“Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure. On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where should we be?” ~ Squealer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm
After reading so many books on management and leadership and having sat for some examinations in management, one thing I have out to be the key to the success of any organization, institution or even a family unit is the concept of leadership. Everything, they say, rises and falls on leadership. The vision and carriage of the leader determines to a long extent the survival, success and legacy of any unit of people. Day after day, we hear of organizations that change leadership and suddenly begin a steep ascent up the economic ladder and we hear of those that crumble due to the failures of its leadership.
One thing that Africa is seriously bereft of – in dangerously abysmal levels – is leadership, by leadership I mean strong, focused and goal-driven leadership. Africa is not a continent of scarcity of resources, we have resources in abundance. What it lacks are human beings entrusted with management of those resources.
Let me share with you the history of the title of this blog. A popular and powerful king (reputed to be richest and wisest ever) died and his son was to take over from him. He called a meeting with his subjects and asked for suggestions on how they would want him to rule them. The old men pleaded that the new king should reduce the tariffs imposed on them by the old king. He gave them three days to think about what they said. After the meeting, a group of people (close associates) went to meet with the new king and told him to impose stricter tariffs and enact more austere measures against the people. He followed the advice of his associates rather that of the populace.
From thence the people declared:
“What share have we in David?
We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse.
To your tents, O Israel!
Now, see to your own house, O David!”
From thence, one thing led to another and a revolution that broke the country into two ensued.
The events in the last story have many parallels in Nigeria. One cannot begin to outline how many discrepancies have put this nation at the verge of break up time and time again. What we have seen lately has shown the average Nigerian that he has no portion in the affairs of the country he claims to hail from. The average Chike, Musa, Adio or Edet on the streets do not feel any sense of ownership in Nigeria. They do not think their votes count neither do they think they have any representative serving their causes. They cannot trust the policemen roaming their streets neither can they bet on the constancy of water or power supply.
Think about it, the politicians in and out of power have it all: they have money and power while in government and have money from contracts while out of government. Town Hall meetings are nothing but political gatherings where sycophants and rented crowds come to praise-sing the present government. Newspaper editorials are no longer anything to fear anymore. What was the last time a newspaper editorial got anyone at the newspaper company incarcerated? Long time. Is this good news? Does it translate to Freedom of the Press? Well, maybe but the flip side of the proverbial coin is that an editorial that got someone jailed (especially during the military era) meant that the authority in question read it and got his (or her) conscience pricked. Now, what do we see? Everyday editorials, earth-shaking blogs and ceaseless discourses on social media that strike chords with common man on the streets but fail to ruffle the feathers of the several authorities in government. Criticisms on the pages of newspaper, television screens, blogs and social media platforms yield no definite positive response from the government.
Early in 2012, the government unilaterally raised the pump price of petrol and the citizens took to the streets in OccupyNaija, eventually the cowards dialoguing with the government short-circuited the success of the same. The pump prices did not stay as they were; rather they increased much to the chagrin of the populace. It remains so till date.
There have been calls for the sack of many of the current ministers in the present cabinet due to underperformance and some for gross negligence amongst other reasons, not a single minister has been sacked for the above stated reasons. The last round of ministerial sacking was more in line with reconstituting an election cabinet and personal vendetta against anti-GEJ power blocs rather than due to performance issues. The truth about the matter is that many of the ministers (and the godfathers to other weaker ministers) have the president by the balls. It seems these ministers can do no wrong irrespective of the growing evidence of failure and incompetence leveled against them.
What else can one say? Does any Nigerian still think that this country remains his/her fatherland (or motherland) as the case maybe? Do Nigerians still (if they ever did) believe in the leadership of the present crop of leaders? Starting from the local councils up through the state and then to the federal government level, there is almost no credible leadership? How can they when each family has to provide its own security, water and power?
How safe can we feel when our president can calmly tell the whole world he does not know if the country’s most wanted man is alive or dead? In a pre-planned president media chat? When you hear such statements from the ‘leader’ of the most populous black nation on earth, then you know that we are no longer at ease. This is coming on the heels of his predecessor telling a wanted kingpin of the Niger delta that accepting amnesty was a special gift to him?
How can we feel safe when we fly in Nigeria when the Minister of Aviation tells us that “plane crashes are inevitable” and represent “GOD’s will”? And immediately, her party openly issues a statement of trust and vote of confidence in her work? Now you know things have totally fallen apart. She continues to attend Federal Executive Council meetings unfazed by the events that have resulted in loss of lives for about two hundred Nigerians. The same Minister was said to have acquired two armoured BMW cars at a purported sum of N255 million using funds meant to be for the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (an institution that has now suspended trainings for its staff due to lack of funds). Nobody cares; the president says he “doesn’t give a damn”.
How can we feel safe when the most important economic road that links the commercial capital of the country to the other parts remains as neglected as an orphaned day-old chick in the rain? And we have a Minister in charge of that road as well as a Federal Road Management Agency with billions of naira in annual budgetary subventions?
How can we feel safe when the number of innocent citizens killed by police forces outnumber those of criminals killed in the same period? Of course what does one expect from terribly-educated, poorly trained hungry men and women in police uniforms?
How can we feel safe about the future of the youth when Academic Staff Union of Universities has been on strike for months and the government says the agreement it agreed and signed to cannot be implemented? Our universities are churning out unbaked graduates (we have gone past the half-baked graduates era) and if the grammar in social media sites is anything to go by, we are soon going to be a major exporter of illiteracy (not just illiterates). Still the government is unfazed, unruffled, unshaken.
How can we feel safe when more than half of the medical doctors who graduated from our medical schools have escaped to countries that value human life? WHO recommends one doctor to a community of 600 people but the doctor-to-patient ratio in Nigeria is about one to four thousand! Nigerians have now found India as the new place to go to for treatment of diseases even if the ailments can be handled by Nigerian doctors. Medical school training standards have so fallen that the doctor who finds himself in the United States has to really start learning fresh information to pass the USMLE.
Despite all of the above-mentioned issues and more, the Federal Government, led by Dr Goodluck Jonathan, has not made ANY move to rectify, ameliorate or even pacify the citizens of the country. What we hear are lies on television and in the print media. Phrases like ‘transformation agenda’, ‘working tirelessly’, ‘condemn seriously’ etc drop effortlessly from the government voice boxes without any commensurate change in the realities on ground.
What is on ground is the reminiscent of George Orwell’s ‘Animal Farm’. The leaders have fed and are still feeding fat on the vast resources of the nation; the masses have starved and are still starving in the midst of the plenty. There is therefore no sense of fellowship, camaraderie or ownership that joins the citizens of the nation in one cord. We are ALL on our own. To thy tents, Oh Nigerians.
To Thy Tents, Oh Nigerians is not a wake-up call, neither is it a call for revolt, it is a definition. A definition of the current state of the average Nigerian as it concerns his survival and sustenance. A definition of the harsh socioeconomic environment he has to battle daily in order to make ends meet. I will term the everyday Nigerian a ‘Buffalo Soldier’ (in line with Bob Marley who identified with the “Buffalo Soldiers” as an example of black men who performed with exceeding courage, honor, valor, and distinction in a field that was dominated by whites and persevered despite endemic racism and prejudice). Extreme valour in the face of the present living conditions in Nigeria deserves such badge of honour.
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