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« Ozodi Osuji Lectures #19: Nigeria and the Business World (Continued) | Main | Ozodi Osuji Lectures #20: Training for Leadership in Nigeria (Continued) »

October 25, 2005

Ozodi Osuji Lectures #20: Training for Leadership in Nigeria

by Ozodi Thomas Osuji, Ph.D. (Seatle, Washington) --- When Nigerians gather, a likely topic for conversation is: the trouble with Nigeria, and what to do about it. Invariably, they identify corruption and lack of political leadership as among the problems with Nigeria and Africa. In this essay, I will explore how to train for leadership and management in Nigeria and Africa.

Leadership is the art or science of identifying what a group of human beings need to do, to more effectively adapt to the exigencies of their environment, and doing it. The world is such that it does not provide human beings with what they need for survival. We have to work for what we need to survive. There are no free lunches on earth. The Bible said that while fleeing from Egypt and on their road to the Promised Land, that Israelis were given free food, manna. It also said that none of those Jews who ate that free food reached the land “flowing with milk and honey”.

Those who reached the Promised Land were those who did not partake in eating free food. Moreover, when the Jews got to the Promised Land, they first had to fight those already occupying it, Canaanites, defeat them in pitched battles, and took over the land. Thereafter, they worked hard to transform the semi desert land of Israel into a productive land that met their supplies.

The point is that human beings, whether they like it or not, have to work for the means of their survival. In Genesis, Bible, it is written that by the sweat of their labor will human beings survive. Apparently, it is the wish of God that we human beings must work for our daily bread? Those who engage in corruption and steal to get their daily bread are cursed, and despite appearances of superficial wealth, tend to die miserable deaths. Examples are Sani Abacha and Joseph Mobutu.

As far as one knows, there is nowhere in the world where people obtain their food without working for it. If such a place exists, one would like to be told about it. In the meantime, one operates under the assumption that we live in an impersonal universe where our survival depends on our efforts. Whether we survive or not is our choice. If we choose to survive, then, we have to do those things that enable us to more effectively adapt to the challenges of our tough physical and social environment.

The individual must do what he has to do, to address the difficult tasks his environment demands be performed for him to survive. A group of individuals must do what they have to do, at the collective level, to adapt to their environment.

Leadership is a group variable. Whereas the efforts by the individual to cope with his world is leadership, but as far as leadership studies is concerned, leadership has to do with what a group of human beings do, to adapt to the demands of their environment.

Leadership entails the ability to foresee what the environment requires for a group to survive. The leader is a person who has vision as to what his group ought to be doing, if they are to effectively adapt to the demands of their world. The leader has ideas, dreams, and visions of what needs to be done to cope with the physical and social demands of our world.

Every person probably has dreams of what needs to be done, but not every person is a leader. A leader is a person who is passionate about his dreams of what needs to be done. He is totally enthusiastic about doing what needs to be done for his group’s survival that if you are around him, he infects you with his enthusiasm, and you could not help but want to help him accomplish his vision for the group.

A leader is totally committed to his vision of what needs to be done to enable his group to do what makes them survive. He is a living embodiment of devotion to a task(s). The goals he is devoted to means the difference between life and death for the leader. He is willing, if necessary, to fight and die for what he believes needs to be done for his group’s survival. This is called total commitment to goals that one believes are necessary for the group’s survival. One’s whole existence is wrapped up in the attainment of such goals.

What does life mean to you? A leader answers that question by juxtaposing his goals for his group. The attainment of his goals is what life means for him. He lives to attain the goals he deems necessary for his people’s survival. Surviving as an individual does not make any sense to the leader, unless he does what enables his whole group to survive as a group.

A leader mobilizes the people around him in pursuit of the goals he has identified as necessary for their group’s survival.

Goal attainment requires effort. It takes people to attain goals. Leaders, therefore, generally have good interpersonal skills, and know how to gather people together, and employ their labor to attain the goals they have identified for their group. Without good social skills, one can dream all one wants about goal attainment, one would not attain them. It takes ability to work well with people, for the individual to get them to work together in pursuit of goal attainment.

