Monday comment 

Those who vote during elections must possess certain minimum education and training qualifications, argues Francis E. Ogbimi

 The injunction: “think before you act” warns that unless we understand our problems, we shall not be able to solve them. Nigeria, the nation declared by Britain in 1914, the most populous African nation, a nation highly endowed in terms of human and natural resources, was full of great hopes when she gained flag-independence on October 1, 1960. Today, 57 years after independence, Nigeria is being described as a failing nation because it has all the characteristics of a failing country. Why, what went wrong? We need to understand Nigeria’s problems to prevent the nation from failing. This article is a contribution to understanding how education can serve as way around the difficult issue of leadership.

Thinking well and acting well are a matter of wisdom. Wisdom, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, is the ability to make good and serious judgement because of one’s experience and knowledge; the quality of being wise. In the spiritual context, the book of proverb 2: 6, says: It is the Lord who gives wisdom; from him come knowledge and understanding. Wisdom 6: 17-21; 7:28-8:1, says: Wisdom begins when you sincerely want to learn. To desire Wisdom is to love her; to lover her is to keep her laws; to keep her laws is to be certain of immortality; immortality will bring you close to God. This desire for Wisdom can prepare you to rule a kingdom. So then, you that rule the nations, if you value your thrones and symbols of authority, honour Wisdom so that you may rule for ever.  There is nothing that God loves more than people who are at home with Wisdom. Wisdom is more beautiful than the sun and all the constellations. She is better than light itself, because night always follows day, but evil never overcomes Wisdom. Her great power reaches into every part of the world, and she sets everything in useful order. So, who can be a sage? 

The temporal and spiritual demands of leadership are very high and difficult to meet. Okunzua (2003), a parapsychologist, a professor of Mental Art, in his article entitled: Bad Leadership puts Nigeria Below Sorrow Line, in Nigerian Guardian, Saturday, August 30, 2003, p.19, said that man has about 200 powers or mental faculties. Leadership quality, he explained, improves with the number of powers that the individual can use; no one can be a good leader without putting at least 40 of the mental faculties into use. Okunzua, added sadly, that research suggests that no Nigerian Head of State (HOS) has ever used more than nine mental faculties. That explains why Nigeria has always lived below the sorrow line.

Today, most Nigerians claim that poor leadership is the most serious hindrance to achieving social, economic and political development in Nigeria. After over five decades of political independence and having had 13 HOS – Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Gen. Aguiyi Ironsi, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Gen Murtala Muhammed, Gen. Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Gen. Sani Abacha, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Alhaji Shehu Yar’ Adua and Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians continue to lament about poor leadership. The question which comes to mind in this regard is: how can Nigeria get the Great Leader (Mr. GL) – the HOS with the magic wand that Nigerians are yearning to have? 


The results of my research on leadership were summarised in the publication entitled: Why the Great Leader is elusive (Ogbimi, 1995). The study reached the conclusion that Mr. GL does not exist; he is an elusive individual. A wise people would not wait for the individual that qualifies as Mr. GL before putting-up the serious efforts needed for building a great nation. This conclusion was reached after examining the experience of European, American and Asian nations. The English people searched for about 2000 years without finding one Mr. GL. The French have a history similar to that of the English. The Americans did not say they had a Mr. GL. Virtually all the great nations of today had bloody revolutions. The English Revolution (1640-1688) was not a development of joy; it was a period of upheaval and bloodletting. The famous French Revolution (1789-1820s), was a decade-long bloodletting experience. The American War of Independence (1775-1783) and the America North-South Civil War (1861-1865) were not celebrations of life; they were also bloodletting experience. The Asians fought uncountable civil and external wars. The civil wars and external wars and the bloody revolutions were anti-climax expressions of the failure of leadership. Many Chinese and non-Chinese agree that Chairman Mao Zedung was a Mr. GL. I agree. The Chinese found one Mr. GL after China had existed for about 3000 years. Because different societies have searched for Mr. GL for thousands of years without finding him, Mr. GL must be an elusive individual.

What is the importance of our results? Do they suggest that Nigerians should be grateful to their leaders who have demonstrated some of the worst leadership qualities in modern times? No! One important lesson of our results is that they warn Nigerians that the lamentation over poor leadership will continue for centuries, if the citizens fail to take appropriate steps. Our results led us to the more important conclusion that: no single person builds a nation; it is the sum of the small leadership qualities in the many millions of citizens that builds a nation. Great minds build great nations; great nations are owned by those who deserve them.

Consider Europe in the feudal/monarchical era, the king was the divine and sovereign head, a few hundreds of members of the royal family, the nobles and the friends of the royal family – the king’s retinue, were the free people. More than 99 per cent of the citizens were of the serf (slave) category. Each European nation had to face many problems, because only a few ignorant people were free to think and contribute to solving the myriad of problems that usually arise in the course of building a nation. Today, European nations have done away with feudalism/monarchy/militarism; Europe is knowledgeable, skilled and competent in many ways. The task of sustaining and promoting the growth and development of nations in Europe is that of virtually all the citizens in each nation.

Education enables every citizen to contribute the small leadership qualities he or she possesses to nation-building. Education and training have solved the problem of poor leadership in the technologically advanced European, American and Asian nations of today. Learning (education and training) has increased participation and improved the quality of leadership and followership in the technologically developed world.

 European and Asian nations neglected education and training. Consequently they toiled for about 2000-3000 years to achieve the modern industrialisation (solution to mass unemployment and poverty).  They had to experience many civil and external wars and political revolutions – bloodletting exercises. No European or Asian nation was able to avoid the bloodletting experience. No one gives what he or she does not have. No Western or Asian nation would save Africa from experiencing more serious problems, if Africans do not begin to think. 

 Nigeria’s future even in the democratic era is being determined by those who cannot read and write (those who thumb-print in elections) and could not understand the real issues that promote the progress of a nation. This has to change quickly. Education and training must be given greater priority in determining both those voted for as leaders and those who vote. We should link our economic and political lives by demanding that those who vote must possess certain minimum education and training qualifications.

Prof. Ogbimi wrote from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife