Having already discussed the topic at the event, I find it quite appropriate to publish this piece to further establish some of the points I raised in the course of the program.
When I was contacted to participate in the debate and speak on the topic, I was thinking that, as much as it is a very glaring fact that there is an absence of purposeful leadership in Nigeria, it is a difficult task to establish exactly when the purposeful leadership in Nigeria disappeared. It is also difficult to say, if there was any purposeful leadership in the first place and it is equally difficult get everyone to agree on who is responsible for the decline since there is no any generally established standard of performance.
The question is, has Nigeria ever had a purposeful leadership? And was there decline in purposeful leadership or just a mere continuation of the status quo from what we have had from inception?
or us to appreciate and come to term on this topic, there is a need to define some basic concepts associated with the topic and see how the leadership of the country looks from independent fare.
The concepts to be defined are as follows:
3. Purposeful leadership
4. Decline in leadership
5. Decline in purposeful leadership
From the definition in online dictionary:
1. Leader: A Leader is defined as an agent of change. But, change from what to what?
It is also defined as someone who influences the actions and lives of others by bringing about either a direct or indirect change to individuals or organization and society.
I may also say that, a leader could be an agent of change, who influences the lives of the others to bring about either positive or negative changes to the lives of individual or organization and society.
If we take a closer look at the definitions, we would realize that being a leader is not such a difficult task, as virtually everyone can become a leader in one way or the other. We could also become either a positive or negative leader. So, being a leader has nothing to do with being good or bad, it is only a skill that helps individuals organize and influence others.
2. Leadership: Leadership has been defined by many as the act of influencing others, i.e. organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal. This definition is said to work well when describing a quality in an individual, but when a deeper understanding of leadership is sought, the word becomes much more mysterious. On Wikipedia, leadership is described as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.”
From the above definition, it became obvious that, leadership has to do with accomplishing a common task. But what the leadership definition didn’t inform us about is, if the task aimed to be accomplished is a positive or negative task.
So, whether you seek to accomplish a positive or a negative task; you have to possess some leadership qualities. The more you master the act of leadership would determine the level of your success in your leadership venture. This has nothing to do with your mission, either positive or negative.
3. Purposeful leadership: Purposeful leadership may simply be defined as the act of making dreams come true or transforming dreams into reality in a way that helps others.
Another way of saying this is that, purposeful leadership is a special form of leadership that incorporates positive ethical values and is aimed at serving others.
Going by this definition, we may simply say that, purposeful leadership is transformational leadership. A kind of leadership that sought to positively affect others and makes things better for them through empowering them to do what is good for them.
Transformational leadership is said to enhance the performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the project and the organization, being a role model for followers that inspires them and makes them interested in the right direction, challenging followers to take greater ownership for their work and understanding the strength and weaknesses of followers, so the leader can align followers with tasks that enhance their performance. We can therefore conclude that, purposeful leadership is the leadership of positivism, where the sole aim of the leader is selfless service, or the service that circled around helping the followers be what they want to be and achieve what they wish to achieve which translate into a common achievement for the country or organization.
4. Decline in leadership: If leadership has been described as ”a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task. Then, decline in leadership is the opposite, i.e., a declining process of social influence in which the leader or leaders are declining in skills of enlisting the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task.
Please note, the reason for this decline is not necessarily the lack of leadership skills to enlist others to support and accomplish the common task, but because of a different mission or aim of the leaders which is contrary to the common task and aim of the led. This different mission or aims, draws a line between the common task to be achieved by all and the task to be accomplished by the leaders.
5. Decline in purposeful leadership: Decline in purposeful leadership is also the opposite of purposeful leadership, and purposeful leadership is simply defined as the act of making dreams come true or transforming dreams into reality in a way that helps others.
So therefore, decline in purposeful leadership is the decline in the activities capable of transforming dreams into reality. It is the decline in the mission of helping others; decline in the act of selflessness and decline in public interest and consideration.
Although, one of the challenges facing Nigeria as a nation-state is political leadership which is a product of the nation’s colonial antecedent spanning almost a century. The political structure and the superstructure built and left behind as relics by the colonial masters are often cited by scholars, as the source of the problems and prospects for the country, none the less, other countries with similar colonial past had long overcame their colonial era of errors and forge a new path ahead. Example of such a country is the United State of America which undergo similar amalgamation as Nigeria, fought civil war due to misunderstanding as Nigeria and still came back united, stronger, purposeful and better.
