Reactions to The Fish Gets Rotten from The Head




My last column generated a lot of debate from readers. I must thank readers for taking out time to engage in the debates. One of such from Joe Attueyi was published by THISDAY on Tuesday, June 28, 2016, titled ‘Where Alex Otti got it wrong’. I have taken the liberty to publish two more reactions reproduced here under:


Thank you for sharing your thoughts with readers. I agree that bad leadership has always been a significant reason for where we are as a country today. It is indeed correct to say that we are a nation peopled by lions but led by lame lambs. Scaled against our natural human and material resources, it is clear that our country has been devoid of both listening and learning leadership over time.

The fate we suffer today as a people is a testimony to the quality of leadership we have been subjected to since independence. We have had individuals who have at one time or the other managed our affairs in various capacities but we have not really been lucky to have leaders in the league of Mahatma Gandhi of India, Winston Churchill of Britain, Charles De Gaulle of France, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore and Nelson Mandela of South Africa, The difference between those who have ruled us and these other leaders is VISION.

Those who have ruled us even with the best of intentions have lacked the vision to build institutions that will survive them, institutions that have the capacity to renew themselves and even improve. That is why magic policies like the war against indiscipline and other ‘wars’ did not live beyond the tenure of those who initiated them.

It is this lack of strong social, political and economic institutions that has made it possible for thugs, looters and people who have no business in positions of leadership to hijack power. Having succeeded in hijacking power, they have systematically altered our value system and even restructured the institutions that would have normally served to preserve sanity in the society. They have so degraded our values to the point where someone will walk out of prison and move straight into government house as governor of a state. What kind of leadership can such a fellow offer? No person no matter what his good intentions are can ever give what they do not have. The new normal is for the electoral body to authenticate a succession plan for these breed of rulers.

The judiciary which is supposed to be the gatekeeper of our collective values is not any better. Justice in the country today is for the highest bidder. What completes this evil circle is that sustained sublime leadership in the country has created the extent of poverty that has degraded the psych of the population, now, people are content with just existing. The followers have been so subdued that their capacity to hold their leaders accountable has been completely eroded. This explains why we have recycled the same set of people in positions of leadership to the detriment of meaningful development and stability in the country.

The incursion of the military into politics actually truncated the emergence of patriotic practitioners in the political space. Random coups in the country discouraged technocrats and other professionals from participating in the politics of the day. That is why ex-convicts, drug pushers and notorious criminals emerged governors, house members etc. These set of criminals have put their hands in the public till and left them there. With the money they have stolen, they have become demi gods in their various locales, they like to be called political godfathers because they now determine who represents the people in government. They use whatever means they can afford especially violence and cash to ensure that only their likes remain in positions of leadership. That is why we have protracted bad leadership in Nigeria.

Those in leadership positions in our political space have perfected the craft of using religion, tribe etc to hold the rest of us hostage. While they emphasise these things that divide us, they keep themselves busy with our collective wealth. They fail to tell us that insecurity, hunger, and abject poverty do not discriminate along religions or tribes.

Our circumstance is not utterly hopeless. Nigerians are not a different breed of human beings from citizens in Singapore or Malaysia, South Africa, Tanzania, United States etc. I believe strongly that what we lack is visionary leaders. Our quest for stability and development can only make meaning if our leaders will recognise the need to reorient and strengthen our social and economic institutions to reflect the agenda that will benefit the people, long term. While I support the current government’s efforts to recover looted properties and funds from the thieves in our midst, the government is not doing much to create and or strengthen institutions that will encourage the emergence of visionary leadership. For instance, the government still does not have the courage to name and shame those who have looted our treasury. By not doing this, they have missed the opportunity to eliminate these band of rogues from presenting themselves for elections into positions of leadership and trust in future.

The government is not doing much to overhaul the judicial and law enforcement processes to proactively deal with people in positions of leadership who betray public trust. If our current crop of leaders do not build the institutions that will sustain their anti corruption crusade, then they would have once again blown the opportunity to set the right path for development and stability. To put it in perspective, they would have wasted efforts in doing the body works on the car called Nigeria without attending to the malfunctioning engine.

What we need is a paradigm shift from a reactive to a pro-active leadership culture. It is effective institutions that make countries like America, United Kingdom etc good examples, not the individual leaders. Suffice it to say that even the best leaders in other climes will fail woefully here, if the institutions remain the same. It is a strong and effective institution that makes it possible for someone whom our courts acquits here to be convicted in the United Kingdom. That is why public officials who are accused of any wrongdoing in those countries will hastily resign their positions because they are inclined to preserve the institutions they represent and because they are certain that the system works and will ultimately reveal them.