To work well with people, one must know something about human psychology. For example, human beings are prideful, vain and narcissistic. They need to be praised if you want to get them to do what they have to do. If you criticize them, you make them defensive, and when they are defensive they may work to obstruct the attainment of your goals. Leaders, therefore, know how to use positive reinforcement of good behavior to motivate people. You reward people when they do a good job by praising them or giving them pay raises, if you want them to work harder. (In the context of Nigeria, people like titles like chief. Apparently, that title gratifies their narcissistic nature, so give it to them as a motivator. Give it to them only when they do something above average for the group’s well being. Britain motivates its citizens to work harder, inter alia, by giving them honors, such as being called sir this or that.)

In addition to people, it takes capital to accomplish group goals. In this world, it takes money to get anything done. That money has to come from somewhere. Leaders, therefore, are persons who understand the financial costs of goals, and seek ways to make financing available for the accomplishment of their goals.

In the modern polity, governments raise money for their projects through several ways including taxation, individual and corporate; property taxes, sales taxes, licenses, royalties etc. Sometimes, governments do not have the money that projects require, and have to borrow it. Usually, governments borrow money from the public through selling bonds. Let us say that the city of Abuja wants to build a technical college, and does not have money in hand to defray the project’s initial capital outlay. Let us say that cost accounting studies have shown that it would cost $200 million dollars to build the proposed school. The city could sell bonds to the tune of $200 million.

What selling bonds means, in effect, is that the government has borrowed money from those who have it, with a promise to repay them in the future? Usually, the government promises to repay the principal in about thirty years, while paying annual interest rates of about five percent on the principal.

To be able to repay the principal sum of $200 million, plus the accruing annual interests, there must be a regular source of revenue stream coming to the government.

National governments, these days, take advantage of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund; financial institutions set up by the United States of America at the Breton woods, Rhode Island, conference, shortly after the second-world war, and borrow from them. The United States had learned well from John Maynard Keynes’ studies that showed that capitalist economies tend to go through periods of boom and bust, and, therefore, require governments to overrule Adam Smith’s insistence that the market is the best means for allocating resources efficiently. Keynes had advocated governments intervening in the economy to fight inflation and depression. When inflation rises, governments withdraw money from the economy, perhaps through raising taxes, and or raising the interest rates the Central Banks charge the commercial banks that borrow from them, and the later, in turn, charge their individual and business customers higher interests, hence discourage borrowing, and in the process reduce the quantity of money in circulation, and reduce inflation. Conversely, if the economy is moving towards recession/depression, as exhibited by rising unemployment, slow downs in businesses’ productivity and general slow down in the demands of goods and services, governments fight it by reducing taxes and or engaging in more spending so as to pump money into the economy, and in the process fight recession/depression. The American Federal Reserve Bank, under the capable hands of Alan Greenspan, lately, fought creeping recession/depression by lowering the prime rate.

The World Bank and IMF were set up to help governments, or if you like, those governments controlled by America, to have access to funds to engage in staving off inflation and recession/depression. The idea was to prevent a collapse of the economy, as happened in 1929.

The World Bank offers long-term loans, usually money that enables governments to defray the cost of expensive capital projects. The IMF offers short-term loans.

African governments, although America did not have them in mind when it structured the international economy to benefit it, learned to borrow from America’s funded and controlled international financial institutions. Today, African governments are saddled with enormous debts from these foreign lenders. Indeed, debt financing alone is so eating up most of their annual revenues that they are left with little or no funds to engage in developing their economies. In fact, some of them are not even able to pay for their recurrent budgets, let alone engage in capital expenditures. And, we are talking about paying the interests on the loans they had, and not repaying the actual principal yet. Many of these governments are not ever likely going to be able to repay the loans that they obtained from foreign lenders, money they squandered in corruption, and have nothing to show for it.

(Some African countries, Nigeria included, are now asking their foreign lenders to forgive their loans. This is not a good idea, for it encourages embezzlers in Nigeria to go to Washington DC, borrow money from the IMF, money that Congress gave to the IMF, hence American tax papers money, and squander it. Our local thieves have no business being subsidized by the hard working, and tax paying American workers. We must repay what we borrowed, that is adult behavior.)

