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Igbo & Leadership Question: The Achebe Example —By Ikedi Ohakim


The words of the late Professor Chinua Achebe vividly capture the gaps in the leadership of this country at the Federal, State and Local Governments. The consequence of all these is years of experimentation without solution. The hemorrhage has continued unabated because the wrong people access power aided by a system that works against the people. When would we break away from a past that has hoisted inertia and retrogression on a nation so endowed and blessed by Mother Nature. Nigerians and indeed Igbo sons and daughters are top flyers in performance across the globe. Yet, the fortunes of this country continue to nosedive simply because the door to leadership is shut against these individuals. Does it lie in our destiny to continue to wail and lament when together we can embrace a turning point by challenging a status quo that has denied us the benefit of real transformation and better life for all? Are we willing to capitulate just because the road to real change is rough and tortuous? A man is not finished when he is defeated. He is finished when he quits. Clare Booth Luce captured the issue of patience and perseverance when he said, “there is no hopeless situations, there are only men who have grown hopeless”.

This sentiment was adumbrated by Admiral Chester Mimitz, when he prayed, “God, grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it’s hopeless,”; and boxer Archie Moore echoed, “If I don’t get off the mat, I will lose the fight.” We must draw up our sleeves, jump into the trenches and wedge the war of national rediscovery until the vice grips of leadership inertia are broken. In the immutable words of Vince Lombard more, “to achieve success, whatever the job we have, we must pay a price.” It does not lie in religious, ethnic or language bigotry, the common enemy remains the negligible few that have played those primordial cards to receive undeserved endorsement, thereby holding the majority hostage as they serve us poverty on a platter.

Until the right leadership is allowed to emerge, the desire to reach the stars and the heights would continue to be elusive. The crop of leaders that are products of a failed system as presently in place cannot guarantee the country and the people a future that is ennobling and assuring.

Chinua Achebe, a man who evidently represents the essential Nigeria, focused and determined, found strength outside the shores of the land to challenge the system through his writings. He spoke to power and took actions that proved a total rejection of a leadership that tries to win in the midst of obvious perfidy perpetrated by them. The nose of the bulldog is slanted backwards so he can continue to breathe without letting go. In the same vein, we must not give up on this country as long as the intractable leadership problem looms large. Nobody makes the greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do a little. Our greatest challenge in resolving the leadership question is the penchant for the masses to submit to the preying antics of the leadership. Aware of the poverty inflicted on the people, money becomes an attractive bait in the electoral process. How many would have the discipline even in the midst of hunger and deprivation to call the bluff of these characters and settle for the people. That should be the marital song that would propel the fight to build a nascent nation of populist choice.

He who ignores discipline comes to poverty and shame, but whoever heeds correction is honored. The dignity of man can only be preserved when we stand to our name, belief and convictions. The greatest injury that can be inflicted is that done to oneself. The Biafran agitation signal is saying Ndigbo must rise and take critical steps at reshaping our own destiny. We must begin to invest wisely. A good investor looks forward to a valuable return. The harvest of failed leadership can only be checked when all hands are on deck.

The inability of successive governments to strike the chord of true representative governance in line with best practices and with an eye on the ball, should naturally call for equal measure of populist action to insist on putting in place a leadership that thinks, cares and walks the talk. The recession and its debilitating impact on the lives of the people should serve as a call to action.

Countries of the world that sprang up like the phoenix from the ashes of a past signposted by retrogression and stagnation, allowed commitment, patriotic zeal, passion for excellence built around great leaders with big ideas, to define the trappings of governance.

Monolithic societies are often not realized by accident of natural occurrences, they are forged based on the acceptance of the finest elements of engagement devoid of parochial considerations. Justice, equity, rule of law, focus, vision, insistence on acceptable standards of co-existence, values, ideals and ideas define a nation. Building a nation can only be possible when a sense of nationalism is imbued in the people. Diversities which have unfortunately become a curse in Nigeria could only have been turned to advantage and pillar of strength if the right leaders have been cultivated.

As long as we also continue with the attitude of cherry picking, investing in leadership with ‘K’ leg, Ala Igbo like Nigeria, will never make a headway.

Ordinarily, it should be taken as given that with the abundance of human resources at the disposal of the country, Nigeria should be able to record a quantum leap. Imagine the number of great brains and human capital across the globe who are Nigerians, yet back home, the fate of the country is determined and defined by individuals that are obvious square pegs in round holes.

The movement without motion, harvest of failures, inertia and rudderlessness that hallmark the development streak of this country may forever be the cross we must carry except the majority of the suffering masses see wisdom in and work as one to dismantle the existing order. For how long would we be grimacing and brooding over the years the locust has eaten up while not making conscious effort to fight a status quo that has set us on the bad pages of history.


For the avoidance of doubt and for the interest of the current leadership, let me share my views on some burning issues in our current national debate:

i. “Nigeria Is Not Negotiable” One major problem Nigeria has is our political structure. I am of the strong view that we must peacefully re-examine now the political structure which concentrates power and responsibility at the centre. This is not the political structure that our Founding Fathers negotiated at Independence. I have said it in several fora; overconcentration of power at the centre generates friction among the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria; it unleashes extreme competition for power and the advantages it confers; it breeds more suspicion and distrust among the peoples of Nigeria; it accentuates the things that divide us rather than what unites us. 

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