Two-tone leadership

On the 19th of October, 2016, I woke up to a radio show—where the crucial issue I am synoptically raising today was raised as dust. While listening to the radio show in question, a man called in and said: “…Hypocrisy in leadership in Nigeria stinks up to high heaven… The leaders break the law with impunity, but the followers dare not do so…” When those words came out of his mouth, they sent cold water across my spine. In a few minutes he spoke, he did an apt x-ray of both the past and present leadership of Nigeria. And it cuts across every sphere of our national life.

One of the major hallmarks of 3rd world countries is that the colour (law) for the leaders is always different from the colour (law) for the led. The bar is usually raised very high for the led, but always lowered to the ankle level for the leaders. In Nigeria, leaders can break traffic rule, but the followers are not allowed to do so. Leaders can steal with impunity, but followers cannot. Those in leadership can marry minors, but the led are not allowed to do so.

In the corporate world, an MD can date and sleep with female employees under his leadership, but that must not happen amongst his employees. And a head of department can smoke and drink in office, but it must not be done by those within his sphere of influence. This is it: One standard for those in leadership; another standard for the led.

Many years ago, I read through the story of a leader—who fits into the mould of what I am passing on to you today. An information filtered to him that one of those under his leadership got pregnant without having a husband. You know what that means.

When the leader in question heard about what transpired, he said, “…Bring her out and burn her alive…” What a very sententious leader! And sententious leaders are usually very pretentious. Do not forget this as long as you breathe.

As they were pulling her out to enforce the rule of law that was declared by the leader, the woman motioned to them that she had an important information for them. One of those who were on ground to carry out the given order said: “Let us hear what she has to say.” All of a sudden, the woman in question began to speak. And indeed she spoke volume. By the time she finished speaking, it became evident to all that it was the leader who gave the order to burn her alive who actually impregnated her! When the sententious leader got to know this, he changed the rule in the middle of the game. He never said that he should be burnt alive. The colour for him was quite different from the colour for the woman. This is a clear cut picture of the leadership we are providing in Africa today. And this is why we are still where we are today.

When we read or hear about nations that are doing so well, we usually desire the same for our beloved country, but little do we know that the law that binds the peasant in those countries also send the president to the prison. A few days ago, a member of the royal family in Saudi Arabia was executed for breaching the law of the land. The same law that affects the commoners also affects the royalty. I doubt if this can happen in Nigeria in the next 25years, but the truth is, until we get to this level, we do not have a nation yet. To build a nation that works, there should be one colour (law) for both the leaders and the led.

In the same vein, it is very easy for people to swiftly criticize someone they do not like, who do what is wrong, but keep quiet when someone they like do the same thing. Folks swiftly label people they do not like as corrupt, but give folks they like another label, though swimming in the same cesspool of corruption. It is called hypocrisy and it is ruining us as a people.

When it comes to principles, I do have a lot of respect for Mahatma Gandhi. In the community he was building in the early days of the move that liberated Indians from the claws of the British people. How do I mean? There were rules he put in place in the community and they affected everyone, including himself. This is one of them: It was a rule for everyone living in the community to wash the toilet. They were rotating it. It was a communal life.

When it got to the turn of his wife to wash the toilet, she protested against it saying how could the wife of Mahatma go so low to wash the toilet? When Gandhi heard about it, he took his wife on, giving him two options: To either wash the toilet or call their marriage quit, leaving the community.

Gandhi made a statement that has refused to leave me for so many years now: “…It is not ab out me, it is the principle.” He esteemed the principle even above his wife. And when people saw this, he was able to earn their respect some more. Gandhi was not a two-tone leader!

Lastly, in Nigeria today, people are bigger than the law. The rule of law screams when it sees the poor, but keeps quiet when it sees the rich and those in the corridors of power. I do hope the current president of Nigeria would get to read through this piece. We can never have a truly prosperous nation without the rule of law affecting both the leaders and the led in equal proportion. One colour (law) for the leaders and another colour (law) for the led will keep us at this level for a very long time.

See you where great people are found!