By Rufus Kayode Oteniya
Naturally, change and development come in two ways i.e. top down and bottom up. So far, our expectation and focus have been on only the top-down change where the leaders use the leadership control and machineries to enforce a change as it was witnessed under the military rule of Generals Muhammadu Buhari and Tunde Idi-Agbon. This explains why everyone has been waiting for our Jerry Rawlings to emerge. The bottom-up change which we do not give much consideration is the more profound and more enduring form of change.
It is necessary to understand the meaning and the limit of leadership before this can be fully comprehended.
Leadership is a process by which a person or a group of persons influence others to accomplish an objective and direct the organization in a way that makes it more cohesive and coherent. Or it can be more simply put as a process whereby an individual or a group of individuals influence others to achieve a common goal.
From the explanation above, the essence of leadership is getting a goal or objective or vision accomplished. This goal, vision or purpose is initiated and driven by the needs of the society as articulated by the people. This means the purpose the leaders set out to achieve are not the imagination or initiatives of the leaders but responses to the yearning and countenances of the people.
Change is initiated by the people (bottom-up) but driven by the leaders (top-down) who must be committed by providing a conducive climate for the change to work. So, it makes sense to say that in reality, change is a product of the actions of the followers.
When the organization’s requirement for change is dictated by the followers, good leadership sustains the flow with machineries of leadership it possesses such as planning, direction, coordination, discipline and leading by example. It suffices to say the power to change is in the hands of the people and only the power to sustain it is in the hands of the leaders.
“I always believe that ultimately, if people are paying attention, then we get good government and good leadership. And when we get lazy, as a democracy and civically start taking shortcuts, then it results in bad government and politics.” - Barack Obama
This is not depreciating the importance of leadership in moving a nation in the right direction but emphasizing the importance of a good and effective followership. Leadership is a central factor whose importance cannot be over emphasized. Historically, whenever a nation (e.g. biblical Israel) had a good leader, they would undoubtedly have a good nation and a good people. As it was, so it is. A righteous leader produces a righteous nation and a bad leader produces a bad nation. And similarly, because of the interaction between leadership and followership, good followers also produce good leaders and bad followers produce bad leaders.
“Once leadership is missing, nothing else will work. When you look at our oil resource, we don’t know how much we earn from that sector. It’s what oil companies put on the table that we accept. Those who know have incentives that prevent them from speaking up. Oil companies corruptly induce our leaders.” - Adams Oshiomhole
Good leaders are made not born. If we have the desire and the willpower, we can get effective leaders who will develop through an unending process of education, training, experience and most importantly responding to the yearnings of the people because good leaders must react to the environment. Only the followers have the power to do this!
Only the citizens can bring the political and governmental institutions to be transparent, responsive and accountable. No one else can do it because the people in power will never concede anything unless the followers demand.
The biggest force in a democracy is the power of the electorate which is expressed in public opinions, direct calls, petitions, press statements, constructive criticism, public protest and most importantly in the referendums and polls. This power is more evident if the followers are objective and united in seeking a common good of the society.
One of the beauties of democracy is that majority carries the vote. The followers are more powerful than the leaders since there are apparently more in number. They are the majority!
If the followers make the leaders think they are working and they cannot get better, then, they will relax but when they are tasked them, they tend to work better.
“Each time a person stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, these ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” - Robert F. Kennedy
Nigerians have been short-changed for too long by the leaders who feed on the ignorance (which they tend to be deliberately promoting) of the people and other societal vices like greed and lust for power and resource control, corruption, passivity and indifference to governance.
It is time we pay attention to what the leaders are doing. We should be more concerned about how we are governed. It is also time we start asking questions and stop waiting for when the tide will be in our favour such that we can have our turn to loot.
As teachers, trader, lawyers, journalists, drivers, accountant, engineers, servicemen, housewives, students, tailor, housewives…. and most especially as citizen, we have not only the right but also the duty to say to those we have elected to give the accounts of their stewardship. We need to call them to order whenever they err.
We should visit our council offices, ask our councillors about the council matters; visit the local government headquarters, ask the chairmen about the happenings at the local governments, visit the constituency offices of the legislators, ask them about the laws they make, constituency projects and the happenings in the Chambers; and the executives, ask them how they are managing the system. Before now, because we did not ask, we were not told.
It is human nature to stray if unchecked and go out of control if not controlled. The highest form of check in democracy is the electorate. When the followers allow the leaders to have absolute power, it (the power) corrupts absolutely.
It is time to start calling the leaders to order because “the future will have no pity for those men who possessing the exceptional privilege of being able to speak words of truth to their oppressors, have taken refuge in an attitude of passivity, of mute indifference, and sometimes of cold complicity”- Frantz Fanon.
Currently, many worship the public office holders with the hope that in them lie their own chances to get to prominence and have free access to national plunders. Many are also forcing their ways to be associated with them thinking of the profits such association offer. We should stop worshipping public officers, they are people voted to serve us. We should stop making them our godfathers.
The leaders are treated as if they are no more mere mortals. We are not courageous enough to look them in the face and tell them whenever they err. We fail to resist their oppression. We praise their mediocrity in the name of being friends of ‘Any Government In Power – AGIP. We collaborate with them to steal what belongs to all of us. And they further weaken our strength using religious and tribal divide.
We tolerate what we should forbid, rationalize their excesses and let them know that we could be bought and in fact they buy us with our money. They know the price of everyone’s conscience.
Someone once cynically but somewhat truthfully commented that "Nigerians are too gullible no doubt. They're in the habit of settling for less. They adopt and accept bad people as their rulers. When you argue with a typical Nigerian, he says that one bad person is better than another bad person. It baffles me. These arguments to me are senseless. In the end they say, ok, who do you want as the president? In very thoughtless situations some people say, if na you, you no go chop?" - Anonymous
Conclusively, we are here today because of our past decisions and indecisions; actions and inactions and whatever decisions and actions we take today will determine of our future. A people capable of damaging are also capable of building and together we have to build Nigeria of our dream.
Nigeria must be a great and united nation devoid of ethnic and religious strives; an egalitarian and prosperous society that would be respected in the comity of nations; a land where everyone would be his brother’s keeper regardless of the inherent differences and a people who would respect the laws of the land. These can only be if we change our leaders so that they can sustain the rhythm.
The sound of change is everywhere and the wind that is already blowing in the Middle East will soon find its way to the Sub-Sahara and Nigeria shall not miss the golden opportunity.
God Bless Nigeria!
Thanks for this informative post.