Wise elders like the candid and eloquent Dan Masanin Kano, Alhaji Yusuf Maitama Sule have repeatedly led us in prayer to Almighty God that He may bless us with LEADERS NOT RULERS. But have we really prayed fervently for this precious blessing to be bestowed on us ? Have we understood the difference between leaders and rulers ?
A leader is described as somebody who guides and directs others or, better still for our discussion, somebody in charge of others like the head of a nation or a political party. But a ruler is someone who governs a state or nation as a sovereign, neither with their mandate nor interest. The essence of leadership is guidance which is constantly engaged in urging people along a beneficial path towards nationhood. The Maitama Sule prayer is a lamentation of the dominance of rulers over leaders in Nigeria’s chequered political history and this can easily be attributed to the corresponding dominance of military dictators in governance of our dear nation.
We are not today bedevilled by military dictators-at least not directly- so we shall not delve into this issue for now. As we said at the beginning, our problem is lack of leaders due to a retinue of rulers and there should not be much argument about the correctness of this diagnosis. If you want we can run a list of former “Nigerian leaders” and you will see that the list is heavily infested by rulers ! Here goes : SIR A.TAFAWA BALEWA, DR.NNAMDI AZIKIWE, GEN. AGUIYI IRONSI, GEN. YAKUBU GOWON, GEN. MURTALA MUHAMMED, GEN. OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, ALH. SHEHU SHAGARI, MAJ. GEN. MUHAMMED BUHARI, GEN. IBRAHIM BABANGIDA, CHIEF ERNEST SHONEKON, GEN. SANI ABACHA, GENERAL ABDULSALAAM ABUBAKAR, CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, ALHAJI UMARU MUSA YAR’ADUA.
Today we have reason to thank God that we have a leader, not a ruler, in the person of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, doing his best to guide us towards a beneficial path to nationhood. Alas! We have a leader, yes, but are we getting the required and much anticipated leadership ? That is the question we are taking up on this outing and with good reason. Taking a look at the state of affairs of our dear nation today there is renewed concern about the seeming resurgence of that old nagging leadership problem. A frank examination of the prevailing situation indicates that our leadership problem has now transformed into a sheer lack of LEADERSHIP CLASS.
Let us understand that the determinant of the success of democracy lies in the harmonious interaction of the three arms of government on one hand and a shared commitment of the leadership class to the cherished goals of democracy-national progress and development. The three arms of government need no introduction, but what constitutes the leadership class?
By definition, leadership in a democracy entails partnership between the apex leader of the Executive and the leaders of the two other constituents of democratic government; the legislature and the judiciary. In practice in all functional democracies, notably in the US, UK and Europe, the partnership necessarily also involves other leaders, mainly in the political and business communities, representing important stakeholders in democratic governance, to achieve the desired inclusiveness of the people. These essential partnerships with the apex leader of the Executive (President) are the means of consolidating the support of the electorate for the accomplishment of the common goals of national development, progress and prosperity. We now know what constitutes the leadership class and its role and responsibility in democratic dispensations.
So in Nigeria today, what is the reality? The reality is that we have an elected President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan but there is no responsible or patriotic leadership class in support of the desired resolve and quest for national development, progress and prosperity. The most glaring functional failure is menacingly manifest in the ranks of political leaders. This has denied our democratic dispensation the potential benefit of consolidated unity of purpose of the political class that successful governments the world over thrive on.
Elsewhere, electioneering exigencies and political dueling do not outlast the inauguration of an elected government. Once a government is in place, the tone changes from combative to cooperative, creating and sustaining the essential enabling environment for governance to generate development and maximize the inclusiveness of all citizens in nation building- until the next scheduled date with the electorate. That is how successive governments achieve continuity of planning and development and steady progress, irrespective of random changes in parties and politicians in power. Thus, whether Republicans or Democrats occupy the White House, America progresses unhindered by petty power predation by political rivals and power mongers.
In today’s Nigeria it is a case of callous political antagonism orchestrated and targeted at the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by a cabal of conspiring politicians and their allies. The blackmail and vendetta, contrived for election campaigns in 2011, has continued to increase in intensity and viciousness, and is now, two years before general elections, at a critical crescendo ;let us take another look at the list of surviving past and present political leaders and rulers and see who is not in the grudge gallery ganged up against Mr President. First the old brigade : GEN. YAKUBU GOWON, GENERAL CHIEF OLUSEGUN OBASANJO, ALH. SHEHU SHAGARI, MAJ. GEN MUHAMMED BUHARI, GEN. IBRAHIM BABANGIDA, CHIEF ERNEST SHONEKON and GENERAL ABDULSALAAM ABUBAKAR. We know where each stands, don’t we ?
The tragic irony of this scenario is that these are past leaders of this great country who had the singular privilege of occupying the leadership position and were fortunate enough to complete their tenures and live to see both sides of the divide, in and out of power. Their hindsight will reflect on the foresight they never had as they ruminate over their successes and failures. Some will reflect on missed opportunities, others on violated virtues and even punctured postures. They should be the first to voluntarily and unconditionally offer goodwill and exhibit enthusiastic attitude towards the Office of the President. The rare honours of statesmanship and the virtues of patriotism, comradeship and civic responsibility should have dampened their desire to dominate and reined in their inordinate vaulting ambitions.
President Goodluck Jonathan has courageously and humbly ploughed on, stoically carrying the can of accumulated national challenges that was divinely ordained to be his lot. That he has succeeded thus far is a reflection of the common slogan which says: ONE WITH GOD IS MAJORITY.
Badamfare Ayaba can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
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