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The leaders we deserve

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Most adult medicine tastes bitter. I do not have the statistics, but it is true. The reverse is the case for children, and it is understandable. They cannot bear the bitterness of medicine that is vital to their well-being. The well-being of nations rests on the shoulder of their adults. They must be ready to swallow any pill, bitter or sweet, that is vital to their well-being. There is a popular bitter pill that responsible adults of progressive nations take. It is accepting the responsibility for the state of their country. They neither opt for the sweet pill of indifference nor inaction or complacency. Responsible citizens do not cry or complain like babies at the taste of bitter medicine. They know that all rises and falls on leadership; hence do not gamble with those who lead them.

The military government is out of fashion globally. They often do not reflect the people’s will, hence not accountable to the people.

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Democracy is the people’s government. It is the choice government style in many nations. Democracy recognizes that power belongs to the people. It empowers people to choose their leaders. And with choice comes consequences and responsibility. Democracy gives people the kind of leaders they deserve. Admitting this is a bitter pill that most citizens fail to swallow. Though bitter, acknowledging that we are responsible for the type of leaders we get is a potent pill. It helps us give proper attention to the entire leadership process.

Nigeria patterns her democracy after the United States of America. There is no doubt that democracy has served the USA well.

USA’s democracy has seven underlying principles. They are checks and balances, federalism, individual rights, limited government, popular sovereignty, republicanism, and separation of powers. Each of these principles puts the destiny of their nation in the hands of their citizens. Every citizen is responsible for what the country has become and will be like in the future. Let us take a closer look at some of these principles. Federalism combines the central government with the state, provincial or other sub-unit governments in a single political system. In simple terms, federalism says, every segment of the nation is part of the government. The principle of a limited government states that the government is restricted and bound to the specific principles and actions of a state or federal constitution. The constitution is a constitution of the people by the people. It is a national binding document that delegates powers to those in government. To manage delegated authorities, the nation embraced the principle of check and balance. All these principles scream – power belongs to the people! And the Americans have proven over again and again that power belongs to the people. Can we say the same about Nigeria? Does power belong to the people? Do the people know they have such powers? And if they do, how are they using it?

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A particular verse of the bible reads – an heir as long as he is still a child is not different from a slave. What distinguishes an heir from a slave is the presence or lack of awareness of inherent power and the responsibilities that come with it. With great power comes great responsibility. And with responsibility comes accountability. A nation where leadership and citizenship are not perceived as responsibility is in the bondage of self-captivity. In such countries, the ‘leaders’ sees power as a tool for oppression, self-enrichment and propagation. The principles of democracy do not only give power to the citizens; it gives responsibilities too. And such responsibilities include being clear on the desirable kind of leaders.

Then ensuring such leaders get elected. It does not stop there. These leaders are also held accountable. Outside of ethnic, religious and geographic colourations, are we clear about the kind of leaders we need in this nation? If we are not clear about it, then we cannot even identify one. If we put sentiments aside, identifying the kind of leaders we need is not hard.

The first step is to look at where we are as a nation. Then, articulate where we want to get to, the kind of nation we want to become. This is not a hard nut to crack either. We copied this pattern of democracy from a country where it works. And can also get inspiration for the kind of nation we want from them. After all, some of us have these nations as second home. While some dream and pray to travel or live there someday. Like we say in pidgin- Who no like better thing? The person who likes ‘better thing’ must become better and do ‘better thing’.

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A clear picture of where we are and desire to be should stir another question -who can take us to the promised land. The answer to this question is what will break our nation free from moving round in circles. We must answer this question at all levels of leadership. Our eyes must remain fixed on the ideal change and country that we desire to answer this question. This part is essential. Nation-building is beyond problem fixing. Our nation is currently bedevilled with many problems, as we all know. They are symptoms of deep-seated infections, not the root problems. Realistic and visionary leaders fix root problems.

This character blend is a major prerequisite for leading us to the promised land. There will always be problems to solve in a nation. Electing leaders on the promise of fixing a problem is not enough. We need leaders who can diagnose the nation’s state, identify the root problems, and place structures and systems to correct the problem. These kinds of leaders can turn problems into opportunities for growth and development. Identifying realistic and visionary leaders is not rocket science. It requires the ability to observe, listen, and question the works and ideas of the supposed leaders. By their fruits, we will know them. Serious democracies do election debates for a reason. It is a platform for leaders who seek elective positions to communicate their ideas and sell their vision to the electorate. They answer questions that will test their knowledge of current realities and their vision for the desired future. It makes the selection of good leaders easy and predictable.

To be continued tomorrow.

Osiri can be reached on Tel. 08021471061.

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