Opinion: Oh Lord! Give us this day a good leader

by Bamidele Ademola-Olateju


When President Yar’Adua got elected, he called himself the servant leader. The servant part was more of rhetoric than anything else. If he was selfless, he would have declined being put forward, knowing his health could not support the rigors of the position of president.

I am at great pains to define the kind of persons that has governed us in this country. Nigeria till this day has never had a leader, we have always had rulers. Yes, rulers! Rulers aptly defines those who have had the privilege to govern us in the country because they ruled! They never led. With rulers comes certain words that fits best into our narrative; words like autocrat, potentate, despot, dictator, Pharaoh, taskmaster, führer, overlord and tyrant. These words do not gel with leadership. What does it take to be a leader? Leadership entails character, competence and courage. A leader goes in the front, leads the way and by his actions; people follow. Good leaders are imaginative and creative at handling people and situations, they anticipate problems and look for ways to mitigate problems well in advance. They are totally humble and very deferential with little worries over who gets credit; as a result, the power they wield really never gets into their heads. Leaders develop their people by setting realistic goals and expectations. True leaders have a mental toughness that is in tandem with their physical stamina; no one ever leads with a sick mind and body. No Nigerian president fits into these descriptions and that is sad given our population and position.

Colonel Eric Kail, director of military leadership at the U.S. Military Academy West Point in his thoughts on leadership puts his searchlight on leadership character as the defining factor in purposeful leadership. He identified the facets of leadership character as courage, integrity, selflessness, empathy, collaboration and reflection. A cursory look at our rulers buttresses Col. Kail’s position on leadership. I have decided to focus this week and next on leadership character in the light of those who have governed us and to sensitize us to civic follower-ship. Leadership is an amalgam of many attributes put to play for a greater good. Of all the attributes, character is the most important. Have we had any leader with sound character in Nigeria? NO! President Goodluck Jonathan is Nigeria’s first president with a Ph.D. His certification in vocational scholarship will help future Nigerian students of psychology understand that leadership is not defined by education or skills and abilities but by character. His spectacular failure in governance is not for his lack of education but a patent lack of character. The unbridled corruption, stealing and rank incompetence under his watch is not about what he did but more about who he is? His ongoing failure is not about lack of technical or managerial abilities, it is about character failure.

This country is in dire need of leaders with moral courage. At the root of good leadership is the critical component of moral courage. That is, the ability to overcome the selfish tendencies that inhibits the will to: do the right things at all times, never get intimidated by established beliefs and power structures that are inimical to achieving the greatest good for the greatest number and the readiness to entertain and bear criticism in good faith. Nigerian rulers hereditarily cannot do a single thing right. They set unattainable goals like seven point agenda when only one agendum will consume the available resources over the same period of time. Deliberately, they set goals that are not measurable and cannot be validated. They seem eternally incapable of understanding that courageous leadership entails a life that can discern and resolve the conflict between the demands of self and the consistency of truth. A leader with moral courage does not only do things right, he insists on doing the right things with transparency. Have we such leaders? NO. Do we elevate people with moral currency to leadership? NO. Nigeria is a fertile ground for moral dupes.

We need leaders whose lives speaks integrity. Leaders with integrity not only do the right thing when no one is watching, they commit to a moral principle and strength of character of admitting and correcting their own wrongs in a bid to seeking self-improvement in their private and public lives. Such leaders are given to an urgent sense of humble introspection instead self-righteous declarations that has come to characterize people like General Obasanjo. President Obasanjo has the grandest opportunity to chart a different course for this country during his second reincarnation as a civilian president. He didn’t. By some grievous miscalculation, he foisted a complete incompetent on us. Worse, he lacks the integrity and strong sense of character to admit he’s done this country a lot of harm by giving us Jonathan. He does not want to accept his errors, instead, he’s writing letters hoping to rationalize away his initial and underlying faults and the related consequences of his mistake. If Obasanjo and Babangida were to be men of integrity, they would know that the value of integrity is directly proportional to the secrets you keep. Transparency is integral to being a good leader. There is no point accepting half truths when the whole truth is there for everyone to see. “Integrity is not the absence of failure, it is moving forward from it.”

Aside from courage, selflessness is one of the pillars of leadership character. Our history is the the history of conjugation with self-absorbed rulers. Rulers who revel in the accouterments of power and become so impressed and immersed by the power and influence they wield. In the same vein, we the followers evolved into irredeemable sycophants. Pleasing our oppressors became our raison d’être; they, not their work became the focus of our praise. When President Yar’Adua got elected, he called himself the servant leader. The servant part was more of rhetoric than anything else. If he was selfless, he would have declined being put forward, knowing his health could not support the rigors of the position of president. Selfishness lured him into accepting to run for the highest office despite his declining health. Selflessness is about strength while selfishness is wanting all the credit and none of the blame. Have we really had any leader who measures himself and his achievements by what Nigerians are able to accomplish through his service to us and not by powers of authority he wields? “To lead is to serve; nothing more, nothing less.”

Jonathan called on us on January 1, 2012 to bear more burden by removing “subsidy” from petroleum. During the same time, he submitted a budget of N1billion for feeding from the nation’s purse. Was he asking us to do what he can do? Where is sacrifice when he submitted a bloated budget suggestive of gluttony and insensitivity while asking us to tighten our belts? He demanded from us a lot of sacrifice when it was glaring he was unwilling to make the same sacrifices he demanded from us. Of course, Nigerian took to the streets and recognized him for the impostor he is. In the end he did not bother to take his case to the Nigerian people like a true leader would, he took the well worn path of intimidation known as the veritable weapon of oppressive leaders. He called the army to the streets of Lagos and intimidated protesters to submission. His standing with the citizenry went south afterwards because we know intimidation is a sign of insecurity and fear from leaders who know they owe their followers more than they have given. Being selfless is hard. It requires real sacrifice and competence. Leaders do not earn respect by their rank or position, but by the strength of their character. As citizens our duty is to request their bonafides to leadership. We must begin by refusing to underwrite and sponsor moral cowards to power… To be continued.


This post is published with permission from Premium Times Newspapers

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

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