Opinion: Why we must find our ‘True North’ where our leaders fail

by Abdulmumin Yinka Ajia


Again, as young people, we shouldn’t have to experience life as an unrelenting string of chaos, in due time, when we find our own true north, providence will give us wise and caring elders that will empower our geniuses. And then, in turn, we will learn to trust again.

Kristin Hodson writing on Finding Your True North – Living Authentically in Your Relationship – online at www.familyshare.com wrote about the North Pole as that mystical place that becomes the focal point for many of us. She challenged us to imagine ourselves trekking to the North Pole by foot and bringing our fanciest compass as our guide. Explaining further, she said, when we step outside and the needle shakily makes its way to the top of the circle pointing us in the northern direction  our instincts tells us that this is not, in fact, true north but magnetic north.

For the uninitiated, Kristin explains, Magnetic north is simply the magnetic regions in the arctic that can continually shift based on earth but not necessarily guiding us to our desired destination. On the other hand, “True North” will guide us from south to north, and back again, by following a map’s geographical lines. In this manner, we will arrive exactly where we want to go.

If we assess objectively the events of the last few months in Nigeria, young Nigerians will realize that they are being pulled in different directions. However, unbeknownst to many of us, we are often pulled by forces not in line with our “true north,” or our internal map that consists of our values and authentic self but as Kristin said and I agree, we are being pulled to become reactionary, a pleaser, or an appeaser. I would also add that many of our leaders especially those that wield political power are using young Nigerians as pawns in their power game. When we follow their magnetic north instead of our own True North, we become a pawn in their hands, we operate unknowingly on their behalf, and we react instead of being pro – active. And even more dangerous, we go on to behave in a way that soothes the emotions of the moment.

Kristin concludes by advising that understanding the difference between magnetic north and true north allows us to truly chart the course we want to take. However, she cautioned us that sometimes the difficulty lies not in the destination, but in the route.

The Reverend Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, San Jose, California, writing in his bestselling book -The Purpose Driven Life – also insists that while we may be products of our past, we do not have to be prisoners of it and that those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it. Influential Sufi cleric Al Fudail Ibn ‘Iyaad also echoed this sentiments when he stated in his seminal work -The Book of Manners – that we ought not to feel lonely on the paths of guidance just because few people travel them and that we should not be deceived by the abundance of people on the paths of misguidance. In essence, we are encouraged to seek out our own truth and avoid herd mentality.

I will like to admonish young Nigerians to be wary of the mixed messages that are being sent by our political leaders in recent time. Do not be carried away by their high sounding cliché words, if they themselves don’t believe it, why should you? Many of the actors in the present game have been at it since 1999. While some have remained in the ruling party, others have moved from the ruling party to many other platforms and finally came back to their vomit. What a shame!

As we enter a crucial election year, young Nigerians are at a vantage point to bring lasting change to this country we all love so much. But we cannot do this if we are losing our heads in the midst of the craziness that is going on all around us. We owe it to ourselves to scrutinize their words and check their antecedents in order to come to our own independent conclusion.  I will also implore young Nigerians to not judge a book by its cover.

Over the last three years of my participation in our national political life, I have come to see firsthand the treachery of the Nigerian political class. And I say this with all sense of responsibility and retrospection. My friends, things are not the way they seem on the outside. In Nigeria’s political lexicon, white may not necessarily be white and black may not necessarily be black either. Nigerian politicians have turned obfuscation into an art. The talking points are just that, talking points. The leaders that you think were on your side are only interested in getting you to the polling booth to serve as an unthinking robot – casting votes for candidates with questionable backgrounds dressed up as otherwise respectable gentlemen. This phenomenon cuts across all the parties. In the last three years, I have seen it played out time and again, and I am convinced that all the players are in bed to further the continued ruination of Nigeria.

Those to whom the youths think are doing something and are giving some sorts of value are in my opinion, extending tokenism to distract the masses from asking the tough questions we ought to be asking of our leaders. I must however concede that even tokenism may be welcome in this clime of do nothingness. But then again, if we become more engaged and scratched the surface, we will realize that on both sides of the aisle, it is all a façade. The ones that we just commended for giving us tokenism have equally put us into heavy debt that may take two generations to pay off. Yes, we can all agree that they seem to be doing something but the cost are so over invoiced that in saner climes most of them will be behind bars by now. In short, the whole game has been rigged against us from the beginning.

Some of these leaders from across party lines have been known to abuse each other and call each other unprintable names in the daylight only for them to make up at the dead of night – back slapping each other and laughing at the expense of Nigerians. As young Nigerians, we have the power to change the game but in doing so we have to be clear eyed about our goal.

