(By Don Dotun Ojon)
“No matter where we are today, I have learnt over the years that we occupy a leadership position. If not for anyone, for our children and other members of the family. Many parents today only give directive and never direction for their children to follow. As bitter as it may sound, if one does not lead well as a parent, doctor, cleaner or even as bus conductor; one cannot lead well as President. We must all see leadership as what has been given to us all and if we fail in little it becomes a problem to excel in much.“
THE year 2013 was in every sense of it a tough one for us at the individual level and even as a Nation. Avoidable deaths followed us into the year, – bad roads, crashes, fire outbreaks, dangerous political maneuvering and the likes. Today in Nigeria, unemployment has risen to a point of concern while our electricity has simply defied all known remedies. In essence, our wealth as a nation does not have any positive effect on our standard of living as a people.
Our state got this bad under the rule of many who cared less about the wellbeing of the people. They are supported by those who want our good but never knew how to go about this (when nature honoured them with power). But, they both enjoy our permission as a people who only desire change but never really want it to happen. We are all just waiting for time to hasten things in our favour – that we may take our own share of the national cake.
I belong to a class of people whose parents repeatedly called the leaders of the future. From Elementary school to College, Our hope of someday stepping into the leadership of the Nation was as bright in our hearts as the noonday. Nothing meant anything to us than the need to make a change by leading an exemplary lifestyle. But instead of causing a change; we got changed overnight by a force too powerful to explain. None of us could escape because we were actually sleeping and facing one direction when the evil struck. I have since then been on the lookout for solution. I climbed seven mountains and crossed nine rivers; I was with my sister who does witchcraft business in the village and have not ceased to complain to my brothers who pastor different churches in the city – they were all (surprisingly) affected too. As a result, none of them could help. Corruption, deceit, selfishness and lies are everywhere, including the supposed ‘house of God’.
At every point of our celebration as a Nation, I have heard our leaders talk about reflection – sober one they say. At Independence, Christmas, Democracy and any other celebration I have ever known; but I doubt if our reflection had amounted to anything meaningful to our dear land. For me, my reflection, participatory observations and logical analysis of events have made it clear that we do not understand what our problems are; we are only struggling to catch a monster we know nothing about. The reality of our challenge as a Nation is U.S. – I mean ourselves. Unfortunately, we are a people who never take responsibility. From the governors to the governed, we are known for always wanting to blame somebody for our woes. If not our stepmother, it must be the old woman in the other flat; if not the government, it must be the opposition. Or how else will you explain a situation where the Senate for example will say the Federal Government will be compelled to do something. Who is the Federal Government? Instead of the body to accept that the failure of one is the failure of all and put in place measures to prevent it, they will rather allow failure occur and pass the blame to the Executive.
In the year 2013 like every other ones before it, we failed to take responsibility as individuals and as a nation. The man who committedly failed to do what was right blamed the government; the ruling party blamed the opposition for its troubles. As a result we lost the essence of our development and planted hatred in our hearts against one another.
I always agree whenever people say the problem of the nation is that of Leadership. But it can only truly be if all of us agree that we are all occupying one position of leadership or the other. In this sense, when we identify leadership as our problem – we are indirectly accepting the obvious – that we are all guilty for the woes and responsible for the gains of our nation. The major problem we had in 2013 was our inability to do things right. Professor Femi Mimiko once referred to this as CC – Capacity Collapse. The governors have seemingly refused to prioritize the wellbeing of the governed and the governed are seeking all the available corner to cut in our selfish game of making ends meet.
I should not sound as if the purpose of our political leadership is being fulfilled today. In fact, that our political leaders are guilty as charged is the mildest way to say the obvious. Yet, like leadership, followership is a concept that comes with responsibility. And if any is shirking in its responsibility then a failure has occurred; it does not at that point matter which of the two because they have almost the same effect on the polity. If leadership is bad, I consider it as a woe of today but if followership is bad, it becomes a woe of both now and the morrow.
