When stillness is and isn’t fair-haired

About twenty years ago, I read through a compelling book that completely rocked the boat of some ‘wishy-washy’ values I earlier held very close to my chest as a man would hold his newly wedded wife: “Silent No More.” Since then, I have come to understand that on the condition that a leader would not stand to speak as an effect of his or her deep-rooted convictions, no one else would stand to get the job done, because it is very hard-hitting to speak when others keep quiet for the reason of either compromise or fear. Also, I have come to understand that a nation as Nigeria would continue to swim in the pool of status-quo until true leaders begin to rise to bring about an enduring change. In other words, Nigeria needs true leaders more than natural resources!

Natural resources without true leaders are not capable of making nations great! Even if we discover crude-oil in every state in Nigeria, we will still not become a 1st world country on the condition that we do not have true leaders. Nigeria is bedeviled with people who are not leaders, but masquerade as leaders. And till today, we are in a dire need of true transformational leaders. This isn’t debatable.

Almost all African nations are failing even though they have more resources than some of the developed countries in the world. This should enlighten you and me that it takes more than natural resources for a nation to become prosperous and take its equitable place in the comity of nations. Also, it takes leaders whose minds are fully developed to develop the nations, because no one can give what he or she does not have.

They say talk is cheap. No! Talk is not cheap in a nation where everyone is voiceless. There will always be a time in the history of every nation where either one man/woman or a group of people would need to rise to become the voice of the voiceless. There was a time when Desmond Tutu became the voice of everyone in South Africa and there was a time when late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. became the voice of every black man and black woman in the United States of America and there was a time when late Mahatma Gandhi became the voice of everyone in India. These breeds of leaders are called the moral voice and conscience of their varied nations. They fearlessly, vociferously and articulately speak to those in power, not to pull them down and to enthrone themselves in order to use power for profit. They did know that power isn’t to enrich self, but to selflessly serve those within their spheres of influence.

Nigeria is in a dire need of those who have the required capacity and character to speak to those in the corridors of power, not because they want to pull them down in order to enthrone their own political babies in adult’s skin, but because they love the nation. Over the years, I have seen attention seekers—who masqueraded as the voice of the voiceless. They were hungry people looking for what to eat and after getting it, they kept quiet. The people I am describing here are not driven by their bellies. They are pleased and comfortable with what they already have. They know the true purpose of power: power is for selfless service, not to steal what belongs to the masses.

When is stillness not fair-haired? Stillness isn’t fair-haired when it is necessary for you to speak for your family, community, state and nation. When you keep quiet when you are supposed to speak, you are a coward! I remember the story of a prevailing leader in one of the cities on the inside of the promising nation of Nigeria. There came a time when the man wanted to pass on the baton of leadership but he did not want to handover the mantle of leadership to a spineless man. One day, he gathered all his warriors together and stood before all of them and deliberately abused their fathers. Why did he do that? He did that because he wanted to see who would be courageous enough to open his mouth and abuse his own father back. All of a sudden, one of his warriors opened his mouth wide as river Jordan during a raining season and did not only abuse his father back, he went ahead to abuse his father, mother and all his progenitors! After abusing back everyone in his lineage, the young man picked race and ran to his wife. When he got home, he said and I quote: “my master abused all our fathers and because I am not a coward and bastard, I did not only abuse his father back, I went ahead to abuse his mother and everyone in his lineage. I know he will soon come for me to kill me…” A few minutes after, the horse of his master showed up, but instead of the man to kill him, he disembarked it and saluted his courage to speak when others kept quiet! And it was that day that he passed on the baton of leadership to him. Am I teaching you to become abusive? No! I am only teaching you that stillness isn’t fair-haired when you should speak!

When is stillness fair-haired? When you speak when you are supposed to keep quiet, you’d become a sounding cymbal, making irrelevant noise. Leaders who know their onions do not speak carelessly. They are not cheap attention seekers. They do not speak because they like speaking, but they speak because they need to speak. They do not go on either Facebook or Twitter to rant on every issue because everyone is talking. Silence is only golden within the context of when you are supposed to keep quiet.

Lastly, if you want to succeed as a leader, do not surround yourself with men who would keep quiet when they are supposed to speak. They are called “yes men.” And “Yes men” are in your life to use you. They will later plunk and dump you when you become irrelevant as a leader. A wise leader would consistently surround himself or herself with those who have the required strength of character to speak—when they are supposed to speak and keep quiet when they are supposed to do so. See you where great leaders are found!