By Professor Anya O. Anya
(A Speech On The Occasion Of The Inauguration And Investiture Ceremonies Of The Pharmaceutical Society Of Nigeria, 24 January 2019 At Transcorp Hilton Hotel Abuja)
Let me congratulate the President and the new Fellows to whom this day substantially belongs. When I received the letter of invitation I was pleased but I was also intrigued by the suggested theme of the lecture National Leadership: Exorcising Demons From the Seven Gates – Exorcising Demons? Amongst pharmacists? On reflection I came to appreciate how apt and germane the theme is. Our nation is certainly passing through troublous, uncertain, tumultuous and most challenging times, what the Chinese would call interesting times. Given the irrationality, malevolence and murderous propensity of these times we cannot attribute these horrendous times to a mere enemy- it must be the devil himself supported by his cohorts the demons. How else can it be when the Boko Haram have resurrected in the North East, banditry has overrun Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and now Sokoto states in the North West and in the North Central hordes of Fulani Herdsmen have pillaged and murdered innocent farmers in Benue, Taraba, Plateau, Kogi, Kwara and Niger. In the South East apart from the herdsmen, the Biafran resistance youth are determined to pursue their campaign for self- determination. What of the Niger Delta militants in addition to the herdsmen in the South South? In the South West kidnappers, armed robbers, herdsmen, ritualists and sundry other workers of iniquity are holding sway in Ekiti, Lagos etc. So where in our nation can we find security and safety even as we approach the elections in this year of our lord 2019? It seems evident that the demons have overrun the seven gates of the nation. In these circumstances one may be forgiven if he wonders whether there can be a government, a leadership or even a nation in this environment.
In the pursuit of the theme of our talk we need to understand two key concepts: the Nation and the Leadership. According to Mariam Webster dictionary a nation is “a community of people composed of one or more nationalities and possessing a more or less defined territory and government with a written Constitution…” Wikipedia on the other hand defines it as “a stable community of people formed on the basis of a common language, territory, economic life, ethnicity or psychology manifested in a common culture…” Nigeria is a plural society- multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and diverse in many features of its national persona. No wonder the late Chief Awolowo is often quoted when he says that “Nigeria is a mere geographical expression.” In other words apart from sharing a common territory our diversity is a multi-dimensional phenomenon that questions our standing as a nation. How to organize, manage, coordinate or integrate this congeries of a nation becomes a daunting challenge.
With regard to the concept of leadership it was the late Chinua Achebe who had opined that the problem with Nigeria is that of leadership. To appreciate the deep connotation of his statement we need to understand who is a leader and what constitutes leadership? According to a dictionary, a leader is “a person or thing that hold a dominant or superior position within its field and is able to exercise a high degree of control or influence over others…”
Leadership has however been defined by a former President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower as “the act of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it…”
It has also been defined “as a process of social influence which maximizes the efforts of others toward the achievement of a goal…”
Thus, leadership is always exercised within the context of power or influence where power implies possession of ability to wield force, authority or influence. Hence, we need to explore the circumstances and the context in which leadership can be exercised within our national space.
III. Leadership, Structure and Ethos
The emergence of nation states is a historical process which has been mediated by the type and quality of leadership that has operated in societies. Building and developing a nation is analogous to the building of a house. We can imagine the Nigerian nation as a circular building with seven gates and held aloft by three pillars- righteousness, justice and compassion. Each of the gates is manned by an elder who has imbibed the lessons from history, the national ethos and moral tenets of the society. The seven gates are government/politics, economy, religion, media/entertainment, military, family and education. Each of these have their own subordinate rules and regulations that determines whether access can be granted or not.