A governor stole N20 million from the N200 million contract he awarded – that’s fraud; the cleaner stole toilet soap from the office convenience – another fraud; the director of finance and administration will not process your paper until you ‘settle’ him – he is a thief ! Doctors leave patients to die daily in government hospitals while attending to people in their private clinics – that’s another one! Mr. Journalist slants his story in favour of the man who services him with the proverbial “brown envelope”, the bricklayers steal cement from the woman who struggles to build an apartment – barau! The bus conductor always wants to hold back the balance of your money and you are made to shout before you get what rightly belongs to you. What else? From the top to the bottom, there is a total capacity collapse in the system. Yet, we point accusing fingers at a set of people because today we feel we are at the bottom, at the receiving end.
No matter where we are today, I have learnt over the years that we occupy a leadership position. If not for anyone, for our children and other members of the family. Many parents today only give directive and never direction for their children to follow. As bitter as it may sound, if one does not lead well as a parent, doctor, cleaner or even as bus conductor; one cannot lead well as President. We must all see leadership as what has been given to us all and if we fail in little it becomes a problem to excel in much.
On April 17, 2010, former President Ibrahim Babangida, while speaking on the Hausa service of the BBC, justified his presidential ambition with the ‘fact’ that he ‘has seen that they (the younger generation) are not capable of leading this country. How right he was after all! Have we really acted in a worthy way to show that we can be a super alternative if the leaders fail us? Can we point to any unique thing that differentiates us the youths from these people who bully us emotionally with the sound of siren? The very few youths who have opportunity cast aspersion on the several who have not had the opportunity. And instead of the victims to think of a way to make it better consequently, he wants to revenge.
The only thing we do right at this moment is to criticize. We criticize the man who built that narrow bridge to our community as if we would ever construct any, if we were given the contract. We criticize the man who bought a private jet as if we would not buy a dozen at once, if we had the means. Everything we do is based on selfishness. Last time in one of the South West states, a friend had invited me for a meeting aimed at unseating the governor in the election. I had thought maybe he doesn’t like his style of governance until a week later when l saw my friend openly canvassing votes for the same man he wanted out of office only a week earlier. Somebody simply said to me – ‘they have settled him’. Our agitations are worthless and are often based on what we would gain at the expense of what the society would get.
The very way we are in this country simply confirms the popular saying that any society gets the kind of leadership it deserves; not what it thinks or desires or even wants. A good people deserve a great leadership and crooked ones deserve crooked leadership. That is not to say we are not a set of very great people in Nigeria, but corruption and selfishness have reduced us to what we are really not. A friend of mine once pointed at a young man whom l think would have caused bad leadership before he was employed as a civil servant but now things have changed, he rides an Infinity of high value and that friend told me the young man got the money on a crooked deal as the pay master of the ministry. In churches offerings get missing into the pockets of smart evangelists and in the shrine of Ayelala – the popular riverine goddess; the priest in 2009 was struck dead for failing to give an accurate account of 418 fowls, N64, 000 and 149,000 yards of white cloths given to her master. The goddess was believed to have been obviously angry at this high level of mismanagement that has perhaps not happened in 25 years that the woman has presided over the affairs of the shrine. There is the widespread complaint that teachers extort money from students; fuel stations hoard fuel; judges pervert truth and the nation is on the verge of collapse. Yet all these cannot be compared to the evil that awaits us if these attitudes persist.
There’s no doubt that the fish starts stinking from the head. That is the truth as revealed by a Chinese proverb. Yet, many are not aware that the complexity of the head makes it so. And unlike the fish that grows from the head, leadership as a concept grows from the tail and any society that lacks an upright tail will never see an upright head.
I cannot hide the fact that if leadership gives a right direction, the people will follow. After all, Nigerians who disobey laws in the country today abide by them abroad because of a system that is working. But for a system to work; it requires the input of both leadership and followership. If any fails under any guise then the future is bleak. If we as youths continue to seek corners to cut, look for men to dupe; if the old ones fail to repent from perpetration of fraud; then our nation will continue to be in trouble even if we have all the Adeboyes of this world.
In 2013, our leaders didn’t pass the test of leadership neither did many of us excel in the test of patriotism. Funmi Iyanda called it the identification of what is not working well and making conscious effort to make it work. If the nation is not working well, now is the time to fix it but if we keep complaining and pursuing some selfish agenda – then, the year may not be as great as the prophets and the oracles have revealed.
Ojon, a producer with TVC NEWS, Lagos Nigeria is the founder of Campaign for Patriotism. He can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org
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