How timely this is. We are in the last quarter of the year 2018 which no doubt has witnessed some of the most memorable political and socio-economic events in our history.
The end of the year is usually a time to take stock, pause, look back at our achievements, appraise our actions and identify our mistakes, and plan for the future. That we’ve got somethings to cheer about as Nigerians, in spite of our multitudes of problems isn’t an exaggeration. Consider these – we are Africa’s largest economy. The 4th largest populated country in the world; one of the countries of the world with the largest mobile phones, at over 100million. Right now, we are the best practice-example of an African election, and occupying many known leadership positions in the international arena, such as the African union, ECOWAS, African Development Bank, and many more. Although these are all something to be proud of, these achievements are beclouded by the prevailing challenges of poverty, hunger, unemployment, corruption, lack of infrastructure and terrorism. So, what does this tell us? It tells us what we all know – that Nigeria has for long been plagued by the lack of the right leadership.
Put succinctly, for too long, Nigerians have been subjected to bad leadership.
Our history is replete with inept and corrupt leadership, exacerbated by ethnic and sectional biases. Leadership crises have remained the bane of Nigeria’s politics since independence in 1960. This doesn’t imply that we’ve never had good political leaders in Nigeria. Indeed, we’ve had and currently have some of the finest men and women who can make a difference. The problem has always been that they are just a few of good men and women in the company of mostly bad leaders. These good people had clear vision. But they could not translate them into action because of the stranglehold on them by the bad leaders. And just when we thought that we were well on the path to the Promised Land, Nigerians were yet again disappointed by the quality of leadership they had voted into power. You only need to read the alleged atrocities committed by our immediate past government to come to a disappointing conclusion.
But let us put that aside and look on the brighter side, and build on the legacies of the few good men and women in the public and private sector, who have enabled some progress in our country.
The last time I addressed a gathering on the subject of leadership, I spoke about the compelling need and why it’s so important for us to groom and create opportunities for young Nigerians if we are to secure the future of our great country. I stressed that anything to the contrary will spell doom for the country. And the reason isn’t far-fetched. Here’s why. Youth unemployment in Nigeria is as high as 70%. And that means serious social, economic and political implications for the country. Ignoring these potential problems amounts to threatening the very survival of Nigeria as a nation – as can be seen in the violence that has accompanied the recent protests by the so-called indigenous people of biafra, ipob.
This is wake up call for all those in leadership positions. We either do something about youth unemployment now and avert the dangers ahead, or we ignore the problem and face the consequences. As leaders, the imperative is on us to do – that something now – and reap the benefits.
Notice that I said …….’as leaders’. But are we truly leaders. Do we qualify to be called leaders? Who is a leader and what makes a good leader? Well, leadership doesn’t have a one-size-fits-all definition, as we all have our own ideas about what it means to be a good leader. but perhaps one of the best definitions of leadership is to be found in a sermon given by the late evangelical christian and internationally renowned best-selling author myles munroe. in the sermon the late myles munroe anchored leadership on three principles.
- That the motive of a leader is to work for the betterment of people: true leadership must lead to change, and that change should translate into a better social life for the people. anyone who says he is a leader will focus his mind on changing their environment. you cannot be a leader, and everything remains the same.
- If you claim to be a leader and nothing is changing around you, or you are not changing anything you are simply a manager; not a leader.
- That leaders are against injustice:
True leadership should not, and must not support any vision or process that encourages or perpetuates social injustice. a leader should never oppress people. Leaders set people free; they do not for instance public opinion; social media or traditional media. True leaders always strive to deliver people from the inhibitors of life. They help people to discover themselves and let them know that there’s no limit to what they can do or become. any leader that doesn’t introduce that kind of life to you is a dictator.
- That leaders work on behalf of people:
True leadership is always committed to the essence of life. In other words, a leader believes in the noble values of life. They never destroy nor oppress people. Instead they believe that you should rise to the higher calling of human beings. They never oppress people. They release people. So, if you want to become a leader, you have to become a servant of humanity. In other words, you need to have a vision and a cause that improves other people lives and not your pocket.
