Quality Leadership: Where are the Obafemi Awolowos of our time?



Quality Leadership: Where are the Obafemi Awolowos of our time?

By Olakunle Agboola           


AwolowoNigeria at this point in history is in a desperate need of politicians who play politics of self sacrifice, commitment and focus. As the first Premier of Western region, Awo as he was popularly called, demonstrated rare vision and uncommon commitment to leadership as he focused on the provision of free, universal primary education and critical infrastructure in the key sectors, operating even with limited resources.


Feelers from those I discussed our country with indicates lost hope, end of the road for ardent believers of Awolowo’s doctrines. They strongly believe moving forward as a worthy nation might be very difficult since  integrity, patriotism and dogged federalism as witnessed in the governance of old are lacking. A school of thought also feels that today’s politicians need to have  proper procedures and policies in place to make a difference like Awolowo.


Nigeria mapA political analyst recently took me on a memory lane of when Nigeria politics used to be an arena of public service, comparing it with what obtains today. The idea of politics is no longer service to the community but an avenue of improving personal financial circumstances. The salaries fixed by the fiscal commission to the various political offices  are outrageously out of tune with the economy reality of the society.


More than half of the industries operating in Nigeria fifteen years ago have collapsed. The entire metropolitan centres of Nigeria are teeming with a dejected army of unemployed youths and adults who are battling for survival through make-shift economy activities like street trading and the likes of it. Government that is bereft of job creation ideas is compounding people’s economic woes by creating task forces in most of the Metropolitan centres to arrest these traders, confiscate their wares, leading many to early graves and crime world. The task force officers pack edibles and household goods, share some among themselves before taking the rest to their bosses. The average urban job seeker that got soft loan for trading is usually frustrated by government that has no alternative to provide them with means of livelihood. This is wickedness!


We seem to have overlooked the fact that economy of consumer nations collapse while producer nations expand and create more wealth for their citizens. If the productive sectors decline, jobs for the growing workforce will not be available and if this growing workforce stays jobless, it soon gets violent, which is what is happening in the country today. Unless there is a major change in attitude and conception of politics by the Nigerian politicians, the restructuring needed to revamp the economic and social life of people of Nigeria may become elusive. If our politician cannot change, governance would not change, the economy would continue in recession.


My friend’s analysis on the state of the economy informed my reflection on the past, the present and the impression of the international community that Nigeria does not have the capacity to manage a successful economy, especially by experts that are indigenes. But this is a false impression. Nigeria has and will continue to possess the potential for the internationally accepted experts who could manage the economy of any economic institution successfully anywhere.


The only tragedy of the country, is that the real experts are not allowed to occupy politically sensitive positions from which an efficient economy management can be driven. Chief Obafemi Awolowo was not a German or British, yet he ran one of the most successful governments anywhere in Africa as Premier of old Western Region, attaining a developmental excellence which is yet to be rivaled in comparative terms of the resources available to him at the time during which those achievements were made.


Besides,the man demonstrated a capacity for economic management which is unprecedented even at a high level. For three years during the Civil War (When Gowon said that Nigeria was spending N1 Million a day to prosecute the Biafra war), Awolowo managed the economy so well that the country did not borrow a kobo to fight the war. History has not recorded any country without being in debts after a war except Nigeria.


Awo was a practical and committed federalist who believed firmly in appreciable level of regional autonomy within an agreed and  workable  federal system and structure of government. Nigerians are today increasingly coming to terms with the political dynamics behind this political disposition especially as it encourages political stability, regional integration, healthy competition and collaboration within the regions and amongst the federating units. Awo inhibited the principle of good governance which  enhances the provision of long term vision and protects the reputation and values of a Nation.


Nigeria has a lot of people with talents to run a modern economy but most of these people like Awolowo are not the kind who will be allowed to run the country. Like Obasanjo said, the best Nigeria may not win and that has incidentally been the case since 1960. But from 1979 mediocrity was instituted in the governance of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Since then we have been tumbling over the economic and political bedlam which took a nosedive from 1986 and we are praying we should get out of this economic woods.





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