Friday, December 30, 2005

on leadership

It is a commonplace to blame the problems of Africa on poor leadership. While there is some truth that poor leadership perpetuates problems of corruption, non-transparency and all the rest, it has always struck me as a somewhat simplistic analysis. Good leadership cannot thrive without good followership, that is, people who will pressurise, critique, encourage, reject and so on as appropriate. In Nigeria as elsewhere, a history of poor leadership has its corrolary in a history of poor followership. The elite have been happy to hang on to whatever spoils of oil that have come their way, whereas the poor have been too downtrodden to act or react to the follies of the powerful. The situation hasn't changed in twenty or more years in Nigeria. Even the grief and anger following the recent air tragedies has now dissipated.

As well as pressure to improve governance, a solution to this problem of weak followership also needs to be developed. The problem is that in Nigeria, wisdom and respect is automatically conferred upon the old (or the older), regardless of word or deed. This deferential structure needs to be challenged, for it is clear that the elders have failed miserably (as leaders and as followers) in Nigeria. Most of all, young people need to be shown about the importance of their right to vote, in the run up to 2007.


Nkem 2:56 am  

People get the governments they deserve, and this is very evident in Nigeria. My hope for 2006 is that the youth will rise up and seize what is ours. Arise oh compatriots!

Kemi,  3:27 pm  

I have to disagree with you on this one, Jeremy.

There cannot be followership in a land where the leaders are forced on the people.

An undemocratic, unaccountable government doesn't give a hoot about what the people say.

The newspapers are filled with examples of good follwership as you describe it. Many of the writers ended up in jail.

Dele Giwa in the 80s was bombed, Saro-Wiwa in the 90s was hung.

Pressure needs to come from both within and without.

The international community should render give opposition groups where human rights violations, and corruption are the main complaints.

Not turn a blind eye or collude with them.

Teju Cole 5:50 pm  

I completely agree with you Jeremy.

Nigeria is full of bad leaders, but one of the saddest things I noted on my recent trip is that the followership has reached abysmal lows.

Dele Giwa, Ken Saro Wiwa and their ilk are in a tiny minority. Most Nigerians seem to have given up on the country, and most are willing to do whatever is most convenient for them.

It wasn't always like this. There was a window of opportunity, perhaps, in the 1980s, when we had bad leaders and the mass of honest Nigerians suffering under their rule. Now, ordinary Nigerians have turned on each other. Ordinary encounters are laced with menace.

A complicated, saddening issue that I'll probably go on and on about on my blog.

Anonymous,  8:23 pm  

spot on Jeremy. It is not enough to promote good leadership, we must also have good followers. leaders and followers need each other. The leaders inspire and show the way and the followers productively critique the way their leaders are directing them. Unfortunately, bad leaderhsip and follower is the norm in nigeria. Part of this lack of critical engagement must be blamed on the new wave of religious fundamentalism that is gnawing away at our brain and soul. This new movement doesn't promote critical questioning, instead, the pastor is the arbiter of absolute truth and any kind of questioning is outsourced to Baba God - an act of ultimately stupidity and irresponsibility. Nigerians does deserve the kind of leaders they get. Those pumping money into good governance should also think about pumping money into promoting critical consciousness.

Teju Cole 3:01 pm  

"Those pumping money into good governance should also think about pumping money into promoting critical consciousness."

I'm with you anonymous. So, what can we do? How does that process start.

How do you promote a people's critical consciousness? How do we foster more minds of the kind Kemi mentioned?

Anonymous,  7:08 pm  

for a start we need public spaces where we people can come together to discus, interact and exchange. we need books (all kinds - actually maybe not!) to be made available cheaply so that they imagination can be opened up. We need public spaces that screens non-hollywood or only the most progressive type of hollywood films. Funding should be giving to university students to set up societies like they do in the west - i.e. society for the daughters of sappho! Ifa mathematical soceity, The Che Guvera society. Safe our Tree society etc. something. Anything. funding should be made available for people writers, poets and creative types to go into schools and give workshops. Young people shown the options available to them. We need community newspapers that is about transforming society and profit is only a second goal. Talk radio shows that would explore the banal aspect of daily existence. TV programmes that shows young and old doing wacky and wonderfully eccentric stuff. Funding should be pumped into activities that will open up the imaginative intellect. we will be suprise how fast the society is transformed. These suggestions are not some far fetched ideas, they are actually doeable with a bit of money and people power.

lets have more suggestion.

mw 12:43 am  

Good followership is important. And truly, the young need to be made aware of the importance of their right to vote. Problem is, what is the use of a right to vote, when it is an open secret that your vote doesnt count in Nigeria's corrupt system? The votes cast in the next elections will not determine who leads... that is already being fought for now between the usual suspects and we are daily seeing the drama of it. What can the voter do, really?

Happy new year,

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