Leadership in Nigeria: Service, sacrifice or luxury?
Sir: Over time in Nigeria, bad leadership has been fingered as one of her cardinal problems. It has therefore become imperative to emphasise the importance of sacrifice and commitment to service by leaders. This is contrary to a perverted leadership culture which is characterised by selfish and insatiable quest for and acquisition of money and political power. Emphasis has shifted from public and social services to an institutionalised lavish leadership style which has adverse ripple effects on every rung and facet of society.
The system, either by permission or omission, orchestrates an ugly leadership trend which, among others: exposes public resources to manipulations for undue acquisition, retention and application of financial and political power; focuses on the savor and exploitation of the lavish luxuries of political office; lowers standards to mediocre and abysmal levels and ultimately expands the parallel dimensions between leaders and their people in terms of living conditions and opportunities.
Effective political leadership has nothing to do with the advancement of one’s personal interests to the detriment of public good. In the same vein, the luxuries and perks of political office should be such that cushion shocks which may hinder high leadership performance. Undue benefits in this regard shift leadership attention from deliverables to collectibles. This should be the concern of laws and policies that establish and regulate the activities of public office and their holders, in order to forestall abuses and also instigate a leadership culture that is driven by service and sacrifice. It becomes suicidal if public laws and policies ironically support abuse of public office – by permission or omission.
This calls for an evaluation of Nigeria’s entire political leadership structure, which will answer such critical questions as: how does a politician, who could barely maintain a beat-up house or vehicle, suddenly own mansions with a garage that depicts a top-class autos-hop, just after ascension to office? Why do leaders scurry to other continents for medical care at the expense of huge public resources? Why is it very difficult to dock a big thief who holds or has held a political office in Nigeria? Why do leaders run their wards in foreign schools in preference to beat-up public schools which they (leaders) are proud alumni of? What entitles political leaders to free basic infrastructure and utilities which the citizens barely have access to?
Obviously, service has been compromised; standards have been dropped; resources have been misapplied or misappropriated; the spirit of sacrifice has become an extinct attribute; and ultimately, goals have been abandoned or swapped – to the detriment of public good.
Nigeria needs a new order of leadership which is service- and merit-driven, full of vigour, visible and most importantly, people-oriented. Leadership should be approached from a sacrificial point of view where leaders personally devote to social, economic and humanitarian initiatives/foundations that can uplift their people, instead of jetting off to foreign havens on every vacation. The urgency of Nigeria’s situation requires, among others: a sense of ownership that necessitates prudence in spending and swiftness in reparation; raising leadership and operational performance to meet high standards; the integration of leadership and followership by engaging and empowering citizens in learning, employment, innovation and production; regulating pre-election activities that encourage incumbents to service the ‘goodwill’ received from their sponsors and cronies; humility in donning the tunic of service, no matter how small it fits.
Most importantly, the Nigerian situation requires an eagle-eyed brigade of followers who see themselves as employers in the Nigerian enterprise, ensuring a governance system that holds service sacrosanct as the basis for government. Lack or paucity of service breeds instability and social insecurity – a combo situation that is capable of toppling the polity and the economy.
Only visionary, competent, committed and sacrificial leadership which must, in the words of John F. Kennedy, “ask not what your country can do for you – (but) ask what you can do for your country,” can inspire the kind of followership and workforce that is needed to bridge this gap in service and deliver a reliable system that all Nigerians will be proud of.
Emmanuel Ikechukwu Igbo.