2023: Qualities Nigerians Must Settle For – Leadership Experts

Prof. John Ekundayo and Prof. Vincent Anigbogu
Prof. John Ekundayo and Prof. Vincent Anigbogu

As jostle for Nigeria’s presidency revs up ahead of the 2023 general elections, leadership experts have been sensitising Nigerians on leadership qualities to look out for amongst the long list of political gladiators who have thrown their hats into the ring in order to get it right this time around. Speaking as guests on Saturday’s edition of Sunrise Daily on Channels television, Vincent Anigbogu, professor of analytical chemistry, and director general, International Institute of National Transformation, and John Moyo Ekundayo, an engineer, leadership development consultant, and organizational strategist, using Lee Kuan Yew, former Singaporean leader as a case in point, also underscored the need for mentorship in order to create a new generation of leaders.

Given the country’s present trajectory, Anigbogu noted that Lee Kuan Yew encountered a Singapore that was just as bad, even worse than Nigeria, but was able to change the situation, stressing that “anyone that’s giving you excuses means they lack the knowledge and the character to discipline their environment to conform to their standard”.

Highlighting the yardsticks by which Nigerians would evaluate the aspirants, Anigbogu said “First of all, you have to have moral fortitude because there are people that will fight you, so you must be morally strong and refuse to move. That’s what Lee Kuan Yew did – zero tolerance for corruption. And when his brother tested him, of course he dealt with him. Even his mother tested him, and asked for favour. He denied his mother favour and told the mother, we have set up a system, go and join the line; the system will take care of you. Moral fortitude is a requirement for effective leadership. Number two, emotional strength – ability to withstand pressure and not be forced to do what you don’t want to do, and be able to handle multiple of issues. You need to be emotionally strong.

“You need to be intellectually savvy. You need to understand how systems work; different systems – economic system, education system, and so on and so forth. You may not be an expert, but at least you should understand the basic principles so that you can make informed decisions. Of course number four, you must have good social skills to work with people from different backgrounds, and be able to relate with them. The people you connect to socially will treat you as one of their own. And finally, you need to have good physical strength because leadership is hard work”.

Anigbogu said Nigerians must also bother about “What is their moral strength? What is their ethical and moral foundation? What are the antecedents; what have they done in the past to show that they are people of ethical and moral strength?” According to him, “Emotional stability; you can evaluate that. Intellectual ability; you can evaluate that. And of course, social strength; how they have been able to work with other groups. And then we can also monitor their physical ability. If they can score average on every one of those, then I think you have a leader that may take Nigeria at least on the journey to total liberation and development”.

Identifying the three factors he posited, determine the success of any individual, Anigbogu said “Number one is how much knowledge you have. Number two is your character. And number three is the environment you operate in”, adding that studies have actually shown that the environment is stronger than character and knowledge. “You can have knowledge, you can have character, but once you are in the wrong environment, that environment would corrupt you and that’s why the scripture says bad company corrupts good character.

“So, who is a leader? All of us can give excuse and say we met an environment that is unconducive therefore there is nothing we can do. But that is not true. A true leader is someone that has knowledge or character, encounters an environment that is detrimental either to him, his family, his organisation; now instead of conforming to that environment, he decides to change it. A good leader changes the environment. Lee Kuan Yew encountered a Singapore that was just as bad, even worse than Nigeria. It was infiltrated by guns. A poor people; all kinds of things. No direct foreign investment. Everything we are suffering from today, they encountered. But a leader took a decision and said I am going to change the environment. Leaders change environments from unconducive one to conducive one. So, anyone that’s giving you excuses means they lack the knowledge and the character to discipline their environment to conform to their standard.

“That also means that nations take after their leaders. If you are a disciplined leader, and you insist on that discipline being exercised in your environment, people may fight you initially, but after a while, they would conform. But if you refuse to put your feet down, even you will begin to lose your discipline. Conversely, if you have a corrupt leader that lacks discipline, no knowledge, no standard, if you give them an excellent environment, they lack the ability to maintain that environment so they would systematically dismantle everything that makes that society great and they would bring that society to their level”.

Ekundayo however blamed followers for faulty leadership selection in Nigeria, when asked who to hold liable for the challenge. The engineer turned leadership development expert, who said he had contested the assertion by late Prof. Chinua Achebe in one of his books that Nigeria’s problem rested squarely on leadership, insisted that the fault lied with followers, particularly the elite.

