Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course, so says John C. Maxwell.
The importance of leaders and leadership cannot be overemphasized as everything in the
society revolves around leadership and when leadership is in the right direction, followership
will also be in the right direction.
Leaders give direction and take the lead always; their policies, actions and inactions will
always have a monumental impact on the society, as all and sundry look up to them. It is said
that an army of sheep led by a lion will defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. This places the
spotlight on who stays in front of us and lead us as a people.
Leadership is simply the ability to lead others effectively and efficiently. This ability here
rests on a tripod namely capacity, character and charisma; all of which are the sine qua non
for effective leadership. We have religious leaders, social leaders, academic leaders, career
leaders, political leaders amongst others. You will agree with me that all these leaders have
definite roles to play in nation building but the ones with far-reaching effects, who also hold
power de jure and de facto are the political leaders.
Recently, I interviewed an octogenarian, who told me that Nigeria has everything as a nation
except leadership. I ruminated on this and discovered, we have the best of minerals in the
country across its length and breadth; notable amongst them are black gold (our own
treasured oil), coal, limestone, iron ore and gold. We also have arable lands, human capacity,
celebrated global intellectuals; the list is endless. With all of these in place, we ask ourselves,
why are we where we are?
According to Warren Bennis, leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality. No
matter how colourful or plentiful our visions are as a nation, we need individuals who can
key into it and drive the process. We need leaders who place the collective interests of people
above their personal interests, only then we can be able to solve the myriad of challenges like
insecurity, economic instability, and ethnoreligious divisions amongst others currently
buffeting us as a people.
I believe the insecurity pervading the country in forms of terrorism, insurgency, banditry,
kidnapping, cattle rustling and marauding herdsmen can be annihilated. But for us to achieve
this feat, we must look inwards, rejig the entire security architecture and revamp the military
leadership. I strongly believe that if we put the right people in strategic positions, insecurity
will be a thing of the past. We cannot keep doing the same thing over and over, and expect a
Countries that have achieved economic stability have done so by having strong and viable
economic policies which are fully implemented. Getting out of poor forex, stagflation and
recession is not rocket science; this is why we need leaders with proven track records
together with unimpeachable and impeccable character. We also need leaders who will
always say “Nigeria first” in decision making and implementation.
The politics of region and religion will always militate against development in any society. In
as much as we are concerned as to who gets what, when, where and how; we should also
place emphasis on capacity, character and charisma. When we elect bad leaders based on
primordial and primeval sentiments, their actions and inactions are always far-reaching, as
the masses will bear the brunt of their policies while our collective patrimony and taxes will
be used to service them.
Nonetheless, one major factor that influences the choice of leadership is Education/
Exposure. Developed countries are the results from developed minds which is made possible
by developing the educational sector. Education brings awareness and enlightenment while
exposure opens the eyes of one’s mind. As it has been said, “Education brings
transformation”. When people know the importance of leadership in the society, there will be
massive engagements towards producing the right leaders. In the words of Ernie Fletcher,
“Education is our greatest opportunity to give an irrevocable gift to the next generation”.
Any nation that has a system of strong leadership will always thrive. Leadership ensures the
right thing is done at all spheres, irrespective of whose ox is gored. As we could see in the
recent American saga, the country’s leadership showed the world that the interest of the
nation is far greater than the interest of any individual.
In the recent words of His Excellency, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan “It is better to lose
power at the cost of gaining peace, than to gain power at the price of losing the peace”. This
should be the mindset of every leader, knowing fully well that leadership is a privilege to
make the people better and not bitter. Finally, in the words of Simon Sinek; leadership is not
about the next election, it’s about the next generation.
Usman O. Abdullahi is a writer and a public affairs analyst based in Lagos, and can be
reached via firstname.lastname@example.org