For millenniums, the world has been in a feverish, ‘fettered’ and futile search for peace. And for centuries, conferences and summits have been held in all the continents and nations, and various solutions, ideas and theories have been postulated and proffered. Intellectuals, academics, philosophers, psychologists, scientists, educationists, politicians, diplomats and diplomatists, spiritualists and religious leaders, human relations experts, organisations, governments, and world bodies have made frantic efforts, and committed tremendous time and funds in search of peace. Yet, genuine and lasting peace has always remained elusive to many parts of the world. The Middle East. Asia. Africa. Even in the present-day USA, there exist unprecedented ideological divisions. More worrisome is the likelihood of increased internal divisions and conflicts in the United States and Britain in the next 10 years.
Come to Nigeria. We seem to be languishing in a world of ‘worlds,’ foundationally conditioned, ‘eternally’ cursed, and irredeemably condemned to know no lasting peace and progress. With aggravated agitations, and the pathological culture of extreme insurgency and ethno-religious terror, every section of the country is conditionally seeking self-determination: ‘Biafra’, ‘Oduduwa Republic’, ‘Niger Delta Republic’, ‘Middle Belt Republic’, ‘Tiv Republic’. Never in the history of this country has there been a time the people so helplessly and desperately desired to go their different ways or have the country restructured as now. It is a build-up. An accumulation of suppressed emotions from endured terror and marginalisation, left unattended to and unresolved over the years. Nigeria seems to be in a never-ending hypocritical, ethno-religiously biased and self-centred search for peace. The questions are: When can this elusive peace be found? Where can it be found? And, how can it be found? Can there ever be genuine and lasting peace in Nigeria? I call on our dear and respected President Muhammadu Buhari, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, and all stakeholders, to answer this question, sincerely. Again, Can there ever be genuine and lasting peace in Nigeria?
I believe it is ‘possible’ to find peace. Global peace. Political peace. Socio-economic peace. Lasting diplomatic peace. Genuine peace. We only need to look and work for this peace in the right place and collectively with the right attitude. We only need to do the needful, the seemingly ‘impossible’ but unavoidably needful, in addition, pray for, and support the leadership constructively, if peace must reign in Nigeria in particular, and Africa, and the world in general.
I consider it very safe to state the following assumptions and positions:
First, that peace is necessary for our present and future existence.
Second, that sustainable peace is necessary for national development and survival. Again, that it is very possible to build sustainable peace.
Furthermore, that there is no alternative anywhere in the world to sustainable peace, if we must have national development and a prosperous future.
Moreover, that nations of the world, including Nigeria, where ethno-religious politics, racial profiling, greed, fanaticism, and unhealthy competition reign supreme will never find peace, but will either collapse and become history, one after the other, or continue in endless conflicts and wars.
And finally, that the most important way to build and ensure sustainable peace for national development is leadership, moral and innovative leadership.
Moral leadership is a strong foundation for peace. Moral strength, moral character, moral background and orientation, vision, and credibility give power, and win the respect and support of people, both friends and foes.
For the purpose of this piece, I define leadership as the ability/power, the process and product of discerning, assessing, planning, organising, influencing, mobilising, motivating, directing, and supervising the activities, affairs and relationships of individuals, groups or state with a given authority in order to create a needed change and achieve set or pre-determined goals.
As captured above, leadership goes with authority. Authority is the instrument by which leadership is exercised. Authority has to do with statutory and legal privileges, rights and ‘powers’ consistent with one’s position and office. Among all other instruments, the very fundamental instrument of authority in leadership is ‘morality,’ which gives ‘MORAL AUTHORITY.’ Moral authority derives from a position of challenging and inspirational background, attestable adherence to values and truth, unblemished foundation, enviable attitudinal rectitude and rebirth, evidenced by a positive disposition and practical commitment to the greater good of mankind. Moral authority is fundamental to moral leadership at the family, social, cultural, religious, political and educational levels.
For the purpose of this piece, again, I define moral leadership as the credible and inspirational ability, position and process of serving, and directing the affairs, conduct and decision-making of individuals and institutions in line with national/universal principles and values for the good of mankind. This ability and position derive from strength of character, conscience, selfless principles, and being free from unconscionable and reproachable lifestyle. Moral leadership requires moral authority, and moral authority confers on the leader greater power to influence, as well as the benefits of public goodwill, support, acceptance, trust, love and respect.
On the other hand, innovative leadership for sustainable peace and national development involves multi-dimensional creativity with engaging and inspirational ideas, knowledge and ability to harness all resources, human and natural, and promoting overall global citizenship ideals, to offer fulfilment and achieve a productive and edifying socio-economic and political attainment, and harmonious human relationship in a national or global environment.
