I would like to share with you my thoughts on a subject, whose importance has, in recent times, been brought to the front burner as it rightfully should. It is this subject of leadership as a pre-requisite for effective governance.
In his book, ‘The Trouble with Nigeria’, published twenty eight years ago on the eve of Shehu Shagari’s second term as President of Nigeria, distinguished Laureate, Professor Chinua Achebe remarked thus: The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigeria character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which is the hallmark of true leadership….
Achebe took the view that the leadership question remained pre-eminent among Nigeria’s numerous problems, and identified other perennial issues such as “tribalism, corruption, indiscipline, social injustice, preference for mediocrity over excellence, etcetera”; and concluded that “without good leadership, none of the other problems stand a chance of being tackled, let alone solved.” It is clearly the thesis of our discussion in this August forum – that without good leadership, there can really be no question of governance, let alone effective governance.
Attachment and allegiance to family, ethnic and cultural groups are universal phenomenon of civil societies. In Nigeria these appear to have so undermined national consciousness and solidarity that it had in the past been difficult to replace the negative aspects of these feelings displace with a positive feeling of common identity, a shared community sentiment and a common sense of patriotism and nationalism. What Nigerians need, is rising above these parochial bases of allegiance to integrate on the basis of common interests for the better good of the society, and which unites them against executive excesses that threaten that common good.
It was as if colonialism was the glue that stuck the various ethnic groups together into a shape recognisable in an atlas. When the glue dissolved and gave way to independence, many of the units started to fall apart. How to transform these groups/regions into a nation in the strict sense of the word seemed to be a problem. It is the problem that in the past provided the “excuse” for the disturbing phenomena of coups and secession, which had at some point characterised the government of Nigeria. Coups and secessions are no doubt manifestations of assault on federalism and the civil society. They inflict serious problems on the values and ethos of society by debasing institutions that are meant to strengthen leadership and accountability to the people.
During the past years of economic and political stagnation, Nigeria was fast approaching the Chinua Achebe’s borrowed expression – “… things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy ….” Fortunately, Nigeria did not reach the final stages of anarchy. With the concept of separation of powers in its nascent stage, and the benefit of collective hindsight, the language should continue to be one of reconstructing the Nigerian civil society, battered by several years of poor and inept leadership at the centre that had naturally dovetailed to the bottom and the very fabrics of civil society. Reconstruction starts with the reconciliation of the injured feelings of the past engendered by poor leadership at the concentrated centre, enabled in part by negative feelings of disunity, ethnic (as against national) loyalty, and parochial interests. There is the recognition that Nigerians need to have their confidence in the nation and its true potentials for economic growth, restored, before any meaningful reconstruction can take place.
Nigeria had been led to desire union by its colonial master. The idea of federalism appears to have been a common pattern of British administration of peoples who though are occupying areas geographically contiguous, have so many other things in diversity that only separate governments could have been the answer. Among the several necessities for a true federalism are – the desire to have a common national defence, and the hope of economic advantage from the union. The federating regions all had their respective strengths in particular produce, and effectively competed with one another, and in the process of competition, they created wealth. Economic activities were at the pace of the peoples of the regions. Eastern Nigeria had its strengths in palm produce, the North produced groundnuts, the West, mainly cocoa, and the Delta areas produced rubber.
The benefits of such competition among the regions were to be found in the industrial development that followed shortly after independence. The Ikeja Industrial Estate in the West, the Kaduna Textile industry in the North, and the Aba factories, are apt examples. The Nigerian economy between 1957 and the outbreak of the civil war experienced an annual growth rate of over 3%. Then, Nigerians had relatively better purchasing power parity than in present times, especially when compared with the oil revenues thenceforth accruing to the country. However, the competition among the regions had its bad sides in terms of extreme loyalty to regions to the detriment of the common good of the nation. Examples are the decisions or “in-decisions” regarding the establishment of the steel complex, the automobile assembly plants, etc.
The military incursion into politics and the very nature of the command structure in the military meant that governance of Nigeria changed to a central command and unitary style of governance, where everything became concentrated at the centre. Leadership, Revenue Allocation, Law and Policy making on trade and finance, education, health, industry, etc became matters for the center. The attention of the governed also shifted to the centre. One of the key effects of power concentration at the centre was that emphasis generally shifted from wealth creation to wealth distribution (the proverbial national cake rather than a national oven).
In the quest to effect meaningful changes in the hope of economic advantage and common good from the union of the Federation of Nigeria, the expectations are high for the three arms of government in the democratic dispensation. The challenge of leadership today is essentially one of harnessing the collective will for the collective good. It means that the principles of leadership would need to drive the behavior and ethics of those that are called to positions of service (also known as Rulers). However, it should be stated that the position does not make the leader. It is the service to the ruled that graduate the ruler to a leader. Such can be seen with the examples of exemplary leadership provided by Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jnr. McFarland reckons that a leader is –
… one who makes things happen that would not happen otherwise. If the leader causes changes that he intended, he has exercised power, but if the leader causes changes that he did not intend or want, he has exercised influence, but not power.
