Last week, two serving Nigerian governors and other eminent personalities took a critical look at the leadership question in the country and the malaise of corruption plaguing the Nigerian state. NDUBUISI ORJI who was at the event writes.
The auditorium was filled to capacity. While the audience gaily dressed listened with rapt attention as speaker after speaker regaled them with the challenge of leadership facing the nation. The session was very engaging owing probably to the fact that among the key speakers were serving governors in the country.
The event was the 10th annual lecture of the Centre for Values and Leadership, CVL, which held at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, Victoria Island, Lagos. It had as its theme: “Leadership and Values: the challenge for the next generation of leaders.”
Among the participants at the events were Governors Peter Obi and Kayode Fayemi of Anambra and Ekiti States respectively, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar; former Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke; an industrialist and former chairman, Nigerian Breweries Plc, Felix Ohiwerei, and founder, CVL, Prof. Pat Utomi.
Others included former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Emeka Anyaoku, and former Information Minister, Jerry Gana, among other personalities. Speaking at the event, Obi attributed the poor state of affairs in Nigeria to the failure of Nigerians to live up to the values that make for good society. He said both the leadership and followership are culpable.
He said the tragedy of the Nigerian state was not ideology or absence of sound policies, but the attitude of the leaders and the led. According to him, for things to work, the country needed people of sound values and good character to be in a position to be the ones implementing policies for the State.
He took a swipe at the leadership for not being exemplary in their conducts.
“A leader should be in a position to appreciate decency and must leave by example. We cannot talk about values in a State where those in authority are the ones that champion wrong- doing. We witness them coming late to occasions, but rather than sneak in, will walk right inside the venue, even in Churches. We have leaders who abide by civilized norms outside the shores of this country, but once they come back to Nigeria, they have one reason or another to misbehave. What lesson are they teaching the young ones?” Obi asked. Also, the Anambra governor carpeted the followership for being hypocritical. He said Nigerians are in the habit of not telling those in authority the truth.
According to him, even when it is obvious that those in authority are failing woefully, Nigerians give them the impression that all is well.
Obi, who decried the high cost of governance in the country said bureaucracy, corruption, waste, retinue of aides and business-as-usual-syndrome were some of the factors that had been increasing the cost of governance.
His words: “If you know the cost of governance in this country, you will feel very sad. Corruption cuts across every segment of the country. If you go around the country, you see corruption everywhere by everybody. When you talk about values, where does it start from?”
On corruption, he posited that it has eaten deep into the moral fabric of the nation. In his view, “everybody in the country is generally part of the problem of corruption. It is everywhere in every system and in every thing we do. Everybody is part of the problem of corruption. This is a country, you vote somebody as governor, after six months he buys five cars, builds a house and suddenly he is doing a thanksgiving in church and people will be celebrating such a man that is supposed to be handed over to the police. It is a crisis that all of us must sit down to address”.
The Anambra governor stated that the best way to mentor the young generation of Nigerians is the conduct of present leaders as “there is no better mentoring than the character of the people in office”
Similarly, Fayemi said leadership is not about occupying a political office but transforming the lives of the people. However, he lamented that long years of military rule in the country introduced a lot of wrong values in the people.
While pointing out that leadership does not refer to those holding political offices, the governor who said leadership exists also in other segments of the society, said leaders in all the segments of the society must take the issue of mentorship serious for the sake of future generations of Nigerians.
“According to him, leadership is not about office. Long years of military has engraved a lot of things into us. Political office is not a measure of leadership. Leadership exists in every segment of society. Mentorship must be taken seriously to produce successors.”
Fayemi added that Nigerian leaders must make impact they must be statesmen who are more interested in the next generation than the next election.
“If leaders must make impact they must be statesmen, they should not be thinking only the next election but the next generation. The country needs rescue,” he said.
The Ekiti governor said the bane of leadership in the country is that leaders look at it from the cultural model which emphasis getting power before thinking of what to do with it.
“The cultural model of leadership is about raw power – get it before you know what to do with it. That is the bane of our leadership in Nigeria,” Fayemi stated, adding that “The litmus test for success as leaders is the number of people they are able to transform. If leaders are to make impact, they must be statesmen. They should not think about next election only but how to impact on the lives of the next generation,” he stated.
He urged leaders to take mentorship very seriously to be able to produce a succession and a new generation of leaders.
On his part, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar said the fight against corruption can be effective only when those championing it are known to be exemplary in their conduct. While stressing the need for political office holders to declare their assets as a way of checking graft in the system, the Sultan made reference to quotes from Uthman Dan Fodio, which he said evolved over 209 years ago.
“There should be no gift before appointment. Declaration of assets is important. Those, who are found to make wealth above what they earn from their work should be removed and their property confiscated,” he said.
Besides, Abubakar said “we must have some measure of courage to say no to those who fan the embers of tribalism and religious bigotry,” pointing out that the easiest way to destroy a nation is to show preference for one tribe over another.
He therefore called on the leadership at various levels to empower the youths through education as a way of building a better country.
The former chairman of Nigerian Brewery, Elder Felix Ohiweri who was the chairman at the event said the problem of corruption starts from the home, church and mosque. For him, the way and manner a child is brought up determines to a great extent, the kind of leadership he or she will provide when he is put in leadership position as an adult.
While advocating for good character, honesty and integrity in public and private life, he said the various units that make up the country must work assiduously to promote the values of nationhood bearing in mind that the future of the country rests in their hands.