‘Nigeria is suffering because of poor leadership’

Prof. Olukunle Iyanda, NIM President


The 21st President and Chairman of Council, Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM) chartered, Professor Olukunle Iyanda, in this interview with GLORIA EHIAGHE, spoke on the need to re-engineer economic management for national transformation, and how the country can wriggle out of developmental challenges that are hinged on inept leadership among other ethical and national issues. Excerpts: 

What influenced the choice of ‘Re-engineering Leadership for National Transformation’, as the theme of this year’s Annual Management Conference? 
The current agitation for a better country influenced the choice of the theme of this year’s conference. Re-engineering is about pragmatic and radical change. It is an intensive, top-down, vision-driven effort that requires nonstop participation and support. As you know, perhaps the most current issue in the country now relates to the structure of Nigeria. So, the institute has decided to re-examine these issues and capture it in a broader prospective. That is why we have chosen the theme of the conference as ‘Reengineering Leadership for National Transformation’.

As we know, transformation covers restructuring, review of policies, and review of the type of government we run among others. Re-engineering means reviewing your total operational model with a view to optimising objectives. That is the issue we want to look at, how we can change this country for the better by looking inward at ourselves, at our leaders, their responsibilities, their behaviour, their adherence to laid down principles. This is what the 2018 annual national management conference of the institute would be looking at this particular point in time. At the end of the conference, there would be a communiqué on what we need to do as a country, in order to get Nigeria where we want it to be. That our country operates for the benefit of the wellbeing of the people, rather than just of its leaders.

The institute would continue in its efforts to improve management practices both at the micro corporate level as well as at the macro governmental level. As we journey into the future, we will neither relent in our quest to bequeath a well-trained and productive workforce to the nation nor will we be tired until mismanagement, maladministration, corruption and other social vices, which have hampered Nigeria’s development, are exceptions rather than the rule in our country.

Nigeria as it is today, serves its leaders and not its leaders serving it. If we sum the bogus money spent on the legislators for the jobs they do for less than 150 days a year, for which they collect in one month what some people collect over a life time, it is just indispensable, and this country needs to be restructured towards the benefit and consideration of its people, not its leaders.

There is too much power distance in this country, followers hold these people in too high esteem. Unless the people are educated and they begin to look at issues very well, the nation cannot be transformed. Until we begin to shun these people, we won’t get the kind of leadership we deserve.

Nigeria’s developmental problems are often hinged on bad leadership. How best can the nation wriggle out of this? What do you think is the turning point for Nigeria as a democratic society?
To come out of these problems, we need resources, skills, and management leadership. These are three principal ingredients of development. When we talk of resources, Nigeria is a blessed country. We have natural mineral resources in abundance. For skills, Nigeria has a lot of skills in various sectors and the population, who are the market.  The management leadership creates the environment in which the two other ingredients can function properly. They do so by creating enabling environment, because there are certain things, which cannot be done on a commercial basis. Management leadership provides the opportunity for e skills to be utilised; it provides the resources to be exploited. Nigeria is suffering because of poor management and poor leadership; people who are not contemporary in their awareness, their perception of the world. We must integrate ourselves into the global community, and that means getting our acts together. We need to get a leadership that is contemporary in its thoughts process and his awareness about Nigeria, vis-a-vis other countries of the world.

How would you access the Federal Government’s effort on the Ease of Doing Business, as well as its Economic and Recovery Growth Plan (ERGP)? Are these working effectively? 
I believe the government is sincere, but there is always a problem with the implementation, which is our headache. The policies of ease of doing business in the various sectors of the economy, particularly in the public sector are well intentioned. The President signed the Presidential Executive Order, but it is not being obeyed. This country has good policies but our problem has always been implementation, and unless serious sanctions are imposed on people that disobey lawful instructions, we won’t move forward. These things can work but for them to work, a little bit of pressure and of course serious sanctions are necessary, because until people are made scapegoats and people now see that government means business, they will refuse to change. We have not seen much of sanctions and penalties and a bit of pressure in this country.

What measures can be taken to ensure investors’ confidence is retained in the economy as politicking for 2019 general election intensifies? 
When you are investing, you are committing yourself in today’s environment to tomorrow’s environment, which you don’t know.  If you cannot reasonably predict what the environment will be tomorrow, you cannot invest, that is the reality. People creating unnecessary political tension for their personal self-aggrandisement are doing us all a lot of damage. It is not that they are not aware; it is just because their greed and selfishness override their piety and morality. People should analyse all these people causing us problems and vote them out. Nigerians proved three years ago that an incumbent President could be voted out; when a government does not perform, that government must be changed.
Until Nigerians do not operate by sentiment, hold government responsible, and evaluate it objectively, we will not make the desired progress. Nigerians need to develop a long-term perspective in exercising their franchise and not looking at instant gratification. Why is the country tensed? Can anybody boast what will happen to the country after May 2019? Will there be peace in the country?
About 91 political parties will contest 2019 general election, what does that tell you?

Many of those parties know they will not win even a single seat, but it is a strategy for negotiating a deal. No more manifestos, they just talk. If you hold the philosophy of life very deeply, you don’t need to move from one party to another.

What is the institute doing to sanction managers who are found to be corrupt?
When NIM hears information of its member involved in any corrupt practice, if we find out and see that the allegations are true, we remove such a member from our register. I advocated during my inauguration that appointees to public offices should become members of professional associations. Professional associations discipline their members irrespective of positions. Once you are found wanting, you are removed entirely from the association.

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