Case for values-based and services oriented Leadership in Nigeria, Africa


The case for values-based and services oriented Leadership in Nigeria, Africa.

By Uchechukwu Chris Arinze 
Special to USAfricaonline.comand CLASSmagazine , PhotoWorks.TV and the USAfrica-powered e-groups of Nigeria360 and UNNalumniCase for values-based and services oriented Leadership in Nigeria, Africa

The recently released Mo Ibrahim African Governance Index report for year 2011
which ranked Nigeria at position 41 out of 53 African countries in its governance index
report inspired this article when viewed against the backdrop of our socio-economic
and political condition. The report in its assessment of Nigeria on four governance
indicators Viz: Safety and Rule of Law, Participation and Human Rights, Sustainable
Economic Opportunity and Human Development returned a damning verdict on the
quality of governance and leadership in the country. Out of 100 marks, Nigeria score
41 for governance quality and scored lower than the regional average for west Africa,
which was 51 and lower than the continental average, 50. Its highest rank was in sub-
categories of Rights and Education (26th) and lowest in Health (51st). In retrospect, over
the past five years, between 2006 and 2010, Nigeria has consistently been found wanting
on virtually all key governance indicators. For instance, out of the 48 ranked countries
then, Nigeria was the 40th in 2010, 35th in 2009 and 39th in 2008 respectively. Despite
the fact that the 2011 report includes new indicators for assessment like Physical and
Telecommunications infrastructure, Gender, Health, Welfare Service Provision; and
Economic Management. Mauritius, Cape Verde, Seychelles and South Africa, performed
creditably well in all the four categories. In terms of Good Governance, Mauritius
clinched the first position, while Cape Verde came second. Among the 16 nations in the
West Africa sub-region, Ghana was rated first in the sub-region and 7th in Africa, while
Nigeria, the giant of Africa, maintained the 13th position in West Africa, while Somalia
maintained its usual last position in Africa and Liberia and Sierra Leon recorded the most
striking improvement in Governance, two countries that have emerged from protracted
civil war. While Liberia improved across all four categories of assessment.

From the foregoing, the importance of good governance, exemplary leadership, and
efficient management of resources cannot be overemphasized. Good and visionary
leadership is necessary in providing a sense of direction towards achieving individual
and collective goals, as well as the harnessing and proper management, utilization
and allocation of limited resources for the satisfaction of basic needs of the citizenry.
At this juncture it is pertinent to define the meaning of the two keywords Values
and Leadership in order to avoid ambiguity. The advanced Chambers Dictionary
of contemporary English Language usage defines Values as moral principles and
standards, while Leadership is the ability to show the way by going first, to direct
and to guide. Since there is no consensus as to the acceptable standard definition of
leadership which led Warren Bennis et al, an authority in the field of leadership in their
book entitled–“Leaders” to posit that “like love, leadership continued to be something
everybody knew existed but nobody could define” And they went further to assert that
there are more than 350 definitions of leadership”. But they conceded to the fact that one
thing which is undisputable and not subject to semantic differences about leadership is
that “ it is the pivotal force behind successful organization.” The organization in this case
could be the home, government establishment, the places of worship (Churches, Mosques
and Synagogues), educational institutions, business organizations (Private and Public)
community development associations et cetera. The inference that could be drawn from
the above definitions is that a Values-based leadership is a leadership model centered or
anchored on moral principles and standards. A leadership that has a sense of right and
wrong, and has the moral courage to choose what is right for the benefit of its citizens. A
leadership with a sense of compassion and understanding. A leadership based on the core
moral principles of interigrity, patriotism, dynamism, pragmatism, vision, courage, social
justice, equity, fairness, transparency, accountability, prudent management of scarce,
human and material resources, sacrifice, selfless service and above all respect for the
value and dignity of the human person.