Moral and innovative leadership is problem-solving-oriented. It is people-oriented. It is service-oriented. It is about finding and applying pristine methods and approaches, based on universal principles and values, to solve Nigeria’s problems of lack of peace consequent upon ‘unabashed’ ethno-religious profiling and conflicts, and economic sabotage that have prevailed since the days of Tafawa Balewa and Nnamdi Azikiwe without any hope of solution in sight. And no one seems to care.
As captured in my previous writing, the age-long maxim that there is no morality in politics has been taken and applied to the extreme, especially in Africa and the Third World. And this has always resulted in very ugly consequences. This has, albeit covertly, been used to justify sordid acts of thuggery, and better-imagined-than-experienced horrors in the political world. The resultant effect has been that of total lack of effectiveness in leadership as a result of lack of moral authority, given the absence of leadership by example and principle, and lack of consideration for the tenets and ethical values of mankind. People are in politics not because they want to serve, but because they are consumed with the possessive lust to use and abuse public office for their pleasure. And once they are there, they become overwhelmed by the deceptive transient frills and thrills of the paraphernalia of a political office. They wittingly or unwittingly forget the loud-mouthed campaign promises made to the masses.
This is the evidence of loss or absence of moral authority in leadership.
Then comes the issue of legitimacy. The way and manner a government comes into power goes a long way to define its foundation and claim to morality and effectiveness in leadership. It defines the goodwill it enjoys from the people both at local and global levels, notwithstanding the age-long principle of selective morality in international diplomacy and politics. The fact remains that there is a universal principle and ethical standard by which the rights, privileges, and dignity of mankind are ensured and protected. Adherence to these standards, values and ethics is applauded while a deviation is viewed negatively. Agitations, violence and revolutions taking place around the world are eloquent proofs and testimony to global dissonance with deviation from universal principles and values. We should not be too quick to forget events in Somalia, Uganda, Libya, Egypt, Tunisia, Sudan, South Sudan, etc., and what is presently happening in Nigeria. An unprecedented disenchantment. An unmitigated disillusionment.
I want to look at legitimacy as the legality, validity and credibility of status or position and power. Position and powers conferred upon, by the people via due process and in accordance with the laws of the land, and, which, in turn, command the people’s goodwill and acceptance for the government or individual in power. Legitimacy is derived through the conduct of an objectively attestable transparent political process and practice by which a group of people or party comes into governance. This can only be guaranteed through a free, fair and credible election, in a democracy. Coming into power through a ‘do-or-die-politics’ or desperation effectively denies the ‘acclaimed winner’ the needed legitimacy. It is not enough for one to hijack instruments and institutions of the state such as a subverted constitution, a compromised electoral body, a demystified, divided, ‘dollarized’ and intimidated judiciary, and a corrupt, partisan law enforcement to confer legitimacy on oneself. This political uncivility has resulted in immediate and long-term social unrest, and has become a burden for governments across the world, robbing them of the people’s support and trust. There have been cases of socio-economic disasters, unending litigations, and calls for mass action and violent protests as a result. Let’s not forget Nigeria’s 2007 post-election violence and the attendant killings, and more. This, in turn, becomes a big distraction for the government, as it cannot afford to concentrate to provide the needed leadership for the people while managing the crises generated by its controversial election.
However, the above position is not a denial of the fact that aimless opposition politics lacking in substance and ideology, once in a while, stirs up hornets of violence and protests just to blackmail, arm-twist, distract and discredit the government and the party in power, and attract attention to score cheap political points and popularity. But even where such baseless protests and distractions occur, the people are always behind the government. Even the so-called opposition, to an appreciable extent, (in civilised climes), has been found to be disposed to cooperating with the government to build a better nation for the good of the masses. This legitimacy is the people’s legitimacy. It is the beginning of building of trust, healing of wounds (caused by perceived marginalization and mutual suspicion), and building of sustainable peace for national development and a prosperous future. Even where issues appear very doubtful, unclear or controversial, such leadership enjoys the benefit-of-the-doubt from the people, a listening ear, and willingness for a peaceful dialogue. This legitimacy, as captured earlier, confers a great moral authority on the leadership.
Again, no government can provide moral leadership when and if it cannot live above board. Corruption has become the undoing of many a nation around the world, especially in Africa. Nigeria particularly has had to grapple with the crushing burden of both local and international credibility as a result of such an addictive culture of corruption. Even where there appears to be a campaign of supposed corrective measure against corruption, it has always been viewed with scepticism as just an instrument to witch-hunt and ‘muscle’ down the opposition and other critical or dissenting voices. Everyone appears to be preaching against corruption but no one has actually been seen ‘building’ a formidable battle and impregnable wall of repression against corruption without minding whose ox is gored.
