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The Collegiate Leadership Concept

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By 'Remi Oyeyemi
Nigeria is presently at crossroads of leadership. Nigeria presently is like a ship without compass at sea. There is dearth of capable leadership. Nigeria is suffering from lack of a leadership with clear vision and definite mission as well as the ability to deliver on the vision and the mission. It is not good enough to have a vision; there must be the mechanics to deliver on it as a mission. A mission without the means of attaining it is of no value.

The Southwest is even worse hit by this lack of a leadership that is well grounded in this trifecta – vision, mission and delivery. With the present array of leaders, the Yoruba Nation is not in good stead. The Yoruba people, used to clear –headed leaders with unquestionable integrity and admirable ability to deliver efficiently and effectively are wondering how things have come to this with a bunch of incompetents parading as leaders. These self proclaimed leaders with blurred vision, convoluted mission and plagued with incompetence have created unspeakable agonies for Nigeria in general and Yoruba land in particular.   

This is why those who love Nigeria and the Yoruba Nation must begin to contemplate the concept of Collegiate Leadership for the country. This concept of Collegiate Leadership is derived from a larger concept of Awoism which puts premium on COLLECTIVE RESPONSIBILITY. This concept is not mutually exclusive to personal or individual responsibility. In fact, highest premium is placed on individual responsibility as part of the Collective for the success of the group. The Individual is expected to play his or her own role effectively, efficiently and manifest unequalled loyalty for the success of the Collective.

This concept makes it difficult for treachery and disloyalty. It severely punishes perfidy with far range consequences. It protects the group and by extension the larger society from shenanigans and charlatanism better than any form of leadership. It encourages ambition but mitigates its morbidity. It sifts the competent from the incompetent. It separates the chuff from the buff. It contains basic mechanisms to check human excesses and bring out the best in individuals.

This concept has its best exemplification in Awoism as appropriated by the Action Group political party in the 1950s and in Nigeria's First Republic. It was also carried over to the Unity Party of Nigeria in the Second Republic. The successes registered by these political parties during their existence and the benefits that accrued to the people governed by these political parties have been attested to by History as being “highly rewarding” in all ramifications.  

While this concept has it variations in other parts of the world, it is essentially compatible to and homified or adapted into Yoruba philosophical worldview. The Yoruba cultural context and milieu is more receptive to this concept and it worked very well. The concept did not and still does not manifest philosophical disruption to Yoruba monarchical political system that has been in place for over 1000 years.

The same in many ways could be said of several cultures within the Nigerian State. This is because majority of these cultures from Sokoto Caliphate to Kanem – Bornu Empire to the Tiv Kingdom or Nupe Kingdom or the Dala Kingdom that later became Kano Kingdom in 999AD under Bagauda and all other smaller kingdoms within the present Nigerian State are all variations of monarchies or indigenous political systems that should not be totally culturally antagonistic to the concept of Collegiate Leadership in the context of the Nigerian State.

The Collegiate Leadership system within the Yoruba concept and which could also be relevant to other cultural milieus within the Nigerian state values the contributions of all segments of the society. The main goal usually is societal progress. This Collegiate Leadership concept is for example expressed by the Yoruba philosophy in the following aphorisms (please pardon my interpretations):

a)      “Enikan kii je awa de” = One person cannot say “We are here” as opposed to “I am here.”

b)     “Agbajo owo l'a fi nso'ya.” – You can only beat your chest with a folded hand

c)      “Se l'a npe gbon, a kii pe go” – We gather to get wiser not to be stupid

d)     “Igi kan ko lee da igbo se.” – A tree does not make a forest

e)      “Omode gbon agaba gbon l'a fi da ile Ife. The combined wisdom of the youth and the elders were used to create Ife (Ife City is regarded by the Yoruba as the Source of Life).

  These aphorisms among several others like them were appropriated by Chief Obafemi Awolowo as the guiding principles and the basic tenets for the Action Group political party which was reputed as the best organized and the most disciplined on the African continent during its time. The Unity Party of Nigeria that succeeded it was certainly the best in Nigeria and arguably in the West African sub-region in its time too.

