An adage says, “Show me your friend and I will tell you who you are.” This should be re-framed “Show me your leader and I will tell you the follower you are.” This shows that leaders and followers co-create each other. There can be no leadership without followership and the reverse is also true. In his wonderful book, The Wretched of the Earth, the French-born Algerian statesman, Frantz Fanon argued that ultimately the people get the kind of leaders they deserve; and the leaders deserve the kind of followers they get. After all, a leader is anyone called to guide, teach, command, motivate, inspire or plan. By this, we all are leaders.
The National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) which has a glorious past in the 70s and the 80s due to its strong stance in defence of interests of students and the downtrodden in the society. But what went wrong suddenly? Today it is difficult to distinguish NANS activities from motor park touts. The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) made this point early 2014 when Delta State NANS Joint Campus Committee executives paid the Union a courtesy visit. So where are the leaders of tomorrow?
Like NANS, a University Campus branch of the Non-Academic Staff Union of Universities and Other Educational Institutions (NASU) did something quite amusing. Its members’ monetized benefits were allegedly cornered by the Vice Chancellor thus provoking the Union to embark on an indefinite strike. It is instructive to know that the Union leader, on been summarily promoted by the University Management from level 4 to 7 suddenly abandoned the poor workers and mortgaged their futures for personal gratification. Do we still have the moral authority to question our leaders when they collect huge World Bank/IMF loans and these never get home?
The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) embarked on industrial action in 2009. The Union accuses the Minister of Education, Dr. Sam Egwu of not heeding to the plights of the Union because his children like those of other high ranking public officials in Government had their children in foreign Universities. Suffice to say that ASUU threatened to publish the names of public officers’ children in foreign Universities. The Minister also claimed he has the names of children of ASUU members studying abroad and threatened to publish their names. We are yet to see any lists from both sides till this day!
These instances were cited to justify the assertion that leaders and followers are co-creators.
Dynamism is one of the hallmarks of leadership. If we continue to use the same old responses, worn-out theories, old failed approaches instead of creating new ones we honestly aren’t expecting things to change. I am sure no one recalls experiencing bomb blasts being a daily practice two decades ago. These are the realities we live by in Nigeria today. But to respond with an overtly short-staffed, ill-equipped security agencies to a fire-emitting Boko Haram is to say the least crooked thinking. The Americans were told in clear language that they were in the 21st Century and no longer the Civil War, Cold War, Vietnam, or Gulf War Years of the 20th Century during the 9/11 attacks. Robert Green in his book, The 33 Strategies of War noted that there is nothing good that comes out of fighting the last war.
Just as a confused leader cannot lead effectively, so are a divided, unfocused, disorganized and disoriented people cannot follow. The latter is been taken advantage of by unscrupulous politicians for cheap political gains. So, leaders and followers are not independent of each other.
Only clear-headed persons can effectively lead. But ordinary clear-headedness without visions is like tea without sugar. Since the needs of today are not necessarily those of tomorrow, good leaders try to phantom them in advance to avoid creating a vacuum. It is this lack of vision that made countries like Ghana to do better than we are presently doing. Great visionaries like have visions that presently elude us.
Also, a leader must know which role to play per time. He must be able to discern the role he plays in every situation. At war time he is the Commander-in-Chief or Chief Security Officer; at peace time he is the Father of the Nation, shunning partisanship in any form; during the period of division he is the Uniting figure and so on. In Nigeria, it appears our leaders don’t know what role is expected of them per time. It is for this reason they get poor advice from their Advisors who are only bent on flattering their Master’s egos.
Great leaders spend their time understanding the needs of their people. When others are bothered about winning the next election, or their party, or tribal origin, they do their best to satisfy their people. They are like marketers who are told satisfy the needs of their customers, to guarantee their loyalty. It was this great truth that Franklin D. Roosevelt understood, as US President during the Great Depression (1929-1933), when he chose to pitch his tent with the poor who were most affected during this period. For these acts, he was rewarded with great victories in four consecutive elections which are unprecedented and unsurpassed in US history. This was what led the great political leader and perhaps the most influential religious figure in World Civilizations, Amenhotep IV, Pharaoh of Egypt (1360-1350BC?) to say: “The glory of a King is the welfare of his people; his power and dominion resteth on the hearts of his subjects.” The greatest leaders have taken heed of this eternal truth.
Also, the greatest leaders are not those that lead from the mountains. They pay attention to the deepest levels of human experience. They don’t make themselves super humans. In essence they are humble. It becomes very difficult to see situations clearly when one is surrounded by such luxury Nigerian leaders are infected with. All these rather make people blind hence they depend on second hand reports from their unreliable lieutenants.
Great leaders give everything in their service to the people. History is not in want of leaders whom gave their lives in the service of their people: Mahatma Gandhi(India), Abraham Lincoln(USA), John F. Kennedy(USA), Peatrice Lumumba(Congo), Malcom Little (Malcolm X) (USA), Martin Luther King(USA), Ernesto “Che” Guevara(Argentina), Amilcar Cabral(Guinea-Bissau), Salvador Allende(Chile) and many others paid the ultimate price with their lives. Others have endured painful punishments and assaults: Nelson Mandela(South Africa), Denis Brutus(South African), Fidel Castro(Cuba), Juan Peron(Argentina). Others like Ahmed Ben Bella(Algeria) and Kwame Nkrumah(Ghana) were exiled from their countries due to their defence of their people.
We are indeed in a period of great triumphs and potential pitfalls. The World, Nigeria especially, is in dear need for leadership and followership. To make the difference, the leaders must set the pace for the followers. The World is in desperate need of Inspirational leaders, not necessarily politicians. That is why as young people we must set the pace. It never comes by asking rather it comes by demanding.