THE CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP RECRUITMENT IN NIGERIAN POLITICS: A RETURN TO AYATULISM AS A PHILOSOPHY OF THE NEW PAST AND THE OLD
BY ALLOY S IHUAH PHD DEPT. OF REL & PHILOSOPHY BENUE STATE UNIVERSITY, MAKURDI.
BEING A LEAD PAPER READ @ SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES WEEK, COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, KATSINA-ALA 23rd JUNE, 2010.
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal, “Water, water; we die of thirst!” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time the signal, “Water, water; send us water!” ran up from the distressed vessel, and was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” And a third and fourth signal for water was answered, “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket, and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River. To those of my race who depend on bettering their condition in a foreign land or who underestimate the importance of cultivating friendly relations with the Southern white man, who is their next-door neighbor, I would say: “Cast down your bucket where you are”— cast it
down in making friends in every manly way of the people of all races by whom we are surrounded. Cast it down in agriculture, mechanics, in commerce, in domestic service, and in the professions. -Booker T Washington-1995 Atlanta Compromise Speech-
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THE CRISIS OF LEADERSHIP RECRUITMENT IN NIGERIAN POLITICS: A RETURN TO AYATULISM 1 AS A PHILOSOPHY OF THE NEW PAST AND THE OLD FUTURE
By Alloy S Ihuah PhD2 Department of Rel. & Philosophy Benue State University, Makurdi
The crisis of leadership today is the mediocrity or irresponsibility of so many of the men and women in power, but leadership rarely rises to the full need for it. The fundamental problem underlying mediocrity is intellectual… Leadership is one of the most observed and least understood phenomena on earth3
The quip above is a reflection on the problem of leadership in the American political turf though, it expresses the true state of affairs in Nigeria as it were that, our polity has suffered and is still suffering from paucity of good leadership. It is the argued position of many political analysts that, leadership shapes society and consequently determines leadership expectations as against the grain of commonsensical wisdom that “a society gets the leadership it deserves”. In the Nigerian case, democratic consolidation suffers too often because of the problem of failure of leadership. In the words of the revered Chinua Achebe,
The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigeria character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmark of true leadership…4
He goes on to identify other perennial issues such as tribalism, corruption, indiscipline, social injustice, preference for mediocrity over excellence though, this paper argues the thesis that without comprehension, mental magnitude and spiritual depth (good leadership qualities), none of the other problems stands a chance of being tackled, let alone solved. That is, Nigerian leaders must not only possess the capacity and ability to appreciate and grasp the salient details as well as most of the practical and temporal implications of a given problem or situation, they must be seen to lead and live by example. Here under, I dare
Ayatulism is coined from the Tiv word AYATUTU to represent the collective will of the Tiv nation, to live and act under one God and ruler in the promotion of the common good. As a democratic concept, it elicits collective wisdom from individual wisdom as the hallmark of true leadership. As the Tiv say wagh za tswen hule. 2 Alloy S Ihuah holds the Doctor of Philosophy in Philosophy (Applied Philosophy of Science), University of Lagos. He is a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, Benue State University, Makurdi
Burns James McGregor. Leadership. NY: Harper and Row. 1978, p 1-2. Chinua Achebe, The Problem with Nigria, 1966
to rethink the Nigerian social and political organizations and its strategies for survival in the face of its social and political maladies as it clocks fifty years of statehood. Nigerian Leadership Crisis in History. In Politics, Leadership and Development in Nigeria” Dr. Ihechukwu Madubuike, Nigeria’s former Minister of Education (1979) and Health (1995), says this of the Nigerian Page | 3 leadership crisis “Nigeria is one of the unfinished national projects of the twentieth century. To
consummate the enterprise, much needs to be done and resolved. The leadership question is in my mind, one of the key issues … Politics, the art of winning and exercising power provides the platform for the leadership and development challenges in Nigeria”5
Understanding the current crisis in crises in Nigerian polity entails a critical and diachronic analysis our socio-cultural history. But how does one do such an analysis where the thematic of the ontology and epistemology of “leadership” are clouded in negation, where there is a confluence of denial and derogation of indigenous education, where there is snobbery of traditional religions with their insistence on high moral standards and retributive concept of punishment and determination of guilt in absolute terms, where even highly competent local expertise is scorned in favor of second rate imported technical personnel? One could multiply, ad nauseam, the debilitating aspects of the crises of Africana politics. It suffices to insist that the absence of intellectual, philosophical and critical dialogue on this related issue of “leadership” is more of collusion of Western academia and their surrogates in African ivory towers and the mental escapism and self-denial of the ‘roast breadfruit’ clones of Western intellectuals that suffuse these African, centers of learning and corridors of power, than a consequence of the well-being of the polities we are interested in. Contemporary Nigerian leadership is a carry-over from British style of rulership during the colonial period. The colonial ruler-group are ‘foreigners’ and did not mix with the locals, they had no reason to, and they did not see their destinies as tied up with that of indigenous Nigerians. At independence the inheritors of power were rulers who descended from an elite group who were distant from the people they governed, being that as a consequence of their acquisition of Western classroom based education they felt they were only nominally part of the masses of the people. They had lost touch with the people as a consequence, or absence, of their “education”, they fail to see themselves as part of the people who had invested in their acquisition of Western “education” and being distant they fail to understand their heritages, values, cultures and histories; and as a consequence, their aspirations were not those of the people, their newly acquired behavioural patterns were different and more British or American than indigenous and they exhibited arrant contempt for, and they disdain, the people they rule over as these forebears and peers and junior ones were regarded as illiterate, less fortunate, stupid, gullible and poor people. Owing from this unfortunate experience, the Nigerian leaders disdained the indigenous culture and alongside western trained scholars celebrated the primitive mentality, illogicality and unscientific mentality of their forebears. They claim that their own peoples
Madubuike, I. Politics, Leadership and Development in Nigeria, 2008,P3
were uneducated, poor illiterates and common masses. In their self imposed ignorance, they became aliens in their own countries. Writing in 1960 the Smythes showed a good understanding of this factor in the psyche of the new Nigerian elite group. They stated:
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Already there is discernible among the new elite a sense of separation from the less privileged classes, which the betray unconsciously through references to “these people” or “the uneducated classes” which are indicative of a distinction between those who “belong” and those who are outside the fold, as well as a growing sense of being “better” than some of their fellow Nigerians… This lack of identity with the masses follows the example of the British, who evolved a self-contained colonial way of life characterized by frequent home leaves and few, if any, social or cultural contacts with the indigenous population. As Nigerians have acquired education, and a higher standard of living, they have found little common interest to share with the average person who lives in mud house without modern amenitie6
To exhibit their lack of interest in their compatriots and their misplaced identity orientation, these new elite group rarely associate with the masses except during political rallies during which they make campaign speeches at which the masses form a crowd of onlookers. On such occasions, they are heavily guarded and or sheltered from the crowd by the police, stern looking bouncers, official escort, or some rail or raised platform. Even the political thugs who assist in forming a government by default through rigging, killing and maiming are barely reduced to the now infamous Right Honourable/Most Distinguished Honourable which has found appropriate expression in local parlance as Aôndo-asee Governor, Aondoaseer Chairman, Aondoaseer anwen a hingir wo, Mna civir, and many other “honourable” titles intent at attracting reward. This is just one example of leadership dislocation that has buffered the leaders from the led and so collectively distressed our nation. This is not the only problem with the Nigerian leadership at independence. There is also the wrong relationship with nature, people and God which has in turn promoted the culture of exaggerated materialism among the ruling class. Thus argued, the Nigerian leadership lacks the virtues of honesty, transparency, mental magnitude and spiritual depth that count as politically important indices for authentic leadership culture. Madubuike captures this idea more succinctly and draws our national attention to the right attitude to national political behaviour. In his words,
… And instead of cultivating values and attitudes relevant to the entire country perceived as one political unit, values and attitudes are cultivated to respond to the specific ethnic, sectional and parochial interests. And because of the deep rooted nature of these attitudes, nurtured and sustained by political biases and indoctrinations of the past, not even the legislations against the formation of ethnically based political parties may provide the long overdue panacea to national political ills or effect radical changes in our national political behaviour 7.
