By Amin Buba Dibal
A large chunk of political leaders in Nigeria by the measure of ethical, epistemological, sociological, and psychological variables are in many respects far from the “ideal” set of leaders the country desperately needs especially as we head to the polls in the 2023 general elections.
The qualities and proclivity of an average Nigerian political leader at many levels are largely a longing for primitive accumulation, ego-trip, dominance, avarice, malevolent motivation for power, absence of an ideological framework for governance, vision, character and value system, non-understanding of the agency element of leadership or denial of all it means and lack of altruistic motivation for the common good.
The NDLEA recently added to the list, drug abuse, as the agency wants every politician tested for drugs ahead of the 2023 polls. The desire for power should solely be about ethical service for the progress of society. The orientation of service has its multi-dimensional benefits if perceived in its bigger picture and the prism of reason, ethics, and utility.
It is against this background that leadership has largely failed and has vividly manifested in all aspects of our national life. Some of the strategic examples are the October 2019 Chatham House’s (a British think-tank) statement that an estimated US$582bn has been stolen from Nigeria since it won independence in 1960 and 11, 886 federal government projects alone are abandoned in the past 40 years across the country, worth N18 trillion according to the Projects Audit Commission Report 2011.
Thus, Nigerians provide water for themselves, construct access roads and streets to their homes, form and pay for local vigilante security services, indulge in self-medication, witnessed the collapse of public schools, and largely provide electricity for themselves as the country can barely generate and distribute a maximum of 5,000 megawatts for 200 million people.
At the developmental and social levels, the ratings for Nigeria are gruesome based on select indexes as follows: HDI value for 2019 is 0.539— which put the country in the low human development category— positioning it at 161 out of 189 countries and territories; The 2021 Global Peace Index (GPI) has ranked Nigeria 146 among 163 independent nations and territories, according to its level of peacefulness.
The Chandler Good Governance Index 2021 ranked Nigeria as “the third worst-led jurisdiction, ahead only of Zimbabwe and Venezuela”. It cited “leadership and foresight, robust laws and policies, strong institutions, financial stewardship, attractive marketplace, global influence, and reputation as well as helping people rise” variables. Though the multiplicity of factors constitutes the rationale for a given reality, the pathetic state of failure in all aspects of development in Nigeria is to the greatest degree caused by the failure of leadership over time.
Every society or individual social unit is constructed on a set of axioms, broadly, psychologically, and sociologically, just as machines and computer systems are built on a set of algorithms and codes which interweaves and make the reality they present. This is a basic logic that underlines the “law of causality” which could be applied in having the desired outcome for any context. A denial of this fact is at the peril of the individual or society as a whole.
However, in Nigeria, even the machinery of securing power are political parties, that are largely devoid of any ideological or axiomatic. It is significant to note that societies do not progress by laws only, but largely by the ideological structure of their systems, people, especially leaders, and understood with common solidarity by all. Despite this fact, leaders at many levels have failed to be committed or demonstrate the passion to develop an ideologically oriented system for politics that should inform our leadership selection process.
Throughout history, societies that have progressed and developed as led by a few that have vision amongst them, grounded in ideology, a defined model for progress, and who understand the structure of experience that has kept their society underdeveloped, thus determined to lead a progressive path, not just in theoretical understanding (We have more than enough “erudite leaders” at many levels in Nigeria) but that which is accompanied by a genuine ethical consciousness and has demonstrated such capacity in the maps of their opportunities and experiences in at least public life.
Because our society largely lacks visionary leaders, most of them have gone to the ebb of a dampened consciousness about the ethical requirements of their positions, and when accused of lack of vision they proudly retort to abysmal cliches of abdication of responsibility like “… we are the product of the society”, in a manner that demonstrates barbarism, irrationality, and absence of any rhythm that appeals to conscience. Leaders should be agents of change and not join the bandwagon of chaos.
Of many such individuals in our leadership clime, they lack the moral rights to call themselves leaders and lead us. The lack of vision manifest in detest for a framework of development and needed commitment to the course of implementation, abhorrence for procedures, and disregard for any mechanism which seeks accountability.
Thus, because leaders largely do not have any vision for greater society, the discourse of politics is very empty with large chants of “uniting the country, giving a fair share, carrying everybody along”, with less dialogue about issues that underpins the progress of society such as – social justice, transparency, accountability, public trust, peacebuilding and the prudent management of scarce resources.