For our present purposes, the point is that leaders identify the cost of proposed projects, the money needed to finance their goals, visions, and dreams, and seek ways to come up with that money.

Individuals who want to start businesses generally do so through their own savings, or obtain their seed money from relatives and friends. Commercial banks seldom lend money to new entrepreneurs to start their business. New businesses are risky affairs: over 90% of them fail during the first two years. Those of them that weathered the first few years, are incorporated, and are deemed successful can be authorized by relevant civil authorities to sell stocks as a means of generating revenue for their business, especially for their business expansion.

Stocks are different from bonds in the sense that bonds are, strictly speaking, borrowing and must be paid back in full, whereas stocks are money invested in business, and do not have to be paid back. If the business makes profits, those holding its stocks get paid dividends, if not, they loose their money. Of course folks holding securities can trade them in the Stock market. As companies’ fortunes improve, their stocks improve in value, and those holding them can sell them and make handsome profits. Let us say that the initial product offering (IPO) was twenty dollars per stock, and a chap bought 1000 stocks, and now the stocks are selling at forty dollars, the chap has doubled his original investment. Without business firms paying stock holders dividends, as long as they are improving their business fortunes, their stocks may be rising in value, so that those holders of them can trade them at the various stock exchanges, and make profits (capital gains) on their original investment.

Leaders identify where money to finance their dreams are going to come from: the group’s past savings, borrowings, as in bonds, stocks (if the business is run as a private corporation, rather than as a government owned one) etc. In the context of Nigeria, it is clear that folks rely on revenue from oil to fund most projects. We sell oil, and share the money we receive among the federal government and the thirty-six states. The states, in turn, share the money they received from Abuja between the various local governments, who, in turn, share it between corrupt officials. Generally, our oil-derived money is seldom devoted to capital projects.

As an aside, assuming that there are rational persons in Nigeria, they would understand that oil revenue is an exhaustible one. Sooner or later, Nigeria’s oil will run out. And, if it does not run out, the West will eventually discover other sources of energy, such as hydrogen and or solar, and would not have to buy our oil. At that point, one supposes that we would become a basket case, and like other mismanaged African countries starve, and beg the world to feed us with handouts called aids. Financial Aid that would promptly be wasted.

If there were leaders in Nigeria that have foresight, they would be thinking of ways to diverse the economy, to prepare for the necessary rainy day. That would mean finding alternative sources of revenue. Putting all of one’s eggs in one basket is not exactly an intelligent behavior, is it?

We have coal and could develop it. We have all sorts of minerals that could be developed. We have the ability to farm and can sell our produce (cocoa, palm oil etc.). More importantly, the so-called state governments, that go hat in hand begging the federal government for money, can learn that a government ought to be generating its owns money, and start collecting income taxes, individual and corporate, property taxes, licenses and generally engaging in the other known ways governments generate funds for their programs.

One hopes that Nigerians do not have a special corner on stupidity, and would do the right thing for once, by seeking ways to generate revenue for the governments that are mushrooming everywhere in the country.

Leaders are persons who understand that their societies have needs, and seek ways to meet those needs, and dedicate their lives to meeting those needs. In this light, how many Nigerians can be considered leaders? How many folks, in our bribe taking National Assembly, dedicate themselves to identifying the needs of Nigeria, and doing what needs done to meet them?

When the Russians beat America into space, President John F. Kennedy felt shamed, and made his famous speech that by the end of the decade, 1960s, that America would place someone on the moon. He gathered around him men and material to make his vision come true. He motivated Americans to work like they were driven, and by 1969, America had landed Neil Armstrong on the moon. America beat Russia in the race to the moon. This is called leadership in action.

Please tell me one current Nigerian leader who has set a goal for the nation, mobilized resources, human and material, and dedicated his life to realizing it, and doing so? Our so-called leaders are a disgrace to humanity.

Leaders are persons who are keenly aware of what their group needs to do to survive in the world they find themselves, and resolve to do them. Let us, then, ask ourselves what needs to be done for Nigeria to survive?

