Imperative For Values-Based Leadership In Nigeria —Arinze Uchechukwu Chris



The recently released Mo Ibrahim African Governance Index report for year 2011 which ranked Nigeria at position 41 out of 53 African countries in its governance index report inspired this article when viewed against the backdrop of our socioeconomic and political condition.

The report, in its assessment of Nigeria on four governance indicators viz: Safety and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable Economic Opportunity and Human Development, returned a damning verdict on the quality of governance and leadership in the country.

Out of 100 marks, Nigeria score 41 for governance quality and scored lower than the regional average for west Africa, which was 51 and lower than the continental average, 50.

Its highest rank was in sub-categories of Rights and Education (26th) and lowest in Health (51st). In retrospect, over the past five years, between 2006 and 2010, Nigeria has consistently been found wanting on virtually all key governance indicators. For instance, out of the 48 ranked countries then, Nigeria was the 40th in 2010, 35th in 2009 and 39th in 2008 respectively.

Despite the fact that the 2011 report includes new indicators for assessment like physical and telecommunications infrastructure, gender, health, welfare service provision and economic management, Mauritius, Cape Verde, Seychelles and South Africa, performed creditably well in all the four categories.

In terms of good governance, Mauritius clinched the first position, while Cape Verde came second and among the 16 nations in the West African sub-region, Ghana was rated first in the sub-region and seventh in Africa, while Nigeria, the giant of Africa, maintained the 13th position in West Africa; Somalia, its usual last position in Africa and Liberia and Sierra Leon recorded the most striking improvement in governance, two countries that have emerged from protracted civil war. Liberia also improved across all four categories of assessment.

From the foregoing, the importance of good governance, exemplary leadership and efficient management of resources cannot be overemphasised. Good and visionary leadership is necessary in providing a sense of direction towards achieving individual and collective goals as well as the harnessing and proper management, utilisation and allocation of limited resources for the satisfaction of basic needs of the citizenry.

At this juncture, it is pertinent to define the meaning of the two keywords—Values and Leadership—in order to avoid ambiguity. The Advanced Chambers Dictionary of Contemporary English Language usage defines values as moral principles and standards, while leadership is the ability to show the way by going first, to direct and to guide. Since there is no consensus as to the acceptable standard definition of leadership which led Warren Bennis et al, an authority in the field of leadership in their book entitled Leaders, to posit that “like love, leadership continued to be something everybody knew existed but nobody could define.” And they went further to assert that there are more than 350 definitions of leadership. But they conceded to the fact that one thing which is undisputable and not subject to semantic differences about leadership is that “it is the pivotal force behind successful organisation.”

The organisation, in this case, could be the home, government establishment, the places of worship (churches, mosques and synagogues), education institutions, business organisations (private and public), community development associations, et cetera.

The inference that could be drawn from the above definitions is that a values-based leadership is a leadership model centered or anchored on moral principles and standards. A leadership that has a sense of right and wrong and moral courage to choose what is right for the benefit of its citizens; a leadership with a sense of compassion and understanding; a leadership based on the core moral principles of integrity, patriotism, dynamism, pragmatism, vision, courage, social justice, equity, fairness, transparency, accountability, prudent management of scarce, human and material resources, sacrifice, selfless service and, above all, respect for the value and dignity of the human person.

Since the emergence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity from British colonial rule on 1 October, 1960, it has been grappling with lots of challenges, but the most pressing of all its challenges is the absence of visionary, transformative and exemplary leadership. A fact corroborated by the Nigerian celebrated literary giant and author of Things Fall Apart, the David and Marianna Fisher Professor of Literature and African Studies at Brown University, Providence, Rhodes Island, USA, Chinua Achebe, in his book entitled The Trouble With Nigeria, rightly posited that “…the Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility and challenges of personal example, which are the hallmarks of true leadership.”

With a population in excess of 167 million people, according to a recent data released by the National Population Commission (NPC) and approximates land mass of one million square kilometres suitable for commercial agriculture and abundant solid minerals, largely untapped, prides itself as the most populous black country in the world. Ranked among the top ten crude oil and natural gas exporters in the world by the Vienna, Austria-based Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) with daily crude oil output of 2.2 million barrels per day (Mbpd) and a total of 32.8 cubit metres of natural gas daily, Nigeria has a gross domestic product of (GDP) of $248 billion, while her GDP per capita is $1,600, which when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP), would be about $2,400 per annum.

Yet, Nigeria, with all these potentials and resource endowments, ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world. With high unemployment rate at an all-time high of 20.1 per cent, low life expectancy, averaging 45 years for men and women, with over 70 per cent of its citizens living below the poverty line, coupled with its worst economic indices of human development, not only in sub-Saharan Africa region, but the world at large, scoring an appalling 0.511 points and ranked 158th out of 182 countries in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Index (HDI) report for year 2009, this ranking placed Nigeria at the bottom of human development only managed to scale above Togo, Malawi and Niger.

In terms of perception and image in the international community, the country has not fared better either. The annual corruption perception index (CPI) report for year 2007 of the German-based Transparency International (TI), ranks Nigeria as the 147th most corrupt countries in the world out of 179 countries polled. The CPI is based on the perception of foreign businessmen and 15 surveys from nine independent institutions respectively.

Prof. Achebe, in an article in the New York Times of 15 January, 2011 entitled Nigeria’s Promise, Africa’s Hope, stated that “since independence in 1960, an estimated sum of $400 billion has been mismanaged by previous administrations in this country, which is more than the gross domestic products of Norway and Sweden combined.”

