It is a privilege to lay my hands on the book titled ‘Making Change Happen – Partnering to Build Nigeria’. The book is about the life of Richard Lee ‘Dick’ Kramer with contributions from eighty plus nation builders on how to make change happen in Nigeria. While reading, the book reveals the fascinating story of ‘Dick’ Kramer told by himself and contributions from a broad spectrum of family members, friends and business acquaintances and colleagues. This piece is not a review of the book but to share an important quote on leadership which has broadened my horizon since I came across it. The compelling need for this piece is to sensitize fellow countrymen and women that Nigeria has a long way to go if the nation has not started grooming committed leaders with shared vision in quality and quantity to build our beloved nation. Cleverly tucked in the book is a quote from Manuel Soto whom ‘Dick’ claimed with pride had taught him and his contemporaries that ‘it only takes one committed generation to build a great nation’.
Nigeria is indeed a country with enormous human and material resources as well as potentials, but committed leaders are not readily available. Committed leadership is the key ingredient in any prescription for change. A committed leader must have an ‘open door’ policy. By ‘open door’, it does not mean that a leader should open his or her doors to anybody while in office. It is about opening door of opportunities for their followers, it is about good attitude and having a passion for making a difference. Committed leaders have a continual passion for making a difference in people’s lives by providing opportunities and empowering them to be successful. A committed leader must be of good attitude and must be able to walk the talk. The change that Nigerians voted for during the last election has not been completely actualized because the incumbent president is taking his precious time to scan the Nigerian space for credible and committed leaders who could occupy strategic positions in government. Nigeria needs leaders and followers who are patriotic.
Patriotism is the national side of nationalism, a feeling of pride, loyalty and love for one’s nation. Regrettably, most leaders provided by our dear nation at whatever level of government are not patriotic because their loyalty is in doubt. For instance, how do you measure the loyalty and love of a leader for his or her country when 250 girls are missing for over a year? What is the loyalty and love to a nation displayed by a leader who perpetrates the theft of about 250,000 barrels of crude oil and ensures that proceeds from the sale are stacked away in a foreign bank account? Are we saying that state governors who cannot pay salaries of their workers are loyal to their country and followers? Have leaders who superintend over bogus fuel subsidy claims exhibited love, loyalty and commitment? What about the missing US$150 billion stowed in foreign accounts around the world?
It is not that Nigeria has not been fortunate to make some progress since independence but it has not been steady. In spite of efforts in the past 55 years of nation building, Nigeria is more insecure, less stable with huge unemployed and underemployed youths, but less confident than it was at independence. The result is that Nigeria of the twenty-first century goes to the negotiating table empty-handed seeking assistance from developed nations that have organized their societies, educated and disciplined their citizens. In the name of bilateral relations, Nigeria now goes round looking for nations that would provide assistance. Why is Nigeria always begging, when it is known that there is neither ‘free lunch’ nor ‘friendship’ in international relations? Relationship at the international arena is based often on national interests. Nigeria must take something tangible to the negotiating table which is determined by its national interest, not a begging bowl. The lofty dreams of our founding fathers remain unrealized with our dear nation standing on shaky political, economic and moral foundations because Nigeria has not been able to muster a generation of committed leaders.
This writer is not aware that there is a specific time-tested formula that could be applied to building a nation. Since the days of Adam Smith, all economists and politicians have agreed that the wealth of a nation is not based on wealth and opulence of its rulers, but on education, productivity and competitiveness of its citizens. The writer is optimistic that change would be actualized when Nigeria starts carefully to muster committed leaders available in the public and private sectors of the economy. However, a country with largely ostracized citizens, who are increasingly crippled by economic needs, can hardly produce committed leaders. How does Nigeria raise a generation of committed leaders to manage the affairs of the country? It must start from the individual level before extending to the family level. At the family level, families of like minds who share the same vision about building a great Nigeria will come together. This can be expanded by combining with other committed leaders to build a lake, then a sea and finally an ocean. This, according to ‘Dick’ Kramer, is the ‘oasis of sanity’ and it is a basic formula for building Nigeria’. Nigeria needs leaders who will lead by deeds and not by words, achievers not deceivers. Leaders who will walk the talk. Leadership is not everything but it is very fundamental in contemporary Nigeria. God bless Nigeria.