Let’s pause a moment and measure most of the people we call leaders against these three principles. Your guess is as good as mine.
Leaders don’t wait for things to happen they make things happen. Leaders don’t pray for change. They initiate change. When leaders are present you know immediately because they don’t wait for instruction. They instruct, and the first person they instruct is themselves “someone has to do something about this.” they would always say. And they will do that something to change the situation.
Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther king jnr., Mary Slessor, mother Theresa, Obafemi Awolowo,Nnamdi Azikiwe and Sir Abubakar Tafewa Balewa, they all had the same spirit. A leader doesn’t wait for the situation to change. He changes it.
So, the question to you is what is it that you are observing in your immediate environment right now, that you are complaining about and not doing something about. That means you are not a leader. You are a complainer in chief. Leaders are very careful to protect their character. Leaders have their heads in the clouds, but their feet are on the ground. They are in touch with the compassion needed of the people who are not where they are. Leaders must always be ahead of the people but are never out of sight. In other words, leaders must always dream big, have massive vision, great ideas, but they have their feet on the ground because the people aren’t in the clouds. So, leaders are in touch with the infirmities of the people. They are in touch with them, training and teaching and motivating and helping the people.
Leaders know that shared values make a whole lot of difference. They believe that the things of value which they know should be shared with the people.
Leaders know, you can’t do it alone. They are very driven, but at the same time they are fully aware that they need people to help them actualize their dream. They know they can’t go it alone. Dictator do.
Leaders lead by example, they don’t lead by instruction. They know that the legacy you have is the life you live. Leaders live by living what they say.
Leaders know that leadership is everyone’s business. a true leader is always driving other people to become more responsible, more independent. To make people become leaders themselves.
Qualifications of leadership. You can’t just decide that you want to be a leader. You’ve got to be trained and also obtain some qualifications. Hear what a first century leader Paul, a Jew and a Roman citizen said about the prerequisite for leadership. Many of you are familiar with the letters or epistles of St Paul. In this particular letter, which he wrote to one of his young leaders called Timothy, Paul laid out what can be described as the best pre-conditions for leadership.
it’s in first timothy, chapter 3. “if anyone sets his heart on being an overseer, he desires a noble task. now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. he must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him with proper respect. (if anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of god’s church?) he must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. he must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap”.
We need leaders who are creative and selfless in the mold of Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Mahatma Ghandi or Nelson Mandela. I mean leaders who will rather stare at tomorrow, as against the niceties and the pleasures of the moment.
Getting these kinds of leaders is not an easy task. Sometimes, it comes by happenstance. Other times, it is a product of design. Most importantly, a social system could breed the type it desires. Can we therefore breed a leader fit for our system? It is surely possible if we set our priorities right.
a scholar, Benjamin Aluko, writing on a similar topic, argued, “there is a nexus between the nature and character of leadership and the stock and genre of social capital in a polity”. He stressed, “Low levels of bridging social capital (generalized trust) in contemporary nigeria are reflective of the abysmally low levels of leadership capital possessed by the holders of state power in particular and the political class in general”
Aluko posits, “Leadership is the central actor in the creation and maintenance of social capital, whether bonding or bridging. Low levels of bridging social capital in post-authoritarian Nigeria is largely due to the inability of the political leadership to engender trust among the diverse people that constitute the state. The low levels of bridging social capital, therefore, have serious negative implications on inter-ethnic and inter-group relations in the country”
He concluded that “adherence to the idea of servant leadership would substantially increase the stock of bridging social capital in Nigeria and the spate of identity-related conflicts ravaging the nation (since until now, political leadership has not been able to create generalized trust)” i cannot agree more with him.
The great American President, Woodrow Wilson also once said of leaders: “you are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.”
We surely have no alternative but to fill this gap as a people, so we can propel ourselves to consequential national growth and development.
The time to start is now. Let’s make this happen.
Very many thanks distinguished ladies and gentlemen for listening to me.