There is a crisis of leadership in Nigeria. In fact, there is even a leadership vacuum in most facets of the nation’s life. It is not the elected officials of government that are recognised by the ordinary people as leaders. The people know who their leaders are and those leaders are in short supply now. That is what is impacting negatively on the socio-political and even security aspect of the country. And leadership is at the centre of everything as far as success or failure is concerned.
Before the change that came this year, people’s confidence in government had become very low. People did not trust what the government was telling them. Indeed, those in the government and those close to them were seen as treasury looters – and it has turned out to be so, most unfortunately. One of the biggest tragedies is for the people to lose confidence in government, by not trusting those in government. That is just like the children losing confidence or having no trust in their parents. It is an unmitigated disaster.
The insurgency in the north-east is largely as a result of a crisis of leadership. The traditional leaders have lost their organic links with the people. The religious leaders are seen by the people as more of government agents than men of God. And the government consists of those who do not command the respect of the people because they are not doing what would endear them to the people. Consequently, the people do not have anywhere to look for and it degenerated into the free for all afflicting those areas.
The traditional institution needs to evolve with the times. It has to be dynamic to remain relevant, not static and stagnant with archaic ideas. But, as it is, there are many traditional rulers who do not know the value of their thrones. A revered institution like that should have people of dignity who should try to avoid courting crisis and unnecessary controversies, who should not be playing to the gallery, who should not behave like activists, but maintain dignified silence and speak only when necessary and only on important things that affect their people so that they carry weight. An old man once asked me why we all fear and respect the corpse, and I said I didn’t know. And he told me it is because it is silent. So silence is golden especially in the era of the deaf.
The south-west, like the north, is a structured society. The elite in that part of the country tried consciously to bring about an egalitarian system. Education was widespread and given priority, and with that came enlightenment and the awareness of basic rights. Consequently, the leaders mentored the younger generations and it is now the most stable, most enlightened and most democratic part of Nigeria. No wonder it is the home base of the opposition that is now in government. Not even just now but throughout Nigeria’s history, that part has always been the hotbed of progressive opposition.
Contrast that with the north where a lot of places are still in the Stone Age due to years of government neglect and indifference of successive leaders. There is poverty, squalor and diseases everywhere in that part of the country. The army of beggars and street urchins are all of northern origin and are spread all over Nigeria. The leaders, except a few, do not mentor anyone, not even their children and grandchildren. There is a wide gap between the rich and the poor. No wonder it is now the stronghold of insecurity, insurgency, ethno-religious crisis, sectarian violence and now a potential zone of intra- and inter-sect conflicts as is happening in Iraq. (God forbid!) All these are because respected leadership is now in short supply.
Even what is happening in the south-east is as a result of a crisis of leadership. The Igbo are a cultured people. They know who their leaders are. They assimilate everywhere. Suddenly, during the PDP era especially, some people of doubtful pedigree were empowered and enriched to pretend to be their leaders. They turned that society’s value system upside down. They wanted to lord it over the rest by all means and at all cost. They have been making money through dubious means. A society that valued education, like the south-east, is suddenly valuing and recognising only money. Consequently, there is widespread kidnapping, robbery, baby factories and cultism. Instead of looking inwards for solution, these people instigated some miscreants for rallies supposedly for Biafra but in reality to divert attention from the corrupt elements of that society who have been short-changing their people.
Leadership is critical for the sustenance of good neighbourliness, respect for one another and for fostering understanding between and among the various components in any society. Leadership is like the oxygen of the society; without it, a society perishes. The people will continue to copy whatever they see in their leaders and that is why if the leadership is corrupt the whole society becomes corrupt and condones corruption; and if the leadership abhors corruption, the people despise the corrupt and abhor corruption.
Meanwhile, the public sector is shrinking and cannot absorb the millions who are unemployed. And the private sector is comatose due to lack of basic infrastructure particularly electricity. Thus, there is no manufacturing as even toothpick is imported from elsewhere. We pretend to be independent but which country is independent if it imports even the food to eat, and cannot produce its arms to secure and defend its territorial integrity? Even the actor knows full well that once the curtains are drawn, he or she is himself or herself again!
Those in government must know that the people look up to them for guidance and protection. The primary responsibility of any good government is the protection of life and property of its citizens. If that is not present, the people would take the law into their hands – they would attempt to protect themselves, and thus there would be a chaos. If the government cannot protect the weak against the excesses of the strong, then oppression would set in and then trouble would ensue. Nigeria is blessed with both natural and human resources in abundance and is therefore not meant to be poor or weak, especially given the fact that it is the anchor nation of the black race.
As it is now, due to poor leadership virtually everything has been privatised even in homes: water supply has been privatised as most people build their boreholes in their homes, buy their generating sets as public power has failed, take their children to private schools as public schools are dilapidated, go to private hospitals since government hospitals are glorified mortuaries, buy their private jets as commercial planes are not well maintained, hire private security guards since government is abdicating that basic responsibility. The elite ride limousines on dusty roads; and if they had their way even the air we breathe would be dichotomised into private air for them and public air for the rest of us. But, history is on the side of the oppressed.