2015 ELECTIONS:CRITICAL COMPETENCIES FOR POLITICAL LEADERSHIP
In a couple of days, we shall be required to make choices concerning Nigerian Political leadership at the Presidential, Gubernatorial, Senatorial, National and State Representative levels. It is going to be a major exercise that will affect the destiny of our Country, States and legislative constituences. For me it is a sacred duty that must not be treated with levity.
Right now, there is a lot of misinformation in the air and too much emotion being let loose. Let me reiterate that choosing our Political leaders at all levels of governance must be based on verifiable and measurable criteria not on sentiments.
That we have had poor political leadership for most of our post-independence years across all strata of governance is evident and it is clear that if we have the right leadership with the appropriate competences, our lot will continue to improve. Whereas good manifestos are important in helping guide our choices, the more critical matter is the leadership competences or skills that our political leaders possess. That was why I identified 22 key Leadership competences that any one aspiring to political leadership must have in my 2010 book- NIGERIA @ 50: TIME FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION which was revised in 2013 with some amendment to its title.
My contention then and which remains valid today is that before we make our choices, we must measure the competing candidates against these competences and be certain to choose the candidates which best approximates the ideal.
1. SOUND EDUCATION
Education opens the mind of the individual and gives him the tools to seek for solutions. It enables us to learn how to ask questions and how to process information and interpret data. Education cultures the man and makes him more amenable to tolerating differences and disagreements. To provide effective leadership at any level, we must know how to seek, collate and interpret data, which are always needed to take informed decisions. In the 21st Century Nigeria, there should not be any place for illiterate and uninformed leadership. Those who say that Education is not important in political leadership must be seriously mistaken or they are supporters of Boko haram terrorists who have declared openly that 'Book is evil'
2. CAPABILITY TO ENVISION
Every Leader that will inspire must be visionary. Any man or woman who cannot dream of a desirable future for his or her constituency, State or Nation is not worthy to lead a people. Leadership essentially involves taking followers to a desired destination. Visioning is required to anticipate the future and allows the leader to see the end from the beginning. The importance of visionary leadership is emphasized by the biblical saying that 'without Vision, the People perish'.We need leaders who look forward and not back wards.
3. ABILITY FOR EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION
A taciturn can not lead effectively. If we develop a vision, we need to effectively communicate the vision in a way to elicit 'buy in'. Political leadership involves representing and leading a people and therefore ability to communicate effectively is critical for carrying the People along and ensuring that their views and desires are harnessed in the contemplation, design and articulation of policies and programmes. Here, sound education becomes helpful as well.
4. VISIBLE DEMOCRATIC INCLINATION
The pain of current democratic experience is that we have democracy with few democrats. For many Nigerian political leaders, democracy is expressing your view and insisting that it is the only valid viewpoint. Tolerance for opposing or counter views is very limited. So we need genuine democrats who must insist on free and fair elections and who must adopt the attitude of learned hospitality to opposing views and understand that they are subordinates of the electorate and not masters and must not ride roughshod on the people.
5. A PALPABLE LOVE FOR THE PEOPLE
There must be few valid reasons one would leave the comfort of his private life and move to the public domain to take on leadership role and in the process, abridge his personal liberties and assume the burden for the common good. The overriding reason must be love for the People and so he can not be a sadist. He must be one who is genuinely concerned about the welfare, happiness and the comfort of the people. He can not be a terror or terrorist.
6. EXPERIENCE IN HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Leadership is about people and more so in the political arena. A deep understanding of the diversity of human Behaviour and the factors that motivate Behaviour is critical in leadership. Development of a positive interpersonal relationship with associates and constituents is necessary for the establishment of a productive relationship. An abrasive or coercive leader will often cause the development of friction and resistance amongst the followers,both of which will slow down the achievement of lasting goals as much valuable time will be spent resolving quarrels. We need a team player and not a Lone Ranger or a hermit as a leader.
7. HIGH LEVEL OF INTELLIGENCE QUOTIENT ( IQ)
Leadership is a tasking Responsibility. In political leadership, every word and every action of the leader is brought to judgement , both by admirers and more so by the opposition. Many times, the leader is confronted with complex problems and the followers always expect him to provide answers and solutions swiftly. A high dose of intelligence is therefore called for in the political leader we must choose.
8. HUMILITY OF SPIRIT
Political leaders unlike corporate leaders are appointed by the People. Therefore the voters are the bosses and deserve the respect of their appointees. Any political leader who feels superior to the people who elected him, looks down or talks down on the electorate would soon lose their love and loyalty. Political leadership is about service and what is called for is SERVANT Leadership, a leadership that recognizes that it is a privilege and not a right to be elected or appointed to a political office.
