Nigeria has always been plagued with leadership devoid of ideology as it swims in the ocean of selfish leadership. So in every election, the gong for credible leadership dings interminably and more loudly in various states and local government areas. The sound often reverberates beyond the shores of Nigeria as it gets louder globally among Nigerians; especially those in the United States who have been wondering what is becoming of their home country.
However, in some quarters, those who are conversant with what is going on in Nigeria seem to crave for credible leadership among elected officials. They hold that credible leadership is a necessary condition for not only sustaining democracy, but for producing the dividends of democracy for the masses to see and feel. I concur with that notion. However, while honest leadership is an essential and necessary condition for a progressive nation, I can postulate that a sufficient condition would be a corrupt-free environment where purposeful leaders would thrive as they foster synergy, as well as maintaining established standards.
Still, others maintain that Nigeria needs a credible and purposeful leadership at this juncture for the improvement of the economy and creation of jobs. Again, a corrupt-free environment would assure highly established institutions with stronger trappings which will in turn guide the behaviour of individuals within them. The economy is sluggish in part because of the corrupt practices of the political elite. Secondly, nepotism has made it impossible for the recruitment of more qualified individuals in the areas they have expertise skills.
In any case, Nigeria needs credible leadership for the maintenance of corrupt-free environment and sustenance of democracy. Most importantly, Nigeria needs leadership grounded in ideological underpinnings not only at the federal level, but the country needs selfless and honest leaders at every branch, every layer and level, including in the ministries, departments, and parastatals to effectively carry out public policies. Most often, people seem to narrowly focus on the leadership at the federal level, which appears to obscure the larger issue at every level of the society. Leadership at the state and local levels is as important as the one at the centre.. The governments that make direct and most impact on the masses are local and state ones. For the dividends of democracy to be seen and felt by the masses, local and state governments must be at their best—they must produce leadership that will execute growth and human-oriented policies effectively.
Unfortunately, leadership without ideology has permeated the fabric of Nigerian culture to the extent that it stretches beyond the public sector and across the private sector where low productivity has become common place as the call for increased productivity in government and leadership without reproach continues to echo unabated.
Pitifully, Nigeria lacks selfless and responsive leaders, but has abundant human and natural resources, including selfish leaders, who want to transition from one office to another; people who want to see themselves as perpetual leaders of no consequence. Professor Dennis Odionyenfe Balogu once said, “Today, Ndi Igbo still need, but lack leaders that have clear mission and vision, and can be trusted like Nnamdi Azikiwe, leaders that would be as dedicated and selfless as Mbonu Ojike and Michael Okpara. We need leaders that would call (on us) and Ndi Igbo would come running because of the trust vested in them.” This aptly depicts what the entire nation is going through—the abundance of selfish leaders. These selfish leaders have at various times promised to be responsive in managing the resources of the nation only to renege right even before the elections are rigged in their favour. As a result, we’re being governed by a political class of marauders and gangsters, whose primary goal is to satisfy their venal horde of personal accounts while a few credible, but powerless people, as well as the masses, watch in loathe. It’s, therefore, incumbent upon Nigerians to hold their leaders accountable and ensure that during elections only people with impeccable character are elected.
Unimaginably, the executive governors of various states in the country seem to control public treasury as a private one to the detriment of the masses. Managing the scarce resources of the state to maximize the common good should have been the primary responsibility of these executive governors. However, the rabid neglect of the economic well-being of the masses, while these leaders impishly gloat in affluence, is unconscionable and should be checked. 2019 elections would provide Nigerians another opportunity to elect transparent leaders into the various elective offices. Leadership, in the absence of war heroes, monarchies, oligarchies, dictators, and in the presence of democracy, is inherently a function of group dynamics, undeniably not individuals. There is always a symbiotic relationship between leaders and the led under normal circumstances. This relationship seems to reinforce the state of equilibrium.
Though, when there is no equilibrium in that relationship, the level of agitation for change would increase, especially where the led have the political power to effect change. In Nigeria, this scenario may be farfetched. However, our leadership in Nigeria is a reflection of all of us. We’ve been tamed to timidity.
Our political culture and structure breed mediocrity and corruption and in so doing, inhibit the spirit of selfless leadership. In other words, our political culture and structure do not only support the ideology of common purpose, but also do not have the incentives for creativity in providing the common good. Since there is no direction emanating from the burden of ideology, our country is sadly left with leadership of self-confusion and spirit of limitedness.
As a result, Nigeria has been inundated with myopic and recycled leadership that is neither responsive nor have a sense of common purpose. These self-proclaimed leaders have no intention of meeting the people’s needs. Their philosophy runs starkly counter with the concept of leadership enunciated in the words of James MacGregor Burns: “The ultimate test of practical leadership is the realization of intended, real change that meets people’s enduring needs.”
There should be a real change in the culture of Nigerian leadership. In order to turn the corner, we must methodically start creating and restoring a sense of common purpose, fomenting ideological formation, and engaging young people in politics and public service. It’s also critical that every action must meet with an equal consequence. Bad leadership should not be rewarded. It’s imperative that the country should change its political culture by increasing the level of political maturity and rapid filling of the leadership vacuum.
Leadership in vacuum precipitated by the structural flaws and lack of ideological underpinnings lends itself to unsavory activities that go unscathed. The jinx of corrupt leadership would continue to plague Nigeria until ideological principles start to permeate the culture of the nation. It’s our hope that the jinx of bad leadership, at all levels of government, would be broken by a combination of expunging the immunity clause, diligent and objective work of EFCC and free, fair, and violence-free elections.