Nigeria’s leadership and political woe began long before our independence, but since we were under colonial rule, it is easy to excuse the emerging leaders from any wrong doing of the yet to be self-governed country.
The glaring truth that continuously spits in our faces is the fact that, from inception, Nigeria lacked any form of purposeful leadership hero that can be followed or that could serve as a source of inspiration to the young generation, even when we hide under the name of our founding fathers and their accomplishments, many Nigerians are deeply convinced within them that our founding fathers are not worthy to be called purposeful leaders of Nigeria.
Using 3 of our founding fathers as example, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Ahmadu Bello and Nnamdi Azikwe. You will agree with me that, none of these 3 is Nigeria’s hero, each of them merely attain heroism status in a section of the country.
If we mention Awolowo, To the Yoruba’s in the west, he is a hero, but the Igbo’s in the east feel otherwise. If we mention Azikwe, to the Igbo’s in the east, he is a hero, but the northerners feel otherwise and if we mention Ahmadu Bello, he stands a hero among the northerners, but the others disagree.
What lead to this situation is the fact that, after the independence despite the collective struggle, these leaders are unsure if they are for Nigeria or for their ethnicity. They do not differentiate between loyalty to the country and loyalty to their selfish ethnic desire.
Though, they profess national loyalty in their speeches, they act to the contrary. In a situation where the leadership of the country is not focused on building a greater country together, when they do not have and are not pursuing the same interest or agenda for the country’s growth, they can’t be said to be purposeful in their leadership and their respective individual positive stride were made ineffective to the growth of the country as it contradicts each other amounting to waste.
Since it is not arguable that these leaders are not sectional leaders, the question becomes, can these leaders be said to have offered Nigeria purposeful leadership even in their section of the country? Can they be said to have laid down a good foundation to build upon? Can they also be said to have positively impacted the younger generations in their respective regions?
Going by the definition of purposeful leadership which was simply defined as the act of making dreams come true or transforming dreams into reality in a way that helps others, I believe none of the founding fathers of Nigeria can truly be said to have offered purposeful leadership to the country.
This is not to say these leaders didn’t offer services that benefitted the people, but the services they offered cannot be mostly said to be purposeful in its real sense, as they were mostly done not for the main purpose of helping the people, but to help the leaders themselves to recruit foot soldiers who shall serve them with loyalty in advancing their individual long and short term dreams and aspirations.
From history, using Chief Obafemi Awolowo as an example since many believed he was one of the most visionary leaders of Nigeria who recorded great accomplishments during his reign as premier of the western region.
According to history:
• Chief Awolowo offered free education, built Cocoa House to generate income among other positive things accomplished.
• Crisis in Nigeria began from the Western Region, where Chief Obafemi Awolowo was the premier before going to contest for the presidency.
• Chief Samuel Akintola took over the leadership of the western region as the premier while Awolowo was struggling to attain national leadership, but after losing out in the contest, Awolowo returned back to the western region to oust Chief Samuel Akintola, a situation which leads to the first crisis in western region and Nigeria is general.
• Awolowo was said to have facilitated the coming of the popular Coca cola drink and till date (note confirmed), the family of the late sage is said to be receiving a percentage from the sales of Coca-Cola throughout the country.
• Awolowo is also said to be one of the pioneer of tribalism in Nigeria, which was the case during electioneering, a situation which ensured that every region stick to preaching hate as a weapon of winning elections.
Looking through the points highlighted above, we can deduce that it is contrary to the spirit of purposeful leadership. Though, some of these accomplishments are in line with purpose, but purposeful leadership is not about I, it is about WE, but unfortunately, anything outside I to the leaders of Nigeria since independence till date is not acceptable as it was seen in the issues that led to the first crisis in the western region. And also, this is why Chief Awolowo watched as the whole western region became a war zone, simply because he couldn’t allow the new premier to lead the region outside his influence.
With these examples, it is evident that Nigeria cannot be said to have had any purposeful leadership from inception, what we had was a new beginning with no qualified personnel to handle our internal affairs, a situation which the leaders at that time capitalized on to control the heart of the people in the name of service.
While Awolowo believed he could gain the control of the west and control the people by providing free education, Ahmadu Bello believed he could gain the north with a supposed majority, by enlisting their people into the army for military control.