The question of importance here is why we have found ourselves at this junction of life. The quick answer here is that we have not only jettisoned all our cherished old methodologies of instilling moral beliefs and discipline in the youth, but we have also failed to provide workable replacement for what we are eagerly jettisoning. A peep into history will reveal this much. All civilized traditional societies have clearcut methodologies (formal, non-formal and informal) of instructing youth in the ethos and mores of the culture. These are passed down from generation to generation, through formal, non-formal and informal methods of instruction and reinforcement. Also, determining
Smythe H. H. and Smythe,M. M. The New Nigerian Elite. California: Stanford University Press. 1960.p100 Madubuike, I. Politics, Leadership and Development in Nigeria, 2008, p25
whether the product – the adult – has become a well-formed member of society is not difficult to discern. But that is not all; civilized cultures also devise careful mechanisms for nurturing leaders. They are carefully selected, groomed and instructed in the ways, values and cultures of their societies and imbued in the sensitivity to right and wrong. Thus, Leadership training as it were was a collective social responsibility. Page | 5 The example of the failure of the first Jewish experiment with kingship is not difficult to understand in this regard (Old Testament: 1 Samuel 8). The only qualifications we are told is that, the person selected (in the person of Saul) to rule over the Jews was being very tall and handsome. There was no indication about what type of family he came from, what type of upbringing he had, and how cultured in the ways of the Jews he was. The incapacity of such a person to carry the burden of leadership (Saul’s inability to function) is not difficult to understand, under the circumstances. It would be interesting to see if any of the tall, handsome persons around today can just be picked on account of those superficial attributes to occupy Aso Rock or any of the State Government Houses in Nigeria. At best we would have them engineered into Basketball programmes from youth. And hardly do many of them have much of a life at the end of their playing careers if they do not go back to school or if they have not been fortunate to have been properly brought up in good homes. It is thus not therefore difficult to know why power rotation at the highest level in Nigeria amongst Nigeria’s three dominant ethnic nationalities can be said to be responsible for our political crisis in the recent past. Leadership as it were in Nigeria tend to have as a qualification physiological and extrinsic rather than mental magnitude, spiritual depth and or intrinsic attributes We may rightly argue here that, current leadership practice in African nations have no avenue for continuity or connection with its historical past. One can safely contend that African traditional leadership that gave birth to the civilizations which tamed the Nile, created the Great Desert Art and engineered their economies through ground nut pyramids in Kano, developed the cocoa industry in the west and energised the nation with coal in Eastern Nigeria, developed Great Zimbabwe, performed surgical feats and studied the outer extremities of space etc., died with the colonization and enslavement of Africa, creating a leadership vacuum which all forms of charlatans now fill by default. Why is this so? In many African societies, but Nigeria in particular, the first crop of youth sent to “the white man’s schools”, when Western education came to hinterland Africa, were not the cream of the breed. Why? There was a high level of suspicion of the white man’s ways – his education that is confined to some space and time span, his justice system that often compensates the criminal rather that the aggrieved (presumption of innocence of the accused till proven guilty without safety valve for the aggrieved in any primary sense and the possibility of plea bargaining as was misused by the then Ribadu led Anti graft agency (EFCC) are examples of the white mans strange judicial system) and which facilitates sophistry, by contrast with truth and fairness, his disrespect for the traditions and cultures of the indigenous societies emanating from ignorance of life, society, nature, the environment and the super-sensible realm, and his belief that the Supreme Being can and must be worshipped on only one day of the week and in an enclosed space outside of which all shenanigans are possible, among others.
In our motherland, leadership was not without long periods of tutelage. For years and years, leaders identified are schooled in the traditions of the people, the culture that they must uphold, the religions and moral ethos that are implicated by social existence, and affirmations of life inextricably weaved into existence. Because of this, African traditional societies took great care to nurture leadership. Even where leaders were determined by heredity and lineage, Page | 6 care is taken to ensure that the final product that inherits the mantel at the transition of the incumbent is well prepared for the challenge of leadership and commitment to society and the proper representation of the ancestors. This must not be interpreted to suggest that there were no misfits or that all was always perfect, but the important point being made is that effort is clearly made to identify and develop leadership in all civilized societies. To take care of the errors that may be humanly unavoidable in leadership identification process, clear checks and balances are carefully developed to ensure that leadership was imbued with humanity. Second, most traditional African parents could not see how life could be meaningfully influenced by the less than six hours of work that takes place in the white man’s educational space, over five days of the week, compared with the lifelong nature of education and leadership training that takes place under the traditional system of education in the African society. Third, since the children sent to the white man’s schools were never expected to amount to much anyway, it was not regarded as a disaster that the products turned out to be servants to the white man and menaces to the indigenous cultures and institutions. Finally, the products of Western education were expected to be persons able to speak with forked tongues, thereby capable of the chicaneries associated with curious oddities that white ways of life constituted to indigenous Africa. As expected, some of the products of the system were even more dangerous to the African societies and the cultures and civilizations of African peoples than the alien white folks that they replaced and whose ignorance can be pardoned. A reading of the first crop of African theologians would clearly make this point, as their denial of African religious experience and understanding of the Supreme Being were more indicting than that of their Western counterparts. We may merely mention here the works of Mbiti, Idowu, Awolalu and recently our own Tiv sons like Frs. Moti and Wegh8 and Pastor Tersur Aben9 as examples to make the point. In polygamous families those who initially went to the white man’s school were, first, the children of wives that were not very liked by the husbands; second, children who were regarded as lazy and who showed a proclivity toward indolence; third, children who showed evidence of being cantankerous, disrespectful, disobedient and dishonest. The products of these educational experiences, and how they exerted their pound of flesh from the society that disrespect them, is told in many of the novels by Cyprian Ekwensi, Chinua Achebe10, Ola Rotimi, Wole Soyinka and others. It came to pass then that at independence, there was a spectacular enthronement of a government of ignoramuses who as it were did not possess the mental magnitude to comprehend and manage the complexities of the Nigerian statehood. The point is more cogently made by Biwaji that the inheritors of leadership at independence were in his words,
Aben, T. A, African Christian Theology: Illusion and Reality, Jos, African Christian TextbookS(ACTS, 2008 Achebe, C, Man of the People
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a) unable to understand the concept of public life and public property, as they were not disposed to use public property, especially public funds, with diligence and propriety, for only official business but were busy wasting funds and engaging in all kinds of fraudulence; b) unable to separate their private income from public funds, seeing opportunities to serve as opportunities to embezzle public funds with impunity; c) unable to recognize a difference between the tactics and stratagems that gained their societies independence and strategies for developing new states from colonies, hence the same tactics of sabotage, subterfuge and antagonism used to fight for independence, from the foreign overlords are they were called, are now employed against the new enemy, that is, indigenous critics of their uncouth and scandalous behaviour in office; d) unable to see that leadership is a call to service , hence, operating with the same mentality of alienation and separatism of the “educated elite”, so that having attained public positions means being even more special and alien, and e) unable to understand that their countries are part of a big world in which it is survival of the fittest. Consequently, they were not prepared for the task of nation-building11. (Bewaji. 2003, 24).
