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Whither our tribal political leadership



“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
-Elie Wiesel.

“The manipulation of power and ambition, the art of compromise, the rise and fall of political curses and the desire to conquer, in short, the past becomes the teacher of the present.”-George Eliot.

In any political situation, there is always the need to have someone take the responsibility of determining what is necessary, even in crisis situation or under condemnation by friends and other people; such persons must be capable of challenging anyone without fear, even the government. Some critics postulate that strong political leadership is a good thing when deployed to achieve reasonable societal development. However, the leader must be someone who shall respect the due process involving all other political parties and those responsible as decision makers in the leader’s cabinet. On the other hand, a weak leader is someone with integrity, intelligence and articulate but without real focus and always willing to seek or consider disparate views.

However, any good or weak leader must have the ability to absorb information with good memory, show courage, pursue reasonable vision and empathize with other leaders who have displayed bundling energy. It is rather difficult to find a leader who embodied all the above qualities because they are not superwoman or superman. In any event, leadership remains crucial during the course of power struggle. This is a major problem in our country as long as the poverty level remains high and unabated. Our former leaders demonstrated high level of tolerance to differing opinions, honesty of purpose and self-disciplined in pursuance of greater national goals. The Nigerian Independence could have been achieved in 1959 when the Leaders met at the Constitutional Conference in London. The then delegates from the Eastern and Western Regions unanimously agreed on a one year transit period to give the Northern Region enough time to prepare better for self-government.

The then Nigerian leaders accepted, without any reservation, that the country must come ‘first before self’. It is unfortunate that our present leaders do not promote the same objectives and the longtime interaction in the country has become a suspect. As James Mc. Gregory Burn said, “Did the President educate the followers?” It is important to broaden the perspective of national standards that the citizens are encouraged to imbibe. “Were they told that the country comes first before self?” Based on the above scenario, we should ask ourselves why the dog-fight during elections in Nigeria, be it local, congress, senate or presidential election that is meant to be free and fair? Elective positions have now turned to be meant for highest bidders and where the bidders cannot meet such demands, brazen shoot-outs for motivated political assassinations become the order of the day. The supporters of the highest bidders easily cast their votes in the ensuing political crisis at the peril of the less buoyant and less-forceful candidates. This is a very unfortunate political trend for aspiring leaders from the local government to presidential elections in the country; where future Nigerian representatives to the United Nation will be elected to take his/her seat among other contingents who are world leaders as the governing body.

Thus, ‘Be a Leader’ can be challenging with the ability to confront power and monetized politics. Therefore, the Nigerian Leaders must instill a sense of service to lead others and rid themselves of the culture which tolerates inefficiency and corruption.

In the past, Nigeria was fortunate to produce Supermen and Superwomen as leaders, most of who fought for our independent so that we can be proud Nigerians today. We cannot forget in a hurry the gallant men and women who were the front-liners of national independence. Among such heroes and heroines were Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Namdi Azikwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Abubarkar Tafawa Balewa, Chief Anthony Enahoro, Funmilayo Ransome Kuti, Margaret Ekpo, Hajiya Gambo Sawaba and many others.

Crossing over the globe, Nelson Mandela was a superman who started his political journey from leading opposition of the white minority rule in the then apartheid South Africa. For twenty seven years, he was imprisoned before he became the president of South Africa. He was regarded as the most inspiring leader in Africa. Similarly, Lech Walsas trajected from a strike leader in Gdnansk Shipyard of an obscured and unofficial trade unionism in community Poland to become the president as a superman. In the advanced capitalist countries, one can easily remember Eleanor Roosevelt who remained in the hearts of all progressive agenda in the United States till today and Martin Luther King Jr. who liberated the Negros in the United States to become a world hero and superman.

Finally, we need to remember the statement credited to Pope Francis who said: “Leadership styles matter in all organisations, even in the Catholic Church”, and for which he prefers a more liberal consultative leadership style.
Okunrinboye lives in Washington DC.

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