The Nigerian Leadership Question

The proverb ‘like father like son’ seems to sum up the psychology of leadership and follower-ship. The quality of leadership largely dictates the quality of the followers.

Nation building and national development, two related concepts, cannot be obtained without an honest, dedicated and pragmatic leader. But over the years Nigeria’s political and economic elite have engaged in wild and unpatriotic adventures of looting and plundering of the nation’s economic resources. Even among military rules, it is the same drama of waste, squandermania, indiscipline, neglect of the masses, life of flamboyance and ostentation. The pronouncement, charges and counter charges of the various Heads of State or leaders of coup d’etat which ushered in successive military regimes in this country point to this. Referring to Gowon’s administration, Murtala Mohammed in his maiden broadcast on 29 July 1975 stated that the coup that brought him into power was necessitated because:

1. After the civil war, the affairs of State hitherto a collective responsibility became characterized by lack of consultation, indecision, indiscipline and even neglect.

2. General Buhari referred to his assumption to power as indeed a moment of truth; he charged the civilian administration he ousted ot corruption and noted the gross mismanagement of the nation’s resources by inept, purposeless and insensitive leadership.

3. The Buhari administration was not clearly accused of corruption. Brigadier Dogonyaro stated that the regime subjected the business of governance to ill-motivated power play consideration. It is also alleged that General Buhari himself built a personal house in his home Daura at a cost of N10 million as at then.

4. Of the Babangida’s regime Balarabe Musa declared, “What they (the military) have done is to stop the fighting between civilian politician and install a new set of treasury looters”.

5. The demonstration of opportunism is extended further. The Nigerian political and economic elites collaborate with foreign nations to destroy their own country (Nigeria) and its citizens. Hiding behind the mask of development and modernization programmes, Nigeria leaders engage in grand alliance with foreign multi-national concerns to bleed their nation to death. The cement armada of the Gowon’s regime and the rice deal of the Shagari administration. The petroleum deal of Abacha’s administration are typical examples.

The structural adjustment programme was another. These types of unpatriotic actions were part of the syndrome known as neo-colonialism. The present Obasanjo economic reforms are yet to be crystallized. The deregulation policy is confusing.

It is in the interest of the industrialized nation of the world that we continue to be parasitic consumers and so they divide all ingenious remote control measure to condemn us to that status. In the absence of leaders like Colonel Ghadafi, Julius Nyerere or Mao Tse Tung nation building will continue to be illusive.

Colonel Ghadafi has remained a colonel since 1969. He harnessed the resources of Libya to effect admirable national economic transformation. Julius Nyerere in the pursuit of his Ujuma, a programmer of self-reliance in Tanzania, demonstrated great honesty and sincerity that won him the support of even the peasantry.

Two observation of Achebe in Tanzania in the 1969s are worth signifying. The first was on one occasion President Nyerere could not pay mortgage on his personal house after he paid fees for his children. He had to beg his bank to give him a few months grace to recover financially. The news leaked into the street but it gave the president the silver mark of a worthy leader. Another occasion was when he insisted that everyone in his cabinet or party hierarchy who had kind of business interest must either relinquish them or be forced to resign. The expected reaction according to Achebe (1985) of the people was that ordinary Tanzanians seemed to walk around, six feet tall. They did not require sermon on discipline or patriotism. They did not need orchestrated propaganda of mass mobilization.

A corollary to the above problem is the lack of national consciousness among the citizens generally. “National consciousness, is a lively sense of, and pride in what distinguished one’s own country from other people”. It occurs, he emphasizes, when people are aware not only their cultural diversity but of their cultural change, when they share some idea of progress which moves them on to great achievements. It is really the situation in which local communities submerge their local loyalties into feelings and support for the larger unit. We woefully lack this condition or spirit, in Nigeria.

As a people, Nigerians are not as passionately patriotic as the Americans. It is axiomatic to occur, patriotic leadership and followership must pave the way. Their absence combined with other problems in various were responsible for coups and counter coups in Nigeria. We can only believe that the present democratic experiment will be fine-tuned to set in motion an enduring democracy and good governance in Nigeria after thirty years of military misrule.