest against his unemployment. Youth unemployment answered across the fifteen countries of the Arab world. The ensuing protest was named the Arab Spring. More recently, some French persons felt cheated by increase in fuel price and wore yellow vests in protest. For so many days now Paris has suffered under this yellow vest protest. In both the Arab Spring and the yellow vest protest, the complaint was that there were no leaders to meet and talk about the protests.

The instrument wielded by those who staged the Arab Spring and the yellow vest is the device of the cell phone. Messages through all the available platforms permitted a democratic gathering where people expressed their feelings about an issue current in the pain field of the community. Rather than those responsible doing something about youth unemployment in the Arab World, they were looking for leaders to put between people and their wishes.

It is to be noted that Emmanuel Macron did not ask for leaders to negotiate with. Rather, he addresses the whole nation during which address he cancelled the fuel increase that occasioned the protest.

A particular Yoruba weekly has been lamenting what it calls the absence of a Yoruba leader in the present political situation in Nigeria. As far as the editor of this newspaper is concerned the Yorubas are today marginalised and ignored in the distribution of the goodies consequent on being in political control of the country. Of course, by leaders, this editor means political leaders. So, right now, the Yoruba have no political leader. That is, there is nobody out there who can say follow me and people would follow him or her.

Well, if you travelled through the length and breadth of this country each ethnic nationality would complain to you that the government of Buhari has marginalised and sidelined them because the have no political leader to fight for them in the place of the distribution of goodies of Nigeria. So, leaderlessness is the thing in Nigeria.

Leaders emerge where ideas emerge. When Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo emerged there was the idea of the independence of colonies. All over the world the idea of colony-holding was despised. A better way of arranging relationships between peoples across the globe was afoot. These men articulated what should happen in Nigeria. Newspaper articles appeared. Books were written and published. The idea of independence won and Nigeria became its own country in October 1960.

But there were other ideas in circulation. The education of the free people of a free country. Long before the coming of independence Obafemi Awolowo went around telling people that collectively it is possible to educate children, all children by managing our resources in a particular manner that it would seem as if we are educating our children for free. The people of western region followed his idea and presto universal free primary education was born.

Instead of the Yoruba newspaper bellyaching about the absence of a political leader, the editor should be asking himself and his readers for the big idea in today’s world. After that he should be asking what would the Awolowos of today do in the face of this big idea?

Nigeria is a second hand clothes tokunbo electronics and vehicle consuming and satisfied country. It is a country where nobody knows the meaning of quality. Nothing is best. Everything is ordinary, mediocre and pedestrian. This is no longer a country for an Awolowo.

All over the Arab World the Arab Spring failed to bring a new way of doing things. The kings and presidents stayed on looking for leaders to negotiate with for the new generation. In Libya chaos supplanted Gadafy. In Iraq confusion reset the agenda. In Syria civil war began a seven year domination. Saudi Arabia reorganised and began a decapitation of their own elite. Qatar is busily fighting off bullies. And the Emirates have turned their desert into blooming forests and lakes of fresh water. A place flowing with milk and honey. And sweet dates and other fruits.

The world today places emphasis on followership rather than leadership. Modern people are galvanised today by Information, knowledge and know-how. There is nothing under the sun and in the firmament that is not found in Google and other internet knowledge platforms. Some time ago a friend had an argument with one of his younger colleagues who was also a doctoral student he was supervising. The friend rebuked his colleague/student for not checking for information about a particular phrase. The colleague/student said he was sure the phrase could not be found on the internet. Really? Give me a word you think would not be on the internet. The colleague/student thought for a few seconds and said ‘asun’. We live in a world of knowledge and the creative use of knowledge. People build on what has been built before and achieve new possibilities. China has become the most cashless society on earth by making all payments through and by the cell phone.

Here, market men and mammies are still biting of corner bits of currency notes or busy rejecting particular notes because nobody would accept them! Any way a society satisfied with second hand things would not know what to do with knowledge and information and know-how.

While the quality of leadership has declined, the quality of followership has advanced. Politicians are busy feathering their own nests and acquiring materials and money while their followers are busy acquiring knowledge that would improve the quality of their lives through their own efforts. Such knowledge and information put ordinary people with cell phones beyond ethnic preoccupations. Ethnic leaders are considered backward today and far right in their ideas. Ethnicity is merely an instrument that some politicians use to maintain their hold on power manipulation. Those who follow them are no better than their blind leaders. If the Yoruba lack political leaders, where are the political leaders of the other ethnic nationalities? Only big ideas, powerful ideas like justice, peace, security and co-existence can lead the world and everybody will follow.