Our politicians have a long list of terms that they mouth and abuse the most. These include corruption, nation building, patriotism, rule of law, democracy, justice, performance and -of course- loyalty. Generally, Nigerians despise or obey the aforementioned words in the breach. I serve the main course presently, meanwhile enjoy this appetiser, which is simply a potpourri of two subheads.
Nigerians (in and outside government) talk about nation building all the time, but simultaneously almost always work in the opposite direction (that is, towards nation destruction). Or, which Nigerian politician has worked, in deeds and in words, to build this country? Should we not stop all the hysteria on our nonexistent Nigerianness? And focus on tribe building seeing we prefer our Ibibioness, our Hausaness (or Fulaniness), our Yorubaness, our Igboness, etc.?
That’s why the country has been stranded in underdevelopment. In a few years, if not already, some of its states or tribes would be better off than it. Now you can contextualise the ongoing scramble whereby everyone who manages to sneak into power at the centre corners what (s)he can to own state, tribe or family. They forget though that starving the country to feed tribe is not only a hypocritical nation-building stratagem, it is also as internecine as it is destructive.
The narrative is the same, if not worse, concerning say democracy or justice. Government at every stratum and the masses have for years gloated in undemocratic and unjust aberrations. For example, while money politics has foisted mostly corrupt and incompetent leaders on us, some tribes treated as less equal than others have been barking that they want out. Surely, Nigerian brands of democracy and justice are not as in saner climes.
Regrettably, I have no good news, loyalty-wise. Sadder, there’s a certain intentionality to it. Nigerians know loyalty and the nitty gritty, but because we are we, we tint or tinge it with a drop of our nigerianness. Yes, the sickening intention is to give loyalty a Nigerian flavour.
A flavour that messes up our image and evolution. A flavour that shames us as a people left behind by the world. A flavour that adds nothing but subtracts all. A flavour that exacerbates the taste!
The way out is for Nigerians to recalibrate how we see and do some things. Loyalty occupies pride of place on that to-do list. Our leaders and our people need to understand and show we understand that loyalty is not one-way traffic. Fundamentally, Nigeria must be loyal to Nigerians and vice versa; government must be loyal to the people, the people to the government; leadership must show genuine loyalty to followership, ditto the latter to the former!
That’s the point I have been labouring to make, all day. Leaders -especially in the hyperfluid game called politics- who think follower loyalty is their inalienable right would continue to suffer betrayal. Agreed, a born traitor would always betray but a clear understanding and application of loyalty could help incredibly. The leader and the follower, the mentor and the mentee, the boss and the subordinate must know and be seen to know that loyalty flows up down as well as bottom up.
For loyalty to succeed, everyone must bring something to the table. For loyalty to bear fruits, those involved must not only take they should necessarily also give. To reap fruits concomitant with loyalty, the leader must himself/herself first be loyal to those (s)he leads. To do this, you may try out some of my recommendations none of which fortunately is rocket science.
First of all, the leader must be a lover of the follower(s). Second of all, (s)he must be transparent as much as possible. And, third of all, the leader, the mentor, the boss (name them) must make conscious efforts to service loyalty regularly. These strategies might seem simplistic but they are supertalismanic.
People in leadership don’t need to go anywhere or spend anything in the name of servicing loyalty. In a Third World (or developing) setting such as ours, a smart leader services loyalty by creating access, by being present and by showing empathy or sympathy. A leader who cannot be seen or reached by own followers should realise that it is just a matter of time before discovering (s)he has all along been leading only self. Pick up that call today, or initiate one yourself: show your people you care.
Always listen to and talk with your team. Don’t be too busy for them. When the chips are down, they would be your last line of defence or company or both. Sow seeds of trust while you can.
In your days out of power -which comes sooner than later- it is beautiful memories of your office heyday that would cause at least a majority to remain loyal to you no matter what. So, now that you think you have it all, be present for your personal people. Never tire showing up at their events, except you are totally unavailable. It is all right to attend opponents’ events but never ever at the expense of your base’s, because most opponents can only join you after seeing your enviable loyalty to your loyalists!
Political office holders in Nigeria should pay me for that. An alarming majority of opposition members that they woo won’t crosstitute because they don’t like how orphanly most of these men and women of power treat their main people. Also, and this is important, money or gift is not the most magnetive incentive for most loyalists. Most times, most of them want to see just a combination of a little humanity and humility here and there.
Finally, leaders must stop paying lip service to loyalty. They must service loyalty to enjoy its fruits forever. Otherwise, they shouldn’t complain when loyalists take a walk from what was clearly a transactional relationship. God bless Nigeria!