Generally access is given or denied on the basis of adherence or non-adherence to the ethics of the society “ the set of rules that govern the behaviour of a person- as well as the values of the society- the beliefs for which a person has an enduring preference” . Whenever we have to make a choice between two things, our ethics determine what is right or moral while values consist of the beliefs for which a person has an enduring preference and in the defence of which he/she may be prepared to die. While ethics determine what is right, values determine what is important. Values are at the core of our being for they constitute the basis for our judgement in life. In other words, “values are forces which cause individuals to behave in a particular manner” They are personal and emotional since they influence our state of mind and thus motivational. Ethics on the other hard enforces a particular course of action. Every society has a code of ethics and a scale of values which guides it in determining incentives, rewards and sanctions that apply within the society.
IV. Theories of Power and the Power Elite
Leadership is always deployed within the context of power. There are three theories of power
• The pluralist: power distributed amongst many groups, coalitions are often necessary involving professional/business groups with the public often bystanders, bargaining and compromises are unavoidable.
• The power elite: this aggregates the interwoven interests of the leaders of the military, corporate and political elements of society. It is therefore driven by a relatively small loosely knit group of people who tend to dominate policy making. It is often suggested that a single elite, not a multiplicity of competing groups decides the life and death issues of the nation leaving relatively minor matters for the middle level and almost nothing for the common person.
• The Marxist which need not concern us here.
The power elite is given the authority to run programmes and activities of major political, economic, legal, educational, cultural, scientific and civic institutions. It has been observed that the most effective leaders in this world often embody seven characteristic qualities in their persona- vision, courage, integrity, humility, strategic disposition, focus and cooperation. On the other hand some scholars have listed nine traits of such effective people to include honesty/integrity, confidence, inspiration, commitment/passion, communication, decisiveness, accountability, delegation/empowerment, creativity/innovation and empathy.
Whatever else may be listed it is to be noted that integrity trumps them all because it is founded on truth which is the foundation of trust and trust is the capstone of integrity. Above all the gold standard for measurement of the outcome is determined through the pursuit of excellence and merit.
V. Of Gates, Demons and the Nigerian Situation
We need to note that the historical emergence of Nigeria as a nation state had to scale through precedent conditions that influenced the foreign ethics and values that were foisted on the society and became the defining elements of the social environment. These include the multiplicity of peoples and cultures with minimal interaction among themselves, the slave trade, the colonial past and the manipulative tendencies in their interest of the metropolitan powers especially in the neo-colonial phase after flag independence. Each projected new values that were strange to the indigenous populations.
The post-colonial indigenous leadership did not share a common vision and did not interact sufficiently amongst themselves to develop and share common values. Hence they did not study or understand the new milieu into which they were thrust as leaders of a new dispensation. It was not surprising that new and strange phenomena started to manifest- the demons. In the government/political sphere hypocrisy and deceit reared their ugly heads, in the economic sphere greed, avarice and covetousness with such fruits as poverty and unemployment were now co- inhabitants of the new edifice- the Nigerian Nation. The pluralism in the religious sphere soon sprouted apostasy and false doctrines. On the new Media false and fake news made their debut especially with the new technologies that enable fast and instant communication of fake news. In the entertainment industry, sexual licentiousness and lasciviousness became bed fellows of the new age. The family was no longer sacrosanct as youthful rebelliousness and presumption took the stage. With the military tyranny, authoritarianism, militarism and autocracy supervened.
It is in education that the greatest damage was done. As Oscar Wilde noted of his nation in his time – “those that were incapable of learning had now taken to teaching”. The universities, according to one of our military leaders of those times– the teachers were now teaching what they were not paid to teach and the students were now learning what they were not taught in school. The outcome of the multiplicity of those dangerous demons could only be bedlam such as could be mistaken for hell on earth- the harvest from our well known international reputation for corruption.