Since the emergence of Nigeria as a sovereign entity from British colonial rule on
October 1st 1960, it has been grappling with lots of challenges. But the most pressing of
all its challenges is the absence of visionary, transformative and exemplary leadership.
A fact corroborated by the Nigerian celebrated literary giant and author of Things Fall
Apart, the David and Marianna Fisher Professor of literature and Africana Studies
at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, U.S-Chinua Achebe in his book
entitled: The Trouble With Nigeria, rightly posited that “…The Nigeria Problem is the
unwillingness or inability of it’s leaders to rise to the responsibility and challenges
of personal example, which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” With a population
in excess of hundred and sixty-seven (167) million people, according to recent data
released by the National Population Commission (NPC) and approximates land mass
of one million square kilometers, suitable for commercial agriculture and abundant
solid minerals, largely untapped, prides itself as the most populous black country in the
world. Ranked among the top ten crude oil and natural gas exporters in the world by the
Vienna, Austria-based organization of petroleum exporting countries, (OPEC), with daily
crude oil output of 2.2 million barrels per day (Mbpd), and a total of 32.8 cubit metres of
natural gas daily. Nigeria has a gross domestic product of (GDP) of $ 248 billion, while
her GDP Per Capita is $1,600, which when adjusted for purchasing power parity (PPP),
would be about $ 2,400 per annum.

Yet, Nigeria with all these potentials and resource endowments ranks as one of the
poorest countries in the world. With high unemployment rate at an all-time high of 20.1
per cent, low life expectancy, averaging 45 years for men and women, with over 70
percent of its citizens living below the poverty line, coupled with its worst economic
indices of human development not only in sub-Saharan Africa region, but the world at
large, scoring an appalling 0.511 points and ranked 158th out of 182 countries in the
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Human Development Index (HDI)
report for year 2009, this ranking placed Nigeria at the bottom of human development,
only managed to scale above Togo, Malawi and Niger. In terms of perception and image
in the international community, the country has not fared better either. The annual
corruption perception index (CPI) report for year 2007 of the German-based
Transparency International (TI), ranks Nigeria as the 147th most corrupt countries in the
world out of 179 countries polled. The CPI is based on the perception of foreign
businessmen and fifteen (15) surveys from nine (9) independent institutions respectively.
Prof. Achebe in an Op-Ed article in the New York Times of January 15th, 2011 entitled:
Nigeria’s Promise, Africa’s Hope, stated that “since independence in 1960, an estimated
sum of four hundred Billion Dollars ($400 Billion) has been mismanaged by previous
administrations in this country, which is more than the gross domestic products of
Norway and Sweden combined.” This fact was recently confirmed by the authoritative
International News Magazine-TIME, in its special Timeframes issue of December 6th,
2010 on page 17, which chronicled global events between 2000-2010, the magazine
reported that money leaving Africa illegally (Nigeria, Inclusive!), increased from $13.1
billion in 2000 to $77.8 billion in 2010. In a similar vein, Global Financial Integrity
estimates that over the past 40 years over 854 billion dollars have been illegally
transferred out of African nations with Nigeria’s estimated loss of over 240 billion
dollars topping the list. The United States Foreign Policy magazine published a list of
failed states index (FSI), which since 2006 put Nigeria in the highest red alert
classification, with FSI of 90 or more. That indicates high vulnerability to collapse. A
failed state, according to the Crisis States Research Centre of the United States is “a state
that can no longer perform its basic security and development functions and has no
effective control over its territory and borders, the evidence is all over Nigeria, that the
various indicators released by the various competent international organizations were not
mere fabrications, but fact of realities on ground.

Leadership, according to Jean Jacques Rousseau is a social contract between the
leader and the followers. This relationship is bound by the element of trust and needs
to be nurtured and sustained by a culture of interigrity and uprightness. With it comes
responsibility and exemplary conduct. Such leadership has zero tolerance for mediocrity,
inefficiency, double standard, favouritism, nepotism, corruption and pettiness. Former
U.S President Dwight Eisenhower once described leadership as the “Art of getting
someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it”. This demands
that a Values-based leadership must command respect from its followers. The apathy,
cynicism and pessimism with regard to government policies and pronouncements will
give way to fresh air of trust, confidence, optimism and synergy between the leadership
and the followers. The impact visionary and transformative leadership has on the Asian
Tiger economies led by Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Thailand and Hong Kong, Western
countries led by the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, The Netherlands and
the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland) as well as the
emerging BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) respectively, is a testament
of its positive effect on the society and the world at large. Singapores’ Lee Kuan Yew is
a good case study, whose master piece-from Third World to First World, is a must read
for our contemporary leaders and aspiring ones. It is to his credit that Singapore, once
an impoverished country is among the fastest growing advanced economies in the world

