| by Osita Ebiem
( December 23, 2013, New York City, Sri Lanka Guardian) Leadership and leaders in a society (in this context, a country) are produced by and from its people. The people in turn are what they are through the influence of their social or value system – the culture that is prevalent in their local place. It is in this sense that the quality of the leader is said to be mostly determined by the quality of the followership. This becomes clearer when we understand leadership as actually the people’s collective way of doing things (their culture) with someone being nominated to supervise and ensure conformity. Leadership in this sense is a society’s way of life. So the genuine leader emerging from among the people is merely the true representative or the example of who the people are. A true leader in a society embodies all the people in the one ideal person.
This is why the electorate must take seriously the business of choosing who leads them by being careful and insisting that the person that leads them (represents them) is who they want. An indigenous leader (unless the one imposed from outside, such as a colonial ruler) will hardly act much different from the indigenous followers since they have all gone through the nurture of, and their decisions and actions are generally influenced by the same value system – the society’s cultural values. In other words, the people’s leader is not different from the people and is always the true reflection of the way the people are. It hardly ever matters the process through which the leader emerges he or she ends up being the collective wish or yearning of all the people. This is true even when the leader emerges through some fraudulent process since the fraudulent process is usually the result of an accumulated and ultimately accepted social behavior of the people – the people’s entrenched cultural values. This logically and conclusively makes the people’s cultural disposition as the most important consideration when trying to establish a society or country or conducting a national debate such as Nigeria is engaged in right now.
Also when a people are not satisfied with their leader and wish for a true change, it is more reasonable to consider changing some aspects of their social or cultural values. Institutional or system changes effect a far more reaching impact and more permanent changes than merely changing leaders. And for those who are always concerned about peaceful social change this should be their preferred option. But experience has always shown that most real and society-advancing changes hardly ever happen peacefully. There will always be some struggle for changes to occur. It is in human nature to resist change. It is therefore reasonable that those willing to serve as the agents of social change should be conscious of this fact.
It is a fact that those who are agitating for the separation of Igbo people, for instance, from Nigeria must recognize. The agitators for the division of one Nigeria must realize that what they are aiming for is a big and drastic change which they cannot hope to achieve without a struggle. So, if the Igbo and others really mean to change from their present degrading and retrogressive status of remaining part of one Nigeria to that of recovering their different sovereignties and being independent of Nigeria, the Igbo should be willing, if need be, to fight again for their liberation. What that means is that the Igbo should be prepared for the worst by putting aside funds and other resources and start by establishing institutions that can be quickly mobilized for the purpose of defending themselves and homeland and executing a real war against Nigeria when the need arises. Igbo youth must make up their mind and choose to take their future and destiny in their hands and stop listening to the “elders” who keep preaching restraint. It is their future, they are not going there with the “elders” and they cannot afford to waste that future by dragging with them the demonic and unnecessary burden of one Nigeria.
A leader is only a transient player whose allotted time expires and is not continuous while the people’s social system or institutions are continuous. It is therefore the people’s value system that is responsible for continuity which in turn produces social progress. The leader emerges merely to put to practice what the people already know and believe in. In the context of the Nigerian country, it is very apparent to all honest observers that these ingredients that create conditions that enable true leaders to emerge are lacking in reference to the entire country but are very much present and practicable in the various ethnic and religious blocks such as Igbo, Hausa/Fulani and Yoruba enclaves. The various stakeholders in the present one Nigeria must come to this realization so they can accept the fact that the continued sustenance of one Nigeria amounts to an irrational and insensitive waste of time, resources and generations (the present and future) of the different peoples in Nigeria.
There is nothing that can be considered as the Nigerian cultural value or a way of life that is universally acceptable to all the sections of the country. In this sense there is no Nigeria to believe in. But all these basic foundational building blocks are already present in the enclaves of the various ethnic and religious blocks and the people must revert to these roots in order to build realistic independent countries that can be geared towards stability, advancement and prosperity. No one has got the time to wait for another two hundred years for the existing dysfunctional one Nigeria to eventually begin to function. Of course, to all credible analysts, it is very certain and crystal clear that even the two hundred year-wait will not change the trend of the continued advancement of one Nigeria into the dark abyss and absolute hopelessness.