Mankind has remained spectacular and unique of all beings because of his/her ability to imagine, conceptualize, plan, communicate and mobilize to a common visionary destination by communicating thought at varying degrees of complexity based on knowledge and experience. However, many of Nigerian’s political leaders across party lines and levels have failed to invest in improving the quality of discourse and the will to communicate their better and alternate ideas if any for buy-in of citizens for the progress of society.
The growth of self-seeking and crude individualism in many leaders against needed patriotic leadership drive which raises the understanding and consciousness of citizens around the idea of a nation as a cause greater than themselves is something very rare in the vocabulary and conduct of many of our leaders.
Thus, citizens are largely not proud of their nation in words and actions as a result of the absence of cultivated and nurtured national values and beliefs that resonates with all because leadership have largely demonstrated such in public conduct. What citizens largely rather see is the subversion in some cases of even legislations and systems to serve the personal interest of individuals in power.
If, some of our leaders no not genuinely have a moral framework based on an architecture of belief as in faith to guide the ethics of their choices and actions, it is expedient to remind ourselves that even in the purview of “atheist governance” “political morality or public ethics” is considered a requirement of public office.
The concept of “individual sovereignty” also known as self-consciousness is the concept of property in one’s own person, expressed as the moral or natural right of a person to have bodily integrity and be the exclusive controller of one’s own body and life (Wikipedia).
The concept in implication postulates that apart from the punitive and deterrent aspects of the law, humans (especially leaders) ought to be intrinsically driven based on personal ethics (as informed by principles…) in motive and conduct “as owners of their conscience” rather than tossed and facilitated to unethical conduct by reality of “ignorance and opportunity…”, as we see in attributed statements like “…we do this deal, nothing will happen, nobody is saying anything”.
To a disastrous extent, at leadership and followership levels, Nigerians have largely lost a sense of “individual sovereignty” despite the widespread practice of religion, thus people largely do not or are not driven by any intrinsic value to act ethically especially and at least in public life. Thus, in the absence of leadership that has largely not nurtured individual sovereignty, almost the entire citizenry at every level, unfortunately, does not have a burden or obligation to self-driven patriotic conduct but at least regionalism, tribalism, and religious prejudice. When humans lost a sense of individual sovereignty that resonates with the divinity in mankind, we become in principle animals unworthy of presiding over creation and society.
The failure of leadership at many levels and its manifestation in various forms of underdevelopment of our society keeps one wondering about the motivation to allow the country to descend to the abysmal level it has found itself over time. Of all criteria to understand the rationale and motive of the pathetic trajectory of our nation as led, one is only left to probably consider what Mrs Farida Waziri said based on her experience at the EFCC (2010), that many of our political elites need psychoanalysis to understand the motivation to the level of embezzlement of public funds, and in implication our underdevelopment.
Analyzing the situation from a phenomenological perspective, one could hardly find a justification for the decline in leadership quality as the societies of the country in the mid-years of the sixty years of our independence when many of our leaders had their experiences were times the Nigerian government served its citizens at its best.
Thus, what could have been the structure of experience post the welfare state that many leaders could allow society to decline in many respects as we found ourselves? For contemporary ones, it could probably be the culture established by leadership failures and omission post the mid-years of the sixty years of our independence amongst other reasons.
A Case for an Osinbanjo Presidency
The 2023 election in Nigeria is a very significant milestone that the country may not afford to mismanage and have a non-visionary leader. Of the many presidential aspirants, we have across party lines for the primaries, Osinbajo represents the most credible and competent of them based on multiple criteria of leadership qualities our nation needs.
Personality traits are very important factors and establish the likelihood of an ethical leader. The traits serve as the basis for good leadership as leaders influence citizens, systems and societal values. The Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbanjo’s personality dimension characteristics of “Openness to Experience, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness” which are antecedents for ethical leadership are greatly needed by our nation at this critical point.
In the context of his public life, the VP has after President Buhari been the only leader who has publicly declared his asset at the assumption of office. When accused of mismanagement of the social investment program by his office, the VP outstandingly offered to set aside his immunity and defend himself in the law courts. Throughout his career in private and public services, the VP has a record of outstanding dedication, conviction-driven vision, prudence, and creativity Nigeria needs at this point and to be supported by a like-minded team.
As a Nigerian, I am appealing to the conscience of the delegates and power blocs for the APC convention, for the good of the country to take this opportunity of representation and make an ethical choice for the progress of our nation and to the benefit of all Nigerians. The trajectory Nigeria is moving is very dangerous at many levels and if not stemmed by a visionary leader, it could negatively consume all of us. God forbids!
Long Live the Federal Republic of Nigeria.