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Leadership accountability: Reversing a culture of impunity

By Taiwo Odukoya
23 April 2017   |   3:37 am
The current situation in Nigeria, where stupendous sums of foreign currency are stashed away in homes, cemeteries, farmlands, etc, while ordinary Nigerians are starving and being driven to suicide, is appalling.

Taiwo Odukoya

Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. (Hebrews 10:24)
One of the fundamental qualities of organisational leadership is accountability, which implies some measure of systemic sanctity, e.g. compliance to processes, commitment to the collective wellbeing, being liable and answerable for ones actions, etc. This is why written and unwritten rules of engagement exist to deter wrongdoing and promote personal and collective responsibility. It is argued, though, in some quarters, that there is no perfect system or perfectly accountable system, to which I agree. However, it is usually the desire and the drive for accountability that makes for an accountable system. For example, corruption is a human reality that exists in the developing and developed world alike. In the 1970s, America, in spite of its established history, ideals and seemingly perfect system, had to deal with Richard Nixon’s Watergate Scandal. But Nixon, as we know, was ousted from office in spite of his position. In a similar vein, in 2016, the Prime Minister of Iceland was forced to resign after being linked to the Panama Papers scandal. In 2010, Hewlett-Packard, CEO, Mark Hurd resigned for submitting false expense reports concerning his relationship with a contractor. In the past three years, China has punished more than one million government officials for bribery and abuse of power, amongst other crimes. Amongst those punished are the nation’s former security czar Zhou Yongkang, who was accused of running the nation’s vast security apparatus as his personal fiefdom and was given a life sentence. In 2013, Railways Minister Liu Zhijun earned a suspended death sentence for accepting the equivalent of more than $9.6 million in kickbacks.

But when an organisation, institution or nation descends to such a level of nonchalance, where it would seem that nobody cares, then impunity reigns. This is when people believe they can do anything, anyhow and get away with it. As someone aptly put it, “Impunity is accountability’s cursed enemy.” To check this trend, however, the people and the leaders alike must be willing and determined to effect a cultural change.

The reality is that there cannot be meaningful growth and development in any organisation, institution or nation without accountability, where the rules that reward integrity and competence, and those that deter wrongdoing are seen to be applicable to all, regardless of status. Otherwise, we would be creating an environment of flagrant disregard for the rule of law, which in turn creates distrust amongst the people and between the people and the leaders, discourages internal and external investment, and makes lives of the people miserable and desperate.

The current situation in Nigeria, where stupendous sums of foreign currency are stashed away in homes, cemeteries, farmlands, etc, while ordinary Nigerians are starving and being driven to suicide, is appalling. And to make it worse, instead of us to bury our heads in shame, some people are actually laying fictitious claims to these monies, shifting blames and pointing fingers in a cat and mouse way and manner that reeks of impunity and indulgences.

Nigeria really is at a threshold. People across the country, even at the grassroots, are beginning to realise that it takes good leadership to deliver effective governance. Within the next few months, there will be two major events: elections into different political offices across the country and a general census exercise. We have to get it right this time around, or at least get it much better than we have ever done. Men of goodwill can no longer afford to be quiet, and I don’t think they should. We have to use our respective positions, platforms, social and political, to educate the people on their rights, duties and what they should expect from their leaders in a democracy. We have to keep insisting on accountability in leadership, and demanding that those prone to looting should be properly indicted to deter others, as we have seen in many other countries. The truth is, we have come a long way from where we used to be, but we still have a long distance to cover to realise the Nigeria of our dreams, where there is justice, fairness and equity for all. Let us do all we can, wherever we are, no matter how little, to promote a culture of probity and accountability and discourage the scourge of impunity by every means.

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