Nigeria’s Ambassador to Switzerland in the Second Republic, Ambassador Yahaya Kwande, speaks with ISAAC SHOBAYO on leadership problems confronting the country, expectation of Nigerians from the new leadership of the National Assembly, among other issues. Excerpts:
A lot of Nigerians belief that the bane of the country is leadership. so, what is your opinion on those in leadership positions in Nigeria presently?
You cannot have a community without a leader; you cannot have the gathering of people, even in the house without a leader, and a father is the leader or head of a family. There must always be a leader in any organization, be it religious or political group. But in Nigeria, we have degenerated. The fault is not even from the leader; the fault is in the ordinary citizen that cannot even identify a leader. Of course, we have leaders but what sort of leaders do we have; can’t people asses them?
Ordinary Nigerians should be the ones to assess those in leadership positions, and you can do that easily because these leaders are moulded by the community. You don’t born a leader. I think the ordinary Nigerian today is civilized enough to know who is a selfless leader with integrity and reputation. Leadership has qualities and qualifications, I blame the Nigerians because sentiment is taking over the patriotic zeal of citizens; leadership now is not determine by the actions of those in authority; also, behaviour, good virtue no longer determine who is a leader.
People now vote on sentiments. Religion and ethnicity have become the yardsticks for selecting a leader. The question often asked now is whether the person standing for election is a Muslim or Christian; or whether he is of my tribe or not. The Sardauna of Sokoto did not emerged as a leader on sentiment.
I believe Chief Obafemi Awolowo did not emerge as a leader on sentiment; neither did Dr Nnamdi Azikwe emerge as a leader on sentiment. They emerged by the estimation of people of them. Can you imagine that the Sardauna died more than 30 years ago and people are still talking about him every day? The same thing with Awolowo and Azikiwe. Search your mind and surrounding if you can see among the present-day leaders that can be compared with the late Mallam Aminu Kano, especially in terms of selfless service.
So, the problem now is the greed of the present-day leaders; they have little knowledge of their environment and care less on the welfare of the people who defied all kinds of weather to vote them. Ordinary citizens are not being treated with decorum. The leaders of today place personal interest above the collective will of the people; that is why our leaders in the First and Second Republics remain our heroes still today. You cannot fault them when it comes to the people’s welfare and good standard of living. They set the pace, but the leaders of today have refused to follow their footsteps because of greed.
Against the background of all you have said, how do you see the state of the nation?
On the state of the nation, we are moving; some aspects of our life are changing gradually and taking shape; people are beginning to have a change of mind, especially the Judiciary. From all indications, they are out now to sanitise and stabilise Nigeria.
From what we have seen in recent times, it appears we have hope because it appears the Judiciary has woken up and ready to salvage this country from the hands of those taking the advantage of the way and manner we practise democracy to feather their nests. So, I can see light at the end of the tunnel. Therefore, there is nothing to be afraid of as to the state nation. I was impressed with the way the Senate and House of Representatives elected their leaders without rancour and acrimony. That is to say, we are on the verge of getting it right.
I don’t mind what happened behind the scene; I don’t mind also what happened outside the hallow chambers, but based on what happened in the Chambers on the day of the election, I was so impressive that I don’t mind who won the election. It was clearly and honestly done. If you give me money outside and I came here left alone and you did not give me a paper to vote for a particular person and I am the one to cast the vote on my own, you did not interfere that is ok by me. Whether we like it or not in such kind of election, there is bound to be lobbying and all manner of horse-trading.
Even in advance democracy, you cannot rule that out. But, I must tell you that by that leadership election in both the Senate and House, our federal lawmakers exhibited some level of decorum and maturity. All what they need to do now is to consider the plight of Nigerians as they commence their legislative duty because all eyes are on them. Also, building a nation is not only the function of the executive arm alone, but legislative arm inclusive. I strongly believe that through appropriate legislations, they can contribute their quota to the development of Nigeria.
What are your expectations under the new leadership of the National Assembly?
My expectation is that it would work out well because there is a semblance of freedom and devoid of not too much interference from outside like it used to be in the past. The speeches of the Senate President and the Speaker of the House shortly after their elections were encouraging and I hope they would abide and keep to their promises. Nigeria needs a vibrant National Assembly and we hope this 9th Assembly would not let the country down because expectations of Nigerians are high.