By Arinze Ifi.
The general perception of political leadership in the Nigerian context is all but accurate. It has become a public office position to covet, to kill for and to die for. The politicians of our epoch seem to be grooming a certain “50-kobo” mentality of “get into office or die trying”. Could it be a function of their heightened spirit of patriotism, love for the underclass majority or a “thus saith the Lord” calling they poignantly feel they must answer to? We more than know the simple answer that would suffice.
At this point I’d like to assert that there is nothing like good leadership or bad leadership; leadership is leadership and whoever assumes the position without being able to manifest the relevant qualities the office demands is not a leader! One of the pertinent qualities of leadership is the ability to understand the needs of the people being governed and making adequate provision for such needs. In doing so, a political leader must compulsorily consider the direct and indirect impacts of his approach to tackling societal challenges on the short and long run. This leadership quality I will term reasonable consideration. Another irreplaceable quality of leadership is sacrifice. By this, a leader relegates his personal interests at the expense of holistic societal aspirations. Charisma is another essential quality that embodies the ability to appeal to the sensibilities of the people, the intelligent advocacy of the people in the larger (world) society and the ability to imbue hope in the hearts of many. Most Nigerian leaders of today are sorely lacking in these qualities from the number one office down to the last chain of delegation.
It’s a devastating irony when democracy, being a system of government that gives power to the people through their mandate and affords them basic human rights goes ahead to strip them bare of these powers and deny them the right to a “democratic lifestyle”. This paradox is well defined in the Nigerian political system, and unmistakably so when one observes the gross inequality that society breeds in all spheres of social activities. What we call a democratic government in Nigeria is really a dictatorial system riddled with laissez-faire styled leadership. This is the reason why godfatherism, mediocrity, high-handedness, corruption and mismanagement of resources blatantly thrive in the corridors of power. Democracy is an ideal system of government because it incorporates the opinions of the majority in governing the people. What’s more is there is an existing conduit of effective communication between the people and their selected leaders. Unfortunately the democracy of Nigeria is a political anomaly, thoroughly lacking in these traits!
Until very recently did the people of Nigeria realise the democratic power in their right to vote in public officers as opposed to having them chosen for, nay, imposed on them. This realisation has arguably paved the way for a new dawn in Nigeria’s polity. However, we still dance in political mediocrity seeing as the knowledge of our power to choose isn’t nearly enough to get us where we want to be. The failure of the GEJ-led government which has concurrently proved itself a radical misanthrope to the Nigerian majority is sufficient proof of this. Thus the power to choose doesn’t give us an edge if we make bad choices. This is where we find ourselves in entrapment simply because of uninformed choices.
Going from the daily occurrences in our political scenario there is an undeniable disconnect between the government and the people. It may seem that ascension to public office inevitably breaks the sync between the people and their (s)elected leaders, disillusioning the leaders from the realities of the society and the people therein (ask BRF). I guess it’s true what they say about absolute power; it corrupts absolutely! Therefore, there is the urgent need to address this disconnect to ensure effective delivery of the people’s democratic dividends. To challenge this disconnect, we must first learn from the mistakes of bad choices. Our choice of leadership should be based on antecedents, leadership qualities of reasonable consideration, charisma and sacrifice rather than nepotism, partisanship and emotional bias. The untimely fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government and the okada ban by the Lagos State Government flaw their respective leadership on reasonable consideration. The Presidency’s ridiculous yearly budgetary feeding allocation and the outrageous emoluments of the legislators flaw their leadership on sacrifice. So does Rivers State governor’s junketing air-toy purchase at the wake of massive suffering of the people owing to the recent flooding. Decentralised system of government regardless, as far as leadership is concerned, the overall head is responsible for the body. Had a good majority of Nigerians looked at GEJ’s antecedents (or lack of it) prior to casting their votes, maybe, just maybe we would have been in a better Nigeria today…
Arinze Ifi is a guest writer for Malcolm’s Blog and occasionally rants on twitter as @iamXAri