By Andrew A. Erakhrumen
We do acknowledge and appreciate feedback on our articles. Interestingly, a number of them conclude that we have been dwelling so much (or too much?) on leadership as the main challenge to Nigeria’s development without paying attention to followers as being partly responsible for this. Those holding this opinion are entitled to it even as they are not absolutely correct considering that in the past we had similarly stated that “…..we have been criticised for, and confronted with questions relating to, holding ONLY people in government responsible for Nigeria’s challenges…..” We went ahead to agree that “…..the challenges encountered, today, by our country have the active contributions of the followers…..” Yes, glaringly, we have been prioritising our efforts toward getting leadership right but it is rather untrue that we have not been talking about challenges encountered from irresponsible followership. For instance, we stated in earlier articles, concerning the oppressive tendency of Nigerian leaders that “…..those who got the short end of the stick [the oppressed]…..also aspire to transmute themselves into the other state [oppressors] [in order] to also oppress…..” Certainly, “…..political leaders – many of whom, formerly, were followers before attaining ‘leadership’ status – are from the same society as their followers…..”
Therefore, in order to buttress the position of those who hold the opinion, sincerely, that followers are part of the problem, we asked “…..Is it people in government that cheat consumers by selling inferior products for the price of higher quality ones in our markets? What about those tampering with measuring devices in order to cheat buyers? …..After selling eight ‘cups’ of grains as ten, what moral right do such a person have to criticise government? What of the artisans whose intention is to cheat their clients in all transactions? …..” In addition, “…..When those saddled with the responsibility of preventing fake or substandard products from getting into the country connive with importers to flood the markets with these same products, how do we explain this? When civil servants refuse to do their job, and/or decide to hide files, in order to be bribed, what do we call this? The civil servants who steal, and aid politicians in stealing, public resources, cannot be said to be morally upright…..what make you…..followers – who regularly drive against traffic or do not obey traffic lights – different from…..law-breakers that call themselves your leaders?…..If all [of us have been doing] things…..right, in individual’s varied corners, we are very much likely to not have experienced this unfortunate…..decadence in our country today…..”
These and more, as enumerated in a couple of our earlier articles, are some negative contributions from followers to the deepening underdevelopment being experienced in this part of the world. Nonetheless, without making any attempt – in any way – at justifying immorality, illegality, unethical practices and corruption; we have submitted, objectively, somewhere that “…..you cannot be engaging in huge stealing at the top and be expecting moral uprightness from petty thieves below! You (and those in government) cannot be stealing the commonwealth dry and simultaneously preach moral fidelity to others. This is sheer hypocrisy! …..” Of course, this story is completely incomplete at this stage! Part of it is that there can not be any moral justification for employees (or followers) to ruin the investment (public/private) of investors. Businesses have been forced to temporarily close shop, collapse completely or relocate because of infrastructural challenges, government’s brutal predatory and rentier mentality, policy somersault and sabotage by workers. Sadly also, potential investments and businesses are being frustrated by employees’ fraudulent practices! Morally unacceptable ‘anomalies’ have now become ‘explainable’ and ‘acceptable’!
It appears as if those employees see most entrepreneurs as representatives, or members, of the Nigerian ‘ruining’ elite. Nevertheless, it is worth mentioning that those running Nigeria aground are not investing in things that generate wealth here! Even when in government, their mind and loots are domiciled in foreign lands! Employers of labour have different tales of woe to tell. It is so pathetic that many potential employers of labour have decided to not venture into legitimate businesses in Nigeria. Unbelievably, these are successful people in those businesses in ‘saner’ climes. What, then, make the difference here? The existing mindset and attitude! Appallingly, those things seriously considered immoral, yesterday, are accepted, today, even by older generation! Nigeria has established a choking but infectious negative super-structure that need dismantling. This super-structure is built on virulent predatory tendencies and modalities that resist interrogations and criticisms. It also refuses to give in to any system that encourages well-defined criteria for rewards and sanctions. We must tell ourselves that Nigeria is now a dog-eat-dog society! This is partly why we opined in another intervention, and still maintain here, that followership is certainly a part of the PROBLEM Nigeria is encountering but the PROBLEM is actually the leadership!
The foregoing is contributory to an interwoven and knotty underdevelopment network requiring solutions from a new leadership cadre that can positively disrupt the status quo represented by the aforementioned predatory super-structure. This new group of positively disruptive leaders, with solutions, is unexpected from those “…..criticising government in power only for the purpose of getting into power and to not add any value to governance…..” It is a tall order to expect this disruption from beneficiaries of the existing warped system. However, if peace, security and tranquillity must be sustainably ensured; then, proper leadership that gives high priority to equity, fairness and justice must be enabled and supported. This kind of leadership is ‘easily’ installed and legitimated through popular support with its positive objectives and clearly defined system of reward and sanctioning being readily acceptable. Leaders are supposed to chart a positive course while followers support them. This is the way to go! Contrary to the misconception that Nigerians are difficult to lead, the reverse is the case as long as leaders, themselves, are not lawless as it is – currently. Followers are sensitive to roadmaps! Whose responsibility is it to give roadmaps? Is it not leaders’? This is why all efforts toward finding solution(s) to poor leadership cannot be overemphasised.
*Andrew A. Erakhrumen currently teaches at the Department of Forest Resources and Wildlife Management, University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria.