The Leadership I Mean

39
Guest Columnist: Okey Ikechukwu
Edifying Elucidations

By Okey Ikechukwu; okey.ikechukwu@thisdaylive.com

Four questions shall guide our conversation about the Nigerian State today. The first is: Is it wrong to use the rational standards for measuring success in any enterprise to measure performance in public office? The second is: Does public office place anyone above the culture, traditions and norms of propriety and decency among his people? The third is: Does public office make anyone a superior authority to priests, Imams, pastors and religious leaders? The fourth is: Can a person who deliberately comes late to church, or to the mosque, enters with security men, greets whosoever he likes and briefly cracks jokes before sitting down (while worship is going on) be said to really believe in God? Finally, are there norms for normalcy, and the lunatic fringe, in everything we do as leaders and as human beings?

 

Is it really any wonder today that many people in leadership positions throng prayer houses, bury cows and do all sorts of things for power? Is it a wonder that pastors mostly celebrate “testimonies” from people who come to sudden wealth without doing any work and who claim it came from tithing and the sowing of seeds into the pastor’s pocket? Will anyone think of wealth creation and entrepreneurship when only idlers are made the subject of envy in prayer houses?  Is it any wonder that luck and unconscionable notions of god-fatherism dominate our political and leadership landscape today? Is it any wonder that speaking in tongues, the laying of hands, weekend-long adoration outings, the spraying of holy water from various priests and the carrying of presumably sacred religious objects are now taken more seriously than business plans, ICT literacy, opening a business and being diligent about anything? For that matter, is it any wonder than towns and cities that had free-flowing pipe-borne water in the cities now how expensive public ceremonies to launch and celebrate boreholes?

The real issue is actually not the fact that education and knowledge are in decline, no! It is the fact that education along the paths of proper human and national development are being replaced by another form of negative education. It is also the fact that the alternative education that is on the table today represents a reversal of the natural trajectory of societal evolution. It is the fact that the wrong leadership and followership paradigms are being entrenched and training in real skills is being replaced by cash for economically non-productive activities. The absence of constructive and sustainable engagement are reigning everywhere, spewing out a generation of thugs, beggars, pickpockets, aspiring kidnappers, bag carrying youths and “leaders” who earn stupendous salaries while doing nothing particularly significant in an ocean of poverty! It is a polity wherein positive contributions of any sort are beating steady retreat.

The average senator, governor and former governor, state and federal legislator, head of parastatal or even a local government chairman moves about with fierce looking security personnel and pilot vehicles. The security men and the sirens must drive the people out of the way whenever the leaders are coming, or going. The vehicle headlights must be on in broad daylight, probably help them find the afternoon sun, as they drive at speeds of between 120 and 160 kilometres per hour, sometimes on a village road. And it is not as if anyone is chasing them, to warrant their driving as if the very devil himself is hot on their case. The convoys do not slow down, or stop, to avoid running over people’s chickens and goats, or to minimise the amount of dust unleashed on confounded villagers. It is all a sign of power – and “arrival.” Besides, there are new chieftaincy titles and knighthoods, or eldership in the church, thrown in here and there.  

These leaders now inspire a new generation of young Nigerians, for whom they are role models. As society that celebrates such “leaders,” endorses bad manners and sudden, stupendous and inexplicable, wealth. Where no traditional, or religious leader, is seen to ever quietly call any such leader aside and ask whether he had left the straight path, the youths will aspire to become “illustrious” like these mentors of questionable credentials.  It is thus that the Nigerian state of today, as exemplified by the conduct, comportment and trajectory of our leaders, has become a criminal enterprise. It embodies spiritual criminality in its enthronement of blasphemy in places of worship and in the conspiratorial silence of religious leaders about the curious wealth of their members in public office. It also embodies criminality in the secular sense, because it is driven by unmitigated impunity and aggravated misconduct. Ours has become an ecosystem that is structured to self-destruct, unless something dramatically transformational happens.

