It is now only one month to the anniversary of an independent nation called Nigeria, and only a few months to the inception of another electoral process. Whatever our history has been, we now have a chance to influence our future. If any foundation will be laid, that will flourish for another 50 years, we must decide to pick up the gauntlets dropped by our collective accusers, destroyers, and spoilers- but it is our choice. The choice is individual, and little drops of water will make for a blessed future. No one shall have the right, nor the power to overcome his personal or communal challenges in the incoming generation, if he has sowed no seed today for her future greatness.
As for IBB, OBJ, and whatever acronyms, seem to animate us these days, remember, they are yesterday's men, and nature will take care of them in due course. However, their legacy is mixed, and while some argue for their right actions, others berate their wrong actions. In all these, we are forced to look, dwell, and if not careful, be stuck in the past. They did what they felt compelled to do, and history, and heaven will judged them. Similarly, history and heaven will judge each for the opportunities we are given to steward our nation, whether at the sedentary level or the highest level.
Now, we should look to the future, to the generation that is coming, to the vision that will correct the past, to the leaders that will activate a newer vision. And it is the sum of the transformational individuals that will bring forth a transformational generation. One of the key attributes of transformational (change agents) leaders is KNOWLEDGE! It is said, a people perish for lack of knowledge, for they have rejected knowledge. Historically, people look up to the leadership for knowledge – and by that I don’t mean certification. But actionable knowledge, to build capacity and to create value for the citizenry.
In the past 6 months, I have had the privilege of presenting papers to about 450 civil servants, from junior to director level, through 6 separate seminars or workshops. In these interactions I have learned considerably, what makes a nation work, and how it can both be destroyed or rebuilt. This, from the people who manage our collective commonwealth.
In contrasts to the cerebral outpourings of various speakers, activists, political commentators, etc, these Nigerians were able to share enough practical, actionable knowledge, that one wonders why the country has not moved beyond its present, sedentary level. But they all convinced me of one thing. Most persons vying for political office, and whom they receive instructions from, are complete novices when it comes to statutes, laws, regulations, etc, that are necessary to govern our vast, and complex nation well. Many of these politically ambitious, they say, have passion, and some specialised education, but not enough information about the various loopholes, bridges, systems, designed into the various civil service protocols. Thus, when they come in, they are not able to perform according to their passions.
Many civil servants of officer level have several university degrees, professional qualifications, ongoing cross training, and vast knowledge of various acts, decrees, laws, and management methodologies. When confronted with a political leader with clear lack of understanding of any of these, they have a private chuckle. The bad eggs among them are able to manipulate the novice political leader at will. One common revelation however, is that the relatively successful political leader in government, who can make all ends meet, is one who was once a civil servant. The summary of their argument is this – many political leaders are completely ignorant. Some may say, they tend towards corruption, or lack passion, or lack patriotism – but that is for another debate.
The quality of decisions leaders make is dependent on the quality and amount of information available to them. Leadership is not a subject in most universities in our nation, and neither is instruction on the nature of our government and civil service. The success, or failure, of the George Bush Jr presidency was hinged a round one single decision – Iraq’s possession of weapons of mass destruction, and the ensuing war that cost 100,000 Iraq lives, thousands of allied soldiers lives, and a bill of 1 trillion dollars. One decision, based on false premise, instigated within the American civil service, and made available to a political leader. That issue also almost cost distinguished Colin Powell his reputation earned over 35 years as a soldier, intelligence and security advisor. A colossal waste of resources, which effect is still affecting the entire world today.
Clearly, many of us have not bothered with learning and relearning how to manage governmental operations. National security, economic policies, internal administration, judicial process, diplomatic methodologies, inter-government protocols, and many others. We read a few journalistic expressions and form whole doctrines from them. Yet, we are not only ambitious for high office, we castigate everything and everyone. I shall be publishing the full report of my interaction with the civil service in a magazine in due course, and it shall be part of the submissions of the Town Hall Meetings Project (THMP) to the Nigeria Jubilee Project.
The ability to read Newsweek, and write a note or two, or coherent comments on newspaper headlines will not make us capable of leading a local government, not to speak of a state or complex nation such as ours. We need more from the next generation - not merely passion, and patriotism, but a humble willingness to learn, and relearn and keep relearning about governance and leadership, and about the systems we desire to manage through the political process.
The next generation deserves no less. It is not a matter of emotion, or faith, or sentiment. Our very lives depend on all of us demanding knowledgeable leadership, regardless of partisan considerations. And it is my hope that those reading this, with a heart for service, will get on their knees and begin searching for more understanding, wherever it is available. That our emerging leaders should begin to burn the midnight oil, not of political meetings alone, but of wisdom gathering. That they BE PREPARED TO LEAD, and not just getting elected.
We demand no less than the best, it is our right, and it is our expectation. So that we do not make the same mistakes of the outgoing generations. This is a heartfelt appeal to emerging leaders.
God bless you, and God bless Nigeria.