Fayemi: Of Values And The Building Of A Successor Generation In Nigeria

March 3, 2013

Dr Kayode Fayemi

True leadership is something quite distinct from holding an office or a position.

I recently wrote here about the historian’s episodic or epochal interpretation/explanation of historical events. The history of this column falls squarely into that paradigm. It began largely as a counterpoise to Obasanjo’s cynical, indeed, absolutely contemptuous treatment of, not just anything Ekiti, but of Ekiti people themselves  sparing  no contempt  and denigrating to his heart’s content, the very  icons we hold in awe and  great respect in that part of the country. Nor did he stop there. He believed it was his divine right to inflict on us just about anybody as governor and would  not stop until he had,  in spite of an inchoate impeachment of the sitting governor, whimsically gifted us his kinsman, the genial General Olurin, as sole Administrator in a totally needless and, induced, emergency administration.

That was a period when I thought nothing of his massive powers but wrote here on this page, literally every Sunday, detailing our ordeal under his creeping misrule. Then came the equally intolerable phase when, courtesy his military jackboots, a peoples’ victory was aborted at the collation centre.  That  period started on a day when, though Ekiti people were already on the streets dancing and celebrating Kayode Fayemi’s victory in the 2007 gubernatorial elections, INEC, acting on orders from above,  miraculously divined  a PDP victory out of nowhere. Thus began  a long  period of thoroughly acerbic  dirges  detailing, and recording  for posterity, all the shenanigans  the   candidate, and ipso facto,  Ekiti was made to go through  going from one tribunal to another until  God, in His infinite mercy  ensured that truth trumped  falsity and the cocktails of judicial lies  and aberrations  were  summarily  incinerated. Indeed at a point, the columnist advised the President, and Obasanjo’s protege, the late Yar ‘Adua, to order for coffins if they insisted on inflicting their whim and caprice on hapless Ekiti people as we were prepared to fight to the last man. That epoch has been fittingly chronicled in THE LONG WALK, a  book by  aides of governor Fayemi  in which  I am  privileged  not only  to have  a decent mention but which I assisted  in editing.

Since October 16, 2010 therefore, it has become my bounden duty on this  page,  to the chagrin of not a few, to project the  unprecedented milestones  of the Kayode  Fayemi administration ,  at least, one of which – the social security payments to  the elderly – is  clearly unprecedented  in this country.

These preliminary remarks became necessary because some are bound to rave and rant  at merely seeing the title of this article since to them, bringing the good works of a public servant to the public space tantamounts to sycophancy. For such knaves, I have neither apologies nor explanations  except to say that this column, in  unalterably promoting the good of Ekiti and  the Southwest  in  particular, and Nigeria at large, predates Dr  Fayemi’s involvement   in partisan  politics  even  though he had  much  earlier came into  the Nigerian consciousness via the Radio Kudirat which he operated  with others at great personal risk. And those making the charge obviously do not know how much Kayode Fayemi detests obsequiousness. ‘Nough said.

In  interrogating the above topic at the Ist  Inter-Disciplinary Public Lecture  of the Post-Graduate School Of the Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti,  on Monday, February 26, 2013, Dr  Fayemi   started  off  by posing  the following questions  after he had  drawn attention to the oft-quoted cliche that The Trouble with  Nigeria is  a failure of leadership: ‘If, after thirty years, we are still citing bad leadership as the root of all or most of our problems, why should  we not now, be interrogating the cultural and institutional forces, both subliminal and overt, which conspire to ensure that our society constantly throws up bad leaders?’ He went further: ‘If Nigeria is to stand a chance of national rebirth shouldn’t we, of necessity, ensure that the old brigade described by Prof. Wole Soyinka as the ‘wasted generation’ and which –  has to act as nursing mother to the emerging generation – does not contaminate them with the same tendencies and thus prime them to failure?’

These were essentially the challenges he set out to answer and because of the seminal nature of his suggestions I believe the lecture deserves to be taken far outside the limiting purview of a leaned journal.  However, since it is beyond my ken to reduce a lecture of that depth and fecundity to a half page, I have decided to restrict myself to his views on leadership. For starters, it is his view, that it is  time we soberly reflect and take those affirmative actions that will be geared towards ensuring a successor generation which will effectively redefine the ‘Nigerian dream’ in which the younger generation was fast losing faith.

In discussing leadership failure in Nigeria, Dr Fayemi identified the following three key elements: Corruption and the decline of moral values; the conceptual debasement of leadership itself; and the inability and unwillingness of leaders to reproduce themselves’

Corruption, he says, has remained alive and kicking  in our society simply  because of the creeping monetization of values and the growing inability to perceive and articulate one’s life goals in non-material terms. Young Nigerians, he says, have been socialized in such a way that they have no conception of non-material achievement, resulting instead in a culture that serenades only the wealthy and esteems the “big man”, but never the studious with our institutions eagerly assisting in suffocating the spark of idealism which would have facilitated our nation’s renewal.. Leadership, which he contends, is neither an office nor a title but a function, is consequently debased in our country since the pomp and pageantry, the long motorcades, the sirens, the circus-like atmospherics surrounding political leadership have become the only signs and symbols of power.

He went further to assert that the inability or unwillingness of leaders to reproduce themselves in far better molds, which has worsened our circumstances as a nation, is signposted by our dominant cultural and institutional models which are defined by the exercise of raw power, projecting a paradigm that is based on fear and exploitation. This he considers largely a legacy of military authoritarianism with leadership cast in the image of jack-booted soldiers wielding whips, guns and swagger-sticks.

In concluding this short piece, and to understand the lecturer’s thought process and his well-merited place as an intellectual in politics, it is apposite that we quote him, at some length, and  directly, on what he sees as the ‘deus ex machina’ to Nigeria’s myriad problems. Says Dr Fayemi, ‘we need to rescue the concept of leadership itself from the cheapening it has undergone.  True leadership is something quite distinct from holding an office or a position. We will enhance the quality of leadership on our shores if we dissociate it from the acquisition of titles and positions. True leadership is influence. It is driven by core convictions, values and ideas. In a profound sense, leadership is living out one’s values and ideas. It is the sheer power of personal example that projects influence. For the next generation of leaders, it is essential that we recognize that one does not need a political office or title to become an exemplar of higher values. We also need to redefine elitism. Traditionally, the term ‘elite’ referred to those who are enlightened. Over the course of the past decades, the monetization of our values has yielded an association of elitism with wealth. We perceive elites to be those who are simply wealthy. The first generation nationalists such as Awolowo, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Hezekiah Davies, Aminu Kano and Adegoke Adelabu among others were men of thought as well as men of action. They wrote books, pamphlets and articles. They popularised their ideas aggressively. They thought deeply about their society and disseminated their musings.

‘For instance, while campaigning for the presidency in 1979, Awolowo said, “Look at the books which I have written, the lectures which I have given, and the many speeches and statements which I have made. You will find that there is no problem confronting or about to confront Nigeria to which I have not given thought and for which I have not proffered intelligent and reasoned solutions.” It was no idle boast. Awolowo was the most prolific of the founding fathers. It seems almost absurd to us today for a politician to advertise his intellect as one of his qualifications for high office’

If Nigerian leaders and the led, especially its youth will read in full, not just this article, but Dr Fayemi’s offering on : Reflections on Values and the Building of A Successor Generation in Nigeria’, whether on the internet,  in hard copy or in learned journals, we just may have made that first step in facilitating and ensuring our country’s renewal and survival as a worthy member of the comity of nations.


By Femi Orebe

This article was first published in The Nation


Last modified: March 3, 2013

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