Opinion: The Democracy Question (2), by Faith Berewa

The first and most important leadership choice is Virtuous Service, without which service can never deliver for public good…

On this day the government declares as Democracy Day, I will draw heavily from a piece I wrote titled the crisis of political leadership that was published on this day in 2021.

After the annulment of the June 12 1993 presidential elections, the struggle for democratic rule gained momentum and culminated in the advent of the present democratic dispensation with the swearing-in of President Olusegun Obasanjo on the 29th of May 1999. This was a successful attempt at changing our leadership style from a brutal military dictatorship that favoured a few and curtailed our liberty and freedoms, to a civilian democracy which all Nigerians hoped would lead us towards greater unity, inclusion, peace, stability and economic prosperity.

It’s been twenty-five years of this experience, which to say the least has been abysmal. A betrayal of the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians that traded military rule for constitutional democratic governance. We are stranded as a nation because the leadership required to lead, build and develop citizens into a prosperous nation is in short supply at all level of governance. As stated by Robert Greenleaf, the proponent of the modern servant-leadership approach to leadership, “The first and most important choice a leader makes is the choice to serve, without which one’s capacity to lead is severely limited…the great leader is seen as a servant first”.

Remember, what Nigerians resisted in military rule, apart from the fact that it was unconstitutional, was the leadership styles of the military rulers and its effect on society. We are today faced with the same old demon in governance; irresponsible leadership, and since nations go the way of the leaders, we have been heading in the direction of poverty, insecurity, division and general underdevelopment.

As we mark democracy day, it is worth noting that in a democracy what matters the most is leadership, which is about the governance, management, control and guidance of society’s resources for the public good. In representative democracies, leaders –elected leaders are entrusted with the powers of society to do what must be done to get society functional and flourishing, when they fail to make the most of the powers by misuse and abuse, society fails. Sadly that’s our case.

Leadership is to harness and unleash the potentials of society for continuous progress, which we call flourishing. It has two main components;

1) The Potentials of the Citizens must be harnessed through comprehensive quality education and productive labour.

2) The Economic Potentials of the Land must be harnessed into material gains and financial wealth for development funding at all levels across board.

Like all responsible fathers, leaders in democracies are saddled with the responsibility of providing for society and not taking from society. Stealing from society is a shame and an aberration in decent democracies.

It can never be overstated that democratic nations famish or flourish on the strength of leadership. If a nation fails in democracy, it is because her leadership is compromised. This is the true story of almost all African democracies; leadership that is predicated on the absence of character and competence. Strong Leadership – is the strength of any democracy. We find these evidently so in advanced democracies. Our lack of leadership character has undermined whatever good policies and programmes are designed to improve our lot as a people. Unfortunately, this has been Nigeria’s weakest link in our democratic practice. After 25 years of our democratic experience, we are now faced with the harsh reality that nothing undermines good governance and. development like leadership affinity with vices. This is our democracy’s vulnerability, and Nigeria’s greatest undoing.

It is now evident that what we have played with in the last 25 years in the name of democracy has resulted in damning consequences that have ran Nigeria aground. It is outrageous that we are worse off than we were in 1999. Shall we continue in these errors and expect development? With the present State of the nation, Nigerians should start crying out against bad leadership, bad decisions and policies that strangulates citizens, just as we did against military rule in the 80s and 90s. We are certainly in leadership crises which started at the onset of our democratic rule. We must hold accountable, those elected to serve us, at local, state and federal levels.

There must be a deliberate detour now from this disastrous democratic outing, which must start with good leadership at all levels. Until Nigeria gets leadership right, Nigeria can never get development right. Our leaders must now wean themselves from what they have created as a system that has destroyed the social fabric of the country. Let us embrace the practice of virtues. Let us begin again to lay new foundations for the building of a new Nigeria. I know many of us are skeptical about this but
we can still build and rebuild until we get what we really desire our nation to be. Nigeria cannot remain a rogue leadership theatre. We owe ourselves and generations unborn the best of humanity. Life must be good here.

Leadership errors have cost us the very essence of democracy for 25 years but going forward I am persuaded that Nigeria can change, and the time to begin is now. We should destroy the foundation of greed, mediocrity, selfishness, nepotism, cronyism, favoritism, corruption, ineptitude and tribalism, to build a new and better Nigeria; a nation of virtues where public sector leaders are committed to acting right in the interest of public good.

As we mark Democracy Day, we should remind our leaders that June 12 was a call for responsible leadership; a call to virtuous service. Nigerians yearned for a political system that was to properly manage the people and natural resources for the greater good of all. Therefore, in the spirit of June 12, we must now begin to engage this generation of leaders with the truth about their wrong leadership practices. We must confront them that this is not the way to build and develop a nation. Our leaders must now be held accountable for bad governance practices that have truncated our June 12 aspirations. Let us make June 12 a renaissance for revitalization and realization of true democracy and governance for the benefit of all Nigerians.

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