It is no wonder then to locate why the contemporary Nigerian state is decadent, cerebrally diminutive, innately corrupt, corruptive, corrupting and morally bankrupt and spiritually retrograde and culturally retrogressive. Here again the suggestion by Bewaji makes reference to the historical antecedents of contemporary African societies as a basis for understanding the question of leadership poverty in Nigeria. Dialectically, he opines,
Leadership” is a function of historical transitions over time and space. One cannot talk of “leadership” in cultural, educational and historical vacuum. Nor can one get any clear vision on the notion of “leadership” culture and education without examining the underpinnings and presuppositions of the social metaphysic and the epistemic attitudes and attributes prevalent in the societies under examination12.
At independence in Nigeria, the political elites were a pack of visionless simpletons who thought that the world would wait for them. This visionlessness was the most important factor that, to my analysis here, led to the unwarranted civil war in 1967. Similarly, the visionless leaders who also lack the capacity for second order thought wasted the opportunity to blossom the Nigerian state to higher heights when it found oil in commercial quantities. Unarguably, this vissionlessness of the Nigerian political class has differentiated us on grounds of ethnic identities and state of origin, religious affiliations and political party lines. Today too, the clannish system is tribally polarized and erupts into warfare periodically – more frequent as the resources for pillaging becomes more scarce and limited. This leadership crisis has within the last fifty years of Nigeria’s statehood successfully cloned two monstrous couple into its political and social life namely, contradiction and absurdity, who in turn gave birth to two sets of twins; indiscipline and lawlessness as well as greed and corruption. These twins, Hemen man Dondo with its step children; graft, embezzlement, bribery, lack of accountability, inflation of contracts, gangstarism, political tuggery, advanced free fraud (419), armed robbery, ritual killing, political immaturity, religious bigotry, economic slavery and intellectual parochialism have completely taken over and governed the Nigerian State. This much was evidenced in the first republic with tribally conditioned values that permeated every fabric of the Nigerian life culminating in the 1967 military take-over. Following the same parochial line, the Second Republic emerged with ethnically based political parties. The NPN had its base in the north; the UPN and NPP could be said to be Yoruba and Igbo parties respectively. When Dr. Nnana Ukegbu and Alhaji Waziri, left NPP
Bewaji J. A. I. “Leadership–A Philosophical Exploration of Perspectives in African, Caribbean and Diaspora Polities,” Journal on African Philosophy: Issue 2, 2003.p24
to form the GNPP, with Alhaji Waziri, a northern as President in resentment at the takeover of the party by Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, an Igbo. We may not be wrong in concluding that this poor leadership attitude tethered the Nigerian match to authentic self determination and created a disastrous leadership that betrayed the promise of greatness and encouraged the military step in to cremate the carcass of the nation. Page | 8 It may be argued here that, the past fifty (50) years of self-determination has experienced tear and wear in its leadership journey. While still on this historico-philosophical analysis of leadership crisis in Nigeria, one may mention in passing the three leaders Nigeria never had. The first ( Obafemi Awolowo) was a product of the colonial legacy who left a great record of management and development in the old Western Region for the emulation of other regions in Nigeria in the 1960s. The second ( Mallam Aminu Kano) was an accomplished revolutionary and charismatic leader, while the third ( Rev Fr. Dr. Moses Orshio Adasu), the second Executive Governor of Benue State, who resorted to metaphysical anthropomorphism as a political philosophy to reengineer state apparatus for the greater common good of the people. These gentlemen were not only schooled in the traditions of their people, they excelled in Western education and combined these educational experiences with very humble family backgrounds where memories of early deprivation instilled in them the understanding that leadership is a privilege to serve and to improve the lives of the people. They were community leaders and educationists who know what makes for success in developing human capital, not armchair analysts and critics like most others. They were not afraid to work with their hands to put into practice what they conceived in their minds, hence they were in the forefront of the effort to create wealth rather than simply manipulate the common will and/or spend tax payers money or what others have created. What is indicated from the above is the fact that it takes an intellectual leap of faith for the oppressed to correctly diagnose the origin of their oppression. This accounts for why aggression and anger of the larger segments of the populations are wrongly targeted. This is because the rulers have contrived to keep the populations under a “veil of ignorance” (to borrow a Rawlsian terminology), both educationally and psychologically. While persons who steal a goat would be jailed for three years, other more “privileged” persons who steal hundreds of millions of public money or who cause the collapse of state institutions are given state honours at elaborate functions. Thus it requires the persevering intellectual exercise of the will to accurately prescribe corrective measures to African, rulership maladies. This is not only happening in parts of Nigeria where misguided politicians hold people to ransom under so-called Sharia law, cutting off fingers of thieves and ordering the stoning of fornicators while they themselves are stealing billions of dollars from public coffers without having to account to anyone. Consider public officials negotiating the cancellation of national debt with the Paris Club whose executive members have less than a million dollars each in their accounts with beggars who each have billions of dollars their countries owe in their private accounts. The argued conclusion on this score is that, Nigeria is experiencing leadership poverty and so in need of redefinition, to rethink its ways and polities in the direction of advancing the general common good in a globalized world. As Nkruma himself argues,
With true independence regained, however, a new harmony needs to be forged, a harmony that will allow the combined presence of traditional Africa, Islamic Africa and the Euro-Christian Africa, so that this presence is in tune with the original humanist principles underlying African society. Our society is not the old society, but a new society enlarged by Islamic and Euro-
Christian influences. A new emergent ideology is therefore required, an ideology, which can solidify in a philosophical statement, but at the same time an ideology, which will not abandon the original humanist principles of Africa. (Nkrumah, 70.)
