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Servant-leadership-remedy for politics of desperation in Nigeria – Part 1



The structure of modern governments substantially derives from Biblical roots – “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver. The Lord is our King; He will save us (Isaiah 33: 22). The three common arms of government are the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. God combines all three and presides over all. He is the total and ultimate ruler of the entire universe and beyond. This must be the reason the Psalmist speaks thus of God; “for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans states unequivocally that “…there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1). God raises men and women (political leaders) for the governance of the nations, to provide leadership for the people.

According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, politics can be defined as “the art or science of government; the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy; the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government.” The process through which people rise to power and govern is generally called politics. The same source defines desperation as “loss of hope and surrender to despair; a state of hopelessness leading to rashness.” The point of desperation in politics could, therefore, be when political position seekers lose hope in the process, and then go all out to clinch power by hook or crook, resulting in the politics of desperation. These are characteristics of the contemporary Nigerian political context.


The politics of desperation manifests in different forms, such as campaign of calumny, hate speeches, snatching and burning of ballot boxes, use of political thugs, bribery of electoral officers and security personnel, electoral violence resulting in killings and maiming of innocent electorate or electoral officers and security personnel, assassination of political opponents, sponsored judicial miscarriage of justice, etc. It should also be mentioned that such licentious political dispositions are not limited to the key political arena, but can as well be seen in all other walks of life where people inordinately seek positions of authority e.g. in universities, when vacancies exist; in national professional bodies, when need for change of leadership arises; sadly, also in the religious bodies; etc. It is hereby posited that politics of desperation thrives because of the blatant absence of servant-leadership spirit among the public office seekers and holders, as well as among the generality of the populace. Our approach to the topic of this lecture shall be both practical and experiential.

The Concept And Examples Of Servant-Leadership
For good understanding of servant leadership, it would be expedient to examine the root of the word. The Greek root of the word ‘servant’ is δἱακονεω which means serve, support, serve as a deacon. The basic meaning is (a) to wait at table; this is expanded to (b) care for household needs, and from this to the wider meaning (C) to serve generally.

The Most Rev’d Dr Nicholas D. Okoh is the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Chairman of the Ibru Centre Board of Directors

The first sense (a) above is usually considered unworthy of free men among the Greeks because it involves personal subjection, but when used in connection with service done for the city or community or for a god, it becomes an honorable task and a fitting occupation for a freeman. Therefore, it is an honourable thing to be a servant of the State. Derived from δἱακονεω is δἱακονἱα, that is service, or the office. The person who does the work or service is the δἱακονος (deacon). The New Testament meaning of δἱακονεω is derived from the person of Jesus and His message (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45). It is a term denoting loving action for brother and neighbour, which itself came from God’s love.

Another word relevant to our discussion is δουλος (slave). Other derivatives include δουλεἱα (slavery); δουλεω (serve). The slave by nature is someone else’s property, and his will must be subordinated to somebody’s will, his master. The Septuagint (i.e. the Greek Old Testament) employs δουλεω to describe the relationship between God and man. The concept of the δουλος affected one’s relation to one’s fellow countrymen. He who honoured God knew at the same time that he had been joined to His community to serve them. The use of δουλος in the parables of our LORD shows all men as δουλος to God. The absence of the spirit of servant leadership has brought about gross misconceptions among the political class in Nigeria regarding their relationship with the electorate. The fact is that the electorates are the masters, while the public office holders are the δἱακονοἱ (servants) and the δουλοἱ (slaves).

Servant-Leadership suggests an initial conflict or dialectic/paradox. The concept of servant leadership rests upon the belief that even though men had leaders, these leaders were still subject to God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. As King Nebuchadnezzar was forced to accept after his humiliating experience under God’s judgment, “The Most High God rules in the affairs of men” (Daniel 4:17). In another vein, servant leadership portrays the nature and purpose of man’s leadership over the societies or nations; they are not enabled to occupy position of leadership for the sheer pleasure of being autocratic, oppressive or exploitative, but in order that they might serve the people under God. In other words, a leader is a servant.


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