Leaders are drivers of true independence

The Troika of Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello negotiated Nigeria’s independence from Britain. However, alongside these trio are respected and eulogised personalities like Herbert Macaulay, Professor Eyo Ita, Aminu Kano and Dennis Osadebay to mention but a few are regarded as founding fathers of Africa’s most populous nation. What premise was our independence based on. In other words, what was the definite chief aim that these great fathers had for Nigeria? I believe the purpose of independence of a country is the awareness and conviction by its leaders and citizenry at large of the potentials its sovereignty will actualize.

I have no iota of doubt in my mind that a nation’s true independence is hinged on its leaders. Present Liberian president George Weah (former World Footballer of the Year and the only African with such honour till date) was already a revered personality before he ascended to the position of numero uno of his country. During his playing days, he often sponsors the country’s national football team, he also did so many philanthropic gestures in the war ravaged country. However, when he contested against Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in 2005, political analysts opined that he lost the election because majority of his countrymen did not  vote him as they do not see him educated enough to be their president. They elected their president based on objective perception rather than being emotional about it. Weah got the drift and went back to school, came out and now the seat he coveted so much is his.

My point is the role of education should not be undervalued in leadership. It’s baffling, worrisome and unfathomable that Senior Secondary Certificate of Education (SSCE) is the minimum qualification required to be elected as state house of assembly member, National Assembly member, deputy governor, governor, vice-president and president in Nigeria. Education is key, if a nation wants to attain independence in full glare.

Education will go a long way in installing the dexterity, self-control, grandeur, composure, competence and capacity needed to be an effective leader. Ever since the position at white tickled the fancy of Barack Obama, he prepared himself for it. Abraham Lincoln is arguably rated the best American president ever. He was largely self-educated. George Washington is highly revered and considered the founding father of the United States, yet he is rated second best president ever. The Gettysburg speech address alone by Lincoln may have given him the edge over Washington. No leader can have it all, Washington was not an orator but he made that up with his immense ability of crisis management. Oratory skill doesn’t automatically make you a successful leader. So Lincoln’s oratory ability was only an addition to his other numerous leadership skills. Notice that education is not missing in the resume of successful leaders.

Education is a pathway you must pass to become a successful leader. You don’t become a leader by accident, if so you will function like a computer infected with obvious malwares.

True Independence of a nation rest on the ability of its leaders to make the right decisions and it is only a conglomeration of truly educated minds that can make such right calls. We must review our laws to make sure it is people with the best brains and immense wisdom will be the ones to occupy leadership positions. When leaders don’t make the correct decisions, citizens lose trust in them as the country will not function properly.

Unfortunately, citizens take vengeance in fellow compatriots. That is why we are living in coerced cooperation rather than wilful cooperation. People cooperate out of absolute necessity with an objective in view (usually short-term), once the objective is achieved they retire into solitude. In a wilful cooperative society people see themselves as one, they unite to achieve various common and undiluted goals because there is harmony and tolerance.

If our founding fathers were not cooperative maybe this country won’t exist by now. If the triumvirate of Awolowo, Azikwe and Bello were not in synergy in their bid to negotiate our independence, the sojourn may have ended as a celebrated failure. In present Nigeria we have leaders who have the potentials to take this nation to greater heights but the bandwagon of ineffective leadership dominates the scene.

In the words of former president of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf she said “Africa is poor because it is poorly governed”. A poor (poor in thoughts) leader cannot identify the best route to achieve a mission let alone have a vision. We need leaders who not only have abundance of rich thoughts in their cerebral hemisphere but can also transform such thoughts into actions in order to propel our country in the right direction with the requisite velocity. God bless Nigeria.

Taiwo is Senior Programme Analyst, National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON).

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