Monday, December 15, 2008

A friend recently argued that Nigeria's ruling elite lack the education necessary to lead the country in the right direction and cited the fact that current President Yar'Adua is the first President to graduate with a college degree in support of his thesis. He believed that the lack of education amongst the nation's leaders is the reason why Nigeria is not better off than it is.

While I could respect his stance, and he was very passionate about it, I disagreed with him, somewhat. While education is important, I felt that the lack of a formal education alone is not the main reason why things are not better in Nigeria. I argued that ignoring all the other obvious reasons that could be proffered such as corruption, tribalism, the use of religion as a wedge, and many others, it is the lack of intellectual challenge amongst Nigeria's ruling elite that has been the nation's undoing. In my opinion, the ability to participate in an exchange of ideas, debate them peacefully, agree to disagree and develop your own opinions/arguments without resorting to violence (or something like it) is more important than a formal education. My friend immediately countered that such is only possible in an environment of formal learning. We ended the conversation with an agreement to disagree.

Now, I wonder what is crucial for good leadership? What qualities or attributes would I want the ideal (or slightly less than ideal because after all, no one is perfect) Nigerian leader to embody? I know for a fact that a formal education, while important is not crucial, in my humble opinion. It is more important to have a leader who recognizes his/her shortcomings and is not afraid to reach out to those with the skills or knowledge he/she lacks for support. I don't believe that such an attribute can be obtained through formal education. One either has that or does not. Only life and maybe upbringing can impart such a lesson on someone.

Any leader worth their grain of salt must recognize that ultimately they are a servant of the people and thus commit themselves completely to that service. Clearly, simply having that attribute will not grant success, but I still believe that it is a crucial element of good leadership. If a true "servant leader" can have the savvy and wisdom to maneuver through the stormy waters of politics without being overly corrupted by power, that would be a significant plus. Power has always been a corrupting element and most powerful people have managed to live out the phrase - "power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely." One need look no further than the recent arrest of Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, who on U.N. Anti-corruption Day (December 9th) was arrested in a growing corruption scandal.

Real leaders also have to have vision - an idea of how they would have made things better for not just themselves or their families and friends, but for others, and particularly those who depend on or look up to them. They must not just have goals but they must also have a roadmap on how to achieve those goals. That, I think is an important difference between leaders that produce, and those that fail.

And, although my friend and I disagreed, I continue to believe that the appreciation of intellectual exchange remains a crucial factor in good leadership. After witnessing many a leader clamp down on dissenting opinions and isolate, arrest or even kill those who disagree, tolerance for differing ideas, an attribute that I feel is fostered by intellectual exchanges, is a necessity, especially in Nigeria and other African countries struggling to gain their democratic footing.

On a side note, congratulations to arrested blogger Emeka Emmanuel Asiwe, whose wife delivered a baby girl two weeks ago. Asiwe is yet to see his newborn child because although he is no longer under 'arrest' by the SSS, he remains detained in Nigeria and unable to be with his family this holiday season. Please, take the time to say a prayer for him and his family.

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Anonymous said...

Guess the core issue with the typical Nigerian politician -- and maybe the politician anywhere around the world -- is the presence of benefactors , powers that be that must be deferred to... In the Nigerian context at least, these powers are only interested in lining their pockets.. hence even if the chap who gets into office wants to do something good, he's still tossed to and fro at the whim of his political "godfather".. guess until the agenda of the godfather is done away with, we will still be stuck in our unique parody of demoracy...

Anonymous said...

Interesting. good leadership is something that many African countries, not just Nigeria, have lacked for a long time. That was the case in Europe, hence the migration of many Europeans to the Americas for an opportunity to create a better system.

Anyway, it could take a long time for any good leader to emerge in Nigeria, precisely for the reason Danny B mentions - godfatherism. Once that element is weakened or removed from Nigerian politics, the sort of leader you seem to be imagining could emerge and actually have a chance at doing a good job.

wellsbaba said...

personally I dont think leadership has anything to do with formal education...the best leaders frm time immemorial have not been the most schooled but they have been intelligent and knowledgeable...by the way sayin yardy is d first nigerian president university graduate does NOT mean our other presidents have been ILLITERATES! our former military leaders,apart from schoolin they got in military school;s developed themselves.they had their own study they are also great minds(just that we may argue they dont implore it in the better of the nation) u need to know all the intelligence,effort and finesse OBJ applied when abacha imprisoned him!We all know a couple of yrs back when babangida was dubbed "the evil genius" that he read 12hours a day!so do you call him an illiterate? What makes a leader really is are his qualities! A leader knows he is leadin people hence d first thing he most have is passion for his people.He must connect with them hence he is a servant.not above the law n can sacrifice himself for them(humility,tolerance e.t.c).His eyes cannot cover all d 150million people hence he has a team around him.his tink tank team.this is where I believe ur(solosydelle) idea of intellectual challenge comes in.A leader must have insight(critical analysis of the problem) foresight(he must have a vision,a dream) hindsight n all d sight you can think of LOL! I have dropped alot of thesis n I will back it up with facts(history) obamas resume is an average one amongst the literate class-ow much skool has he got on d average world level?not much! but this dude resigned where he earned loads of pay to work at NGO's n community service so he cud connect with d pple n know them n their pains...Jesus,Foundin fathers of US,guevera,Nelson mandela,Mahatma ghandi et al
Even amongst scientists and intellectuals,the brightests have not been the most schooled with the most impressive resumes but those with dreams n visions and pursued it with bliv n HARDWORK i have said so much n digressed sef.I hope u get ma drift sha...

Anonymous said...

Vision, Compassion, Pragmatism rather than a psychotic devotion to an ideal. Education, charisma etc etc

Marin said...

Where did my post of yesterday go ?

Sherri said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sherri said...

no one without at least a first degree should be able to run a country.(my very strong opinion)

while it does not guarantee success, nor effectively measure intellectual capacity, not just the education in itself. it's the process by which formal education is acquired that is the invaluable experience that can be the difference.

a good leader is the one who has, "love of country" and a deep hatred for injustice and oppression.

btw, i just read your rebuttal to my comment on the freedom of the press post. i will be back to defend myself vigorously! lol

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