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Leadership Recruitment For Nigeria -By Leonard Shilgba, PhD

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On Saturday, November 19, the American University of Nigeria hosted Bishop Mathew Kukah who delivered the keynote address at the 6 th Founder's Day Anniversary.   The Bishop spoke to us about the misconception of leadership in Nigeria. His speech was as  captivating as anyone who has listened to the Bishop in the past should expect. One important issue he threw up was that when a Nigerian complains about 'bad leadership' in Nigeria, more or less, he or she refers to 'political office holders'. Bishop Kukah averred, and rightly so (at least in my perspective) that occupying a public office in Nigeria does not automatically confer leadership on somebody. He posited that since the January 15, 1966 military coup in Nigeria the quality of political leadership has significantly diminished, and no Nigerian Head of State (by whatever title-Military Head of State, Military President, or Democratically-elected President) that emerged at different seasons of our history was prepared for the office.

  My intention is to explore the subject further in search of answers on reversing this ugly situation. Conceptualization is an important aspect of leadership (The Bishop also said this much). We cannot have good leadership in the political, business, religious, or social domains without people who dream the society, organization, morality, or ethics they think possible. Dreams make nations, but the lack of vision breeds waste and frustration. Does it mean Nigeria lacks dreamers? I think that Nigeria has many dreamers; we can see a glimpse of this from the many sound, practical, and visionary articles that are published daily in our newspapers. But I see three problems that frustrate the realization of those dreams for the nation. We have done well for ourselves at a personal level, in our careers, or in personal businesses.

  The military struck and held our country hostage for many years. They lacked the needed conceptual vision that sees the end from the beginning. Those that instigated the first coup may have had certain ideas that drove them to terminate the political leadership at the time. Ubanese Nwanganga wrote in 2009, 'C hukwuma Kaduna Nzeogwu was a hard-thinking young man. He was adventurous as he was patriotic. His vision for Nigeria was not a product of chance. He was reported to have read and digested great minds of the Left. He talked about revolution after the take-over of the north in the early hours of January 15, 1966. Although he was not among the original authors of the January coup, the moment he got involved things began to move at breakneck speed. He became a member by personal choice. He could have sat on the fence and watched developments before deciding on where to pitch his tent. That was not him. He was a decisive man who had an appointment with history. To him, the freedom of any Blackman was incomplete so long as there were other blacks who were not enjoying the same freedom or who were held in bondage by whatever color.'  

  But then they did not have the opportunity to implement those ideas; more senior military officers dislodged them and went ahead to do what they thought was right in their eyes. For more than thirteen years thereafter Nigeria had painful experiences ranging from ethnic sentiments within the military that culminated in a brutal civil war, counter coups that corrupted the military away from its traditional duties, corruption of the civil service that became a manipulating tool in the hands of the military rulers, and an imposition of a 'constitution' that was not a national document for management of our affairs. Just four years after restoring quasi-civil governance in 1979 the military developed nostalgia for political power and struck again. Internal struggles (sometimes with ethnic coloration) within the military over the booty brought dastardly consequences upon a people that had been reduced to mere spectators over their affairs. Fifteen years after, another military-forged document christened 'Constitution' was again imposed on the people in 1999 via Decree 25. By this time, the military had well endowed itself that many of its ex-officers became 'elected' into political offices, the highest of which was the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Not a few found their way into the legislature at national and state levels.

  With the conquest being complete, it became difficult for dreams of the Nigerian for his or her country to find support within political leadership. Although a political office ipso facto does not confer leadership as Bishop Kukah stated, I believe that it nonetheless confers political power that is needed to change the course of a country towards the orbit of greater accomplishments. Because the 1999 'Constitution' was designed to serve and protect the military invaders who have become multi-billionaires without industries, and business moguls with government aprons, it became difficult to dislodge it in place of a consensus document that serves the people instead of a few. So, more than twelve years after, the cry for a constitution reform has fallen on deaf ears. Those of us that call for a national dialogue to resolve issues about our country for a better union have become like mere noise-makers, being branded as 'disgruntled' people. Those of us that have ceaselessly advanced practical visions and ideas for national re-birth have been effortlessly ignored by those who bear political power; we have become like singers with a sweet voice but no real impact upon the audience. There is nothing as frustrating as having dreams without political power. That is why Nigerians blame lack of leadership on political office holders.

