By Salaudeen Hashim
God will never forgive my teachers who taught me that the word ‘artiste’ refers to a female artist. Today, I had to pay hugely for arguing blindly with friends… Crying, not for how much I spent, but for the shame – Anonymous. Fela Anikulapo-Kuti is dead but living enchantingly is his expression and 1986 track—Teacher, don’t teach me nonsense! As for my friend, it was apparent his teachers whom he poured vituperations on had taught him rubbish!
It is instructive to state that political leadership in the context of this article refers not only to the government or the leadership of a state, but also embraces the totality of the political class that has the capacity to exert influence on the machineries of government even from behind the scene. Poor leadership, especially in this administration has hitherto resulted in lack of accountability and transparency, and grossly high level of corruption in the country.
So far, the culture of political and administrative imbalance has been the major characteristic undermining good governance in Nigeria. The continuous decline in quality of governance in Nigeria therefore calls for the importance of electing or appointing political leadership based on competence, commitment and patriotism.
While Nigerian political leaders increase in education, good governance reduces drastically in the country. The present political leaders—Councilors, Local Government Chairmen, State Government, Federal Government and Legislators, are mostly individuals with high educational qualifications—First, Second, Third Degrees, including Professorship. Indeed, our sitting president parades an array of such qualifications which make him the first Nigerian president holding PhD. However, this has not translated into noticeable good governance in the country. It is not out of point to say Nigeria only witnessed her period of good governance at a time that those in political power didn’t possess the array of academic qualifications the current political leaders hold.
Recalled, in 1962, President John F. Kennedy of the United States, while unveiling the vision of landing a US astronaut on the moon, quoted William Bradford who said, “All great and honorable actions are accomplished with great difficulties and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage”. Kennedy then emphasized, “We choose to go to the moon and do the other things not because they are easy but because they are hard”. In 1969, 7 years later, that vision was achieved.
On May 29, 2007, the Nigerian government declared a bold vision of Nigeria becoming one of the 20 biggest economies in the world by 2020. It was tagged Vision 20:2020 and became the rallying point for Nigeria’s economic management. Vision 20:2020 was aimed at consolidating and maximizing the gains, however, contested of the National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) of the Olusegun Obasanjo administration. It was the springboard for the Seven-Point Agenda of late President Umaru Yar’Adua and subsequently, has become the thrust of the Transformation Agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan.
On April 23 2013, precisely six years later, the government, through the then Minister for National Planning, Dr. Shamsudeen Usman, hinted that Nigeria is unlikely to attain Vision 20:2020 due to the challenge of inadequate power supply. Government, by that statement, inadvertently admitted its failure to provide the nation with the needed leadership for economic growth and development.
Many studies have shown that a nation’s economic growth and quality of governance is enhanced by having leaders who are well-read, competent with the right leadership skills, exposure and behaviour. Furthermore, it is a general belief that a well-educated leadership serves a competitive advantage for any nation since there is a correlation between good governance and leaders’ level of education. It seems this theory is not working in Nigeria. So what went wrong? Is it the quality of the academic qualifications? Is it the system? Has having more educated leaders resulted in the current level of corruption in Nigeria? It is known that most of Nigeria’s current leaders attended the best schools in or outside the country. The existing Codes of Conduct and regulations in the Nigeria are modest enough to guide those in power. One can imagine what could be responsible for poor governance style by our leaders? This writer is of the view that the “strange” character of an average Nigerian politician (which is not learned in school) could be responsible.
The absence of an appreciable level of good governance in Nigeria despite the high educational level of its leaders is a strong indication that leadership’s array of certificates doesn’t matter, but the individual character and behaviours. For instance, a professor who teaches basic knowledge in school, when given a political position behaves like a motor park tout. With such situation, one can say leadership is not all about academic qualifications but good character.
In the past, Nigerian leaders with lower educational qualifications had proven to be more competent and were able to conceptualize sensible ideas which enhanced all-round national development. They also governed with broader focus on public interest than the current leaders who have higher educational qualifications. Some educationists have observed that political leaders, who possess high educational qualifications and misbehave, did not earn such qualifications scholarly. Hence, they display disgraceful character in positions of political leadership. Other people have also summed up the reason for the lack of good governance to the fact that most individuals in leadership positions in Nigeria are never prepared for the job.
Furthermore, the political system is so corrupt that the easy way to secure an elective office is to have powerful godfather belonging to a powerful political party whether at the national or state level. Without doubt, such system would never produce good leadership.
Notwithstanding the array of reasons for the absence of good governance in Nigeria, the highly educated Nigerian leadership is still not performing as expected of well-read leaders with global mindset, because everything in the polity is ascribed to politics. When politicking overtakes policies, leadership degenerates- and this is the disease affecting the average Nigerian political leader.
The politics we referring is when a political office becomes an opportunity for self-enrichment and it is associated with pride, arrogance and larger than life attitude. Another factor that leads to the bad governance in Nigeria is the fact that national leaders are encouraged to champion regional, ethnic or religious positions after serving at the centre. In addition, some members of the Nigerian society expect their people in power to have or to do certain things even if they are wrong; just because one lagbaja (somebody) did have or did it before.
Despite the established fact that highly educated leaders develop good policies for economic growth in their countries, they influence international public opinion towards their countries and easily attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) to their countries, including separating their personal interest from the public good, it is puzzling that the more highly educated Nigerians ascend to political power the more the country experiences bad governance. The average Nigerian leader can be helped to mend his character. There is a popular saying that positive character traits can be both taught and learned.
There is no doubt, the educational level of whoever aspires for a public office in Nigeria matters, but individual good character and behaviours are essential for listening and servant leadership. By way of conclusion, allow me reference Anthony Kirk–Greene in his scissions compilation of 1996–70 after the civil war and I quote inter alia: “…alleged feudalism v assumed socialism, federal v unitary preferences, traditional authority v achieved Èlitism, haves v have-nots, each with sinister undertones of tension, irreconcilability and threatened withdrawal”. These are all products of bad formulation and implementation of policies in Nigeria and only a sound leadership can rescue the trend.