Why leadership is the problem
During an address by Harvard Political Professor, Samuel Huntington, in August 1995, at Taipei, he was, among other things, asked of his impression about Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s effort to develop Singapore, and he scantly summed it up this way: the honesty and efficiency Senior Minister Lee has brought to Singapore are likely to follow him to his grave.
However, like faith which is a belief in things not seen, coupled with the fact that ordinary calculation can be upturned by extra-ordinary personalities, not only did Lee’s efficiency survived him, but, history has since assisted in providing answers to the correctness or otherwise of Professor, Samuel Huntington declaration.
Accordingly, it’s now on public domain those two years after the observation, Singapore- a country with a GDP of $3billion in 1965 grew to $46billion in 1997, making it the 8th highest per capital GNP in the world according to the World Bank ranking.
Clearly, a bracing account and unprecedented result! What is however left for those who are living is to learn the lessons from such history and gain wisdom, or ignore it, and wonder in dilemma.
Essentially, the crux of this piece is to use Prime Minister Lee Quen Yew’s account to analyze and understand the essential ingredients of foresight in leadership and draw a lesson on how leadership decision making process involves judgment about uncertain elements, and differs from the pure mathematical probability process.
From accounts, aside from the fact that the story of Singapore’s progress is a reflection of the advances of the industrial countries-their inventions, technology, enterprise and drive, a united and a determined group of leaders, backed by practical and hard-working people who trust them made it possible, It is part of the story of a leader’s search for new fields to increase the wealth and well being of his people.
From this new awareness, flows the major difference.When one juxtaposes the above account with the current situation in Nigeria, without minding what others may say, points at one direction; Nigeria’s current posturing is more of man-made than natural, more of leadership gaps than lack of resources. The challenge is further compounded by a misguided view of amalgamation by some segments of Nigerians as more of a historicized occurrence without any barefaced or hidden advantage to the nation; a mindset that further promoted deliberate demonstration of impunity, as well as superiority by one group or region against the other.
But in dramatizing this superiority, the point the people did forget is that never should one ‘be so foolish to believe that you are stirring admiration by flaunting the qualities that raised you above others. By making them aware of their inferior positions, you are only stirring unhappy admiration or envy that will gnaw at them until they undermine you in ways that you may not foresee’. It is only the fools that dare the god of envy by flaunting his victory’.
The sad news, however, is that this avoidable situation was allowed to complete its gestation and finally gave birth to what is now known and addressed in our political domain as ‘call for restructuring’ or agitation for resources control.
But at a more significant level, it is the leadership performance deficit which has plundered the socio-economic affairs of the nation to a sorry state; an occurrence that stems from an unknown leadership style described by analysts as neither ‘system nor method based’; without anything exemplary or impressive. While this appalling situation daily unfolds on our political space, the global leadership stage is littered with telling evidence about leaders that have demonstrated leadership sagacity and professional ingenuity that our leaders have refused to replicate their resourcefulness on our shores.
For instance, in 1932, Franklin D Roosevelt, the Democratic Party candidate, United States of America was elected president in the midst of the great depression. At the time of inauguration in 1933, one-quarter of the labour force was out of a job, with many thrown into poverty. Industrial production had fallen and investments had collapsed.
But within two years of his administration, he revived the economy and moved to the next stage of his agenda. He signed the social security act which introduced the modern welfare state into the united state pension at retirement, unemployment benefits and some public health care and disability benefits. When asked how? he responded thus;”extraordinary conditions call for extraordinary remedies” This to my mind is leadership accomplishment worthy of emulation.
Regrettably, here in the country, leadership challenge is given a boost by the ground propensity and penchant for corrupt, nepotistic practices of our ‘leaders’ since independence, a development that is gradually becoming a norm; a state of affairs vast majority of Nigerians claims was responsible for the inability of the nation’s successive leaders to alleviate the real condition of the poor, the deprived, the lonely, the oppressed or get into their lives and participate in their struggle.
Looking at commentaries, one can discern that the above fact is largely responsible for the youth’s restiveness and tribal aggressions as the masses continue to fight in order to register their grievance against state-sponsored socioeconomic deprivations.
It is also of considerable significance to this discourse to note that this leadership challenge has visited Nigerians with not just poverty but what analysts described as ‘island poverty’ or poverty in the midst of plenty; which has in turn promoted both hopelessness and powerlessness among innocent Nigerians.
But in all, one thing seems to stand out, our leadership challenge or bad governance was implanted by the leaders, encouraged by our unquestioning obedience to the ‘authorities and can only be reduced or erased by Nigerians.
Having discovered the challenge threatening the continued existence of our country, it becomes imperative that whatever measure the nation may want to use in tackling this challenge can only succeed if it probably puts in place steps that will guarantee leadership restructuring.
Catalyzing the process of building the Nigeria of our dreams that is laced with good leadership will among other demands require a sincere and selfless leadership, a politically and economically restructured polity brought by the national consciousness that can unleash the social, economic and political transformation of the country while rejecting the present socio-economic system that has bred corruption, inefficiency, primitive capital accumulation that socially excluded the vast majority of our people.
Above all, to completely put things right, the Federal Government must recognize, and position Nigeria to be a society of equal citizens where opportunities are equal and personal contribution is recognized and rewarded on merit regardless of language, culture, religion or political affiliations. If we are able to achieve this, it will once again, announce the arrival of a brand new great nation where peace and love shall reign supreme as no nation enjoys durable peace without justice and stability, without fairness and equity!
Part of that effort will entail recognizing that the solution to our leadership challenge may afterward not be based on argument or debate but by the quality of the people in charge. This will be followed by frantic effort to create a ‘civil society that will help sort out the irresponsible from the response in leadership. Another inoculation that will cure this leadership challenge will demand development of mindset for details and history necessary for today’s leadership.
Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos.