‘Nigeria in need of transformational leaders’

Foremost lawyer, Mallam Yusuf Alli, SAN, has called for the entrenchment of transformational leadership if Nigeria must move forward as a nation. Alli, who spoke at the 10th Annual Lecture of the University of Lagos themed, “Governance and Democracy in Nigeria,” said the success of governance in any organized political system is determined by the quality of leadership in the government.

While lamenting that after 56 years of political independence, Nigeria still battles with leadership and governance problems, Alli said the crop of leaders that have attained leadership position since independence, lacks vision.

He also expressed regrets that most of Nigeria’s political leaders were neck-deep in corruption and political bickering which he said led to the enthronement of maladministration and mismanagement of public resources with attendant economic setback and abject poverty among the people.

According to him, “Nigeria needs more than ordinary managers of national affairs. Good governance inheres in good leadership. Without transformational leadership, Nigeria may continue to lag while other societies continue to speed to success and in some cases using Nigeria’s resources.”

He said despite huge resources put into the implementation of policies geared towards good governance, there have not been visible changes in the living standard of the citizens, adding that the effect of corruption has had adverse effects on the development of the national economy.

His words: “Corruption is one of the major reasons for the poor economic performance, decaying infrastructures, the rising cost of living and poverty in Nigeria. The fight against corruption is that of the survival of the nation itself.

“The socio-economic and political development of a country depends on its ability to entrench and sustain good governance which is expressed in a committed, patriotic and disciplined leadership with a vision to advance the quest for national development.

“Sadly, Nigeria has existed for over five decades with little or no record of such socio-economic and political development. This ugly trend is connected with the pervasive corruption noted in the country.”

According to him, a decadent and corrupt society would not expect much in the area of accountability from their leaders adding, “The leaders themselves will freely abuse their positions and exploit the populace satisfying only a few cronies and vested interests. Such a society is open to violent conflicts, lawless behavior, and anarchy.

“Unfortunately, many African states, Nigeria inclusive, bear these traits and are tottering and moving slowly towards the precipice and they could easily fall into the abyss of failed states.”

The senior advocate said that fighting corruption is a necessary foundation for good governance and rule of law, which are the building blocks of sustainable development in any country.

The lawyer therefore called for honest leadership that would be a rallying point for citizens defining it as “One that can tame the consuming tides of corruption and evolve creative solutions to our myriad of problems.

“Addressing the leadership question without tackling the absence of this fundamental emotional investment in the country, would not be enough answer to our challenges. There should be either a person or an institution to pay allegiance to.”

Citing examples, Alli said George Washington in the United States is a role model to every one of the 42 presidents that succeeded him, “even though his example has usually been honored in the breach. His name is everywhere. His face adorns the dollar bill and the 25 cents coins.

“Across the modern US, 26 mountains are named after him, as well as 740 schools, a dozen colleges and universities, 155 towns and countries, various bridges, parks and forts; not to mention an entire state of the union and the very capital of the country he did so much to found.

“There is no such personality to whom we jointly show loyalty as a people in Nigeria. Our loyalty is to ethnic origin. The various individuals seen as heroes are so recognized only by people from their part of the country.”

While stressing that transparency would enhance democracy, Alli said the performance and measurement of democracy no longer stand differently from good governance. “The connection between both concepts and in short, success in the practice of democracy, lies strongly in the understanding that democracy, understood as good governance carries with it the capacity for improving society and welfare of its citizens.

“The nexus between democracy and good governance cannot be overemphasized. In fact, it would appear that good governance is an all-embracing concept that incorporates several democratic values including representation and effectiveness.”

He noted that modern representative democracies require representatives that are effective at public decision-making, without which, the ensuing crisis of legitimacy and worsening social conditions of citizens would often result in conflicts involving groups and the state or groups against groups that could have been avoided.

“A corrupt political system cannot give birth to an upright government. Where the leadership in an institution is democratically driven, good governance becomes an achievement one can take for granted. Good governance refers to the effective, transparent and accountable way in which such responsibility is carried out. Conversely, bad governance refers to misrule or maladministration in the discharge of responsibility. If we don’t get our politics right, we cannot get our government right.”

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Yusuf Alli


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