This fact was recently confirmed by the authoritative international news magazine, TIME, in its special Timeframes issue of 6 December, 2010 on page 17, which chronicled global events between 2000 and 2010. The magazine reported that money leaving Africa illegally (Nigeria inclusive), increased from $13.1 billion in 2000 to $77.8 billion in 2010. In a similar vein, Global Financial Integrity estimates that over the past 40 years, over 854 billion dollars have been illegally transferred out of African nations with Nigeria’s estimated loss of over 240 billion dollars, topping the list.

The United States Foreign Policy magazine published a list of failed states index (FSI), which since 2006 put Nigeria in the highest red alert classification, with FSI of 90 or more. That indicates high vulnerability to collapse. A failed state, according to the Crisis States Research Centre of the United States is “a state that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and has no effective control over its territory and borders, the evidence is all over Nigeria, that the various indicators released by the various competent international organisations were not mere fabrications, but fact of realities on ground.

Leadership, according to Jean Jacques Rousseau, is a social contract between the leader and the followers. This relationship is bound by the element of trust and needs to be nurtured and sustained by a culture of integrity and uprightness. With it comes responsibility and exemplary conduct. Such leadership has zero tolerance for mediocrity, inefficiency, double standard, favouritism, nepotism, corruption and pettiness.

Former US President Dwight Eisenhower once described leadership as the “art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” This demands that a Values-based leadership must command respect from its followers. The apathy, cynicism and pessimism with regard to government policies and pronouncements will give way to fresh air of trust, confidence, optimism and synergy between the leadership and the followers. The impact visionary and transformative leadership has on the Asian Tiger economies led by Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong; Western countries led by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, The Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland) as well as the emerging BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) respectively, is a testament of its positive effect on the society and the world at large.

Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew is a good case study, whose master piece, From Third World To First World, is a must read for our contemporary leaders and aspiring ones. It is to his credit that Singapore, once an impoverished country, is among the fastest growing advanced economies in the world today.

The leadership crisis in Nigeria is as a result of wrong value system that places so much premium on material possession (not minding how it was acquired) and status than good name, morals and ideology, greed, crass opportunism, materialism cum primitive acquisition of wealth, inordinate ambition to get rich quick, identity crisis, multiculturalism and diverse ethnic orientation of the country, with over 450 ethnic groupings, that engendered internal struggle and competition for dominance and resource control at the detriment of other ethnic groups which led to instability in our sociopolitical system and the inevitable incursion of the military in our body polity with its attendant culture of arbitrariness and impunity, hence our inability to build, nurture and sustain strong social and democratic institutions which will guarantee the emergence of credible, competent, visionary and exemplary leadership we all yearn for. Nigeria’s misfortune after the Nigerian-Biafran civil war and the banning from political activities and subsequent death of its first generation leaders has seen the emergence of strings of either weak, ineffective, corrupt, demagogic, non-visionary, dictatorial rulers or leaders without much exception. The continuance of all-pervasive, anachronistic and highly damaging feudal system has become a fixed frame of mind for the nation. This is in direct conflict with democracy, progress and freedom, both social, economic and political.

Total neglect of education has wide spread socioeconomic and cultural implications and clear-cut effects on the society’s moral fibre. This neglect is only the trend of a feudal society like ours, with no Nigerian university among the Top 200 in the world universities ranking, after producing Africa’s first Nobel Literature Laureate in the 1980s. Constitutional acrobats of 1956, 1962, 1973 and later undemocratic amendments destroyed the system of government badly and uprooted the structural integrity of our dear country. Weak governments paved the way for abuse of official power, nepotism, tribalism and favouritism for private gains by government officials, politicians and rulers. The masses were trapped in a vicious triangle of struggling for food, clothing, shelter and survival.

In the quest for the enthronement of credible and Values-based leadership in Nigeria, there is need for a paradigm shift in our leadership at local, state and federal levels and in private and public life. There should be a top-down change in leadership perception, psychology, attitude and mentality of Nigerians, particularly the younger generation, who are the so-called leaders of tomorrow.

By making them to embrace leadership from a service-oriented philosophy perspective rather than see the call to lead as an opportunity to satisfy personal aggrandisement by amassing public wealth for personal gains to the detriment of our collective interest and posterity; change to a more engaging, compassionate, patriotic, visionary, courageous and exemplary style of leadership and the higher ideals of selfless service, sacrifice and integrity will lift the country out of the morass of socioeconomic and political retrogression and place it on the path of prosperity and greatness among the comity of nations.

This can be achieved through the introduction of leadership and civics education as a course of study in the school curriculum at both primary and secondary school levels, respectively as well as its incorporation in the general studies programme of tertiary institutions of learning so as to expose the younger generation to the basic tenets, principles and fundamentals of leadership as well as the qualities they should imbibe to be able to provide the transformative leadership our country needs.

A Values-based leadership, will not only be sympathetic to the plight of ordinary Nigerians, but will also have a sense of mission and empathy, thereby promoting a culture of peace and stability which are sine qua none for socioeconomic and political transformation.

For the Nigeria project to be sustainable and competitive in the 21st century globalised economy, where the wind of globalisation accelerated by forces of information and communication technology, trade/commerce, finance, nanotechnology, medicine and nuclear technology have combined to make the world a global village, a visionary, courageous, selfless, patriotic and reformist leadership is imperative.

Such a leadership will redirect the social compass of this country to the path of moral rectitude, make our economy vibrant and investor-friendly so as to attract the much needed foreign direct investments (FDIs) and the realisation of Vision 20-2020, combat the hydra-headed monster called corruption, which has eaten deep into our social fabric, create jobs for the teeming Nigerian youths, provide basic infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools, utilities and address the myriad of structural and political problems hindering our development and growth as a nation.

•Arinze is a computer scientist and public affairs analyst ([email protected]), wrote in from Lagos.