The question then is, where do we go from here and have the best chance of success in leadership? Does the answer lie in changing the Nigerian system; changing the Nigerian Page | 9 leadership style, or in changing the hearts of one hundred and forty million Nigerians. Towards an adequate Leadership philosophy Thinking of Leadership in Africa brings to mind the shepherd analogy which here serves as a crucial requirement of a leadership philosophy that has aided other contemporary peoples of the world and past epochs of Africans to become great. The shepherd is a leader who does not put self-interest above sheep interest, does not rest until the sheep is provided for – not just for the immediate needs, but ensuring the needs of the future are guaranteed also – consequently the shepherd envision the unknown tomorrow and plans for it. The shepherd is the protector of the sheep and exemplified the virtues of righteousness requisite of followership. In this regard, the shepherd as leader leads by example and does not have to ask for respect before getting it. What then is leadership? Robbins defines leadership as “the ability to influence a group toward the achievement of goals. The source of this influence may be formal, such as that provided by the possession of managerial rank in an organization”13. Clearly this is a utilitarian, profit and loss definition of “leadership”, but we still can glean aspects of the ideas we have highlighted earlier from it. In human society writ large contrasted with the simple business environment, the leader needs more than just a capacity to make people achieve goals. From the biblical shepherd example, it is clear that a leader needs to be a visionary. Clearly the purely utilitarian perspective is weak, as it does not take cognisance of collective purpose and the requirement of the evolutionary dynamics of social and cultural needs of the led which must inform leadership focus. The indication here is that, the leader is both a part of the group and embodies the will of the group. For example, Rost (1991) believes that leadership is an influence relationship among leaders and their collaborators who intend real change that reflects their mutual purposes. While we will come to this, let us consider what Robbins’ review of literature reveals. He examines trait theories – charisma, enthusiasm, courage as necessary attributes of leaders. This is true, especially when group goals have been clearly defined, even though there are times those of lesser ilk may think that leaders with these traits are fools – as they seem to have no sense of danger to self, no understanding of basic requirements of self-survival and welfare in the undue dangers they search for and bring to themselves and those close to them. Other attributes were found in behavioural theories espousing toughness, intensity and autocracy, while contingency theory (and its variant, situational theory), indicates variations contingent on the context and group or society that is to be led. Clearly, as usual, social scientists have failed to provide clues that could be followed in the solution of societal
Stephen P. Robbins, Organizational Behavior. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 1996. P413
problems. The failure is not unexpected because the effort at stereotyping humanity is doomed ab initio. What do we learn from this that can be of philosophical moment? In the first place, when we wonder why the countries of the Pacific rim – at the head of which you find a Japan that was badly battered in the Second World War – were able to rise from oblivion within a Page | 10 spate of four decades to dominate the world technologically and financially, or why USA has been able to blend hetero-ethnicities into a vibrant polity – even with the usual unresolved issues of racism, racial profiling, and implications of the American Presidential Elections under president George W. Bush in the state of Florida, among others, are still festering; why Russians are a proud people, in spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union, etc., many scholars would easily indicate in concession (concurring with the views here proffered) that it was not the colour of the skin, nor the intellectual superiority of the population, nor the climatic generosity of the environment that made the difference. Many will easily indicate and concede that the difference is “leadership”! What the psychologists and social psychologists were searching for would not be found in any textbook, as the moral component and force of leadership are not written in bold letters in society’s statutes for efficacy, even there are those high sounding codes of ethics for ministers and officials of government. Hence, any discussion of the concept of leadership that stops only at the manifest components must be short-sighted. Before we go on to sketch the criteria that “leadership” by contrast with mere exercise of power would entail, we need to briefly discuss what a philosophy of leadership will look like. On the logical side, we would like to see a critical interrogation of the meaning, content, manifestations and consequences of “leadership”. The social scientists have fastened on only one side of this logical equation. They have been more concerned with the descriptive, inductive and de facto aspect of the concept to the utter neglect of the analytical, deductive and conceptual aspects. This has vitiated a proper understanding of the concept and problematic of leadership. As a consequence, even when Burns(1978) craved for a synthesis of the various conceptual aspects of leadership, this would not be forth-coming because only the empirical aspect was being addressed. In other words, we look logically at leadership from inductive and deductive angles, but we are also mindful of other possibilities in interpretation of leadership, such as intuitive and reductive logical expositions. Coming on the heels of our logical prescription must be the epistemological requirement. Here it may simply be indicated that many factors are called for here. These include the cognitive, intuitive, emotive and dynamic, introspective components. In this regard, we may indicate that there are two sides to this: a) the epistemological base of leadership and b) the epistemological base of followership. Let us dilate a bit on the first. Leadership must originate from the vantage position of “knowledge”. We can see that all the great thinkers are agreed on this, from Confucius, the Buddha, Plato, to Jesus, to our own Obafemi Awolowo14 and Rev. Fr.(Dr) Moses Orshio Adasu15. In a sense, the reason why Plato prescribed the philosopher king as the person fit to rule is because such a person would have attained a level of understanding of the universe, people and him/herself to be fair to all and just in the dispensation of justice. In another sense, we may simply encapsulate this
Obafemi Awolowo, The People’s Republic. Ibadan, Nigeria: OUP. 1968. Wuam, T, Moses Orshio ADASU: Religion, Politics, and Development, Ibadan, Aboki Publishers, 2007
epistemological requirement by indicating that the leader must be wise, not simply knowledgeable. This is because there is danger in mere acquisition of knowledge, as many persons are specialists in various areas but regrettably poor in most others and unfit for leadership. So competence in some profession or acquisition of skills or “techne” or expertise is no indication of capacity to lead. Hence, the better we conceive of leadership holistically as Page | 11 requiring wisdom — wisdom being taken to be the capacity to realize what is of value in life, for oneself and others, and thus including knowledgeand understanding. Such is what is argued here as a development paradigm for Africa of today. The leader would have attained this through proper upbringing, attendance at the school of life, knowledge of history and culture of her/his society, an awareness of international relations and forces of history, familiarity with the psychology and pathology of suffering or being downtrodden in an inclement international environment, capable of an analysis of the sociology of poverty, the metaphysic, economics and politics of dependency and the historical interaction of races and ethnicities in the global village. More than these, the leaders would have to acquire a great perseverance in the mastery of the knowledge of self. For the blind cannot lead the blind without both of them being endangered. We are not making an unreasonable demand of leadership here. What is being suggested is that the leader should be intellectually rounded and epistemologically astute. Reference can here be made of Booker T. Washington who in “The Atlanta Compromise Address” 199516, exhibited so much mastery of leadership attributes in this regard. Hence, they often thought he was a sell-out when he preached industry, frugality and education. They thought that he meant in his lamentation of the poverty of his contemporary African American’s poverty, ignorance, immorality, that he was talking of an innate and hereditary attributes. But being aware of the forces arrayed against his black contemporaries who were just emerging from slavery, he knew that the challenges were not for the fickle and there would be no accolades won without serious effort, and that while a white person will get recognition with excellence, it would require a super excellence effort and accomplishment for the black person to attain the same recognition. This is what brings us to the second prong of our epistemological requirement. Knowledge is critical in the followership also. For if the blind were to be leading the sighted into a ditch, the sighted would cry foul and resist the perdition that awaits them. This is the reason some philosophers advocate that the citizen must have a right to civil disobedience or even violent revolt against oppression and tyranny. Now, it is important to understand how the coalescence of unhappy circumstance can conspire to facilitate the greatness of a people. One may use the analogy of the Jews in this regard. Washington was aware that the successful person of colour was an endangered species, hence he preached lying low and creative use of little latitudes gained from oppression through constructive and diligent effort. This requires, therefore, that Africa, nay Nigeria should not forget her history in the last five centuries, how she got to where she is and strive to endure that her leadership be not ensnared into complacency which could either perpetuate forever her and her descendants eternal dependency on other peoples of the world as consumers of the trash coming from other races.
Louis R. Harlan,( ed.), The Booker T. Washington Papers, Vol. 3, (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1974), 583–587.
One must never forget the wisdom in the Yoruba proverb that, “if you have not attained the power necessary to confront the opponent you do not ask why or how he/she killed your father”. Tiv wisdom literature similarly states that ka we lue per ihongo ga utuhan ambe iwa ga, “that is, you dare not insult the crocodile before crossing the river”. The reasoning behind these philosophical assumptions is that, doing that is asking to be killed yourself, and the only Page | 12 way you can have the strength and resources to do that is by acquiring knowledge and resources to stand on your own, before demanding freedom as the case may be. Here understood, the African tendency to emphasize sensitivity, the fact of living “in symbiosis” with the world is of great epistemological significance in its leadership requirement. In Africa and for Africans, sympathetic or intuitive knowledge associates, incorporates, and so provides a unified,
integrated vision of reality.