  Having become the major 'stakeholders' and ultimate godfathers in Nigeria, the military (in and out of power) set the tone for any direction that they want the country to take. A president like Goodluck Jonathan cannot go outside the perimeter the military have set. The 1999 'constitution' was framed by the military and for the military. Recently, President Jonathan inaugurated a Constitution Review Committee and charged its members to avoid 'controversial issues'; he also precluded a national dialogue. The action of the president only confirms that in my country ideas and visions are not tolerated. The technocrats may be used to draft eloquent vision statements such as Vision 20-2020 if that can placate their restless minds. But I think we are often laughed at behind the scenes. I can feel a palpable cold breeze of hopelessness among scholars and dreamers. 'Of what use is dreaming for Nigeria?' we ask.   How can the president credit national dialogue with the emergence of the 'Clifford Constitution (1922); Richards Constitution (1944); Macpherson Constitution (1951); Littleton Constitution (1954); 1960 Independence Constitution; 1977/78 Constitution Assembly and the 1979 Constitution' and in the same breath foreclose national dialogue? By the way, do you notice that President Jonathan failed to mention the 1963 constitution, which was 'suspended' by the military? And I doubt that the 1979 'Constitution' (Decree 24 of 1978) was as much a product of national dialogue as it was of a military decree.

  While writing this article, I got a call from a patriot (who was told about me) whose position was that the government needed to be 'overthrown' because it lacks the ability to do other than the bidding of its masters who are behind the scene (both internal and external masters). He believes that dreamers cannot expect the Nigerian government in the present system to make reality out of the dreams because the people in government (including President Jonathan) lack the powers. Well, I could not tell him what I thought because he did not have enough credit for lengthy phone conversation.

  Martin Luther King Jr., appealed to white America's conscience. It is true that he used the Emancipation Declaration to show how white America had defaulted on the promissory note. In Nigeria's case, the promises of the second chapter of the 1999 'Constitution'-Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy-have been vitiated by the same document in section 6, which states that those lofty privileges of citizenship contained in chapter two are not judiciable (or 'justiceable'). That leaves the people with one option, and this one is not pleasant; the people must go outside the temple of justice to force the dispensation of chapter two. But how do we start? This leads me to a second problem I have observed.

  The puritanical disposition of the Nigerian scholar whose priggish self-perception makes him to despise 'politicians' or people with 'political disposition' has become a handicap in the quest for Nigeria's redemption. And I see some hypocrisy or selfishness, or cowardice in this role. The scholar must not throw up the hands in surrender; and if I must appeal to their basic self-interest, for the sake of the offspring we must change course.   We must dream for a better place for our children, even at a price. I am encouraged by colleagues who have returned to Nigeria to run for political offices. The enemy camp must be infiltrated for the ultimate strike. We must not expect quick outcomes, but we must be sure we are on the right routes. Also, another group must work together within groups that shall continue to pile pressure and motivate the lower rung of society. Any disposition for quick fixes shall not produce an enduring result. We must work within political parties and outside of them; we must work within governments and outside of them; we must work within the private and the public sectors. We cannot alienate ourselves. We have made that mistake for too long. Let us change course.

  Finally, we must court students. It is a long process, but nothing enduring should be done in a hurry. The 'urgency of now' does not necessary yield solution now; the result may come after we have left. Every opportunity we have must be a classroom session to open the eyes of our neighbours. Nigeria shall be blessed with recruits for leadership thereby. If you know this, let another Nigerian do too. Let us not lose hope; it is un-Nigerian to.

Leonard Karshima Shilgba is an Associate Professor of Mathematics with the American University of Nigeria and President of the Nigeria Rally Movement ( ). He is also the Chairman of the Middle Belt Alliance (MBA). TEL: +234 (0) 8055024356 EMAIL: