The issue of leadership-inflicted hardship on Nigerians over the decades has been obviously exhausted enough that it is now rather boring unless of course when considered within the framework of a genuine effort to tackle it, which is unfortunately unlikely at least for now.
Nevertheless, what particularly worries me is how that hopelessness has virtually confused them as regards their actual rights and obligations in relation to their rulers. This confusion has subtly pushed them to effectively narrow the scope of their rights, unnecessarily widen the extent of their obligations, lower the bar of their expectations, compromise their standards and indeed confuse leaders’ basic obligations with their (i.e. leaders’) prerogatives. That is why it is quite common to see communities for instance trooping to their rulers to thank them for, say, constructing an open gutter or providing a borehole for them.
This confusion is what actually undermines the prospect of any meaningful reform in the country at the moment. Aftter all, the public have to be enlightened enough in order to be able to imbibe and successfully pursue any reform strategy, which prompts me to highlight some of such confusions and their implications.
Leadership confused with Administration
The vast majority of Nigerians have effectively compromised the conceptual value of leadership to confuse it with mere routine administrative practices. And unfortunately this confusion has led to a situation whereby the two concepts i.e. administration and leadership are mistakenly used interchangeably, and the leaders (i.e rulers in Nigerian context) are evaluated on administrative standards instead of leadership standards. Alas they fail anyway.
The reality is that, leadership as opposed to mere administrative practice is all about a vision and an innovative ability to articulate that vision and turn it into a realistic program of work in a coherent and measured manner. Administration on the other hand is more or less to administer the necessary procedure and implement the leader’s policies on the ground.
Assessing the current rulers (and even those likely to replace them) in various levels of government in Nigeria against the aforementioned concept of leadership, would reveal how the vast majority of them –if not all of them- do not deserve to be leaders or even justifiably aspire for it in the first place. You may wonder how many among them have invented any viable solution to any chronic challenge bedeviling their respective areas of jurisdiction and follow it through? In fact how many of them seem to even realize what is exactly expected from them as leaders in the first place? So when they struggle to provide, say, water or electricity, which they yet fail, they are effectively confirming their blatant ignorance of what leadership is all about.
Spiritual Integrity Equated with Professional Competency
Being largely “religious” in nature, Nigerians admire people with high spiritual integrity, however the complication arises when such spiritual integrity is equated with leadership ability. Though spiritual integrity implies trustworthiness, which is crucial for a successful leadership, it however does not singlehandedly qualify one to be a good leader. In addition to it, a successful leader has to also have necessary professional competency, attitude and personality. After all, there have been many rulers in Nigeria with even religious titles and appearances e.g. pastors and Mallams, who have been entrusted with leadership primarily for their perceived religiosity only to woefully fail to deliver.
Economic Growth Confused with Economic Development
The credit claimed by Nigerian leaders from time to time when the economy grows, is also another misleading ploy, as they effectively make impression that economic growth and economic development mean the same thing hence can be used interchangeably. The reality is that, the economy can grow but without necessarily impacting on the real development index, which is unfortunately is the case in Nigeria. This is because Nigeria’s economy is helplessly subject to oil price fluctuation in international market; it therefore simply appreciates when oil price goes up and depreciates accordingly, hence the rulers can’t justifiably claim credit when it grows as such.
So, once they flaunt any figures suggesting a rise in the revenue, they should be challenged to prove (with corresponding figures) how they have been able to improve the lives of the common people. The absence of such corresponding figures necessarily means they are excited for the revenue rise in order to increase their loots, period.
Job Provision confused with Job Creation
These terms are also manipulated in Nigeria, where the rulers and their apologists present them interchangeably thereby claiming credit for simply “employing” people to do virtually nothing and add no value to the already depressed economy. Incidentally, the worst manifestation of this reckless practice is the ruler's tendency to appoint any Dick and Harry as a political appointee, most of whom also have their own government-paid staff and other appointees. Interestingly, a state governor in the current dispensation has fifteen thousand special assistants!
In reality, to provide one with a job does not necessarily mean creating a job opportunity. Job creation means to create a viable enterprise or expand an existing one with potentials to add a real value to the economy in terms of revenue rise and/or improvement in the citizens’ quality of life. Whereas, job provision simply means employing the necessary manpower to run those enterprises.
Therefore you have to -first of all- create the opportunity before you look for the right candidate for it. Nigerian rulers' failure to improve and expand the economy has institutionalized virtual redundancy in all public establishments throughout the country. It is quite common to see several people doing ordinarily a one man job, yet with no appropriate productivity.
In essence, it is the responsibility of the progressive-minded educated elite to be more specific in their public enlightenment approaches. The usual general approach would only add confusion among the masses. Nigerian masses have the potentials to turn things around if better enlightened.
Mohammad Qaddam writes from UAE. For more of his articles visit www.qaddamsidq.blogspot.com