Another reinforcement of the epistemological requirement of leadership is that, leaders must undertake to search for and continually obtain information. This means that leaders must read, they must listen, and they must think. To speak without the exercise of these epistemological foundations as basic backgrounds is to condemn themselves and their society to ignominy and serious social and political dangers. It is no wonder that Eusi Kwayana emphasizes this epistemological factor when asserting that,
To understand the collective psyche of a people, we have to learn to listen not only to speech, but to non-speech and to a whole complex of responses… We have also to have periods when we fade and allow ourselves to absorb universal wisdom, listening with eyes, ears, skin, and the secret tuition we all have to some extent, known as in-tuition… When leaders throw aside reason, it seems that non-reason takes over, with or without their help17.
Even if we are not too sure about the source of the universal wisdom, we would agree that a lot of intuition and consciousness is necessary for successful leadership, and the fact that a lot of the negativities in Nigerian politics are consequences of ignorance and insensitivity to the destinies of the Nigerian peoples by selfish and self-seeking rulers suffering from intellectual myopia and moral bankruptcy. Generally speaking however, Africans
possess the mental magnitude and spiritual depth to capacitate them well enough for leadership functions. Bergson’s conclusion in this regard is revealing. He says,
…there is nothing illogical, consequently nothing ‘prelogical’” about the thinking of primitives… human beings, be they primitive or civilized, revert to supernatural explanations when they face vital events directly affecting them as persons. If primitive peoples seem overflowed with mystical beliefs, the explanation lies in the little control they have over their environment. Owing to this major limitation, supernatural references are indeed more frequent and more extensive than is the case with the civilized. This demonstrates that mystical explanations appear whenever human thinking pays attention to the “human significance” of phenomena over and above their mere physical nature.18
With regard to the metaphysics of leadership, we confront the most difficult aspect of theorizing or philosophizing about leadership. Starting with the ontology of leadership, two questions will have to be asked: Is there “leadership”, and if there is leadership, “How do we recognize it”? On the first, there can be no denying the existence of leadership, but what we find in that identifying it, because of the so many families of attributes that constitute leadership has been a problem. This is where the social scientists have tried and failed because, unifying all leadership qualities makes it difficult to understand, and thinking that by
Bewaji J. A. I. “Leadership–A Philosophical Exploration of Perspectives in African, Caribbean and Diaspora Polities,” Journal on African Philosophy: Issue 2, 2003, p.45 18 See Kebede Messay. “Negritude and Bergsonism,” Journal on African Philosophy: Issue 3, 2003, p105
listing these and teaching its success in some fields will translate into success in other fields makes a mockery of the whole philosophy of leadership. This is what leads us to the suggestion that given the diversity of the families of attributes which make up leadership, the ontology of leadership will have to deal with relativities of time, space, context, cultures, groups, goals, etc. These are critical to the attribution of leadership, and in human affairs we Page | 13 do find that perception is a critical component. Clearly it may have been expected that by talking of the metaphysic of leadership I intended some eternalistic, super naturalistic or even metaphysical understanding of leadership. While one would have wished there was a failsafe method of divining leadership, this expectation on the part of those who have harboured them have proven of little value. This is where we find the problems with various forms of theocracies in human history, and this is where the expectations of people who look for divine intervention in the solution of human and social problems have been disappointed time and time in history. Human beings have always had to be proactive, knowing where they want to go before they can start getting anywhere near there. In many instances those who turn out to be instrumental in the achievement of progress and development in various historical epochs in human history have been regarded as divine intervention. Dubious as this seems logically, we may permit persons with proclivities toward religions exuberance to feel comfortable in this zone. For the purpose of this dialogue however, it is clear that in history leadership has never been Manna from heaven, it has been human, and full of sacrifices and opportunities for satisfaction of group and personal goals. Taking the axiological turn, we now must emphasize the normative nature and the norm generating nature of leadership in any society. It is clear that leadership should constitute the embodiment of the very hopes, aspirations, identity, dreams and realities of a society. Baring this, it is clear that there will ensue a drift in society that will be disastrous. It is important in this regard that there should be clear standards and channels for the enforcement of these standards on both the leaders and the led, especially on the leaders. This is because, when leadership disregards the least of the norms, ethos and statutes of a society with impunity, the signals sent reverberates through the entire fabric of the society, having consequences not easily redressed. While certain modes of behaviour will be tolerable for citizens, such allowance cannot be made for leaders, because giving small room for indiscipline and disobedience of the laws would lead to further and further infractions of the statutes. Societies with great civilizations have endeavoured to ensure that leadership transcends the regiment of the ordinary folk. While ordinary folk can operate at the level of normal reaction, leaders require more. Now, normal reaction implicates a complex matrix that is predicated on group behaviour and/or consciousness that has as its elements a) intellect, b) memory and c) association, all of which implicate a complex neural system differentiated on socio-cultural predications of rationality. In personal affairs, this complex plays out in relation to perceived latitude of behaviour, while in social settings, the latitudes are even more complex! Consequently, humans not only manifest a plethora of relationships but they seek out sources that help them to discriminate these relationships. In the Nigerian example, the exigencies of life and the existential situation has not only become so privating, it has created a siege consciousness with the attendant situation of
a Hobbesian state of nature, characterized by bellum omnium contra omnes – a war of all against all, and especially of the leadership against the led, with enthronement of mutual suspicion and antagonism as the order of the day. So we see that in leadership matters, when we are concerned about norms, values, rules and regulations in public life, the leadership orientation and development must combine intellectual with a high level of sophisticated Page | 14 discipline that enables leadership to transcend normal reaction level, as conditions of leadership imposes on the leader.. Imagine for a moment a situation in which leadership exhibits a generalized survival, self-preservation, ego-protection and individualistic orientation. At such a level everything must conduce to self-preservation and entrenchment. Imagine a situation where political leadership is construed as an instrument of determining who gets what, where and when. Where politics is a game for determining between “tribes whose members are perpetually at war with each other” and where the winner takes all and the loser ceases to exist literally. Imagine for a second a politics that is divisive, rather than uniting, where those who play by the rules get shafted and where leadership does not believe that the laws must shackle them from committing destructive blunders at the expense of the citizens. Imagine a situation where leaders are above the law, and where they can set their agents to kill and maim opposition with arrogant impunity. These will definitely lead to anarchy and mayhem. Thus, when we are examining the ethical foundations of leadership we find that leaders are required to allow their consciousness to shift gear into the supernormal mode of cognition, behaviour and relationship with the people under acute stress situations. They must not just be normal persons or even ab/sub-normal that we mentioned above, society expects them to put society interest above self-interest. It is at this stage that the true test of leadership can be determined. This third stage is where the leader becomes only an instrument for the realization of society’s consciousness, where the leadership becomes the tool for the propagation of organic existence of the society. This is where leadership education, orientation and preparation kicks in automatically in advanced or civilized societies. Some may call this the spiritual level of leadership, but it is simply the level where that popular saying becomes significant – I am, because we are, and since we are therefore I am. Unfortunately though, the Nigerian political turf lacks every indices of this leadership quality of mental magnitude which according to Awolowo entails self knowledge which necessary demand is that “in order to be master of others one must be master himself” and be self disciplined. Quoting from Aristotle, Awolowo illumines that, “let him that would move the world , first move himself”19. It is no wonder then that the decadent leadership in Nigeria in one fell swoop shot down the tall dream and giant hopes of most Nigerians on june 16, 1993 as the collation of the june 12 election results were not only abruptly suspended and a week later annulled, the most freest and fairest election has remained an unforgettable political murder of the Nigerian history. As we retrospect and introspect the nation’s political soul at fifty, we must make sure that the power to influence political, social, economic, religious, educational and other events that affect the livelihood and future of the Nigerian population is not concentrated in the hands of a few individuals, simply because they are wealthy. We must insist that transparent honesty, hard work, tolerance, talent and accomplishments be the guide post for recruitment
Awolowo, O The People’s Republic. Ibadan, Nigeria: OUP. 1968, p158.