The level of corruption in Nigeria has made citizens of this nation to lose confidence in successive governments. They believe that people in charge of governance are there for their own benefits and not for the good of the nation, and therefore cannot provide the needed moral and innovative leadership that can usher in the elusive peace necessary for national development and building a prosperous future. Nigeria loses billions of dollars to official and unofficial corruption and theft every year. Also, there are countless cases and hordes of miscarriage of justice as a result of ‘inducements’ and pressure from so-called ‘high places’ in Nigeria, ranging from enthronement of illegitimate governments to imprisonment of innocent people and discharging and acquitting of criminals. Nevertheless, President Muhammadu Buhari should be appreciated for the promising flashes so far shown in the crusade against corruption, though much still needs to be done. Obviously, the President seems helpless sometimes in the hands of certain individuals. And this, without equivocation, significantly affects his effectiveness in leadership. This is where the leader needs two things: the courage and right attitude, and the right and global citizenship ideal-oriented people around him.
The power of moral and innovative leadership in any dispensation, kingdom and empire cannot be underestimated. A further look into the history of ages and of ancient and modern kingdoms reveals that the demise of great empires from the Egyptian empire to the Babylonian empire, to the Medo-Persian Empire, to the Grecian empire and to the Roman Empire has remote and obvious links to the state of moral authority and leadership of these empires. Looking back at these great Walls and Kingdoms, a perceptive observer may learn one or two lessons: that if these once great and formidable empires and unions eventually collapsed and disintegrated as a result of character flaw, error of judgment, greed, power intoxication, oppression, and lack of morally effective leadership, (not losing sight of the Divine factor, as well), which destroyed the collective ‘existential’ peace and the future and survival of these ‘dispensational’ dynasties, no nation in the world is too big, or too strong to escape catastrophe, disintegration, and annihilation if ethical standards and universal human values and principles are trampled upon.
Another lesson is that nations, empires and kingdoms that are built on needless wars, human blood, oppression and endless conflicts are sitting on the deceitfully ornamented marble of burning hell, and like a heaven-forsaken Titanic, will so sink and dissolve without an enduring future and posterity, leaving off only its relics to tell the sorrowful historical story of a once-existed ‘vision-less’, rudderless, bloody and immoral kingdom, except they seek peace, follow peace and embrace peace. Lasting sustainable peace.
The only antidote to these ugly situations of unmitigated colossal disintegration or endless conflict and wars is effective moral and innovative leadership which de-emphasises self-interest, perceived and evident ethno-religious supremacist crusades, nepotism, oppression and suppression, racial dichotomy and profiling, on the one hand, and promotes the preservation of the original foundation, fundamentals and bases of our global citizenship-oriented confederacy and union, equity/equal opportunity, inclusiveness, the human capital theory and principle, economic empowerment, and public good and interest, on the other hand, as a means of building lasting peace for national development and a prosperous future.
This is a clarion and timely call on the leadership and citizenry of Nigeria to rise and do away with sentiments, selfishness, ethnocentric and religio-ritualistic fanaticism or eccentricism, and provide the needed moral and innovative leadership to forestall a repeat of unwanted history. There can be no political manoeuvring and manipulation that can be an effective alternative to moral and innovative leadership to ensure lasting peace in a crisis-ridden nation as Nigeria.
As it is said: ‘Show me a nation that enjoys peaceful co-existence and development; I will show you a nation of integrity, moral rectitude and human values among its leaders at all levels’.
In a heterogeneous and pluralist society like Nigeria, while we agree on the universal principle of moral and innovative leadership, we should further contextualize the principle and practice of moral and innovative leadership for the building of sustainable peace given the (nature and level of) violence that has always marked our polity throughout our history as a nation, and much more in recent times.
We should apply the principle and practice of moral and innovative leadership to the socio-political and ethno-religious peculiarities and dynamics of Nigeria. This is important because there can be no effective moral and innovative leadership if every family of every of the 250 ethnic groups, and of about 400 linguistic groups, and our polarised and other religious blocks are neither involved, nor considered and treated with equity, dignity, and fairness, in the socio-political, economic, educational and other national scheme of things, and there will be no possibility of building sustainable peace for national development and a prosperous future as well. This must address our fundamental problems beginning with the problem of suspicion and lack of trust among the various ethno-religious groups existing in Nigeria.