Leadership has been described as the ‘process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task’. Definitions more inclusive of followers have also emerged. Alan Keith stated that, Leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen. Tom DeMarco argues that leadership needs to be distinguished from posturing.
In his book, The Hero in History, Sidney Hook depicted a heroic leader as one who makes things happen that ordinarily would not have happened. The hero in history, he stated is –
… the individual to whom we can justifiably attribute preponderant influence in determining an issue or event whose consequences would have been profoundly different if he had not acted as he did. The hero is an event-making individual who re-deter-mines the course of history.
It must be pointed out that the leaders position carries with it responsibilities too. John Gardner has pointed out that the task of leaders is ‘to help societies understand the problems that all must face, to aid in the setting of goals and priorities, to work with others in finding paths to those goals chosen, maintaining public morale, and motivation and nurturing a workable level of public unity. Leaders must activate existing institutions in pursuit of the society’s goals or, when necessary, help redesign institutions to achieve that result. Leaders must also help people know how they can be at their best ‘…with malice toward none, with charity for all….’ In a free society leaders perform these functions within a framework of constraints. This includes an uncorrupted electoral process, the rule of law, institutional checks and balances and a free press.
What then is Effective Leadership?
Effective leadership means providing a sense of direction and purpose to self and to those under one’s scope of responsibility. To be effective, the leader needs to be able to create an inspiring vision, lead by example and empower people. To be that visionary leader, he or she needs to do most of the following: –
– Establish shared values, give direction and set stretch goals
– Manage change strategically, take measured risks, lead change and manage resistance that may face change.
– Lead by example, practice what you preach and walk the talk. It helps to set an example, and share risks or hardship.
– Demonstrate confidence, and win respect and trust without courting popularity
– Empower, Inspire, and Energize People
– Be enthusiastic; inspire and energize people; and create a positive work environment
– Empower people; delegate authority; be open to ideas; have faith in the creativity of others
– Communicate openly and honestly; give clear guidelines; set clear expectations
– Empathize; be willing to discuss and solve problems; listen with understanding; support and help
– Build and Lead a Team by using team approach to facilitate cooperation, involve everyone. The leader needs to trust the group, and be able to rely on their judgment.
Effective leadership requires brining out the best in people, having a common touch with them, coaching and providing effective feedback. He should encourage group decisions, and build institutions that strengthen rather than weaken the system. That way, the leader would avoid micromanagement. Sun Tzu, in The Art of War, says that competitive success (that is success under conditions of change, conflicts, chaos, and uncertainty such as are commonly found on the battlefield and, by extension in a rapidly developing marketplace or emerging economy) is determined by leadership skill alone. Leadership can therefore be assessed in terms of several factors that derive from a person’s character. Using the philosophy underlying the teachings of Confucius in The Analects of Confucius, Donald Krause in his The Way of the Leader, identified seven such factors, namely- Self-Discipline, Purpose, Accomplishment, Responsibility, Knowledge, Laddership and Example. From these factors, he coined out the acronym – SPARKLE. The SPARKLE principles are defined as follows:
Self-Discipline means that a leader tends to live by a set of rules or principles that he determines are appropriate for him and acceptable to his constituents. A leader does not need external motivation to ensure performance.
Purpose means that a leader develops intense determination to achieve his vision and objectives. Intense determination creates high morale and spirit among constituents. This allows the leader to effectively employ both personal and organizational power to accomplish goals. The leader uses this power to direct and control the efforts of his followers.
Accomplishment means that a leader defines results in terms of meeting the needs of his constituents. Successful results are the foundation of leadership. Taking effective action is the basis for successful results. The elements of effective action are – decision, determination, energy, simplicity, balance and chance.
Responsibility means that a leader embraces the duties and obligations that grow from the trust and power given him. The most critical of these obligations are clear perception, determined action, and an overriding concern for the best interest of his constituents. A strong leader owns up to the results of his decisions and actions and shares their consequences along with his constituents.
Knowledge is the foundation of successful leadership. Krause presents three aspects to knowledge – fundamental knowledge (science, history and human nature); strategic knowledge (understanding the needs and goals of both constituents and competitors and planning effective operations to reach the objectives; and tactical knowledge (which focuses on uncovering evolving threats and opportunities and responding swiftly and appropriately to them, within the strategic framework, through innovation and improvisation.
Laddership means that a leader understands the special nature of the social and moral contract between leaders and their constituents. The leader is dependent upon his followers for his power and, to a large extent, his ability to produce results. Therefore, in Krause’s view (and I agree with him), he must work cooperatively to reach agreed-upon objectives. The leader is charged with the responsibility of imposing, through the exercise of appropriate power, whatever level of order and discipline is required to meet objectives. The word ‘laddership’, was created by Krause to depict a set of people and their leader climbing towards an objective. If they do not organize, communicate and cooperate well, they will tip the ladder over, that becomes a tragedy for the collective.