The leadership crisis in Nigeria is as a result of wrong value system, that places so much
premium on material possession (not minding how it was acquired) and status than good
name, morals and ideology, greed, crass opportunism, materialism cum primitive
acquisition of wealth, inordinate ambition to get rich quick, identity crisis,
multiculturalism and diverse ethnic orientation of the country, with over 450 ethnic
groupings, that has engendered internal struggle and competition for dominance and
resource control at the detriment of other ethnic groups which led to instability in our
socio-political system and the inevitable incursion of the military in our body polity with
its attendant culture of arbitrariness and impunity, hence our inability to build, nurture
and sustain strong social and democratic institutions which will guarantee the emergence
of credible, competent, visionary, and exemplary leadership, we all yearn for.


Nigeria’s misfortune after the Nigerian-Biafran civil war and the banning from political activities
and subsequent death of it’s first generation leaders has seen the emergence of strings of
either weak, ineffective, corrupt, demagogic, non-visionary, dictatorial rulers or leaders
without much exception. The continuance of all-pervasive, anachronistic and highly
damaging feudal system has become a fixed frame of mind for the nation. This is in
direct conflict with democracy, progress and freedom, both social, economic and
political. Total neglect of education has wide spread socio-economic and cultural
implications and clear-cut effects on the society’s moral fibre. This neglect is only the
trend of a feudal society like ours, with no any Nigerian University among the Top 200 in
the world Universities ranking, after producing Africa’s first Nobel Literature Laureate in
the 1980s. Constitutional acrobats of 1956, 1962, 1973 and later undemocratic
amendments destroyed the system of government badly and uprooted the structural
integrity of our dear country. Weak governments paved the way for abuse of official
power, nepotism, tribalism, and favouritism for private gains by government officials,
politicians and rulers. The masses were trapped in a vicious triangle of struggling for
food, clothing, shelter and survival.

In the quest for the enthronement of credible and Values-based leadership in Nigeria,
there is need for a paradigm shift in our leadership, at local, state and federal levels and
in private and public life. There should be a top-down change in leadership perception,
psychology, attitude and mentality of Nigerians, particularly the younger generation,
who are the so-called leaders of tomorrow. By making them to embrace leadership
from a service-oriented philosophy perspective rather than see the call to lead as an
opportunity to satisfy personal aggrandizement, by amassing public wealth for personal
gains to the detriment of our collective interest and posterity. Change to a more engaging,
compassionate, patriotic, visionary, courageous and exemplary style of leadership and
the higher ideals of selfless service, sacrifice and integrity.

This will lift the country out of the morass of socio-economic and political retrogression and place it on the path of prosperity and greatness among the comity of nations. This can be achieved through the introduction of leadership and civics education as a course of study in the school curriculum at both primary and secondary school levels respectively, as well as its incorporation in the general studies programme of tertiary institutions of learning so as to expose the younger generation to the basic tenets, principles and fundamentals of leadership as well as the qualities they should imbibe to be able to provide the transformative leadership our country needs.

A Values-based leadership, will not only be sympathetic to the plight of ordinary Nigerians, but will also have a sense of mission and empathy, thereby promoting a culture of peace and stability which are sine qua non for socio-economic and political transformation.
For the Nigeria project to be sustainable and competitive in the twenty-first century
globalised economy, were the wind of globalization accelerated by forces of information
and communication technology, trade/commerce, finance, nanotechnology, medicine
and nuclear technology have combined to make the world a global village, a visionary,
courageous, selfless, patriotic and reformist leadership is imperative. Such a leadership
will redirect the social compass of this country to the path of moral rectitude, make

Case for values-based and services oriented Leadership in Nigeria, Africa

our economy vibrant and investor-friendly, so as to attract the much needed foreign direct investments (FDIs) and the realization of Vision 20-2020, combat the hydra-headed monster called corruption, which has eating deep into our social fabric, create
jobs for the teeming Nigerian youths, provide basic infrastructure like roads, hospitals, schools, utilities and address the myriad of structural and political problems hindering our
development and growth, as a nation.
•Arinze  is a graduate of Computer Science; he sent in this commentary from Lagos, Nigeria. He can be reached at


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