Participants at a symposium held recently in Lagos unanimously agreed that common sense has a limit in public leadership and should not be the sole requisite for public leadership consideration; a position that supports sound education as an indispensable ingredient for achieving a people-purposed leadership. The symposium which had as its theme; Leadership And Performance In Africa; the challenges of the continent’s economic competitiveness, was organized by the Centre For Leadership and Value (CVL) to celebrate its founder, Professor Patrick Utomi who recently marked his birthday.
The event had the former Nigerian President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as the Special Guest of Honour while Mr. Kandeh Yumkella, former Director-General, UNIDO and a presidential aspirant in the forthcoming presidential election in Sierra Leone was the keynote speaker.
Chief Obasanjo in his remark gave the gathering, made up of eminent Nigerians, members of the diplomatic community, captains of industries, traditional rulers, members of the civil society Organizations(CSO) and students, a graphic sequence and interrelatedness of leadership, governance, and development. OBJ’s glowing leadership insight as demonstrated at the event caused critical minds to query his inability to articulate this volume of knowledge into his 8 years reign as president; a period many says was riddled with pockets of socio-economic challenges.
His performance at the event in my views stands as a pointer to a bigger frame of challenge and further lay credence to the age-long claim that public office holders are largely insulated by protocol; a development that adversely laces their performance in limitation. OBJ. may not be a lone traveler in this journey as the nation is littered with an endless list of ex-political office- holders who upon the expiration of their tenure, suddenly turn eloquent preachers of good governance despite their inept record while in the office.
What is more, there was a voiced opinion among participants that, the dearth of leadership in our nation’s greatest challenge. The passionate plea for us to vote the right people come 2019 general election underscores this assertion.
Mr. Kandeh Yumkella’s keynote speech on its part was apt, practical and realistic. To him, knowledge must grow to retain knowledge. And the prerequisite for public leadership must transcend common-sense to accommodate sound/formal education. He argued that banking on common sense alone may be defective as it has a limit it can go. Leadership, he told the bewildered gathering calls for a proportionate mixture of both nature and nurture; hence the position of sound education in the provision of authentic and development –focussed leadership has become inescapable.
He used detailed illustrations to drive home his argument while pointing out how leadership challenge has become our major undoing in Nigeria as a country and Africa as a continent. How faulty leadership style has turned us to a nation/continent of; ‘waiting for somebody to come and solve the problem, perfect practitioners of the Garden of Eden syndrome, and a people of aid receivership mentality.
Keeping issues where they are, this non- possession of sound education has made it pretty difficult for some leaders to differentiate between politics and leadership. A situation that has resulted in our leaders playing politics all the way while relegating leadership to the background. And the effect on the nation as we can see includes but not limited to;’ using the people to further their own ends, become selfish, unpleasant, narrow-minded and petty. Playing politics in place of leadership invariably involves intimidating people, getting things done by lying and other dishonest ways, not being yourself or true to others and generally behaving appallingly’.
To further support the above, keen political watchers has since observed that Lagos as a state is working, and has become a model of a modern leadership for both the state and the federal government to emulate simply because of the handlers decision to keep the ‘monkey’ called politics with the owners while leaving provision of leadership with the technocrats.
No doubt, participant left the MUSON centre, Onikan, Lagos venue of the programme with a vivid picture of how ill-equipped and blurred abilities of our leaders has advanced our dwelling in the wilderness of poverty and hopelessness despite being gifted with enormous mineral deposits.
Occasioned by the above, a report recently stated that ‘technically, the poverty in Nigeria is not relative poverty but absolute. It is not the type of poverty that is caused by famine, drought, civil unrest, but bad leadership. it has been in existence for more than three decades without respite in view’.
However, various speakers at the forum were unanimous in hope and rock-solid in faith that the nation’s greatness is achievable if we can do the needful. Getting this regeneration process catalyzed they opined, will require first, a demand for a shift in leadership paradigm ‘as we cannot be doing a particular thing in a particular way and hope for a different result’. This step is not just important but fundamental in retrieving the country from the ”political capitalists’’ and have it positioned on the part of a hypermodern society.
In the same token, achieving the hypermodern development/society will again necessitate a careful search for individuals with the above-listed qualities to take over from the demagogues masquerading as leaders. This, we must internalize and put into action when making our choices come 2019 general election.
In like manner, for us to achieve a fast-tracked development and economic growth, the gathering opined that a democratized industrialization of the nation, integration of the nation’s economic towns/cities with effective transportation infrastructure will be key. Similarly, giving the rightful people devoid of booty sharing mentality but investment minded their rightful positions in the management of our ‘’Garden of Eden’ while turning the aid received from donors and other interventionist groups to prosperity as in the case of Asian tigers will be a right step taken in the right direction.
Very germane also, the gathering agreed on the need to educate our political leaders that the youths are not in any way rivals but partners in the business of moving the project called Nigeria forward. Imperative also is the need for co-opting the youths into their political apprenticeship as it smacks every logic that the fates and the futures of the youths are discussed daily without any input coming from the youths.
For a deeper understanding of the above, ‘a good leader knows that when the youths take wings and soars, they too will soar. Getting the followers to soar takes courage, grit, determination and overwhelming passion. It is the responsibility of the leaders to make the followers better than you, which means trusting them, getting them the best resources, trusting them not to stab you in the back when it is time to take over from you and being confident enough not to be jealous of them when they do take off.
Once more, this auspicious moment of our existence calls for a collective view of leadership as a counterpart arrangement demanding from us a vetting responsibility of our leaders, questioning the so-called politically settled answers and providing answers to the unsettled political questions. This to my mind should be our preoccupation as we prepare for 2019 general election.
On the importance of this symposium, the timing and the theme were appropriate and apt to the season as the knowledge gained has further sharpened our vision and made our goals clearer even as we race towards 2019 general election.
The clarion call by the gathering for an immediate revamping of our civil service is commendable as the action is long overdue. Our civil service in my views is currently shaped with too many hands, with too little work and all lacking in the habits needed for civilization. Getting the sector restructured by stripping it of bureaucracy which serves as the bedrock for the monumental corruption that exists in the sector shall be considered by all as a right step taken in the right direction.
To conclude, it is worthy of note that Professor Patrick Okedinachi Utomi out of his personal accord has become a tireless advocate for good governance and promoter of human capital development via youths empowerment and entrepreneurship. Having done these consistently and persistently, Utomi, has among the youths and the true progressives earned to himself a new title; The Catalyst for A New Order.
By: Jerome-Mario Utomi