The most noticeable difference between the true leader and the average okafor on the street is the ability of the leader to have a clear insight or working knowledge of the society’s set of values. Such a leader must be able to interpret this knowledge in the context of everyday events in the society and direct the people’s reactions to these events and experiences to conform to how the society or people had previously agreed to respond to such stimuli in such cirmcumstances. Leadership is the practical demonstration of the people’s beliefs and preferences. To be able to get the right leaders the society must be able to understand clearly and define properly what are their collective social aspirations. It is very clear to all readers who are familiar with the Nigerian country that there are no common aspirations among the different peoples that make up the Nigerian union.
Let us explain further, the society through its family, school and other learning or socializing systems or institutions elects to see and explain the world from its own unique perspective which is usually determined majorly by the people’s common experiences within their local environment over a considerable period of time. To be able to do this the society must establish its own unique and effective systems or learning institutions. These institutions will in turn make the job of the emerging leader easy – the “well-educated” leader’s actions and decisions become second nature and always in conformity with the established traditions or culture of the people if he had been properly schooled in these traditional institutions. When a people is sincere and anxious to establish and build a stable, secure, progressive and prosperous society they must be thorough with the quality of the cultural institutions they build. An effective social system is that which has all the necessary ingredients to inculcate the true cultural goals of the society and help the students (every member of the society) to incorporate and use this knowledge to solve their everyday challenges starting from the smallest to the biggest. A successful society or country does not often look outside to find solution to their problems. It is the job of their cultural institutions to predict and devise solutions before the situations occur.
There is no perfect leader or country but all perceived and real imperfections of the leader and country are usually mitigated in their relationships and interactions by the devotion, affection and loyalty of the leader’s followers and country’s citizens. So to be able to run a society that can be considered successful the operators will need to invest on those things that increase the people’s affection and love for their leader and society. This kind of affection and devotion can be effectively developed in the people when the leadership forms the habit of acting transparently, in good faith, honestly, sincerely and willing to explain convincingly to the people how and why they do what they do. Knowledge encourages understanding, devotion and loyalty. Record keeping and frequent and reflective references to the kept records help the society to be honest, transparent and progressive, too.
It is on the premise of the all-important role that a unified cultural system plays in any society that leads us to conclude unequivocally that there is undoubtedly the potential for all the various ethnic and religious blocks in Nigeria to become stable, secured, coherent and progressive if they can separate from one another and become independent states. When the various ethnic and religious blocks in Nigeria are separated, each will work out their own values and from within themselves evolve genuine and successful systems that produce good leadership and leaders. Success in this instance will be measured within their own set social parameters. Good leaders will emerge from each independent sovereign society after Nigeria has broken up because “a good leader” is always within the context of the given society or community.
We have argued in various places and at various times that Nigeria’s problem is not leadership but a faulty sociopolitical structure. This is true, and most honest analysts have always accepted this fact after being sincere enough to engage in an objective and honest reflection about Nigeria’s problems. However, we are conscious of the fact that there are a few mischievous individuals who still sing a thoughtless line contrived to deceive some members of the society who are weak and apparently mentally challenged or just unaware. For the sake of these people those who are genuinely working to free the unjustly entangled various ethnicities in the forced union of one Nigeria must double their efforts and not leave anyone behind. The public must be made to be aware of the guises the dishonest and mischievous advocates for one Nigeria are using to subjugate the people’s minds and compel them to remain in perpetual servitude and consequent retrogression. One such guise that the one-Nigerianists repeat to the media like a broken record is the jaded line that says that Nigeria’s problem is bad leadership. They repeat this falsehood with the aim of convincing the unwary part of the public into believing that by changing Nigeria’s leadership often enough through ballot box or coup d’états then good leaders will suddenly emerge from nowhere. This is why the initiation of each military coup d’états tends to elicit some popular reception from the people. But we must caution here: that a falsehood is repeated several times over will not change the fact that it is a lie.