What we need is a different perception of politics, where the roads to public offices are not as seamless and attractive as they are now for rogues, and brigands, where the gains of office are not as rewarding as they are at the moment. We need an overhaul in leadership focus founded on transparency, where civil society and organised groups will engage the political leadership in balancing policy objectives. We need institutions that represent our values far more than build institutions that will mould individuals. Individual leaders, even if they are saints are still mortals, even with their best intentions, they have limited times in office. Everything they stand for will crumble once they leave office unless they anchor these achievements on robust and self-sustaining institutions.

To ensure meaningful development in Nigeria, the process through which people emerge into positions of leadership should be deliberately restructured to ensure that credible people-oriented leaders emerge through the system. The people need to stop putting up with the succession of rogue leaders and their cronies who have continuously insulted their sensibilities and made our flag a thing of jest in the international community. Civil society must do more in mobilising public opinion and redefining the character of leadership for the Nigerian nation.

The change we crave will only come our way when we all join hands to reject the nefarious political system that has made it possible for people who have no business in positions of leadership to rig themselves into power. The most effective way to ensure this is to review the electoral process and make it difficult for these criminals to compromise it. When qualified people are certain that the electoral system works, quality leadership will naturally emerge. Furthermore, this kind of leadership will have little choice but to be responsible because it is accountable to the people. The people can over time evaluate their performances through the ballot. Until this happens, we will continue to be led by lame lambs whose only claim to leadership is their access to ill-gotten wealth and brazen violence. Our progress will continue to be a dream until we take bold steps to build and strengthen our institutions.

  • Anosike, an   oil and gas expert, writes from Lagos



Stephen Onyeiwu

Another great and timely article. Your insights remind me of India, where I recently spent my sabbatical leave. Many people are unaware that the most successful and competitive banks in India are state-owned. The State Bank of India has not only out-competed private-sector banks, but also has become a leading multinational bank, with investments across every region of the world. Your argument that ownership is irrelevant for efficiency and competitiveness is also supported by the case of Ethiopian Airlines and South African Airways. These state-owned airlines have been very competitive, and have succeeded in withstanding competitive pressures from leading airlines such as British Airways, United, Delta, Lufthansa, and many others. Statoil, owned by the Norwegian government, is one of the most profitable oil and gas companies in the world. Meanwhile, Nigeria’s NNPC has been a bastion of inefficiency, ineptitude and corruption — a national embarrassment that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is trying to address.

But a pertinent question is why Nigeria has failed to cultivate a culture of effective leadership? Most people will agree with you that good leadership is imperative for economic development, but would want to know why it has been elusive in Nigeria. How might it be cultivated and nurtured? Can policy be used to induce good leadership, or is it something that evolves naturally within a given institutional framework? Is Nigeria doomed when it comes to good leadership? Please consider writing a follow-up article on how Nigeria might foster an environment conducive for the emergence of good leaders at various levels.

One reason why I am particularly interested in reading your views on how to foster good leadership in Nigeria is that this is not the first time a prominent figure in Nigeria would lament the dearth of good leaders in the country. As some would recall, the late Chinua Achebe wrote a book in the year 2000 titled: “The Trouble with Nigeria.”` In that provocative book, he argued that Nigeria’s problem was not the lack of resources, educated workforce, entrepreneurship, good work ethics, etc. The blame for Nigeria’s myriad woes, he agonised, was the lack of good leadership. That was 16 years ago, and one may ask why the problem has persisted ever since? Why is the “leadership learning curve” very steep in Nigeria? While countries such as Rwanda, Botswana, Mozambique, India, and China have moved faster on their leadership learning curves, Nigeria appears to be retrogressing. It’s a shame that Achebe never lived to see his book discredited by the emergence of a new generation of good and incorruptible leaders in Nigeria. Instead, his book remains even more valid in death than when it was originally published. This drives home the question of whether God purposely imbued Nigeria with a vacuous leadership.

Achebe blamed corruption for the lack of good leadership in Nigeria. While corruption is part of the story, I believe it is not an exhaustive explanatory variable. It is rather too simplistic to explain the lingering problem of the paucity of good leadership in Nigeria. This is why Dr. Otti needs to offer additional insights into the determinants of good and effective leadership in Nigeria.

  • Onyeiwu, a professor of economic, writes from Pennsylvania, US