On its face, Collegiate Leadership could have a simplistic meaning. But it has a lot of tenets that those who seek to understand this must take into consideration. Some of these tenets include the following:

a)      The larger interest of the society must prevail AT ALL TIMES

b)     There has to be a defined ideology as a guidance for the interest of the group and the society in general

c)      A very high premium is placed on LOYALTY to the society and the group

d)     Highest premium is placed on individual talent, contributions, efficiency and effectiveness in the furtherance of the Collective interest.

e)      Discipline is effectively maintained and PARTY SUPREMACY is NOT NEGOTIABLE

f)       Individual ambition is allowed and nurtured but inordinate ones ARE SYSTEMICALLY CHECKMATED.

g)     The manifestoes of the Party must be debated and agreed upon by all the stakeholders.

h)     The modalities of executing the manifestoes are thoroughly debated and the means of financing such seriously debated to provide a template for all the office seekers within the group.

i)        The Collegiate Leadership must have a PREFECT who articulates for the Collective and is the PUBLIC FACE of the group and eventually of the society, if they succeed.

j)        The PREFECT is simultaneously a numero uno   and a primus inter pares who is not only held accountable always but also intuitively understands the weight and the expectations of his responsibilities while manifesting unquestionable integrity, dignity, hard work, incorruptibility and principle to be able to command universal respect among his group and eventually the society.

k)     The PREFECT   and the GROUP   never punishes open expression of different or opposing ideas, views or opinions but constantly encourages debate, discussion, seeking solutions at all times, ensuring consensus, thinking ahead, delegating responsibilities, providing lights for the group and eventually the society.

Evidently the kind of loyalty enjoyed by Chief Awolowo was functionally related to this mechanism. Yoruba people believe that he speaks for them because the decisions were not handed down. Some analysts insisted that Awo provided “golden leadership” but it was in the context of the Collegiate. They added that it was Awo's seminal brilliance and unequalled ability to marshal facts to make his case to convince others to his position that made some of his detractors' think he was a dictator. These analysts insisted that those detractors were only manifesting their ignorance about the inner workings of the Collegiate Leadership that Awo was its anchor.

It is this concept of Collegiate Leadership that Chief Segun Osoba, former governor of Ogun State, is presently advocating. It is the lack of it in the Action Congress (AC), later Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that caused the initial rift that eventually spilled into the All Progressive Congress (APC). The destruction of Alliance for Democracy (AD) by the Anambra State born retired General Olusegun Obasanjo – Onyejekwe in the 2003 Elections is seen by analysts as a factor in this development – the jettisoning of Yoruba preference for Collegiate Leadership.

The recent peace meeting engineered by Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu with Chief Segun Osoba has been reported by some insiders as being predicated on the condition of Collegiate Leadership, at least in Yoruba land. Feelers from the meeting suggested that Asiwaju Tinubu is now willing to “try something else” after seeing the result of his “one man show policies and ideas” to be counter – productive, sending all the Yoruba (or if you like Southwest) States into abyss of debts, chasm of incompetence, miasma of mismanagements with fissure of woes, moral paralysis, character turpitude and glorification of money as concomitants.

Asiwaju Tinubu has tried his own concept of leadership for Yoruba land. Tinubuism is a one-man show sprinkled with few “yes men” who though are intellectually endowed but have no backbone to tell him the truth. Tinubuism is a philosophy that has no respect for ideology as political guidance.   The only ideology that propels Tinubuism is individual interest imbued with desperate appropriation of political power as a means to crude accumulation of wealth as an instrument of and for political dominance. It is a philosophy of “everything goes,” a kind of “the end justifies the means” concept.    

This philosophy encourages cronyism. It fosters bootlicking. It compromises individual courage and destroys the larger interest of the society. Under Tinubuism, society operates as a captive beholden to the whims and caprices of the leader around whom a cult is developed. Appropriated state wealth is used as carrot for those who buy into such leadership while its denial is used as punishment to those who refuse to subscribe to it. The larger interest of the society is compulsorily ex-communicated in this context while individual interest becomes paramount and thus undermines loyalty to the group interest.

The said peace moves by Asiwaju Tinubu as reported in the media is a sign that he (Tinubu) has become cognizant of the limitations of his methodology. The reported visit to the home of Chief Osoba by Asiwaju Tinubu in company of Chief Bisi Akande and former Governor Adeniyi Adebayo may be very instructive going forward. But is there any hope that the peace moves would allow the concept of Collegiate Leadership being championed by Chief Osoba? Would the most important variable of the greatest good for the greatest number of our people come to replace crude accumulation of wealth in the leadership concept? Time, the great sanitizer of all human events, will soon tell.

“In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility – I welcome it.”

– John F. Kennedy, in his Inaugural Address January 20, 1961

Please follow me on Twitter: @OyeyemiRemi
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