Note: all these achievements were primarily not aimed at just empowering the people for their benefits, but mostly for the political gain of the individual leaders.
But according to Nelson Mandela of South Africa when ask why he turned down the offer of going on exile when he was offered, he said, the struggle is not about the individual, it is about the nation.
So, if the leaders from the south of today, who were schooled under those founding fathers are seen acquiring the properties of the state, channelling state resources to their individual accounts, we cannot be too wrong to conclude that, they acquired such skills from those who led before them and If the leaders from the north of today are also seen acquiring wealth through the military, taking contracts and not supplying equipment’s, using their loyalist in the army to intimidate other etc, we can’t be too far from the truth if we conclude that they are imitating their role models.
We must however give kudos to a governor like Oluseun Mimiko of Ondo state, who was equally schooled under Awolowo, but only imbibed some of the positive aspect of the late siege to advance good governance.
Let me also state that, why do many people viewed Murtala Muhammed as a purposeful leader? It is simply because he shared some trait as those of some American presidents, such as Washington, Lincoln and Kennedy as great leaders.
What made them purposeful leaders?
What about inspirational leaders like Gandhi and Mother Theresa? How were some of these inspirational leaders able to influence other leaders?
They all had a purpose derived from an inner vision. They had belief and conviction in their vision and their vision benefitted others who were inspired and enthusiastically followed the leaders. These leaders were purposeful leaders and givers.
The only leadership of Nigeria that could be said to be purposeful was that of Murtala Muhammed, but unfortunately cut short by the majorly corrupt fellows.
I may submit that, the topic of this discussion which is “decline in purposeful leadership, bane of Nigeria’s woe” may be rephrased as, “lack of purposeful leadership, bane of Nigeria’s woe.” This is so because, if we insist on following the path of the founding fathers that this topic may presume purposeful, we may be heading the path of tribalism, sectionalism, ethnicity and selfishness which characterized the early days of Nigeria and still seen today.
According to Nzeogwu’s declaration of martial law, January 15,1966, which contained some reason why the 1st coup in Nigeria took place, he said: Our enemies are the political profiteers, the swindlers, the men in high and low places that seek and take bribes and demand 10% (from contracts), those that seek to keep the country divided permanently so that they can remain in office as minister or VIPs at least, the tribalists, the nepotists, those that make the country look big for nothing before international circle, those that have corrupted our society and put the Nigerian political calendar back by their words and deeds.- Kaduna Nzeogwu ,January 1966.
From the above declaration in 1966, this cannot be said to be a declaration against a purposeful leadership in my view; it is a declaration against the same negative indices that characterize our present day government which was extended from our early days of independent during the leadership of our founding fathers.
Many elders present during those times do agree that the country is engulfed with all form of corruption, tribalism and impunity in government; though disagree with the way and manner the coup plotter went about the coup.
After these founding fathers had left the sphere of politics with their sectional and personal desires, the later leaders who were tutored in their path continued in their negative shadows, though forgetting to imbibe some of their positive qualities which made them look worse than their predecessors.
Finally, for Nigeria to stand a chance of restoring the negative precedence of our fathers, the new generation of youths and leaders, must set a new standard of leadership, devoid of the inherited tribalism of our founding fathers. We must embrace each other as brothers and sisters and collectively set a common standard of leadership based on a common purpose with truth, sincerity, love and oneness.
We must do away with unwarranted suspicion that characterized the early days of Nigeria, which brings about the crisis that still loom till date. We must acquire the country from the hand of the present destroyers who stand as leaders and dedicate our life pursuit around making Nigeria great.
The new generation must understand that Nigeria never had it good purposefully from onset, we only enjoyed what we presumed to be better government when in reality, it was not, it only seems so due to the long era of colonialism which had long kept us in bondage.
In conclusion, let me once again state that, Nigeria has no leadership hero to be emulated and it lack purposeful leadership to be cited. The new generation must therefore be their own heroes, set their own purpose and create a generally acceptable standard of performance.
Our founding fathers are sectional heroes and regional champions whose view about the country doesn’t cross the bother, denying them a chance to pursue a common dream and vision worthy of a legacy.
We must however commend their leadership zeal and struggle for freeing our country from the hands of the colonial masters who kept us in the bondage of darkness for many years, imbibe some of their positive skills and characters and collectively paved way for our upcoming generation.
Abdulrazaq O Hamzat