AFRIHERITAGE CANVASSES FOR TRANSFORMATIVE LEADERSHIP IN NIGERIA
Participants at the quarterly public policy engagement and debate program of the African Heritage Institution (AfriHeritage), the Big Ideas Podium have made a strong case for transformative leadership in every sphere of national life as the only option to pull the Country out of the woods. The event which held on Tuesday, June 19, 2018, in Enugu attracted a large pool of professionals from all walks of life – the academia, the Bar, Labour, organized private sector, public sector, the media, etc.
In his keynote speech titled: Building Transformative Leadership for Nigeria, the guest speaker, Dr Otive Igbuzor, a foremost leadership development expert, who was the Country Director for the British aid agency- DFID; but now Executive Director of the African Centre for Leadership, Strategy & Development (Centre LSD), Abuja, stressed that It has been documented that the progress, development and fortunes of many nations are tied to the type and quality of the political leadership that they have had and continue to have. He agreed with the legendary writer of blessed memory – Chinua Achebe that the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership; that there is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian Character; that there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else.
According to the leadership development expert, there is a twin paradox pervading the Nigerian situation – one, there is the recognition that Leadership is crucial for the development of organisations and nations and that leaders can be trained; two, there are abundant human resources to produce excellent leaders in Nigeria; however, it is regrettable that despite these unambiguous facts about our country, “there is no systematic way for developing leaders for governance, business and civil society in Nigeria. Therefore, one big idea that can push Nigeria forward is to build transformative leadership; besides that, there are very few organisations especially in Africa dedicated to building transformative leadership”
The Big Ideas Podium guest speaker believes that ‘leaders are ordinary people who accept or are placed under extraordinary circumstances that bring forth their latent potential, producing a character that inspires the confidence and trust of others’
“There is therefore an imperative for government at all levels, the business community and civil society to develop a strategy for building transformative leaders and operationalise the strategy with emphasis on supporting training programmes; mentoring; inter-generational dialogue; youth development and a more nuanced leadership selection process”, he posits.
Speaking further, he said “the goal of transformational leadership is to ‘transform’ people and organisations in a literal sense – to change them in mind and heart; enlarge vision, insight, and understanding; clarify purposes; make behaviour congruent with beliefs, principles, or values; and bring about changes that are permanent, self-perpetuating, and momentum building”
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Executive Director of AfriHeritage, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, said the subject of the day’s keynote speech – leadership – is the base issue for Nigeria as it is for all countries. Leadership is so important that nothing else compares, it serves as a catalyst for cathartic change, social integration, and transformative development. When leadership is bad, it creates dysfunctions that can destroy the factors that underpin positive change, social justice, national prosperity and peace.
According to Professor Okeke-Uzodike, “In 2018, Nigeria is one of the poorest countries in the world. In fact, in some respects as shown by some key indicators, Nigeria remains one of the least developed countries in the world”:
Human Development Index rank (2014) 152
Poverty Headcount Ratio $1.25 per day (2011) 54.4%
Life Expectancy at birth (2016) 55.2
Maternal Mortality Rate (per 100,000 live births) (2016) 814
Births attended by skilled health staff 43%
Literacy Rate among adults (over 15yrs) 61%
He believes the country’s leadership has a responsibility to explain to the people why average citizens are getting poorer, less secure (physically and economically), living shorter lives, dying in our hospitals of manageable diseases or routine diseases/ailments, and generally less happy while those in leadership positions are gloriously spared of the same problems.
In their contribution, the two lead paper, the discussants – Stella Okunna, a professor of mass communication and Dean of the faculty of Social Sciences, Nnamdi Azikiwe University (NAU), Awka; and Professor Aja Akpuru-Aja a former directing staff of the National Institute for policy and Strategic Studies, Kuru, near Jos, all agreed with the keynote speaker that building a transformative leadership for the country was the viable way to go, but concluded that Nigeria must come up with a clear-cut youth development strategy in order as a way of laying a good foundation for transformative leadership.
Communiqué of the June 2018 Big Ideas Podium themed: “Building Transformative Leadership for Nigeria”
The Big Ideas Podium is an interactive platform where new and familiar intellectual voices are given traction and opportunity to interact freely and to ensure that clear and pragmatic approaches to important national issues are canvassed. This is beside its emerging role as a dominant national platform for public policy debates on burning and salient issues that affect or shape development or governance in Nigeria, West Africa, or the African continent.