On the contrary, we honestly believe that Nigeria does not have any problems that resemble those that are repeated to the general public. We believe instead that Nigeria is the problem – Nigeria’s structure and union-member composition is the problem of Nigeria. The truth is that the problem of Nigeria transcends the consequent and apparent issues of bad leadership, poverty, poor governance, economic and political corruption, Islamic religious intolerance and terrorism and, the unfounded and consensual hatred of Igbo people by the Yoruba and Hausa/Fulani peoples. We also believe sincerely that Nigeria can be solved. We are convinced beyond every shadow of doubt that the first step towards solving Nigeria is to recognize the fundamental nature of the problem. Nigeria’s fundamental structure is incapable of producing any credible leadership and consequently cannot produce the will in the people to tackle and solve the numerous problems bedeviling the Nigerian country. Hence the first thing should be done first: Divide Nigeria first. This conclusion is so true that all credible analysts of Nigeria can bet everything that is precious to them on the assertion that one Nigeria (that is the way Nigeria is presently constituted) will never produce any good or credible leader or let the country to function.
And, for the benefit of those who may have been sincere in their belief in the falsehood, emptiness and the hollow mockery of human intelligence, by believing that leadership is Nigeria’s problem we will still keep trying to help them to see the foolishness and utter hopelessness of their position. We will continue to patiently but solemnly warn them of how urgent it is for them to abandon such foolishness and see the truth in the light of a truth that is bound to liberate them and the generations of their children who are coming after them.
Having presented convincingly the reasons why it is impossible for Nigeria to produce any credible leadership or leaders we will conclude this discussion on a generous note. We will magnanimously grant the opposition their point. Let’s say, for the sake of a fair and balanced debate, okay, Nigeria’s problem is poor leadership problem. While we say that we also take for granted that everyone is in agreement that there can only be progress in Nigeria when the right leaders emerge to mobilize the people and direct their energy and creative abilities in the right direction. Yet, every reader who has followed this discussion agrees that our accepting that bad leadership, corruption and poverty are the real problems of Nigeria only helps to support our first-held position which is that those are but mere symptomatic issues of the real problem of Nigeria. The real problem of Nigeria is sociocultural and structural or institutional problem.
Based on this point we can argue confidently that there is no entity that can justifiably be called Nigeria since what we call by that name today is existing on a completely false premise. That also justly concludes the argument that says that leaders cannot emerge in Nigeria as it is since leaders do not happen in a vacuum. Based on experiences it is not hard to prove that leadership and leaders can only come out of a pre-existing and well-articulated social structure. Today as evidences show, the truth is that there is no Nigerian society, there is no Nigerian nation, there is no Nigerian culture and there are no Nigerian people. But there is, on the contrary, such a thing as Igbo society, Igbo people, and Igbo culture and as such, an Igbo country or nation in the East. In the same vein we have a Yoruba society, Yoruba people, and Yoruba culture and as such, a Yoruba country or nation in the West. The same logic applies to the Hausa/Fulani people in the North.
Therefore, we must come to terms that there can only be an Igbo leader or leadership, a Yoruba leader or leadership, and a Hausa/Fulani leader or leadership. It is on this roundabout way that we accept that bad leadership and leaders are the problems of Nigeria. But a society, country or any other entity must first of all take shape (structure) and existence before it can develop the capacity to produce leadership and leaders. And it is only after this very fundamental first step has taken place can we justifiably talk about the quality of the leadership or leaders in such a legal and substantial entity. Reason and decency demands that it is only after we have done the first things first that we can truthfully discuss whether the leaders and the leadership apparatchik of such a country are good or bad. Nigeria does not exist and it amounts to a waste of time talking about the quality of its leaders or leadership.
( The writer is a Sri Lanka Guardian correspondent based in New York City)