WHAT inspires the average Nigerian politician? What exactly drives him to seek power? Is it ambition, sense of entitlement, avarice, crave for emancipation, nationalism, tribalism, the quest to serve, building a legacy or compassion? Since every man is at the mercy of whatever drives him, the fortune of a people is determined by the force that motivates their leaders because no leader can rise above his driving force.
Leaders who have made impact across generations have been driven by great passions. Martin Luther King Jr was motivated by his desire to see all the peoples in his country treated as equals. He pursued this with the whole of his might and did not consider laying down his life for his belief too much a sacrifice to make. Though felled by an assassin’s bullets in 1968 in the pursuit of his dream, the dream for which he was killed is today a reality. Dr King Jr was driven by the hunger to emancipate his people.
Nelson Mandela was driven by a desire to see a country which was not segregated by the pigments of citizens’ skins. He wanted a united country; a nation that would be home to people of all colours, races and persuasions. For this he was imprisoned for 27 years by the apartheid regime in South Africa. The powers that be offered him freedom on the condition that he would abort his dream but his desire to see his people liberated was too strong to be jettisoned for fettered liberty. He opted to stay behind the bars until reason prevailed. Reason did prevail eventually and Mandela lived to see his dream come true. He was driven by altruism.
Lee Kuan Yew had a dream of building Singapore into a great economic and political entity that would not be tied to the apron string of any super power. Sequel to his tenacity of purpose and strong character, he was able to build a country free of nepotism and corruption. Within 30 years, he transformed Singapore from a backwater fish depot into a first world country. He was driven by the dream to build a country that would be great enough to be a pedestal for its citizens’ greatness.
Chairman Mao laid the foundation for the economic prosperity which the People’s Republic of China is enjoying today. Driven by the desire to improve life and living in his country, he repelled imperialism, modernized the country and built it into a world power. Mao, in 1957, launched a campaign known as the Great Leap Forward that was responsible for the rapid transformation of China from an agrarian economy to an industrial one. He was driven by nationalism.
Mahatma Gandhi of India was motivated by love for his people. This love made him to descend from the height he had attained to live the life of a peasant to help the majority of the people climb the ladder to the height he had reached. He got a huge following by leading an exemplary life. This enabled him to lead his people to independence without having to rely on violence. He was motivated by love for his fellowmen.
But what drives Nigerian politicians?
Avarice – How can a leader plunder the treasury to the extent that he becomes richer than the state and subject his subjects to penury? But that is the Nigerian reality. Driven by greed, many members of the executive and legislature have more houses than they can count, more money than four generations can exhaust and more cars than those who run auto marts. Nigerian leaders are driven by greed.
Entitlement – It is common in Nigeria to hear claims such as “It is our turn.” “It is the turn of the Southwest.” “It is the North’s turn.” “It is the Southeast turn.” For this reason, merit is sacrificed. This is why during a presidency or governorship, development is tilted in favour of the area that produces the incumbent. It is for this reason that the career of many senior military and police officers must be sacrificed to pave the way for an officer from the president’s region to emerge as either military chief or police chief. Nigerian leaders are goaded by a sense of entitlement.
Tribalism – Pray, how can a president ask for the development of a region to the exclusion of other areas in the country? How can a governor site a university in his village even when there are more viable locations? Why are we looking for crude oil in the North when the world is moving to cleaner energy? Nigerian leaders are mostly driven by ethnic fervor.
Philandering – What sense does it make for a governor or a senator to hold wild beach parties flooded with female university undergraduates who are paid to dance naked and minister to the lascivious yearnings of his guests? What manner of leaders will reduce governance to the elevation of hedonism?
How can an avaricious leader build a prosperous country? How can a tribal leader build a united country? How can an undisciplined leader build a responsible country? It can’t happen because of conflicts between personal and national interests.
Nigerian leaders are driven into office by mundane issues and pedestrian considerations. This is why they have brought the country to this sorry pass. Getting above the current state of the country will require getting leaders who are motivated by great ideas.
Leaders who make a difference in their spheres are driven by ideals higher than their person. They are not motivated by personal considerations or ambitions. They are not driven by personal aggrandizement. They are not those looking for personal benefits from high offices. They are people who deliberately sacrifice their present to purchase a glorious future for their people.
Are there such leaders in Nigeria?