Those who say that all we need is a new crop of “younger” leaders should remember that these are the very ones who have been watching and following the footsteps of their reprobate mentors of today. It is not every youth that belongs to the 21st Century and the future, as the biological age of a person and the age of his ideas and reflexes may be worlds apart? While “knowledgeable and selfless” Nigerian youths with global exposure and personal integrity, brought us independence, another species of Nigerian youths with limited knowledge, practically no global exposure and no respect for God laid the foundations for today’s problems when they mistook impunity and access to state power for superior wisdom.

We have political leaders but limited responsible leadership everywhere, because the proper upbringing of children is being undermined by bad role models. Our society is upholding and rewarding those who hold no prospect of a better future for anyone, including themselves. While political, religious and economic leadership are all in kukuland, better paying sectors of the economy are draining the university system of the best, and even second best, graduating students. While youths are ruined by abandonment, we are saddled with a political, economic and academic elite that is predominantly made up of third-rate citizens. In sum: we have a political environment that can be likened to the chaotic Church of Antioch, a university system that can be likened to a Jewish temple without the Holy of Holies (and where the alter hands are semi-apostates) and a human capital development sector that can be likened to the Ngbuka auto parts market in Onitsha, where practically any contraption can be put together for you.

Our nation is not developing despite huge budgets, because we have a predatory leadership political elite – irrespective of political party affiliation. We are also not producing the right type of youths for a 21st century world, because our unemployed, underemployed and unemployable young population has become a bulge that is retooling itself in criminality in a way that is being reinforced by the reflexes of our political leadership. It is because hard work, thrift, responsible wealth acquisition and attention to personal and group safety and social stability are in decline that we are where we are today.

Because proper socialisation and sound morals are distorted and undermined by many wrong role models, hypocrisy has become the walking stick for anyone who wants to move up in the society. You can no longer meet large groups from different parts of the country who have the same ideas about national interest. Inspirational and dynamic leadership of the type sought by Sowore, Moghalu, Ezekwesili and Durotoye during the last national elections focused on the ideal. Their respective projects were wrecked by the fact that it is not easy to gain real traction when your core challenge is a depraved society whose political economy is driven by subtle atheism, moral decay, fraudulent distribution and consumption and commitment to no ennobling values.

A nation that is producing more criminals and miscreants and less responsible parents, less informed teachers, less competent professionals and less patriotic leaders is in a hole and must stop digging. But the Federal Republic of Nigeria is still digging furiously, if the last elections and the body language of the new National Assembly is anything to go by. A political elite that runs annual budgets, but has no vision of measurable outcomes, will continue to pay for personal security and SUVs to navigate bad roads and bad neighbourhoods. It will not have reliable statistics for meaningful planning, but will watch declining standards of excellence, crumbling social and infrastructure and still come out to speak of “leaving no stone unturned” to solve the problems. It’s probably time to get the stone out of the way.

We have more churches than schools, hospitals and skills centres combined. We have more pastors than doctors, teachers social entrepreneurs combined. We have more born again Christians and Muslim faithful preaching righteousness today, even as corruption thrives. We pray before and after government management meetings, yet contracts are inflated and looting discussed in some of such meetings. We visit prayer houses and pay mallams, yet we lack morals and crime have overrun the land. We bind the devil several times every day (and before we sleep), yet wake to bind him the next day. The city of Yaoundé in Cameroun, alone, has about 4,000, along with the poverty in the area. The city of Abidjan has 4100 churches in only the city of Abidjan. Kinshasa has 7,000 churches in only the city of Kinshasa. Our own Lagos has 10,000 churches. Yet Nigerians are leading the world in corruption and crimes. 

What we need today, the leadership I mean and which we have lacked in the last 20 years of democracy, is a leadership with a national vision that rests on genuine development, equity, 21st century policies and goals, plans of action designed for results and a holistic strategic implementation template with short, medium and long term targets. The absence of the aforementioned variables explains the absence of measurable outcomes, defined time lines and a monitoring for feedback and continuous growth as a nation.