In Nigeria, the Constitution somewhat gives insights into the social contract and objectives of state and the people. The State social order is founded on ideals of Freedom, Equality and Justice. The Constitution mandates all organs of government, all authorities and persons exercising legislative, judicial and executive powers to conform to and observe fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy. It provides that –
— every citizen shall have equality of rights, obligations and opportunities before the law;
— the sanctity of the human person shall be recognised and human dignity shall be maintained and enhanced;
— governmental actions shall be humane;
— exploitation of human or natural resources in any form whatsoever for reasons, other than the good of the community, shall be prevented; and
— the independence, impartiality and integrity of courts of law, and easy accessibility thereto shall be secured and maintained.
Section.17 (3) of the Nigerian Constitution further provides that the State shall direct its policy towards ensuring that –
– all citizens, without discrimination on any group whatsoever, have the opportunity for securing adequate means of livelihood as well as adequate opportunity to secure suitable employment;
– conditions of work are just and humane, and that there are adequate facilities for leisure and for social, religious and cultural life;
– the health, safety and welfare of all persons in employment are safeguarded and not endangered or abused;
– there are adequate medical and health facilities for all persons:
– there is equal pay for equal work without discrimination on account of sex, or on any other ground whatsoever;
– children, young persons and the age are protected against any exploitation whatsoever, and against moral and material neglect;
– provision is made for public assistance in deserving cases or other conditions of need; and
– the evolution and promotion of family life is encouraged
Example simply means that the leader must walk the talk. His actions become a model for the actions of his constituent group. Further, the leader’s character sets the moral tone of leadership. The leader sets the example whether or not he intends it. His actions would speak louder than any policies written or spoken.
It needs to be said that the good governance would not only derive from good leadership, but also by getting things done. The main objective of exercising powerful leadership is to accomplish useful and desirable things that benefit the people being led. The best way to get things done is simply to ‘do the essential things well’. However this is not as simple to do as it sounds. It requires a leader with the seven qualities earlier discussed. To do things well, one needs to look at three fundamental concepts that make up the essence of leadership according to Sun Tzu and Confucius. They are –
– Be Proactive (Do through action)
– Reduce Complexity. (Concentrate effort on basics, critical tasks, the essential things)
– Seek Improvement (get the essential things done better)
It needs to be said that the people have a role to play in ensuring purposeful leadership. That role goes no further than the need for vigilance in selecting their leaders (where they have a chance to do so), and for keeping them under constant surveillance. Achebe argues that no known human enterprise has flourished on the basis of the following leading the leaders. For him, the cliché that people get the leader they deserve is a useful exaggeration – useful, because it reminds the general populace to be vigilant in insisting on their right not to be disenfranchised through a range of falsehoods that may pervade the electoral system or other institutions of governance. The 2009 upheavals in Iran over the outcome of the elections are a useful pointer to the role of the followership beyond quiet mumblings and low tone complaints.
Turning the Economy around
It must be stated here that a history of policy failures and economic collapse do not necessarily mean that country’s ailing economy cannot be turned around. Countries like Uganda and Indonesia have been through worse economic crises, yet have managed to embark on reforms armed at scaling the hurdles necessary for economic recovery or growth. Nigeria can get things better by creating a minimum adequate economic environment for economic recovery. This it can do by stabilizing the macroeconomic environment, and then getting the prices and other incentive policies right. Nigeria’s attitude should be similar to that of South Koreans whose leaders re-stated the fundamental truth that – “NO OWE OWES US (South Koreans) A LIVING”! Really, no one else, but Nigeria owes herself a living; and this must be reflected in the economic turn-around strategies.
Nigerians should bear in mind that it is only when these hurdles particularly the fourth hurdle are crossed that Nigeria can realistically expect to have an increased inflow of investments or foreign capital. In the words of President de la Madrid of Mexico, “Capital has no heart. Capital has interests and sees its security and income as fundamental”. Foreign investment only sees profits, and real and sustainable profits can only be made in a place with the minimum adequate economic environment.
In this regard Nigeria should strive to regain confidence by building lock-in mechanisms of restraint and fiscal discipline. The Government should know the facts about the macro-economy, understand what went wrong with policies and/or implementation, liberalize foreign trade, have an honest budget, privatize state-owned enterprises, down-size the public sector to make for more efficiency, reduce corporate tax at-least until infrastructure like electricity, water and telecommunications get better.
The solution does not appear to lie in looking at the West for help, but should come from Nigerians. Help from the West will usually come in the form of aid and policy conditionality, with its own price tags. Nigeria should ensure that democracy and the rule of law (with the necessary checks and balances) remain. It should embark on judicial reforms, transparency and accountability in government, strong institutions of restraint (e.g. a strong legal system, civil service, financial system, etc.) In doing so, Nigeria and indeed Africa will be able to harness its competitive advantage in making the best of its natural and human resources, in encouraging manufactured exports and gearing for the transition from the primary to the secondary sector of economic development. Nigeria’s problem is for it to solve – No one (but Nigerians) owes it a living!
This solution will only come from an acceptance of purposeful leadership, accountable leadership, a service-oriented leadership, and effective leadership that delivers on the promise to the constituents.