Towards a collective legacy

Taiwo Odukoya


A people come, great and strong, The like of whom has never been; Nor will there ever be any such after them, Even for many successive generations. – Joel 2:2b

Great leadership, in popular imagination, is often considered as the heroic, visionary and selfless accomplishments of lone champions. History reinforces this. We think of Abraham Lincoln as the wise eccentric, who singlehandedly declared the emancipation proclamation and set the slaves free; Winston Churchill as the lionised leader, who stared down the Germans and saved Britain; Gandhi as the ascetic sage, who won India her independence through sheer moral force; Martin Luther King as the thundering orator, who defied segregation; Mandela as 20th century saint, who dismantled apartheid and birthed a rainbow nation.

These leaders, and others like them, were indeed phenomenal in the feats they accomplished. But that is not the full story. What is often not told enough, is that every such leader had a company of patriots and collaborators that made it possible. Like Daniel of old, they had a company. In other words, for every one Abraham Lincoln, there were the millions who died enforcing the abolishment of slavery; hundreds of thousands of British fighters, behind Winston Churchill, who died defending the Isle; thousands who starved and turned the other cheek with Gandhi, who marched with Dr. King, who went to prison with Mandela, were exiled and died fighting for the anti-apartheid cause. Robert Putnman, the Harvard University, Public Policy professor, was right when he said, “Our national myths often exaggerate the role of individual heroes and underestimate the importance of collective effort.”

The great victories of every epoch are not just individual feats, but collective achievements. Perhaps this is what Franz Fanon understood when he said, “Every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it.” And so, while we typically ask the question of leaders, “What would you be remembered for?” We should also ask each generation, today even, “What would we be remembered for?” In his popular 1998 book: The Greatest Generation, the journalist Tom Brokaw described the generation, who grew up in the United States during the deprivation of the Great Depression, then went on to fight in World War 2, and whose productivity laid the foundation for decades of prosperity to come, as “the greatest generation any society has ever produced,” arguing that they developed the values of “personal responsibility, duty, honour and faith,” and fought not for fame and recognition, but “because it was the right thing to do.” So, as we navigate the labyrinth of our current challenges as a nation, it is imperative we define what it is this generation is going to be remembered for.

It is true. Decades of leadership past have not led us in any meaningful direction. But what are we going to do? Are we going to keep pointing fingers at leadership and bickering about tribal and religious agendas, or are we going to rise up to be the defining point in Nigeria’s history? Don’t get me wrong, leadership is important and will always be, but they are elected and empowered to serve by the mandate of the people. It is time we began to rise above primordial sentiments and begin to elect leaders that are genuinely patriotic, whilst also calling for the rejection and removal of those who do not hold our best interest at heart. We have to shut the doors against political saboteurs; people in the ilk of Sanballat and Tobiah, who, driven by their own greed, come not to build, but to distract, plunder and destroy. It is time to establish a political climate that makes it impossible for such people to operate. It is time to refuse those who divide to subjugate and encourage those who are truly visionary and caring.

We can be the generation that insists on transparency and accountability. We can be the generation that insists on true democratic principles and fair electoral practices. We can be the generation that insists on adequate infrastructure and accessible, quality education and healthcare. We can be the generation that rejects violence and the murder of innocent people, all in the name of religion and political sentiments. We can be the generation that insists on the establishment of a truly egalitarian society. Let us be the generation that lays an adequate foundation of tomorrow’s great Nigeria.
Nigeria Has A Great Future!

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Taiwo Odukoya


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