Nigeria’s woes: Are our leaders to blame?

(By Uzoukwu Dennis Chiemeka)

We easily overlook the boss in the office who would manipulate figures in order to enrich his bank account, or the businessman who would bribe his way to collect contracts, or the student who engages in examination malpractice, or the parent who is very much involved in his or her child’s act of malpractices just to gain admission at all cost, and one would wonder if these are not all acts of corruption.

‘THE only problem we have in this country is leadership’. ‘Our leaders are responsible for the pitiable condition of this nation’. ‘Our leaders are so wicked and corrupt that we can no longer expect anything from them’. These and many more are the lashes we use to whip our leaders for their inefficiency. But each time I come across such statements, I ask myself if truly leadership is the only problem of this country, then what about followership?

The long history of the nation’s woes has been communicated by activists. They always recite the masses concurrent hardship in this nation as a result of our leaders’ inefficiency and corrupt mindedness. They would often relate how our leaders plunder the public service in order to sustain individual survival. In a sense, this has ingrained a mental conditioning which has resulted in virtually all the masses becoming activists.

We cry of a corrupt government, whereas corruption is tangled in every aspect of our everyday lives. Our defence mechanism: a system of self criticism while removing ourselves as the object of criticism has been laudable over the years. This negates the morality of always taking responsibility for your actions. I do not say this in a bid to excuse our leaders’ flaws, but upon a critical refection on the screen of truth, we would admit that the issue of corruption is not just a leadership issue, but a communal one.

We easily overlook the boss in the office who would manipulate figures in order to enrich his bank account, or the businessman who would bribe his way to collect contracts, or the student who engages in examination malpractice, or the parent who is very much involved in his or her child’s act of malpractices just to gain admission at all cost, and one would wonder if these are not all acts of corruption.

Come to think of it, where do these corrupt leaders emanate from, and where did they inherit this corrupt nature from? They are all everyday citizens like you and me who got to where they are through hard work or chance. Nobody ever got corrupt by virtue of assuming a public office, but these acts have always been hidden in them and waiting to be manifested. When a child who steals from the mother’s pot is not properly scolded, and he eventually grows up to stealing with the pen, what do you expect from that child when he assumes public office? Give a thief a public office, and he will become a bigger thief.

I recall going through the simple, honest and accountable lives that our First Republic leaders lived in a national daily, one would wonder how we had the likes of Zik, Awolowo, Tafawa Balewa, and the rest, noble and just men, all in one generation. Little wonder one soon realises that the society as at then was one that held morality in high esteem. Unjust and dishonest acts were frowned at and quickly condemned, and many lived a life of contentment. This bespeaks the fact that a leader is a reflection of its society.

Today we live in a society where the principles of delayed gratification are no longer appreciated. Virtually everyone is entrapped by the snare of the get rich syndrome. Even family members and local community would applaud you if you got rich overnight irrespective of the means. So why would anyone want to be sincere and honest in his acts. Even the little child in primary school would make you understand that there is no time in life, and wants to make it fast. The fabric of morality upon which our society was held together is completely broken. When a society is morally right, it will produce leaders that are morally right, but when the society is morally sick, it will produce leaders that are morally depraved. The ‘’upright’’ then is the one who makes the loudest noise, is the one who is quick at pointing out the failings in others! Go into their records, private and public, you would be surprised at the mountain of rot!

The times we are in our nation’s history are desperate. It is not a time of apportioning blames on who is responsible for our sorry state. Desperate times calls for desperate measures, and we have to be desperate in our resolve. We all have a stake in this, to restore and uphold those values upon which our society was founded. It starts with you, it starts with me. Perhaps, our very first place of assignment is with ourselves, then our families, and then in our neighbourhoods, and our offices. We need to teach the young ones the value of hard work and patience. We should make them understand that it is more honourable to fail and try better than to maneuver our ways. As the Holy Bible states, ‘’Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it’’.

Our media also have a stake in this, to promote those programmes that uphold moral justice. Needless to say, the media (either print or electronic) is the greatest influence on our today’s child. In our offices, we also have to stand for that which is just. Probably we are afraid of losing our jobs; maybe we should be more afraid of the despairing future of our kids than losing our jobs.

If we are to be resolute, then we find ourselves in a revolution in which we must partake. It is not a revolution that is characterised by carrying placards, or burning down vehicles or public properties, but a mental revolution. A revolution that is achieved by constantly speaking and standing for the truth until it is ingrained in our subconscious, for we can only alter the face of our destinies by altering the frame of our mindsets.

If this be achieved, then we can build a measure of faith and hope, a hope that against every wind of despair, the aspiring child would rise beyond the prevailing circumstances of his birth and immediate environment, and would be aligned with a sense of national allegiance. If this be the case, then would the desired transformation be achieved? It may not be in this generation of leaders, perhaps in the future generation of leaders to emerge.

• Chiemeka is a graduate of Federal University of Technology, Owerri.

“Opinion pieces of this sort published on RISE Networks are those of the original authors and do not in anyway represent the thoughts, beliefs and ideas of RISE Networks.”

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