9. ABILITY AND WILLINGNESS TO MAKE SACRIFICES
It is not often realized that another word for leadership is sacrifice. That is why true leaders do not rush into positions of leadership, nor do they see winning elections as do or die pursuit, because they realize that it will involve so much sacrifice. Sacrifice of personal liberty, sacrifice of personal income, sacrifice of family companionship and comfort. They realize that the reward for public service is the Honour of the opportunity and the legacy of accomplishment.
10. INHERENT ABILITY TO INFLUENCE OUTCOMES
The true essence of leadership is influence. The Political leader we seek is the one that will continuously influence positive outcomes. He must be a role model who walks the talk and brings influence to bear on the regular and efficient discharge of his functions. He can not be laid back or a laggard. He must not be one that shies from taking actions and the responsibility for the outcomes.
11. HIGH LEVEL OF INTEGRITY
All men are expected to live lives of integrity but for the leader, it is imperative if he must win the respect, loyalty and support of followers or constituents. Integrity involves saying a thing and meaning it. It involves being principled and standing for your principles. It incorporates honesty and a life free from deceit and corruption.
12. KNOWN ABILITY TO ACCEPT MISTAKES AND FAULTS
Only GOD is infallible. All men are prone to making mistakes. Some mistakes come from ignorance, some from lack of wisdom and tact, some unconscious and some deliberate. Man's knowledge is limited. The leaders we are seeking should be those who understand that they have weaknesses as well as strengths, that they are only human and can make mistakes or misjudge issues. But they must exude enough self-confidence and humility to accept their failings and mistakes. While leaders must make strenuous efforts to overcome their weaknesses, they should show the required strength by accepting their mistakes and apologizing without waiting to be goaded or compelled. It is even worse when leaders in the face of patent failings, mistakes or misdeamenours, announce gleefully that they have no regrets or apologies to offer. Such is a frank demonstration of arrogance and patently poor leadership.
13. A KEEN DEMONSTRATION OF ACCOUNTABILITY
Political and other public office holders hold office in trust for the people. So it behoves them to be accountable to the people and to those who appointed them into office. The same way subordinates write reports to their superiors in business establishments, the same way, the board of Directors of companies account to the shareholders on a regular basis, must be the same way, that public office holders and leaders need to account to the people on whose behalf they acted. Any leader who disdains any summons to account for his doings as happened at the Oputa Panel for example, has leadership challenges.
14. A DEMONSTRABLE UNDERSTANDING OF PROFIT & LOSS STATEMENT AND THE ABILITY TO INTERPRET A BALANCE SHEET
I believe that one reason, this Country has not received the true value for the money she invested in infrastructure development and provision of services over many years is that we do not view Government business as real business . In the Public sector, money is appropriated and disbursed. Some times we measure outcomes but hardly output impact. Time value of money is hardly understood and inefficient utilization is rampant. People who are familiar with Profit and loss statement are focused at creating value that exceeds cost, they evaluate the returns on every investment or expenditure and they realize the opportunity cost of every action. More importantly, the P&L mentality focuses on result and accountability while an ability to interpret the balance sheet shows a focus on growing assets or National Wealth. Another way of looking at this prescribed leadership quality is to find out what businesses our competing Political leaders have done in the past. If a man has not borrowed money from a bank and paid back with interest, he has not learnt how to manage financial resources. Let us have political leaders who have business sense and can show what they accomplished with their own funds before we commit our State or National income to their charge.
15.TRUE FEAR OF GOD
"The fear of a God is the beginning of wisdom". We need leaders with 'Solomonic' wisdom, and this can only come from the Almighty God . It is only the fear of God that can keep leaders in check even when Men apparently can do them nothing or bring their iniquity to public attention.The endemic corruption in our Country is clear evidence that many do not truly fear God. Leaders who incite violence and condone wanton destruction of lives and property can not be God fearing indeed. So we need leaders who fear God and keep His commandments . This is the only constant for successful political leadership in our Country.
Please see the revised edition of my book, NIGERIA: NEED FOR THE EVOLUTION OF A NEW NATION to get the rest of the competences that we need in our political leaders . Then match the candidates against all the competences. Then go and vote for the one that approximates best to the ideal Political leader. That way, I believe we shall be making choices based on verifiable criteria that will result in producing the best Political leaders for the next four years. May God grant us the wisdom.
Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa OFR