The June 2018 edition of the Big Ideas Podium was anchored on the theme: ‘Building Transformative Leadership for Nigeria’. The presentations and much of the discussions focused on the complexities of leadership in Nigeria, and how to build a purposive, people-oriented and transformative leadership in the country.
- The African continent, and indeed Nigeria, is facing problems at almost all levels of leadership and in almost all strata of society.
- Leadership remains a recognized and most important variable that either improves or undermines the development of any nation, organization or institution.
- The leadership of any organization or country determines its success or failure. Thus, leadership failure in Nigeria has led to the failure of the country in many areas.
- The effect of bad leadership is evidenced in many areas of the nation’s key indicators, ranging from increased rate of maternal and infant mortality to reduced life expectancy.
- The scourge of bad leadership is felt everywhere in Nigeria and has become so commonplace that it is becoming normalized.
- The lack of positive influence by the nation’s leadership has rendered them increasingly irrelevant to citizens with respect to finding meaningful solutions to national problems.
- Most importantly, the tenets of transformative leadership have not been imbibed by the leadership in Nigeria.
- Leadership is a combination of skills and strategies; transformative results entail effective and innovative engagement of both variables. This is lacking in the leadership of Nigeria and most African countries.
- From theory to practice, there is a framework to develop leaders. Leaders are born and made. Born leaders possess inherent leadership qualities, while made leaders are prepared for leadership through training.
- There is a complete absence of effective framework or mechanism for the training and development of leaders in Nigeria.
- Most Nigerian leaders lack distinguishing skills necessary for good leadership usually acquired through training and skills development programs.
- There is no serious concerted effort towards either ensuring the attitudinal transformation of potential leaders or instilling positive transformative traits in pre-existing leadership system/culture of the country -- thereby, creating a huge void in the country with respect to people that are effectively equipped to lead.
- The above is evidenced by the strong disconnection between transformational leaders as agents of transformative change and implementation, and leadership without vision in the country’s leadership environment.
- Nigerian leaders are protected and shielded from punishment for bad leadership while still in office; the institutions are weak and serve the interests of a few. Given this, therefore, there is no effective implementation of laws and regulation against bad leadership for defaulters.
- There is neither any youth development and empowerment programme or framework existing in the country, nor is there any recognized strategy or plan for the development of the youths.
- Gender is not properly recognized within the current leadership arrangement; leadership strengths of women are not comprehensively exploited for public positions.
Enthronement of transformative leadership in Nigeria starts with: changing the attitude of leaders and potential leaders by broadening their mindset through training and skills development; and ensuring not only that they understand the requisites for leadership but also that adopt them to solve national problems.
Thus, there is a need for the country to establish leadership training schools and institutions where potential leaders are trained, groomed, developed, and equipped for effective leadership if Nigeria anticipates benefiting from the dividends of transformative leadership.
Nigeria should develop and implement leadership training framework stipulating processes of impacting or inculcating the traits of transformative leadership in both subsisting and potential leaders of the country.
This framework should be adopted and used in establishing training schools and institutions as leadership training guide targeted at creating/nurturing positive leadership. This will promote attitudinal conditioning or reorientation/change, which will eliminate negative tendencies towards bad leadership in the country.
In addition to training as a tool for producing transformative leadership, stringent punishment for defaulters is important. Promulgating laws to regulate and guard against lack-luster leadership is recommended. The essence will be to get leaders to account for bad leadership even while they are still in office.
The ‘immunity clause’ should be expunged from the Constitution of Nigeria.
Institutions and regulatory agencies guiding the conduct of the leadership of various public and private organizations and institutions in the country should be strengthened to ensure that they are not just statutory; or, worse, tools of intimidation and harassment of political opponents by those in government. Therefore, they should be granted term-based absolute autonomy to discourage biased adjudication.
The entire process of political appointments into key public positions should be reviewed to ensure that credible leaders are elected or appointed as prescribed by the extant laws, across the country.
The country should develop a National Youth Development Plan to prepare and empower the youths for future transformative leadership of the country. This should be done through a long and short-term strategy targeted at attitudinal reorientation of the youths to guarantee future transformative leadership.
Concerted and conscious efforts should be made to integrate the female gender fully into the leadership of the country. A constitutionally-guaranteed quota system should be put in place to ensure that women are involved in the leadership of the country.