“What we have in Nigeria are politicians, not leaders,” Mr. Okorocha said.
Mr. Okorocha, who was speaking at the International Conference Centre, in Abuja, venue of the Leadership Newspaper 2013 annual conference and awards, said Nigeria is blessed with good followership, but lacks good and sincere leaders.
“What we have in Nigeria are politicians, not leaders.
“While leaders have vision on how to move forward, politicians have mission of how to win the next election”.
Mr. Okorocha, who also chaired the event, described Nigerian politicians as myopic who only see what is close to them, while leaders are supposed to project into the future and see what is good for the people as a whole.
“Most of our politicians are concerned with self-aggrandisement, while leaders always think of what to give to the people,” he added.
The Imo State Governor spoke in parables telling the audience that in a situation where there is nothing wrong with the head of state, but a lot is wrong with the state of the head, the country will not make progress.
“What Nigeria needs is a visionary leadership, because leadership is everything,” he said.
He advised all elected officials to “rise up to the challenge facing the nation”.
He also commended traditional and religious institutions in the country; whose efforts he said is helping to reduce the enormity of the security challenges facing the country.
“Our politicians engage in cyclical blame of responsibilities; Boko Haram and kidnapping is a challenge us today and I commend our spiritual and traditional leaders for their efforts,
“If you have left the matter into the hands of politicians alone, we could end up in flames,” he said.
Niger Governor speaks
The Governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu, who was the guest speaker at the awards ceremony, spoke on the theme: Rebuilding Nigeria.
Mr. Aliyu traced what he described as the beginning of the decline of the country’s development to the military incursion in politics which made the country “lost its bearing.”
The Niger Governor also decried the situation where the country virtually imports all essential needs from countries that are not as endowed as Nigeria.
“We import about 98% of our milk and spend N380bn on rice importation from countries that are not more than two local governments in my state,” he said.
He advised the Federal Government to ban the importation of rice so that “people will be compelled to eat what is produced locally”.
Governor Aliyu also toed the line of his Imo State counterpart by saying the country lacks good and honest leadership. He said most office holders engage in massive corruption.
“They stole money and took it abroad, and many of them suffered during the economic meltdown, because they cannot cry openly, and it started manifesting when they started having hypertension.
“May the meltdown come again and melt the money of all those who stole our money and took it abroad, and may their children not see that money,” Mr. Aliyu prayed.
Pardoned ex-convicts must return their loot
The Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, and Cardinal John Onaiyekan, who were jointly awarded the Leadership Persons of the year, advised all political office holders who stole money, got prosecuted, but also granted pardon to refund the stolen wealth.
“We should pardon our thieves, I believe in pardon, but they must return the loot,” Mr. Onaiyekan, also speaking on behalf of Mr. Abubakar, said.
The Cardinal said the two major problems confronting the country at the moment are corruption and insecurity.
He said the junior civil servants and police officers who engage in ‘fifty naira’ corruption to survive are not the problem.
“The problem is that officer that will sit on his table and steal two billion naira at a go is the problem of this country. These days, they even call it misappropriation, embezzlement and the like, but for me it is nothing but theft and they are thieves, ole,” said the cardinal.
On insecurity, the two leaders also said religious leaders have a role to play to bring back sanity to the country.
They advocated for increased dialogue so that solutions to problems could be found.
In a brief remark, the national leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Bola Tinubu, advised Nigerians to always look back at the first stanza of the country’s national anthem which said “though tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand”.
All rhetoric, no action
The former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, and ACN presidential candidate in the 2011 election, Nuhu Ribadu, told PREMIUM TIMES that the comments made by many speakers were just rhetoric.
He said, “Whenever I come to an event such as this, you hear wonderful speeches by office holders, but my only concern is that such are not translated to action. So let’s practice what we preach and our country will be the better for it.”
He advised leaders to lead with the fear of God, “to whom we will all give account.”
Mr. Ribadu described Nigerians as generally good people who had the misfortune of having bad leaders, adding that the Sultan and cardinal Onaiyekan are setting good example of how Nigerians should relate with one another.
“The award being given to the Sultan and Cardinal Onaiyekan is very worthy with what they have been doing especially with regards to the security situation in the country,” he said.
Mr. Ribadu also eulogised one of the recipients, Lai Mohammed, who is the spokesperson of the ACN.
“Lai, symbolises courage, resilience, and determination. He always shows that if you chose not to be quiet, you can defeat evil and promote good governance,” he said.
Some of the awards presented at the event include, Leadership persons of the year, given to the Sultan and Cardinal Onaiyekan; Governor of Akwa Ibom, Godswill Akpabio was selected as the governor of the year; while Lai Mohammed and Raymond Dokpesi, Chairman of Daar Communications, were awarded the politician of the year and business person of the year respectively.
Other awardees include the MD of the Bank of Industry, Evelyn Oputu, as CEO of the year; Olusegun Adeniyi as author of the year; Federal Road Safety Commission as government agency of the year; Mary Ann-Juma as young person of the year; and Mohammed Sani-Sidi, the head of the National Emergency Management Agency as public officer of the year.