into the ruling class. This is the hope we have for a peaceful, prosperous and stable government in Nigeria. For, a true leader as it is said has confidence to stand alone. the courage to make tough decisions, and the compassion to listen to the needs of the led. He does not set out to be a leader, but he becomes one by the quality of his actions and the integrity of his intent. For our purpose, it will be useful to indicate the following attributes as Page | 15 important and critical in the analysis of the concept and moral content of leadership: a) Mental Magnitude When reason is dethroned from the affairs of the being of man, emotions, mediocrity and unimportant desires reign. This inevitably breeds corruption of the mind which in turn leads to all sorts of evils like greed, bribery abuse and misuse of power among other social vices. Thus argued, those who aspire to leadership in any society must be those who are ruled by reason rather than appetite. They should in the words of Awolowo, “possess comprehension and mental magnitude.20 This mental magnitude frees the leader from the tyranny of the flesh and the unexamined life and so from negative emotions of anger, hate, fear, envy, selfishness and greed, and from indulgence in wrong types of food and drink and in ostentatious consumption as well as excessive or immoral craving for sex. This condition achieves for the leader tranquillity of the mind and enlarges his conception of what is possible, enriches his intellectual imagination and diminishes the dogmatic assurance which closes his mind against speculation. It is then that the leader has the capacity to envision a better society that he and the ruled collaborate to render great for the general common good. This vision must be informed by the realities of the historical antecedents of one’s society, contemporary realities of the world in which the society exists, and the potentialities and possibilities that the endowments of nature and human resources can transform for posterity. We have mentioned the importance of education in leadership development, but we must reiterate that factor of historical education, which will create in the leaders an awareness of how other peoples have related to his/her peoples and the consequences of such interaction. In which case the leader would be better prepared to use such knowledge for the advancement of the interest of his/her peoples. Why it is important for a leader to have a vision and a dream of a better society arises from the need to plan for future generations and ensure that the plans are realistic, it is necessary that leaders be able to lead from the front and be good examples for followers if there is to be effectiveness in leadership. In this wise, it is important that leaders be well educated in the traditions of their society as well as the associated histories of societies that have impacted on the traditions and that will continue to so impact as we mentioned just now.
b) Spiritual Depth Spiritual depth is a necessary qualification of being human. It is the theory of the meaning and value of human existence. Here used, it serves to underscore the metaphysics of politics. It is the copula conjoining the leader to the led. Used in association with mental magnitude, this leadership quality commands love and the pursuit of the good. In his The people’s Republic, Awolowo states these principles as love of God and love of one’s neighbour presumably alluding to the Biblical injunction in Matthew, 19:16-24 and 22: 36-40. In itself,
Awolowo, O. Thoughts on Nigerian Constitution. Ibadan: Oxford University Press, p158
spiritual depth involves the notion of God from whom love ultimately emanates. This religious love in conjunction with metal magnitude acts as a spark that insures the leader against that wich perpetually undermine good governance and rather promote greed and naked selfishness or sickness that makes people loot the national treasury including the monies they do not need on earth. But like President George Washington of America said on Page | 16 the day of his inauguration, “It is impossible to rightly govern our country or the world without God and the Bible” This leadership quality promotes honesty in government business. Honesty necessitates transparency and fairness. The infectiousness of honesty cannot be underestimated as the character of the leader shapes the demeanour of the followership in many instances. Nigeria, under the Muritala Muhammad regime (albeit a military dictatorship) at the initial stages of the administration is viewed by many as an example of a leadership regime threads the path of honesty and trust in the people. c) Knowledge and wisdom. Socrates is quoted to have said that, he who knows not, and knows that he knows not is a fool. On the other hand, he who knows not , and knows that he knows not , is a wise man. Leadership qualities demands of the leader as much as the led a character of self examination for the purposes of bridging leadership gaps and so arrogate to the leadership or the led omniscience. In Yoruba society, it is said, that, “the young is wise, and the old is wise, is the pillar on which the ancient town of Ile-Ife was built.” In an essay, “Olodumare – God in Yoruba belief and the problem of evil”, Ayotunde Bewaji discusses the importance of the weakness of Western theistic theology, theocracy and divine rulership espoused in JudaeoChristian tradition which arrogates to the Supreme Being infallibility, even in the face of counterfactuals as in the Genesis. In Yoruba theology he says,
…it is not regarded as strange for Olodumare, the Supreme Being, to consult His diviners to ensure that things move properly in the affairs of the universe. This would serve as a humbling lesson to humans that they cannot and should claim what they have not, indicating that they need to encourage consultation and respect for the wishes of the people21.
The argued point here is that, leadership is serious business and thus requires more than mere passivity. It requires critical thinking, rationally compelling, convincing and persuasive positions, policies and actions in governance. This means that the leader must have conceptual and concrete thinking skills, be able to focus on issues of importance, curious and inquisitive and Possess confidence and open to all issues and opinions. Socrates sees this as a necessary quality of human existence and calls for self-knowledge which for him is a liberating tool for both the rulers and the ruled. As a sacred trust, leadership is like the priesthood in civilized, humane religions which no one gets into it lightly or unadvisedly. It demands qualities of mind and discipline of body. What we see here is the need, therefore, for dialogue between leaders and followers, because it is in such feedback mechanism that right can be right and wrong righted. Tiv wisdom literature teaches us a lot here that wagh za twen hule, Wanye kaa er I bur Yar tiough which together expresses the power of second opinion. The consequence is loyalty and willingness to endure difficulties together as one, rather than having leadership preaching belt-tightening while their own rank is bulging at the waistline and a swelling parasitic
Bewaji J. A. I. “Leadership–A Philosophical Exploration of Perspectives in African, Caribbean and Diaspora Polities,” Journal on African Philosophy: Issue 2, 2003, p16.