“Why, because under the military, largely yes. Under the civilian administration, the democracy that we have been practicing for 23 years now, the fault lies squarely with the followers. We are approaching another election year again, people will say because of poverty, because of hunger, because of this, is the mere fact that we are having accidental governors. I’ve said it before, and I am saying it again – and we are having accidental presidents – it’s the fault of we, mostly elite who are followers, who will not care about who is there and that is where we are now.

“They will come and package people for us. I was just reading in the news. Can you just imagine the present chairman of APC saying that a month to this time, he was not even sure whether he would be the chairman of the APC, the ruling party in our country? Somebody saying that openly! That means this man was not prepared. That is the irony of the thing. Accidental leader! And we have many.

There was however a consensus of opinion by the two guests on whether any of the aspirants met the qualities prescribed by Anigbogu. Though Ekundayo said they were “far, far” from that perspective, he said “I could see maybe a ray of hope in just a few; not many of them”, stressing that rating them was not what he would do on national television.

Anigbogu, also believed some of the aspirants met the leadership template he had enunciated. He said “Quite frankly, there are quite a number of good candidates, and if Nigerians can use these yardstick, this template that I have given – moral uprightness, emotional stability, intellectual acuity, social intelligence, and physical vitality – you find quite a few of the candidates that can really lead this nation. Unfortunately, my fear is will the process produce them? Number two, will the people allow their conscience to lead them instead of their stomach? If the system will be fair, and people will be allowed to express their view, then I will say there is hope for 2023. But if those two are not allowed to be given full expression, then we are back to where we are”.

The duo also agreed that leadership could be learned. They suggested the need for deliberate mentorship of the young ones to bridge leadership gap.

Ekundayo said over time, it had been discovered that leadership can be learned. According to him, “People are not just born with leadership traits, leadership traits could also be learned like the example Prof gave about Lee Kuan Yew. Even you have to unlearn some things….I was four years in Singapore; I resided there, I schooled there, and then I moved on to Malaysia. I want to give an example of Malaysia because Singapore will be too narrow because of the kind of democracy they operate. But in Malaysia, you don’t just see a prime minister emerging anyhow. That prime minister must have been a minister of education, of health or defence or internal affairs, foreign affairs; not just one ministry – two or three. Go and look at their antecedents. So, a time will now come they become deputy prime minister. And if he’s able to learn – three, four, five, six years – no skeletons in his cupboard, by their own system, automatically, you will get there In about two cases like that, it didn’t work out. So, it’s not just a novice coming into the system and then he’s not a team player; he doesn’t know how to bring people together. He doesn’t know how to actually lead”.

Anigbogu who said he had been spending 80 percent of his time mentoring the young ones, emphasised that “If we are going to give our youths a chance, we need to really begin to mentor them. We need to begin to teach them; spend quality time with them. Our leaders are acting as though once they die, leadership qualities would be transferred by osmosis to our children. No; leadership qualities are transmitted through mentorship, by bringing them closer; by sharing secrets with them. That attitude among adults is quite frankly very disturbing and that is why there is such a gap between the adult generation and the youth generation”.

Speaking further, he said “I don’t mind telling you that I am spending 80 percent of my time nowadays, mentoring youths, spending quality time with them. And I have found out that they are willing to learn if anybody is ready to teach them. If they are going to take over from us, we must be deliberate in mentoring them, in teaching them; to take them from a place of ignorance to a place of character maturity. And we have to demonstrate everything we teach. You can’t lack character and talk about character. Then we have to tell them about purpose so that they’ll know that there is a purpose they are created to fulfill in their lives. And you teach them how to have influence. If we can do that, then there is hope for this nation. But unfortunately, many of us are so busy consolidating our positions. One day, we would die and there’s no one to take over from us”.

Anigbogu frowned at adults “laming the youths when they have not yet sat them down, mentored them in truth and honesty. “Actually, we have modeled lies to them, we have modeled deception to them, we have modeled hatred – we are teaching them hatred. We are doing the very opposite of what our national anthem commands us to do. To deny them that opportunity and to turn around and accuse them of being incompetent, quite frankly, is an excuse that is not acceptable among my generation. We have not mentored our youths”, he posited.

Noting that it was never too late to start mentorship, Anigbogu said he was glad to hear that recently, the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies, NIPSS, in Kuru, Jos, Plateau State, started a youth training programme to begin to mentor the next generation. He stated that “Before then, the people that usually end up in Kuru are people who are almost out of their way out of government. NIPSS should be primarily a place where young people between the age of 25 and 40 are mentored and prepared for leadership. We need to take development of future leaders very serious. So, I am beginning to see something good”.

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2023: Qualities Nigerians Must Settle For – Leadership Experts
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