Tackling the age-old question of leadership, By Garba Shehu

Garba Shehu

In a country of hagiography, where books are written to praise successful men and women, the recent publication of “Popular Participation and Democratization in Nigeria under the Fourth Republic” marks a significant departure from this trend in all respects.

I once ran a company with a publishing arm. As a government-owned company, it was set up with service, not profit in mind, and was mandated to help promote literary development at that local level. But cash and nothing more drive the publishing climate in Nigeria. It was not surprising that not much was achieved in that regard. Whoever has a manuscript that is not either recommended by the West African Examinations Council, WAEC or the National Examinations Council, NECO and is not the type that will pull a crowd of millionaires at its public presentation, no book publisher will be interested. Unless you are ready to put down your own cash, no publisher will collect your manuscript. They will just be tossing you up and down from Zaria to Ibadan; Lagos to Onitsha.

That this enormously enriching book, written to address a concurrent problem, has come out of the ABU Press is a major achievement and a contribution to the advancement of the discussion on democracy, violent conflicts, federalism, political leadership and corruption in the context of the country’s effort at democratization.

Written by a combination of scholars of the radical hue from the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the Bayero University, Kano, B.U.K., this book is a throwback to the days of the effervescent, left-learning and popular radicalist scholarship for which ABU in particular had achieved renown.

The African Research and Development Agency, ARADA, a non-Governmental organization had been challenged by a youth organization with an important question. They youth had argued that their country is bedeviled by a poverty of leadership and everyone is complaining about that. I was surprised on Thursday last week to read the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III on the front cover of the National Mirror saying that “Leadership failure is the bane of Nigeria’s growth”.

So you can see that even the leaders themselves are saying that there is a leadership failure and that these young men are 100 percent right in their concern.

The youth group which believes that there is, in addition to other factors, an intellectual and ideological dimension to the leadership failure in the country had sought to be enlightened about how a solution to this problem can be found through “constitutional democracy, national unity and popular or public participation”.

It is important that this set of the country’s youths are seeking solutions to the nation’s problems on the basis of democratic constitutionalism at a time violence has a more compelling appeal to the young ones all over Nigeria. The current violence in the country is mostly from young unemployed youth, North and South.

In reaction, ARADA set up a talkshop in collaboration with the youths. This led to a healthy union of the “town and gown”. Together with notable resource persons, politicians and other stakeholders, the groups rigorously interrogated the question of why and how our democracy had failed to remedy the problem of leadership failure. They also sought to provide answers to the question of what could be done to change the unwanted situation.

The book resulting from this exercise has five chapters but the ones most interesting are the added two designed to assist, inform and guide NGOs on activities that could increase their relevance in the effort to rid the country of poor leadership.

The papers were delivered by a set of scholars and activists deeply involved in social organization and for whom there could hardly be a substitute. Dr. Sule Bello, radical ABU lecturer and a one-time Director of the National Council of Arts and Culture who is now the Director of ARADA; Professor Habu Mohammed, a former Director at the Aminu Kano Centre for Research and Documentation, Mambaiya House; Malam Dalhatu Sani Yola, a former Editor and now coordinating director of the Media Network Forum, an NGO interested in media ethics and governance and Mujtaba Ali Mohammed, a PhD holder in Public Policy and Administration, specializing in international non-governmental organizations who serves as the current regional director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre, CISLAC.

To complete the list is Malam M.M. Yusuf, a Senior lecturer in Political Science, B.U.K. who is an established scholar in the civil society area. He has written and edited several books in that regard.

The book “Popular Participation and Democratization in Nigeria in the Fourth Republic” addresses the burning national issue of failure of leadership under a democratic system of government. It is difficult for anyone to quarrel with the advocacy in this book. As a very large and diverse country, our political histories, idioms and language may differ from region to region or state to state. But any politician or political party; scholar or practitioner of politics who is desirous of understanding the complexities of Nigerian politics particularly with regards to the leadership question will find this book a must read.

If you have read the classical essays in Chinua Achebe’s “The Trouble With Nigeria” and have a sense as I do that it offers a compelling therapy for Nigeria’s failure to achieve greatness, you would, upon reading this new book find out that this group has provided the Talakawa (masses) a handle they could turn in order to upturn the unwanted social and political order for a more desirable on.

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