membership procuring larger and larger cloth and shoe sizes, cars and homes and other expensive luxury consumables, even including buying homes in Europe and having fat accounts in various offshore banks. How would one square a situation where at the negotiation table for the rescheduling of loans that the representative of the poor begging country wears the most expensive designer outfit of all at the meeting? Page | 17 (d) Incorruptibility and Selflessness. Democracy signposts human development and the good life that promotes political good, economic independent and virtuous life far removed from the gargantuan paradise of charlantry that characterise the Nigerian political and social life. Consequently, it is immediately urgent to understand that leadership needs transparent dedication to the cause of society. This is why in civilized societies one cannot indicate that there are no distinctions between private and public lives of leaders. The “official secrets act” in many third world countries are outdated, counterproductive and antithetical to the interest of the people whose interest is being protected. Leaders must not only be dedicated to the cause of human development, they must transparently act in such manners that will release the fibres of human existence; truth, justice, concern for others and reset them to form the pillars of a New Nigeria in contemporary world. They must look at the face of Nigerians and not their friends, business associates, family members and politicians and ensure quick and transparent service delivery. For equity and justice are important in all sectors of human endeavors. It is criminal to allow some 80% of our youths between the ages of 16-25 to idle away their time and talent by denying them access to higher education. This is one example of under utilization of resources and capacities whose consequences can only be disastrous for the corporate existence and stability of our country. It is only a dedicated and transparent leadership that endures in this regard. Towards an Indigenous Democracy It is difficult to dismiss the suggestion that in the present circumstances, traditional leaders in Nigeria remain the true custodians of African culture and tradition. They are therefore best placed to engage, even in negative dialogue, by resisting what they perceive to be the destruction of valuable and working indigenous African conceptions of democracy. This kind of dialogue is essential to challenge the idea that there is only one correct understanding of democracy. It is also important because it forms the battleground for the construction of a home-grown and genuinely representative theory and practice of a democracy which can be called a Nigerian democracy. So it is not only futile but also naive to suppose that traditional African leaders are no more than irritant appendages to a largely misunderstood and misapplied Western democracy. In our endeavor to decolonize our cultural heritage, and authentically live side by side with the cultural imperialists, several strategies are desirable, and some are already in place. The most urgent and popular strategy is that of local appropriation, having to do with the restoration of indigenous knowledges, languages and culture. The strategy of counterpenetration, on the other hand, has to do with the influence of the South on the North, the restoration of cultural trade, the saving of the world from excessive Eurocentrism and Americanism. This influence has gotten to the marrow of Nigeria, and to eradicate will certainly pose a mammoth task, given the history of colonialism, and the extent of selfalienation blacks are suffering from. Nigerians need to come back to themselves as a people.
It is only they themselves who know how best to describe, negotiate, and manipulate their circumstances and environment. If they want to change the world, they must start with themselves. For as the saying goes, charity begins at home. The words of Marcus Garvey are in this circumstance a challenge to Nigerians. He says, “We must strike out for ourselves in the course of material achievement and by our own effort and energy present to the world Page | 18 those forces by which the progress of man is judged”. It is noted that contemporary political philosophy adjudges non-elected political leaders such as indigenous traditional leaders as not legitimate in comparison with elected ones though, we acknowledge the necessity for the continuation of having non-elected leaders such as chiefs and kings as important indices of African political and social organizations. The existing oral and written literature attests to the fact that people were in the past not ruled against their will, and for that matter, they were ruled on occasion by foreigners. Elders in the community, experts in traditional judicial systems such as primogeniture, heredity, succession, and other customary practices that typified any society, would meet and elect a leader. This council of elders had the competence to elect and even to remove from office any leader whose conduct was offensive to the interest of the community. A peep into African indigenous political set-up alludes to the fact that the political authority in the traditional set-up was based on democracy and free discussion among the elders. They talked till consensus was reached. It could therefore be inferred that their government was by consent and consensus. It is therefore within reasonable limits to call for the indigenization of democracy. Further evidence of democratic practices in Africa still obtaining in some African communities is evident usually in the tribal court; Ijir-Tamen among the Tiv and kgoro among the Zulu deliberations. A suspect appearing before Ijir-Tamen or a kgoro does not require legal representation since everybody present has an equal say in the deliberations, and no adversarial feeling is displayed towards the suspect. Any person could speak in favour of or against the suspect. There is no need for legal representation with attendant legal costs, and everybody is equal before the law. Justice was therefore accessible to all. The chief or the king known by whatever title does not decide the case; he merely pronounces the judgement. The practice is more like the jury system. Women and children regrettably were not allowed to participate in such proceedings. Though this is a fly in the ointment the system could be improved. After all in our era such is history. This traditional system allows women as coleaders in the leadership system. The upshot of this contention is that in traditional societies there are norms and values, practices and institutions that must be adopted and adapted to new conditions in our search for a peculiar Nigerian democracy. Evidently traditional systems did involve people in the decision-making processes, especially in those decisions that affected their lives, and opinions were freely aired by equals among equals without any fear of prejudice or retribution. They did not necessarily have to refer to such virtue as freedom of speech. The unelected councils of the elders served as representatives of the larger society. That they were not elected is consonant with kingship and chieftaincy all over the world. In Botswana, for example, multiparty politics, which is the hallmark of democracy, flourished since before independence. The basic traditional underpinnings have undoubtedly played a role. There is the very important traditional system which encourages the free and open interaction so
important to a truly democratic system. To date Botswana is regarded as the most stable and democratic state in Africa. Our argued conclusion is that Nigeria could fashion a democracy peculiar to herself, informed by her history or tribal composition, and strongly prevalent views towards federalism. Conclusion Page | 19 Garvey once said,
There comes a time in the life of everyone, as well as of races when we settle down to look ahead and see what is before us. The Negro, making up his mind to look ahead, has before him a very dark and gloomy future, brought about by his own neglect at a time when the opportunity presented itself for him to engage himself in the undertakings of world reorganization22.
While the re-organization that Garvey intended was at the United Nations level in the aftermath of World War II, our interest is even more modest now. Our interest is in the reorganization of our Nigerian politics in line with the demands of fairness, justice, equity, love, dedication, and values that we can be proud to be remembered for by posterity. In our distressed political environment, the dispossessed and the economic and social outcasts are outside of the system and constitute a big challenge to leadership. Democracy as bequeathed to the Nigerian state has not been very successful. There are two interpretations of democracy that we may bear in mind here. First, we understand democracy (not “dem-all-crazy”, as Fela Anikulapo Kuti said) as meaning that all who are affected by a decision should have a chance to participate in making that decision, either directly or through their representatives, or two, simply allowing the will of the majority to prevail. While in a homogenous society the latter may recommend itself, in a multi-ethnic society it would seem that the first would be more likely to be just to the interest of all concerned, while at the same time allaying the fears of domination that some segments of the society may have. Our understanding of leadership would indicate that we endorse, as the fountainhead, as historical responsibility and as a temporary stopping place for this discussion, the views expressed by Garvey. We would be able to defend this in philosophical and sociological (and indeed historical) terms, as the soundness of the reasoning originating it would be borne out by the good consequences or results of such commitment. He said:
Yet the thing that lives in history, the thing that goes to the credit of man, is not how much wealth he has piled up for himself; is not how comfortable he has lived, but how good he has done for the rest of humanity. The present world generally worships power, influence and wealth. It is very easy to find sycophants who will fawn before such, and who will pay unreasonable compliments; but those who encourage and help the poor are few, and when they do engage themselves in such labour there is nothing else transient for them but condemnation23.
Clearly, those who aspire to leadership should be those who are ruled by reason as opposed to mere appetite or desire or bodily pleasure. As argued elsewhere above, they must be masters of their own mind (inculcate in themselves a sense of self discipline) in order to be masters of others. This is the point at which the followership is not only said to be reasonably guided to a rational end, but that the leader is also wisely guided in the in the promotion of the general common good. At this point, the thoughts of Chinua Achebe, comes to mind that, no known human enterprise has flourished on the basis of sheepishly following the leaders.
Garvey Amy Jacques and E. U. Essien-Udom (eds.) More philosophy and opinions of Marcus Garvey. London: Frank Cass: 1977, p115. 23 ibid, p118.
