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A Nation Deficit Of Selfless Leadership

By Ita Offiong

A popular Latin phrase adopted by many organizations reads ‘pro aris et foris’ meaning ‘for God and Country. This is meant to portray selflessness in the belief that such is what God demands.

Recently, Dean Georgaris has also written a military drama with this title for American audience to bring to fore the brave military heroes who continue to sacrifice their lives in the service of their fatherland.

If only our leaders imbibe this slogan, then the many setbacks experienced in the drive to attain economic progress would be overcome much faster than envisaged. Many people have continued to blame Nigeria’s multifaceted problems on factors such as; corruption, weak institutions, illiteracy, nepotism, military incursion into politics, electoral rigging, marginalization et al, but the major reason for the nation’s economic woes is lack of selfless leadership. The deficit here is the paucity experienced in all sectors of the economy.

This is why the recent call by the President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Comrade Ayuba Wabba for selfless leadership as a panacea for improved living condition for Nigerian workers, is viewed by many as quite pertinent. For people whose take-home pay hardly takes them home, such is indeed a clarion call.

We fail as a nation when we condone leaders with minds vitiated with avarice borne out of selfishness. We are to blame for their rapacity because we applaud their ostentation and glorify their greed. We encourage their malfeasance and eulogize their profligacy by drumming up support for their mediocrity on the platter of some tribal prejudices. Our leaders easily lose purpose because they are praised out of proportion and are confused out of focus with larger- than -life titles.

There is this concept of servant-leader, which is not quite visible in our leadership lexicon. Leaders here could not rationalize why they as kings should also be servants. They see themselves as monarchs and would not bow out of the scene easily unless the whole treasury vanishes as they reluctantly leave the stage. Sovereignty belongs to the people, but not in our clime because we like Esau have no value for our birth-right, we have sold it for the metaphorical plate of food. We have lost everything when we lack the will-power to assert independence in the choice of leaders we make.

When voters make extortionate demands from candidates before supporting them, it makes them feel like merchants who have penchant for maximizing profits, thereby merchandising their offices.

People most often associate dictatorship with bad leadership but even a dictator who is selfless could still deliver dividends of good governance. Ghana today is said to have a more stable economy and polity than Nigeria because of the foundation of selflessness laid by the then dictatorial regime of Jerry Rawling. Singapore has an improved economy because of Lee Kuan Yew’s strong leadership principles which many viewed as despotic. Paul Kwame of Rwanda has continued to prioritize national development of that country which was ravaged by civil war more than a couple of decades ago, in spite of the general perception of his government as tyrannical. By far the most visible light of selfless leadership was epitomized by the Late Nelson Mandela of South Africa in uniting his country; he also forgave those who incarcerated him and chose to do a single term as president.

Pre-independence Nigeria equally showcased a crop of leaders who were both patriotic and nationalistic. They were those who offered selfless services to the nation. Such leaders like; Herbert Macaulay, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Sir Ahmadu Bello, Chief Anthony Enaharo, Alh. Abubakar Tafewa Balewa, Prof. Eyo Ita, Mrs Margaret Ekpo and others.

Today, most leaders with relatively smaller political positions have amassed so much wealth, which has made someone to think that these noble politicians did not know what they were doing.

Until electorate objectively interrogate the integrity of those jostling for their votes before their endorsements, then this ugly perennial narrative of none performance by those in government would continue to dominate the national discourse. Except voters stop demanding money in exchange of votes, the nation’s economic development would remain illusive. If leaders are not held accountable for their action or inaction while in office, then this stale song of backwardness would continue to assault our ears. When citizens refuse to expose corruption, it would continue to fester at their detriment.

It is also instructive to note that no country achieves greatness by wishful thinking but through a deliberate move to take their destinies in their hands.

The founding fathers of our nation did well to actualize its independence; it is now incumbent on us to preserve it by ensuring that only credible persons are entrusted with the leadership of this country.

the truth is only one. if you say it, you dont have to remember what you said the last time
By: edwin kwesi adiyia