FEATURE ARTICLE

Uchendu ChigbuMonday, December 3, 2007
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VIEWING NIGERIA'S BAD GOVERNANCE IN THE CONTEXT OF BAD FOLLOWERSHIP

wholly and strongly believe in the wisdom William Sumner (1906) posited when he said that:


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'The critical habit of thought, if usual in a society, will pervade all its mores, because it is a way of taking up the problems of life. Men educated in it cannot be stampeded by the stump orators. They are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain. They can wait for evidence and weigh evidence, uninfluenced by the emphasis or confidence with which assertions are made on one side or the other. They can resist appeals to their dearest prejudices and all kinds of cajolery. Education in this critical faculty is the only education of which it can be truly said that it makes good citizen.'

These words when engraved in the marbles of the minds of humanity could carve a route towards the foundation for the solutions of many of humanity's inherent problems today. Many of us who are really worried about situations around us can take solace in trudging forward to assimilating the above words as a great push towards self discovery and self action.

As a young Nigerian, my greatest headache and worry is founding a path through which I can contribute towards dragging our country out of the dungeon of bad governance. I believe many (like me) are cracking their heads day-in and day-out; philosophizing, idealizing, campaigning or physically fighting for a better Nigeria. Which ever route one takes towards reaching a solution, one basic intellectual ingredient is needed, if the mission must be a success - that in my view is 'critical thinking and critical intelligence.' This is one ingredient that is today obviously lacking within the spheres of most of our national and regional judgments within the entity 'Nigeria.' But can critical intelligence and thought appear into our nationalistic philosophies from a void? Obviously not! This basic intellectual element of human survival normally develops in individuals who bring it into a group from where it could move mountains.

In his search for the cause of the Nigerian problem, Chinua Achebe, lamented in his book 'The trouble with Nigeria' that the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. According to him, 'there is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal examples which are the hallmarks of true leadership'. Many others, such as Tai Solarin, Wole Soyinka, Gani Fawehinmi have come to agree with this assertion. Though, I agree with Achebe's position that '…there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate or water or air or anything else, (and that) the Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal examples which are the hallmarks of true leadership', I strongly DISAGREE that 'there is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character.'

Our country has come a long way; it is a land of milk and honey, a land of groans and tears - a land full of future promises; and past and present woes. I vehemently accept it as a country suffering from bad governance. By 'bad governance' I intend to emphasize that the problem with Nigeria is two fold - Leadership and Followership. I intend to use this piece to assert a position in my belief in the ideology that one of the major problems holding Nigeria back today could be traced to bad-followership. This problem has maintained a regular consistency in the history of our nation.

The trouble with Nigeria today can be said to be simply and squarely a failure of followership. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate or water or air or anything else; but there is something basically wrong with the Nigerian character. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its followers/citizens to rise to their responsibility; to live up to the challenges of coactive and proactive actions (or reaction) which are the hallmarks of true followership. Bad followership is the bad feature that I see in the Nigerian character. The whole idea of us always blaming only the leadership and ignoring the ever influential characteristic nature of the followership is like expecting a woman who is already pregnant with a monkey-fetus to deliver a bouncing human-baby.

The leadership has been a hard-hearted, dictatorial and sadistic terrain that will never change unless it is matched with a simple, common-sensed and sensitive followership willing to see things as they ought to be seen and do things as they ought to be done. The Nigerian leadership (past, present and future) have formed a complex web within and outside the followership cycles, enmeshing the entire system with confusion and political complexities that enables it draw a substantial portion of the followership along with it in an effort to carry us along and make us share its draconian ill-values and ill-cultural traits. This is not a kind of leadership that can change on its own. It can only change when the followership withdraws from the bilateral or symbiotic relationship that it shares with bad leadership. If this does not happen, forget it, we all will write and talk and shout and even die while the bad deeds go on. To create effective followership today will be a way to quail the bad leaderships of today and tomorrow.

Bad governance has proved to be the most consistent feature of our polity. The architects of this bad governance have always risen from our gallery of followership into the so called circle of 'bad leadership'; and our inability to sanitize the country from the followership gallery can also be blamed for the sinking boat of our nation today. It is mainly effective followership that can stir up effective leadership; history has shown it rarely goes otherwise. Our legendary musical philosopher and crusader, late Fela Onikulapo-Kuti warned us all against this in his various afro-vibes, especially the popular lyric and tune termed 'suffering and smiling.' May be we should practically start considering Fela's message to the masses (the followership) rather than viewing it as the ranting of a drug addict, or the groaning of an aroused insatiable womanizer.

We constitute the problem - not only Obasanjo, Yar'Adua and their cohorts in the leadership region of our social system. Our inability to caution these men is really where the problem lies. Many of our good citizens have gone into leadership and returned to the followership as corrupt and ordinary men. Few have journeyed away from the followership gallery into the leadership class and came home to the followership cycles dressed in tarnished reputations. While few have also refused to undertake the journey to leadership for fear of being smeared with the oil of glut that keeps the leadership wheels moving in Nigeria. The general followership has on the other hand constituted a national zombie that reacts in tune with the demands of our corrupt leadership, therefore, accepting, assimilating and digesting the socio-politico-economic nonsense that cascades on our heads from the leadership fountains of Abuja. Yet, we all sit here and there writing and pouting for the leadership to change. How can they change if we do not teach them to change? How can a stubborn child do right if he is not spanked into doing right? When will the expected change from our leaders happen? The answer is simple, it will only happen that day when Nigerians can stand upright without fear and not only say enough is enough, but put the saying into doing. That is the day the bad leadership will either be shaken or leave forever. It is not wrong to say that this will surely happen, because history has shown it always does happen whenever the elasticity of tolerance of the masses become over-stretched beyond its limits. Ours have been at a nonsensical over-stretchiness in the greater part of the history of this Nation; but the Nigerian bad leadership seems to be a very lucky one - to have been blessed with a followership imbued with unnaturally high tolerance level. How long will our tolerance last?

