Adebayo: Nation building through leadership and politics
MANDELA (1918-2013), late President of South Africa is perhaps the greatest leader of our time. Richard Stengel wrote that ‘His greatest achievement is surely the creation of a democratic, non-racial South Africa and preventing that beautiful country from falling into a terrible, bloody civil war…’ Madiba is described as the last of the twentieth century’s national liberators. He became a global symbol of righteousness and reconciliation. He led his beloved, tormented country from the howling darkness of apartheid to the promised land of democracy with shrewdness, courage, and visionary determination.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has also made a name for himself in the modern world. He reaffirmed Malaysia’s status as an Islamic state and he is well respected by the Muslim body politic in Malaysia and elsewhere. His image as a modern and moderate Muslim leader received support from U.S. President Barack Obama and UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who have put him in their books as one the world’s leading Muslim leaders.
Nigeria, a rich nation with well-endowed vast human resources in almost every facet of life but lacking visionary leadership is still in search of a leader. The foremost elite in the country became our political class. They struggled and took over power from the colonial masters but lost the tempo thereafter because they did not know what to do with it. Their ethnicity, greed, betrayal and selfishness led us to where we are today.
Democracy without leadership is retrogression. Our leaders bastardised our democracy right from the start and the military came to worsen it. There is no democracy without leadership and I pity Nigerians who believe in any group of politicians tagged as the ‘progressives’. There are no such people or party as progressive in Nigeria yet. All the political parties we have are one and the same. Their ideologies and manifestoes are the same. However, what I find incomprehensible is the hapless ‘sheepish’ followers we have today. Perhaps the reason is due to the leadership style of the political class that has rendered the electorate hapless victims of exploitation and apathy on the part of some. So I wonder if there would ever be a way out except by divine intervention.
Leadership has been described as a process of social influence in which one person can aid and support others in the accomplishment of a common goal. For example, some understand a leader simply as somebody whom people follow or as somebody who guides or directs others, while others define leadership as organizing a group of people to bring about a change or make things happen in the society.
The political or ruling class have succeeded in enslaving their followers and ruining the economy of the country for their benefit alone. In this country you are on your own (OYO). This is because Nigerians have to depend on themselves to have access to the basic social amenities of life. The government is generally not providing the needed basic infrastructure or have either provided them but not functioning. Even some of our soldiers committed mutiny and have been tried for refusing to obey the command by their superior to face the insurgents known as Boko Haram. Who wants to die? Commitment and sacrificial service to our fatherland has greatly dwindled.
It is, therefore, easy to understand the plight of followers as to why they have become totally subservient to the political class or those in positions of authority. Survival instinct is the order of the day; Nigerians have woken up to their environment and situation. People would rather worship and be loyal to their benefactor, particularly the political class, not minding how they came about their wealth than wait for government to provide for them. Some leaders in their domain have become tin gods and they dictate, direct and decide where the pendulum swings, that is who becomes what and who governs where. There is so much lack in our society that any leader practising ‘stomach infrastructure’ would be idolised and at most time gain social and political relevance in the country today.
Stomach infrastructure is simply the system by which political patronage is dispensed to persons or various groups in a particular society. This patronage can be in any form, for instance, giving out food items like rice,
palm kernel, beans, garri, vegetable oil etc, okada (motor bike), sewing machines, hair dyer, cash donation, car gifts, contracts award or appointment for a close political ally or their relative etcetera. And in return the political godfather and his party have maximum and unshaken loyalty from the people without giving a second thought to nation growth and the consequence of their action at the poll.
For instance, the Ekiti election that brought back Governor Ayodele Fayose is a clear example of the new sociology of our people towards the idea of ‘stomach infrastructure’. Consequently, politicians who do not believe in ‘stomach infrastructure’ may continue to struggle and labour in vain to change the status quo. The irony of it is that the ‘progressives’ themselves are not different from the other political class but are mere hypocrites and only full of pretence and disguise. They have equally enriched themselves, their family members and associates but find it difficult to share the booty with their followers in some cases. They pretend to be prudent by asking their associates not to dress flamboyantly or live ostentatious lifestyle. However, recent occurrences in some states have shown that their antics are being exposed and they would sooner than later become inconsequential and a failure in the coming elections.
However, it is regrettable to note that some of the real progressives in the country – even though some are very knowledgeable and well exposed about how to turn around things in the country and having a blue print for economic growth and nation building –unfortunately, cannot gather support for themselves within their own extended family or neighbourhood, not to talk of getting support to win an election at the ward level except of course, through the usual electoral fraud. Reasons being that they live a comfortable life but are too selfish, stingy and unfriendly, never assisting the needy around them and in some cases very proud. It may be true that this class of people are endowed with knowledge and experience if given the chance but the oppressed and the downtrodden close to them do not know or appreciate them due to the denial, pains of neglect and feelings of being oppressed daily by the ruling class.
Do we then assume the status quo would remain perpetually? God forbid. Leadership is sacrosanct to build a nation of our dream. We must practise politics as a distribution of power and resources to develop our communities. Democracy based on ethnicity, greed and selfishness as said earlier is retrogression. We need visionary leadership, like the type in Singapore, Dubai, Malaysia, China and Brazil. When Vision 2020 was conceived by late Musa Yar’Adua’s government, Brazil was number 10 among developing nations of the world but between then and now Brazil has moved to number 6. How did it happen? Simply put Visionary Leadership and Integrity.
The next presidential election would be a test case for Nigerians. The choice is between Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari. Both leaders have had a fair chance of leading the country. For electorate who are 30 years of age, and below, let them ask questions about General Buhari, search the net on him or read history books.
No one must sit on the fence in the coming elections particularly the presidential election. Ethnicity and religiosity should be down played; there should be nothing like Muslim or Christian biasness or north/south dichotomy. President Mandela’s faith as a Christian or may be a non-believer of any religion did not hold him back from achieving the deserving needed change in South Africa; and Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak of Malaysia, known to be a Muslim leader, still shot to limelight without controversies about his faith to modernise Malaysia.
We all have a duty this time to choose a leader whose vision and integrity would move this great nation forward. Let us forget their party affiliation (‘progressives’ or non-progressives) and religious sentiment which could mislead the electorate. Dr. Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP has led the country for five years plus. If truly his achievement has impacted our lives in anyway, let your vote say so. General Muhammadu Buhari of the APC, was head of government in the early 80s for almost two years. Was his government then impactful to the nation in any way through his policies, actions and inaction? Then let your vote speak for him. These are food for thoughts for every Nigerian if we must build a Nation of our dream.
• Adebayo is of Labour Party, Oke Taraa, Ogbomoso, Oyo-State.