We have bad leaders because we are bad followers.

Note: This piece was written a year ago but i never got the chance to share it. Since events in Nigeria are pretty much the same, i decided to publish this now.

Jungle justice is a very common practice in this part of the world. This often occurs when a poor hungry person steals food, a mobile phone, or other petty items. The person is brought to justice by an angry mob, stoned, maimed or burnt to death without any chance of explaining or defending his/her crime. With a society where such occurs, one would think that such reaction occurs every time a member of the society steals. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case as this only affects the poorer members of the Nigerian society where of course, stealing is not exclusively linked to. The richer and more affluent members however, get away with such practices. What’s particularly interesting is that when these political thieves are seen on the streets, they are hailed rather than maimed and life goes on as usual.

Looking back at the history of this country, it is evident that we haven’t had great leaders. This is the same for current times. Leadership has become one of our greatest challenges that one often wonders why there are always leadership seminars taking place in a country that clearly is clueless about that which it tries to teach. Bad leaders didn’t just emerge out of nowhere as these leaders were once followers. Nigeria is plagued with bad leaders and followers and because the followership is bad, the leadership will always be bad. Leaders come from the people and so the bad leadership we currently have is as a result of the kinds of people that the followers have produced.

The audacity of the current leadership is so shocking that sometimes i wonder if this country can ever recover from the damage that has been created by previous generations. A generation which creates laws that they are above, divert state funds for personal projects, and whose solution to the terrible roads we currently have is to buy SUVs to reduce their chances of getting affected. Why aren’t we the people, the followers, demanding more? Why aren’t we holding these leaders accountable? When we see them in public, why aren’t we stoning them or bringing them on their knees to answer to us the people who they rob daily?

Bad leadership is what Governor Akpabio exhibited when he ignored traffic laws that ended up causing an accident. The audacity of this man was further exhibited when he flew to England for treatment instead of going to the hospital in the state he governed for 8 years. This basically means that this man couldn’t trust the hospitals in his own state so decided to fly out for the best healthcare. Of course millions of Nigerians cannot afford to fly out for healthcare and so are stuck with the deplorable state of our healthcare system. Akpabio boasted of a state of the art hospital in Uyo which is not still functional even after he commissioned it. When will these leaders learn that building a state of the art infrastructure is not all that's needed. You need people with the required skills to run those facilities. Getting those people takes time, a lot of investment, political will and a vision. You don’t just wake up one day and build a hospital with state funds without thinking of where the qualified doctors will come from. He plans on bringing foreign doctors into the country to run the hospital. The economic implication of this decision alone gives me heart palpitations. Whatever happened to using Nigerian doctors and training them to operate at international standards? What about offering Nigerian doctors in the diaspora an opportunity to come back home to utilize their skills and at the same time contribute to making the health sector a better one?

Good decision making is paramount if one is to be a leader and frankly, our leaders lack that. I visited rivers state a few weeks ago and landed in Port-harcourt. To my dismay, the airport arrival wasn’t an arrival. It was a tent where alighted passengers waited for their luggage. It rained heavily that day and my first impression of Port-harcourt was not a very good one. No carousels brought in our luggage- of course we were in a tent. Instead, young and old men had to physically lift passenger’s luggages into the tent and all of them were drenched. Getting around the city was impossible. I thought Lagos traffic was bad but it's nothing compared to what i experienced in Port-harcourt. The roads were so bad and because it rained, all the very large potholes were filled with muddy water. Some vehicles were getting stuck in potholes and others stopped working due to electrical issues brought about by water-filled potholes. Huge tanker vehicles weren’t exempted and the okada drivers were the ones who suffered the most.

Rivers state should have better infrastructure compared to other states because it is an oil producing state but the reality is rather appalling. Governor Rotimi Amaechi had boasted about his works and what his regime achieved but i didn’t get a sense of any sort of development. He also flew in a few young people in his private jet to show them what he had achieved and i am utterly surprised that none of these young people could even report on the true nature of the state. The youth are meant to be the future of the country. If a chosen few cannot be honest about national issues because they may potentially benefit from the liaison then this drives my point further that we aren’t so different from our leaders. We aren’t good followers and we do not demand accountability and transparency, rather we worship self serving individuals at the detriment of our future, the future of our country and the future of our unborn children.

Some have said the south-south states haven’t been treated fairly relative to the amount of oil being produced. Whilst this may be true, we cannot overlook the fact that a few leaders in the area benefit from the situation. Even the militants in the area have benefitted from the situation in the south but how many of them do you see investing back in their communities? At first it seemed they were fighting for justice, equality etc but when communities get handsomely compensated, it never trickles down as only a few benefit. Again, this is the same trend of bad leadership created as a result of the sort of followers we are. This highlights the fact that our leaders are us and so every Nigerian at the moment is potentially a bad leader — unless we do something drastic to change this trajectory.

I propose we stop worshipping political leaders who have looted our treasury and have not done anything tangible for their states. I propose we stone thieving leaders on the streets and make them feel ashamed. If we do not shame corrupt leaders, then we are in fact passing on a message that corruption should be celebrated, especially to young impressionable Nigerians. No country should ever do that, definitely not a country which still struggles to provide basic amenities for its people.