The present debate about which party is progressive and which one isn’t should and ought to be discarded. Those in the know will tell you that the present two dominant parties are between six and half a dozen. To the uninitiated, you may think that there is a modicum of difference, in fact to the somewhat initiated who thinks he/she has access to some of the leaders of the leading parties and comes out chest thumping to proclaim that one is progressive and one isn’t, I will tell you this, you have allowed yourself to become a pawn in the hands of the masters of Nigeria’s political life. They know that they have succeeded in turning you into a tool but you don’t know this. Obviously you don’t. You are too carried away in the adulation of your own self importance to notice. As long as you continue in this euphoria, our leaders do not have to work hard at convincing the flock, you can do it on their behalf.

Going forward, as young people, we should be more vigilant.  In addition, I will suggest that we also shouldn’t take anything said by our political leaders as the gospel truth. In essence, we should discard herd mentality and seek out our own True North.  In personal development, scholars called finding your “true north” a means of identifying with certain values, beliefs or behaviors that come from within and that are going to remain constant regardless of what turbulence is going on around you. It keeps you grounded even when others are losing their heads. As young people, I will encourage us to form long term sustainable partnerships with members of our own generation instead of acting like unthinking trolls following a bandwagon effect.

By investing in ourselves and members of our own generation, we will become more expansive and confident. The consequence is that we will begin to write our own Nigerian story not the story that our pseudo leaders have written for us. Indeed, we ought to be circumspect about these leaders who are selling us this new truth; we have been here with them before. Time and again, they have failed us, young Nigerians, as we enter this election season, let us seize the opportunity and refuse to be used by anyone or any group to achieve their own goal. As author and bestselling writer Agatha Christie said, we should find our own theme. We can either embellish it or desecrate it, but it’s our theme, and as long as we follow it, we will experience harmony and peace of mind.

Again, as young people, we shouldn’t have to experience life as an unrelenting string of chaos, in due time, when we find our own true north, providence will give us wise and caring elders that will empower our geniuses. And then, in turn, we will learn to trust again. Joining hands, walking together, this group of young men/women and the wise elders of our communities, we will rescue our nation from the malaise of ineffective leadership at all levels – doing this, one village and one community at a time.

It is certain that the torch of leadership will be passed to a new generation sooner rather than later but we must learn from the mistakes of our elders and prepare ourselves for leadership. If you haven’t given it much thought, it’s not too late. Nigeria needs you, your generation needs you and you owe it to yourself to leave this country better than you met it.

As a leadership scholar, I understand that Leadership takes practice but I also know that it is within the reach of each and every young Nigerian. It is my prayer that this next generation of Nigeria’s political and business leaders are grounded ethically than our predecessors were.  As we approach national elections, I understand that each ideological grouping will be fighting vociferously to win over the support of this critical voting block; my charge to you is this; do not be swayed unnecessarily, please think deeply before you and your loved ones cast that ballot. A lot depends on it; in fact the continued existence of your nation rest on it. I will offer three attributes young Nigerians should look out for as they prepare to elect the next set of leaders in 2015.

One is Education, in order to be an effective leader, or at the very least an average one; one has to be sufficiently educated. A good world class education is necessary for leaders in the 21st century.

Number two is integrity; clinical psychologist and author, Barbara Killinger offers a traditional definition of integrity when she said integrity is a personal choice, an uncompromising and predictably consistent commitment to honour moral, ethical, spiritual and artistic values and principles. Individuals that lack integrity and are ready to fight at a drop of the hat I’m afraid cannot make effective leaders.

Number three is Character. The concept of character implies a variety of attributes including the existence or lack of virtues such as empathy, fortitude, honesty, valor and loyalty. American Psychologist Lawrence Pervin defines moral character as “a disposition to express behavior in consistent patterns of functions across a range of situations.”  Sara Lee’s CEO, Brenda Barnes also said: “The most important thing about leadership is your character and the values that guide your life.” Individuals without a core character of virtue when they find themselves in leadership positions could become extremely dangerous. They have no scruples and are usually unhinged.

These three attributes will be useful as we prepare for the next round of elections. But I have also heard the widespread lament over the apathy of young voters. And I am not surprised one bit. Our leaders have failed to understand that participation in a democracy begins with young people knowing that they count. It is hard to be apathetic when the big idea that fills your mind and soul is that you know that you can, you must, and you will make a difference. And that is the reason why I have devoted the entirety of this paper imploring us to find our own True North because unfortunately our political leaders have proven incapable of showing us the way.

Our own True North thus will become the internal compass that guides us successfully through life. It becomes our fixed point in a spinning world – one that will help us to stay on track as young leaders. Just as a compass point toward a magnetic field, our True North pulls us towards the purpose of our existence. When we follow our internal compass, our leadership will be genuine and while others may guide or influence our actions, our truth will always be determined by our own conscience and our resultant actions will be beneficial to humanity.


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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