By Uchechukwu Christian Arinze
THE editorial of Daily Sun newspaper of October 13, 2015 captioned: Mo Ibrahim Index and Nigeria’s Poor Ranking, motivated this article. After reading editorial which chronicled the performance of African countries (Nigeria inclusive) in Mo Ibrahim Index 2015 ranking released recently in London, United Kingdom, which rated Nigeria low in education and rural development, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of indignation and resentment for my dear country, Nigeria. Indignation because of the compelling paradox of suffering in the midst of plenty, resentment due to embarrassing performance and ranking of Nigeria placed at 39th out of 54 African countries.
This article was previously published in the Usafricaonline.com magazine and PMNews editions of November 15, 2011 and December 21, 2011 respectively under the titles: The Case for Values-Based and Services-Oriented Leadership in Nigeria, Africa and Imperative for Values-Based Leadership In Nigeria respectively, when the 2011 Mo Ibrahim index of African governance (IIAG) report was released, but re-published under this title due to its contemporary relevance.
Since the inception of the initiative in 2006, Nigeria has consistently been found wanting on virtually all key governance indicators. In the latest report, Nigeria scored 41.8 per cent in Safety and Rule of Law, 48.8 per cent in Participation and Human Rights, 37.0 per cent in Sustainable Economic Opportunity and 52.0 per cent in Human Development respectively. In retrospect, between 2006 and 2014, Nigeria was the 37th in 2006; 44th in 2007; 39th in 2008; 35th in 2009; 40th in 2010; 41st in 2011; 43rd in 2012; 41st in 2013, 37th in 2014 and 39th out of 54 countries in 2015 on account of improvement in the business environment in the country, with overall governance index of 44.9 per cent with Mauritius, Cape Verde, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia emerging top performers in 2015 rankings respectively.
Despite Nigeria’s enormous potentials and resource endowments, it ranks as one of the poorest countries in the world. With high unemployment rate at an all-time high of 8.5 per cent, low life expectancy, 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 0.504 points and ranked 152nd out of 187 countries in the United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Index report for year 2013, this ranking placed Nigeria at the bottom of human development only managed to scale above Togo, Malawi and Niger.
Since the emergence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity from British colonial rule on October 1, 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 Nigerian celebrated literary giant and author of Things Fall Apart, late Professor Chinua Achebe, in his book entitled: The Trouble with Nigeria Achebe had a rightly posited in that book 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”.
The leadership crisis in Nigeria is a result of wrong value system that places much premium on material possession and status. Greed, crass opportunism, materialism, primitive acquisition of wealth and inordinate ambition to get rich quick, which led to instability in our socio-political 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 institutions which will guarantee the emergence of credible, competent, visionary and exemplary leadership. Nigeria’s misfortune during and after the Nigeria-Biafra civil war and the banning from political activities and subsequent death of its first generation leaders has seen the emergence of strings of weak, ineffective, corrupt, demagogic, non-visionary, dictatorial rulers 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 from social, economic and political perspectives.
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 both 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 leaders of tomorrow.
By making them to embrace leadership from a service-oriented perspective rather than see the call to lead as an opportunity to satisfy personal aggrandizement 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 socio-economic 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, 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 dearly needs.
For the Nigeria project to be sustainable and competitive in the 21st century globalised world, 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 muchneeded foreign direct investments, 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.
Our collective responsibility in realizing these noble ideals and goals for our generation and posterity is encapsulated in the immortal words of Senator Robert Ken in his inaugural address to the U.S. Congress: “Few of us will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each one of us can work to change a small portion of events and in the sum total of this act will be written the history of our generation.”
. Arinze, a doctoral candidate in Computer Science at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka writes via: firstname.lastname@example.org