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I have often wondered whether the problem with Nigeria has always been the lack of an effective leadership or more like that of followership. Recently, the matter was once again brought to the fore by Prof. Chinua Achebe's seminal work in which he remarked that 'the Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility and to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.'

In spite of its enormous wealth, Nigeria is one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world with a life expectancy of 48.8%. There is widespread insecurity of life and property, lack of basic infrastructure and social amenities with a poverty level of 75%. Poverty is rising in Nigeria with more than a 100 million people living on less than $1 a day. Recently, Nigeria has also become known worldwide for corruption, religious violence, restiveness and political instability. In fact, Nigeria is very close to the top of the list of very corrupt countries.

Interestingly, the problem with Nigeria or the 'Nigerian Problem' has been identified by most analysts and social commentators as the absence of true leadership. This I believe is just one aspect of the truth or reality. Throughout the ages in every society that has evolved successfully, social reform and change is initiated by followership and not necessarily the leadership.

For instance, the French revolution was initiated by aggrieved peasants, wage-earners and intellectuals fed up with the status quo. In the old Soviet Union, the policy of pereistroika was being taken up by the masses, people emerging from a state of apathy and alienation, for the purification of the atmosphere in the society that had been fouled by long years of stagnation. More recently, the Arab Spring (although largely characterized by outside influences) has successfully forced rulers from power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

In comparison, the Nigerian society is far more evolved; Nigeria boasts some of the most educated (Harvard, Oxford, Cambridge trained?) enlightened, widely travelled, religious (largest number of pastors, imams, babalawos, social reformers etc), talented (athletes, artistes and performers) in Africa and even in the world. Quite a large number of these individuals are widely acclaimed as giants in their fields of endeavor; a few have even occupied sensitive positions in the global pedestal and performed remarkably well.

Yet, we cannot hold our leaders accountable. Are the leaders in Nigeria from mars? Don't they come from our families, villages, local government areas, states and constituencies? Even at the most basic levels, do we demonstrate and model good followership by demanding good governance. In the electoral process, do we ensure that individuals that rightly won elections are supported through mass support in their redress process? Do we participate in the legislative process or do the followers have regard for the laws, norms customs and traditions?

When formal institutional mechanisms for checks and balances are very weak, inappropriate or absent we must resort to the basic universal methods found in every society. That is the exercise of basic attitudes and behaviors that clearly demonstrate intolerance for graft, ineptitude and other forms of leadership failure.

In addition to civil disobedience we must also stimulate social consciousness through behaviors that answers some basic but fundamental questions. For instance is it appropriate to applaud and reward 'thieves 'with honorary degrees and traditional titles? Are the monies collected in the church or mosques for the personal and discretionary use of the pastor or imams or should be disbursed with a consensus? … Should strategic and national resources such as oil blocs be criminally assigned to individuals? Etc.

Every society deserves the kind of leader it gets. Even in societies where their leaders were very dictatorial and brutish, the process has been gradual and engendered the by the prevailing sociopolitical and cultural practices. A situation where a traditional ruler bows to a political appointee for patronage and favor is unacceptable. Nowadays, even elder statesmen as well as respected intellectuals are conscripted to beg for scruples from Political office holders. Across the length and breadth of the country and in all levels of the society from the village level to the presidency the story is the same.

Most significantly, our current political structure affords the leadership the impetus for failure. Federalism established on a distorted, pseudo foundation will not work. True federalism and fiscal policy are basic to a multi-ethnic and pluralistic society such as Nigeria. Interestingly, those in the various political parties from the east to west, north to south do not have a common ideology except the continued rape of the national treasury.

Given the current trend of events in Nigeria, it is only logical that we sit down and ask critical questions about our stake in one another and in the union. There is an urgent need to evolve structures at every region in the Country to discuss the crucial issues that are driving the nation to the brink of balkanization. Pray as much as we may we cannot find sleep until we have addressed the fundamental issues that holding us back from moving forward What kind of political arrangement do we want? - Do we continue in the present madness or cut our losses and start preparing for the inevitable!!

If we say that we belong to a political party from where leaders emerge or are foisted on the people, then clearly we should be able to influence the leadership. It is only in Nigeria that the followership supports a candidate for reasons other than the political ideology. Followership in most instances is borne out of expediency or for purposes of gratification.

After all it is common knowledge that the morality of every society is determined by the morality of the majority of the people. Every tree can only produce its kind, and unless we strive to espouse and imbibe good values and morals in the basic units of our society, the leadership will continue to be what it is currently â€' Rotten!

Written By Bryan Gere

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