“Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves. Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock… So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered, they became food for all the wild animals.” The Holy Bible, Ezekiel 34:4-8.

A leader is a compass who, by his actions, inactions and body language, provides direction for his people. The office of a leader is an exalted one. And because it comes with enormous responsibilities, burdens and trust, it is also an onerous one. The office is not to be envied or desired except by one who is selfless and is genuinely called.

Political leadership is for those who have a deep yearning for improving the socio-economic lot of the people. Therefore, when a leader is unable to live up to this responsibility- of improving the welfare of his people- conscience warrants such a one to quit the stage honorably. However, history is witness that it is not in Nigeria’s, nay Africa’s, political culture, for its leaders to quit public office on account of failure, incompetence, scandal or moral integrity- they wait to be forced out by the law or through the ballot. Saddeningly, even when so forced out, these leaders don’t go out for long- they have invented a number of ways for getting themselves back into the groove. As these leaders are hardly held accountable for their stewardship, our socio-political terrain is filled with recycled failed people.

Leadership plays a vital role in determining societal progress. Nations succeed when its leaders are focused, open-minded, cosmopolitan, firm and unrelenting. Some leaders who fall into this category include Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Paul Kagame of post-genocide Rwanda, Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore, George Washington of America, Mahatma Gandhi of India, Winston Churchill of Britain and Charles De Gaulle of France. From pre-independence to date, Nigeria has not been lucky to have a true national leader with the requisite foresight and commitment to unify and transform the country. The closest were figures like Dr Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Sir Ahmadu Bello. However, even they can only be best described as ethnic or regional leaders, who were able to provide a clear cut direction for people of their section- and by championing such interests, they earned the status of selflessness and patriotism.

Nigeria’s sorry state is even sorrier today- Nigeria’s leadership across board is anything but people oriented. They leaders talk and appear people oriented but that is where it all ends. In practice, nothing is done to better the living conditions of the common man. Conversely, much attention is paid to improving the well-being of the leaders and all who share their interests- usually to the detriment of the larger populace.

While there is no gainsaying that Nigeria is endowed with abundant resources and potentials, the pathetic state of our socio-economic development can only lend credence to the fact that over the years, we have had a leadership that neither listens nor learns. More than ever, Nigeria needs purposeful leadership that can turn the tides. An honest leadership is a precursor of a patriotic followership; Nigeria therefore, requires a leadership that will be a centripetal point for its citizens. We need a paradigm shift in leadership and governance- leadership that is transparent, accountable, purposeful, sacrificing and sensitive.

Manang Joshua Jabbe, ESQ



Legal practitioner, civil, social, political analyst, human and minority rights crusader

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Nigeria and the Challenge of Leadership – Manang Joshua Jabbe, ESQ

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