The major threat to peace and unity and the future of Nigeria is rooted in some dark forces beyond comprehension on the one hand, and a very strong mutual suspicion among the various groups and units within the socio-polity, on the second hand. This mutual suspicion is so intense that it has become a monster that has taken a position in the socio-political sub-consciousness of our nation. It is so real and unsettling that the various ethno-religious groups suspect one another of a hidden agenda, even without prompting. The suspicion is so thick. It is impenetrably dark. It is inexplicably deadly. It is incurably demonic.
The embers of this suspicion of a hidden agenda have been unendingly fanned over the decades by deep-rooted sentiments and seemingly inextricable and intractable fundamental differences rooted in history, origin, religion and political culture, giving wing and wheel to catastrophic events that have become the hallmark of our socio-political history and landscape, even from the time of the struggle for political independence.
But even after the attainment of independence in 1960, the suspicion that was a little covert became very overt. The various constitutional developments and amendments that took place before and after independence, among other things, also sought to address issues of this suspicion. Part of these moves was the republicanisation of Nigeria in 1963. The 1966 military coup and ‘counter coupe’ became cases of political studies and analyses of mutual suspicion and lack of trust. Tension held sway in the land. Even the universally ominous co-habitation of the Jews and the Palestinians offered better hopes. Like the proverbial keg of a gun powder, the nation, Nigeria impatiently waited to explode. It did in 1967, in the Nigeria-Biafra civil war that lasted till 1970, where over 3 million precious lives were lost, formally ending with the declaration of no victor no vanquished, as a balm of magnanimity. A balm lacking in therapeutic substance.
This declaration and ‘forced’ reconciliation notwithstanding, so much has continued to happen in this ‘great’ nation that trust and genuine lasting peace continue to remain elusive by the years. The domination of our political history by the military through coupes and counter-coupes from 1966 to 1999, the unfortunate dare-devil incidents of ethno-religious violence and clashes that have taken place over the years: Kano, Bauchi, Kaduna, Plateau, etc., the Niger Delta Militancy, the Bakassi/MASSOB campaign, the OPC protests, and the IPOB internationalised agitation for self-determination for Biafra, on the one hand; the Sharia episode of 2000/2001, the Boko Haram monster, the on-going Fulani herdsmen rampage in Benue, Plateau, Kaduna, Taraba, Delta, Enugu, Abia, Ogun, Ekiti, etc., on the other hand, are nothing but extreme expressions of frustration and venting of anger and mutual suspicion among the various groups that make up this country called Nigeria. There are possessive monumental fears of domination, marginalisation, religious proselytisation, and annihilation. These fears should neither be dismissed with a wave of the hand nor be handled with a mere political diplomacy that is neither diagnostic nor problem-solving-oriented. It will take a will-power and effective moral and innovative and transformative leadership to address these age-long disconcerting issues. There is fury. There is fire. There is a furnace in the land.
Will there ever be genuine and lasting peace in Nigeria? Ever?
Moral and innovative leadership remains the antidote to these socio-political problems. This kind of leadership has the capacity and sagacity to discern, understand, analyse and appreciate the problems of economic indiscretion and sabotage, ethno-religious domination and strangulation, distrust and suspicion, and then muster the will, courage, and selflessness it requires to address the problems. Moral and innovative Leadership in Nigeria should start at the family level to governmental levels. This kind of leadership should establish itself in the confidence of the people of the various ethno-religio-linguistic foundations of the nation, by going further to prove that it has what it takes to build and establish sustainable peace and mutual trust for national development.
The courage, the will-power to ensure a free, fair and credible electoral process, enforce federal character, enhance equity and inclusiveness, eschew corruption, embrace human rights, entrench the rule of law, effect the harnessing of human and natural resources, engender adherence to universal principles and values, escalate global citizenship ideals, and edify the youth by rebuilding the failed education system is very important in the effort to provide leadership with moral authority aimed at building sustainable peace and trust for national development and a prosperous future.
This is where true and effective leadership begins. A man or woman with such moral authority does not, and cannot, come into politics for his/her selfish ends. He or she does not incite the people against others for political gain. He or she does not engage in thuggery or terrorism for political advantage. He or she does not arrogate governance to their ethnic tribe. He or she does not create an environment of fear of domination, marginalisation, proselytization, or annihilation.
His/her leadership banishes fear, instills hope, engenders love and trust, promotes ethical values, creates equal opportunities for all, and achieves sustainable peace and prosperity for the world, Africa, Nigeria.
• Onyedi is founder/president, Diamond-Crest for Youth Education Foundation