VI. Global Trends – A Historical Flashback
It has been suggested that the ethical principles and values such as honesty, industry and frugality which the Christian protestant teachings fostered led to the emergence of western capitalism which has also led to the accelerated economic development of western societies including North America. It has also been suggested that the fast paced development of the Asian tigers including China came out of their pursuit of their Confucian ethics and values. Concomitantly it seems germane to suggest that the ethics and values which were enumerated earlier were at the root of economic development in various previously under- developed societies. It can be surmised therefore that economic development in the 21st century is no longer Rocket Science but can be accessed in any society that has the requisite leadership with appropriate ethical values. Since values are important this suggests that culture matters- some cultures are amenable to development while some are resistant. In this regard, the experience of China would seem pertinent. Out of European experience it became evident that political systems can influence the economic structures in a society. So we associated capitalism with liberal democracy and socialism with communism. So when the Russian Socialist System collapsed, the world turned to China the other significant communist state with bated breath expecting it to collapse also. But rather than collapse, the Chinese system has flourished in a manner that confounded the expectant global audience. As I have observed recently in a different forum regarding the Chinese model;
“China emerged from communism into a market- driven collegiate autocracy. This involves tight control by the Communist Party anchored on a relentless effort to recruit talented people to the upper ranks of its leadership. In economic and social terms it has produced greater dividends than the western model of democracy. Its political leadership changes every ten years (although President Xi is bent on tweaking it) with a younger and more talented cadre of leadership taking over. While the U.S. during the period of its ascendancy to global leadership doubled its living standards every thirty years. China has achieved the same landmark once every decade. The global financial crisis of 2007-2008 enabled China to concretise her emergence into global leadership…” The Chinese model has a lesson for Africa (and Nigeria) namely that governance systems must emerge from the historical and other experience of the African people and from the African environment but infused with relevant global lessons.
VII. Quo Vadis?
So where are we headed to presently? In the last three years we have borrowed over ten trillion naira perhaps more than we borrowed over the previous thirty years? In the last three years, our unemployment rate has notched up to the highest level over the last twenty years. We have overtaken many nations in the race to the bottom as the poorest nation in the world. It is clear that governance in Nigeria in the last eighteen years has not impacted on our people. In other words, the welfare of the people is not the prime object of governance as chapter II of our constitution enjoins us. Perhaps we need to make this part of the constitution justiciable so that no government can afford to ignore the welfare of the Nigerian peoples again.
The social and economic data coming out of the National Bureau of Statistics seems to have overwhelmed the government. It is possible that we are headed for a period of unprecedented crisis and uncertainty that may overwhelm any government that our current political leaders may cobble together. Is it not time then that this government stops digging as we explore as a matter of urgency the opportunities for a national government of the best Nigeria can offer in human capital? The 2019 electioneering campaign has shown an array of competent men and women that can make any nation proud and they came from all geopolitical zones of our country
Nigeria can afford to explore the possibilities of a Government of the best and the brightest that Nigeria can afford. The era of the uneducated gambler has passed and will not return –Nigeria have had enough of sleep walkers as leaders.
In the 2015 Eni Njoku lecture held on the 18th of August 2015. I had dared to give unsolicited advice to our dear President Buhari on – Nigeria and the Future: The Challenge of National Development and National Integration in the Age of Change and Transformation. Three years down the line it is clear that unsolicited advice are not usually appreciated. Against the background of the experience of Ataturk (Turkey) Rabin (Israel) Mandela (South Africa) and Mahathir Mohammed (Malaysia). I had then observed
“…We lack at present a pan-Nigerian leadership elite with a common vision, shared values and a generally accepted national agenda. Even when a consensus does emerge, there are no national champions that can push the vision towards desirable goals in the required direction. So there cannot be a new Nigerian narrative. A broad based leadership elite will include political leaders, thought leaders, intellectual leaders, military leaders, business leaders, leaders in the Arts and also in the professions, Journalism and traditional Leaders. Such a leadership elite must have a codified and accepted rules of conduct and of engagement as well as the agreed values, processes and procedures for recruitment into the leadership and conditions for exit. Nigeria has paid a high price for the lack of such selfless and self-perpetuating leadership devoid of personal, sectional and sectarian consideration…”
Is it already too late in the day? I hope not. With such a leadership elite we may expect wealth with equity, truth with compassion, justice with fairness, and reconciliation with empathy.
I am done. Thank you for your patience. God bless you and our Nation Nigeria.