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The leadership challenge of Good Friday

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Christians all over the world mark today as “Good Friday.” It is the culmination of the 40-day period of lent and the climax of the passion of Jesus Christ. Good Friday celebrates the central mystery of the Christian faith which is prominently highlighted in the Gospel of Saint John Chapter 1, verse 16, namely, that “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish, but have everlasting life.” This “giving up of God’s only Son” to save humanity from death and damnation; this vicarious death which occurred by way of a violent execution on the cross of Calvary, is what today’s feast represents for Christians.

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The day the innocent Son of God was brutally murdered by evil men and women has paradoxically come to be known as “Good Friday,” on the one hand because of the stupendous love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness of God which led his Son to the Cross, and on the other hand because it is by the very event of his death on the Cross and subsequent resurrection, that humanity has found salvation. For Christian believers, Jesus is the ultimate exemplar of love, kindness, and compassion towards suffering humanity in need of redemption. He is the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. He is the servant-leader par excellence, the One who surrendered himself to death in order to win life for his people. He is the ultimate illustration of humility, self-effacement and self-abnegation. He is the master who stooped to wash the feet of his disciples! Indeed, Jesus’ leadership character and record will continue to challenge leaders of all times and in every place.

As Christians celebrate Good Friday, we are presented with one more opportunity to reflect critically on the notion of leadership, the character and conduct of leadership, and leadership recruitment processes in our country. Though we celebrate the vicarious death of Jesus Christ out of love for his suffering people, and though he is recognised by many in our country and across the world as the ultimate example of good leadership, yet here in Nigeria, citizens are not asking those who run their affairs to give up their lives for them. Citizens are not asking their leaders to stoop down to wash their feet. No. Nigerians are simply asking for knowledgeable, visionary, inspiring, good hearted and compassionate leaders; not the succession of thoughtless, inept, punitive, self-serving, nepotistic and kleptocratic overlords that we have often seen in these climes; the kind of rulers who are now and again driving the country to the brink of disaster and disintegration.

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As Nigerian Christians celebrate Good Friday this year, the country is hopelessly floundering under leadership inertia and cluelessness. While holding tight to positions of power, those in charge of the nation’s affairs are either unwilling or unable to secure the citizens against criminal gangs that control swathes of territory within the Nigerian borders. They are either unwilling or unable to reduce the monumental corruption in the land. They are either unwilling or unable to arrest the worsening economic fortunes of the multitude of Nigerians.

Today a dangerous ethno-religious component has been woven into the runaway explosion of insurgency, banditry, kidnapping, rustling, armed robbery, and sundry criminality. And where the hearts of leaders should collapse in solidarity with the suffering poor at a time of so much agony and pain as Jesus would, our own leaders appear deaf, mute and unperturbed. True, in the face of mounting economic, political and security challenges today, the leadership appears to have been driven to the eerie silence of the graveyard.

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Decades after independence, successive leaders have pursued no coherent development plan focused on inspiring in the people a sense of unity and national cohesion, and moving the country out of poverty and infrastructural decay, but are content with going through the motions of governance that yield no dividend by way of movement towards national integration or movement up the development ladder. From a background of natural endowment and obvious potential, leaders have led the country to a sustained life of monumental corruption, economic degradation, political instability and widespread social insecurity.

Lopsided appointments and unfair distribution of projects and resources as well as inequitable application of standards and sanctions by state functionaries at the highest level make nonsense of the politics of inclusion needed to forge national consensus, foster national integration and jointly find viable solutions to the intractable problems besetting the country.

There is tension in the land and the signs are ominous. There is the widespread cry for justice and fairness seething in the subconscious of the land which needs to be addressed urgently. There is the frustration and anger everywhere in the land that needs to be acknowledged and assuaged if we are to avert the looming anarchy. It is the neglect of such oracular signs that is fuelling the renewed secessionist agitations of ethnic nationalities and youth restiveness all over the place.

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Christians have occupied and continue to occupy positions of leadership at all levels in this country. Christians have had ample opportunity to impact the environment with the core values taught by Jesus Christ and placated as it were on the Cross of Calvary. Yes, Nigerian Christians have had the opportunity to impact the society with the life of sacrifice that Christ modelled for them. Instead, it appears that many of those who profess Christianity have only paid lip service to such Christian values and virtues that could have positively transformed the nation.

With today’s celebration of Good Friday the challenge is once again before us: Nigerian leaders and those aspiring for leadership positions should take seriously the sacrificial leadership exemplified in Jesus Christ, or face the dire consequences of their profligacy and debauchery. On their part, Christians in positions of leadership at all levels and in all sectors, should strive to live lives of love and compassion as well as service and sacrifice. They should endeavour to live this Christ-like life, rooted in love and compassion and in justice and fairness. Such should be the lamp posts lighting their way of leadership, not a life founded on selfishness and greed, ethnic bigotry and religious zealotry, such as we have become all too familiar with in this country.

The Guardian wishes all its readers a happy celebration of Good Friday.

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