According to him, “the cliché that people get the leader they deserve is a useful exaggeration though, it reminds the general populace of the need for vigilance in selecting their leaders (where they have a chance to do so), and for keeping them under constant surveillance.”24. Coming barely nine days after the anniversary of June 12, it behoves on us to end this lecture with thoughts on the unfortunate event but in particular on the presumed winner of the Page | 20 election Chief MKO Abiola. Without fear of contradiction, it may be said that Nigeria was deprived of the opportunity of experiencing for once quality leadership from this true Philosopher-King whose well package and straight-forward manifesto- Farewell to Poverty would have given humanity reason for existence. In this regard, the Nigerian nation was robbed of the rarefied service of an enlightened leadership. At 50 (fifty years of nationhood) the Nigerian leadership necessarily needs a clean break away from the wasted and inglorious past and the wasting present; a shameless and unambitious leadership that does not care if there is no road leading to anywhere (not excluding their own villages), if the airports are the filthiest in the world, if electricity remains in a perpetual state of coma, if there are no hospitals to cater for the sick (not excluding their families that troop out daily to India for treatment of mere cough), if food is not available on the table of the general populace, if there are no jobs for school leavers, if the teaming population they rule over are educationally backward/disadvantaged, if the nations they rule or govern are lagging in the comity of nations, if their citizens have little or no respect and recognition in other countries, if card carrying members of a ruling political party are members of Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) or State Independent Electoral Commission (SIEC)etc. So the real problem posed by leadership is that of recruitment. It borders on the question of how we secure the services of a good leader. Does it mean then that, like the iroko tree, the great leader will grow where he will, and that the rest of us should just sit, put our hand under our chin, stand with hand akimbo and wait? No! If we cannot compel greatness in our leaders, we can at least demand basic competence. We can insist on good, educated, leaders while we pray for great ones. It should border us that only four individuals (one ceremonially) who have ruled Nigeria since independence fifty years ago has been a university graduate. Even divine leaders have needed precursors to make straight their way! In traditional monarchical systems such as we would today dismiss as anachronistic, there were elite groups called king makers whose business was to keep an eye on all the eligible princes, and choose the best when the time came. These king makers were specially qualified by tradition and by knowledge of the history of the kingdom, and no less by being themselves ineligible for selection so that they could be seen to be reasonably disinterested. Those of us who often doubt that we could learn anything from our traditional systems and usages should compare the scrupulousness of the king maker arrangement with the lack of it in our elections! The hope is expressed that, in the light of inter-textual relations between Nigeria’s population groups, all Nigerians will perceive and accept as their own the historical situation in which they find themselves together. It is then that a Nigeria free from the fear of the domination of one social or tribal group by another will become possible. This process of human integration is here referred to for convenience as Ayatutulization ( you may call it Africanization). This philosophy of human integration is here suggested as a way out of our
Chinua Achebe,A. The Problem with Nigeria, 1966,p 106
leadership crisis. This is a process of injecting African value systems, concepts and ethics into all our human ways and activities to liberate the Nigerian from mental passivity in which he has been imprisoned by colonialism. To this end we invite universities, and indeed all tertiary institutions to stand up and be counted as intellectual clinics for the de-entrapment of the mind, the transmission of African culture and values, to effect the African cultural Page | 21 renaissance and revolution. This is the philosophy of AYATULISM; a philosophy of the new past and the old future which aims to reconcile innovation with African knowledge system and to generate ideas needed to take our transitional society to a new level of development awareness. It is a political philosophy intent at inspiring the African mind and reforming the political and educational institutions, economic systems, social, moral and spiritual values to suit the religio-cultural milieu of the African peoples. This is the true search for an African identity and the recognition of the environment in which that identity is sought so as to recreate an informed relationship that enables us, Tiv, Yoruba Hausa Igbo, to conceptualize and articulate Africa as one motherland. This ought to be done in our endeavor to affirm our being, personhood and nationhood. This is the sure road to economic or political development in Nigeria; a Cultural Revolution, or cultural renaissance. For any quantum change requires new ideas to generate new perceptions of reality. Fifty years of statehood in physical terms represents maturity in mass, thoughts and words. Unfortunately though, our nation is still full of contradictions and absurdities and its people are still notorious for indiscipline, lawlessness, greed, corruption, and many other vices known to humanity. I am tempted to say on the last line that Nigeria as a mother has reached the stage of menopause (intellectually, economically, politically and spiritually) from whom nothing productive is/should be expected. I am also tempted to say here again that all that I have said in this paper is nothing but “blowing big grammar”. I am not too sure any government official who shares in the organised conspiracy against the masses will ever find my thoughts reasonably compelling for reform in attitude than to commit it to the flames as sophistry. True, Nigerian Universities and other centers with deep knowledge of national and world issues cannot acquit themselves brilliantly of the sacred duty of acting as king makers and or Gadflies in the past and the present, not selecting the king themselves, but spreading, in advance, general enlightenment and a desire for excellence to those who will aspire to leadership. Even the men and women from the ivory tower who have sallied into national politics have had a rather dismal record and it is difficult, not impossible though, to recognize the peculiar contribution of these men and women of ideas to national development. Many of them have sadly cheapened themselves and eroded their prestige by trotting up and down between the campus and the waiting rooms of the powerful, shamelessly vying for attention and running down their colleagues for the entertainment of the politicians. We may conclude finally that, at the old age of FIFTY, the maison Academia, citadels of knowledge and wisdom have shamelessly but deservedly lost their luster, their mystique; and the squandered the credibility which they had in such abundance at the time of independence up till the late eighties. The challenge of leadership recruitment today therefore is no longer the big grammar of the men and women of ideas but pragmatic action of the mass Nigerian population for positive change. I dare say here therefore that, we know what we should do,
yet we refuse to do it. Instead we are constantly blowing big grammar all over the country as if our problem stems from insufficient argument. May I end this paper by likening leadership to mountain climbing;
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As mountain climbing, leaders should learn how to turn problems into projects, difficulties into dividends, obstacles into opportunities, tragedies into triumphs, adversaries into adventure, and stumbling blocks into starting blocks or stepping stones.
In this jubilee year, we as a people must take a hard look at ourselves and ask why good leadership which the Nigerian nation deserves to get from its leaders has eluded us for fifty years running in order to produce that salt which the nation relies on to drop into the boiling pot of Nigerian leadership meal. Like Booker T. Washington in the Atlanta Compromise Speech of 1995, I dare to pass this injunction to my compatriots who sorrow over bad leadership: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” I would say for the second, third and fourth time: “Cast down your bucket where you are”—Cast it down in the wise choice of your leaders, in exposing corruption, in counting every vote and in making every votes count, in strengthening trade unions, professional bodies, students’ movement and other civil society organizations and empowering them to transform the face of politics. A similar position has been canvassed by Comrade Adams Oshiomole that, “the people need to get better organised now and in the future, to mobilize politically, defend their votes, confront unpopular policies and organize to defend their rights and welfare….to develop viable strategies to engage the abundant civic energy in our people and translate it into political gains for their benefit”25 While doing this, you can be sure in the future, as in the past which you and your families and your nation will not, as it were substitute for the vain and dangerous search for more power. It is in the enlightened self interest of the elites, our class, to recognise the interests and rights of the poor. For a government that cannot protect the poor cannot also protect the rich. May God Bless Nigeria.
Comrade Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole, The Challenge of Consolidating Democracy in Nigeeria: The Role of Labour, Lecture Delivered at the Convocation Ceremony of the Benue State University, Makurdi, April23,2010