Our condition as a followership to an ever damning leadership can best be expressed in the poetic imagery of an obsessed audience in a theatrical concert of melancholically obsessed stage-displayers. They (the leadership) blow their trumpets and swerve to drums and transfer to xylophones like a star-studded jazz band with gesticulations catchy and movements entertaining without losing pitch as each instrument blends into next as songs with high gusto come forcing us (the followership) dance and dance and dance. And battered, we will remain an audience joyfully clapping to them (the leadership) until we come to a decision to 'act.'

The artistic gyrations of our leaders create applauses from a helplessly carried-away followership. That extremities are allowed to mingle in Nigeria can best be said to be the fault of the followership and not the leadership. This is because the mingling of extremities creates an enabling and sustainable environment for the leadership to stay and remain in what they have vowed to remain (bad). So in the whole 'show', the followership become the losers and leadership the wins. The fact that we (followers) have not fought to win is a national tragedy which constitutes a problem. Followership becomes a big problem when it fails to create effective opposition that can effect national problems to the betterment of a state. Our leadership is a complete write-off, so throwing the blames at them is like begging an addictive nudist to go shopping for heavy clothing. It will tantamount to waste of time! The massive side of our society where appeals should be made for change is the followership; and a change from this point will catalyze a catastrophic failure of bad-leadership at the other point. How can we achieve this? True followership/citizenship education can make it happen. Only a kind of education that makes citizens critically minded citizens can make good citizens. The day we can resist the cajolery of our leaders will be the day this country resurrects from its present moribund life. Until this happens, the followership can best be said to be ineffective - and this is bad followership, where many of us belong. To educate the Nigerian masses on adequate opposition postures and critical thinking, let us give this rare genre of civil life enough space in what we say, write and do. Let us start emphasizing on how our citizens can positively rebel against bad causes in order to create good effects.

Bad leadership is to me the only reason many are good at rendering criticisms, but practically lack the will-power to change things when called upon to lead. On the other hand, bad followership is the only reason why many can lick the boots of a cow in order to keep their mouths shut or praise politicians when they should condemn (or condemn when they should actually praise). We come face to face with followership challenges everyday, but prefer to stay living and paddling on the waters of fate and 'feeble faith' - sometimes under the auspices of intellectualism and most times in the eyes of open cowardice. We tend to always harbour fear in our approach towards casting bad leadership away. We have become a nonsensical followership and have converted our revered country into a nonsensical habitation by living nonsensical lives - we make 'gods' out of 'crass objects' like most of our wicked politicians. We are afraid of poverty, yet we are in poverty; and prefer to 'exist' rather than 'live or die.' That is the way I view us (the Nigerian masses of today) - a followership filled with the 'talents of cowardice,' therefore have allowed bad leadership to germinate and grow branches. Our bad-followership character is what has taken us far into today's horizon of political, social and economic gloom. We dance to the tunes of bad-leadership so easily that we are used by the politicians. We have endured costly nonsense from various leaders, but we pretend to smile even though we suffer. What we need is a no-nonsense followership; not a nonsensical one.

That the Nigerian masses have grown to swallow all the political rubbish being presented to them (line, hook and sinker) is the real problem of today. Leadership can only exist because there is a followership. Where there is no followership, there will be no leadership. Until the Nigerian followership follows right, the leadership of Nigeria will always do wrong. It is the mass-silence to issues like bribery and corruption that made it find a happy home on our land. The mass-silence of Nigerians was what aided Chief Obafemi Awolowo to seize the leadership of Western Nigeria from Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe in broad daylight (on the floor of the Western House of Assembly) in 1951. It was mass-silence that aided Dr. Azikiwe to pack back home to Eastern Nigeria and push Eyo Ita and his team out of office and occupied the government house with his own men. Mass-silence has allowed ethnic politics to take hold because the masses have resorted to voting their leaders on tribal bases. Bad governance creates chaos, but it is usually the case of bad followership that sustains bad governance and that is where the Nigerian masses can be held responsible. For things to be right we all must follow right and by so doing, we will directly or indirectly oust bad leadership in Nigeria. To form a good followership, the masses must learn to listen and understand the language of our leaders. We have to be proactive and coactive towards following only the right steps, with confidence and without fear. We need to denounce wrong without fear and with confidence by fighting suppression and oppression wherever it exists. We have to take risk towards protecting our children's future by fighting for justice to prevail at all times. We must uphold loyalty and honesty in all our dealings in our country. Most importantly, we must vote leaders based on their merit, not ethnicity and set aside personal agenda and focus on national results - we must also fight to see that the right electoral results are accepted and the rigged ones are rejected. We must stay in touch with our environment and government and insist that our collective contributions germinate into national realities. We must hold our leaders responsible when they err or cheat and make them stand only on the path of justice. If we cannot do these things then we are a big part of the problem. At the moment, that is what we are!

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