• Tuesday, March 05, 2024
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BusinessDay

Appraising the millennium goals (1)

MA_Johnson

When people say that traveling is ‘education’, it does not mean that you are going to be a genius overnight. Travelling however, broadens your horizon and certainly exposes you to thinking differently while helping you to embrace unique cultural practices. All of these will sharpen your brain, make you react quicker, think through logic and enable you work through problem solving more efficiently. Have you travelled out of your state of abode to other parts of the country? Have you had the opportunity of travelling out of Nigeria? These questions are invoked to let you know that St Augustine, a theologian, prolific writer, and teacher of rhetoric, once theorized that ‘the world is a book and those who do not travel only read one page’. You must make it a duty to travel both within and outside Nigeria when the opportunity present itself.

In order to recharge my battery on leadership, governance and economic development, I quietly took time off my schedule to the Manchester Business School, UK. This is necessary after a distinguished naval career.  It was fun discussing topical issues in world affairs particularly Africa.It was pleasurable having a British professor of Ghanaian descent, and other erudite academics professing and pontificating on economic woes of African nations brought about by poor leadership in the Twenty-first Century. Whilst the program lasted in the UK, what kept reverberating in my cerebrum was the abysmal performance of Nigeria in leadership, governance and economic development after sixteen years into the millennium.  Ladies and gentlemen, another millennium is on the move. Do you know where the nation wants to be by the end of this millennium? You may think it is too far, but do not forget that it takes a generation of committed leaders to build a nation. Anyway, finding myself in the lecture hall again reminds me of my days as a member of the faculty at the National Defence College, Nigeria where under the rotunda of Abacha Hall we always ruminate, discuss  and suggest possible solutions on policies, strategies and visions of governments in areas relating to national security.

During group discussions in the UK, it was established that a nexus exists among leadership, governance and economic development as participants profoundly exploredand analyzed various definitions of leadership. After a study of a body of research work, this writer finally settled down with the definition of leadership espoused by John P Kotter, the “Konosuke Matsushita” Professor Emeritus, at the Harvard Business School on leadership and change. Kotter defines leadership as “the development of vision and strategies; the alignment of relevant people behind those strategies; and the empowerment of individuals to make vision happen, despite obstacles.”In other words, any leader worth his salt must have a vision, articulate strategies to achieve the vision, muster brains not brawns to actualize strategies, and empower followers by creating opportunities for them even in the face of economic obstacles.The operating words in Kotter’s definition from this writer’s standpoint are vision, strategy, and empowerment. Let’s elucidate these key words within the context of this piece.

Vision

There must be a clear reason for a vision. Vision is very necessary but not sufficient for economic development of a nation. Without resources to back a vision, it will only be on paper. When there is vision, it creates shared success, demonstrates resilience, and clarifies boundaries. Vision within the context of governance must be firmly rooted in national security. It is a failure of national vision, if there is any, when youths are unemployed, talents are wasted, and poverty level is high, child mortality is increasing. The influence a national leader exerts in altering moods, evoking unity and expectations, and in establishing specific desires and objectives, determines the direction a nation takes.  By implication, the setting of a vision is widely recognized as one of the principal tasks of any leader.

But ‘’where there is no vision, the people perish’’. The ineffective leader is unable to consider the purpose of his or her task in a broad context and does not involve others in seeking to activate that purpose. He or she operates solo in the short term and frequently in pursuit of personal rather than the national interests. Having said all these, what is Nigeria’s national vision? I do not know. Do you have an idea about our shared vision as a nation? As a nation, it is not about where we are today but where we want to be in future that matters in a globalized and highly competitive world. How do our national leaders see Nigeria in the future?We’ve got to work towards achieving our national vision. For instance, if the government says education is free to all students up to secondary level, how will it be done, what is the cost, who are those in public and private sectors of the economy that are to play important roles in attaining that vision? All these questions need answers so that visions of leaders are not vague.Nigeria needs a tangible vision, attainable within a period of time.

Strategy

Strategy is about articulating the mode of survival of a society. Any society that lacks national strategy for its survival in the information age will barely survive. In fact citizens of such a society will be spectators in world affairs. This observation explains 2 major phenomena of strategy with respect to society.  “The first is that the failure of any society to recognize the importance of strategic thinking and professionalism accelerates its own decadence. The second phenomenon is that most strategy is misconstrued to convey negative survival instinct of an individual as against the overall benefit of the society”.Thus, lack of strategic coherence and continuity of policy asphyxiate development. This is the bane of most developing nations especially Nigeria. Overtime, Nigeria has not done exceedingly great in its economic development agendas because of greedy, ill-prepared and unprofessional people mustered on several occasions to implement policies in key sectors of the economy.  This has negative effects on some sectors of the economy. For instance, it is no news that in Nigeria most sectors namely power, health, steel, transport, banking, oil and gas including education sectors are not doing well. This is because the objectives (ends) to be achieved in these sectors may be well defined, but the ways and means of achieving the ends are not properly articulated as a result of personal interests of political leaders. Consequently, you find visions, policies and strategies tangentially opposing each other. These sectors need surgical operation for Nigeria’s economic survival. (To be continued)

 

MA Johnson