One could write a whole book on this subject (and one has done so), but one will delimit one’s self to delineating a few needs of the Nigerian polity.

It is clear that Nigerians need education. Despite all the noise made about how educated we are, it is the case that our universities graduate only a handful of scientists and engineers, annually. Compare our situation to South Korea. In South Korea, over thirty-three percent of all secondary school graduates go to universities. Less than ten percent of our secondary school graduates go to universities. In South Korea, most of the university students major in the physical and applied sciences. South Korea, a small country graduates more engineers a year than all of Africa combined. That is correct, a country the size of Eastern Nigeria, produces more engineers than all of Africa. Please tell me how we are going to be able to compete with South Korea?

In South Korea, all children go to elementary and secondary schools. What is the percent of Nigerian students that go to elementary and secondary schools? Less than forty percent of Nigeria’s secondary school age children go to secondary school.

The typical Korean secondary school graduate mastered physics, chemistry, biology and mathematics. In international competitions, Korean students invariably out perform other countries. Nigerian secondary school graduates can hardly be said to have attended secondary school. What is the percent of Nigerian secondary school graduates that took calculus and advanced physics, organic, inorganic and physical chemistry? Please tell me. If we graduate scientific illiterates from our secondary schools, how are we going to compete with the Asians whose secondary school graduates, in fact, do better than White America’s university graduates?

(Black Americans are a special case; many of them can hardly be said to be educated. Generally, the only way they can enter into America’s top universities is through special arrangements, Affirmative Action programs that admit them despite their possessing high school lower grade point averages and lower scores on the various scholastic aptitude tests. Many reasons have been advanced for their poor performance on these tests. These reasons are interesting. I am a realist and do not make excuses for any one. If you want to go to a particular university, you ought to study hard and get in through the right door. I do not support entering into schools through the back door. Like Saint Francis of Assisi, I do not want other people to understand why I do not do the right thing; I want to be the one understanding other people. I am sick and tired of black people always wanting other people to understand why they cannot do the right things. Asian students study very hard. If you go to libraries and laboratories they are invariably there. When libraries close up at night, you literally have to shove Asian students out. That is why they do well at American schools. They are a disciplined and studious bunch. They are every professor’s joy. I feel happy when they are in my classes, for they would do the tough work you demand of them. They do not need to be understood and helped to make C and D grades, like their black counterparts. They aim at, and make, A grades.)

India and China have more or less cornered the market on information technology. India is graduating so many information scientists that Microsoft has decided to build one of its businesses campuses in India. Please tell me what Nigeria is doing in the information technology sector? Are we not a part of the information technology world? Are we condemned to be mere consumers of other people’s inventions, and not be inventors ourselves?

If you are not aware of what is going on in higher education, let me open your eyes. Asians dominate American universities. It is mostly Asians that obtain doctorate degrees in the physical and technological sciences from American universities. Asians out compete all other students in the real sciences. We now practically have affirmative action programs aimed at admitting less qualified white students to America’s top universities. Based on merit alone, Asians would be the ones that go to the top schools. My Alma mater, University of California, is, in fact, finding creative ways to admit white students, and not the Asians who out score them in most entrance examinations. As for the black students, very few of them qualify for entrance, there.

Do all these facts seem trivial to you? If you were a leader, you would appreciate the implications of these developments in education. They mean that other countries have left us far behind. We are not part of the equation when education is talked about. These days, very few American universities recognize Nigerian university graduation as qualification for admission to do graduate work in their schools. As a matter of fact, many of our university graduates are not able to write in correct English grammar. This is an amazing turn of events. When the British were running our schools, our graduates were as good as graduates in English schools.

How did all these come about? Is it because of our so-called leaders’ lack of attention to education? It really does not matter how what is came to be. Whereas scholars need to do contextual analysis to understand the cause of the collapse of Nigeria’s education, what is germane is how to fix it. We must fix our schools, now, not tomorrow.

How do we fix it? Let us revisit South Korea, again. What are they doing right that we could emulate?

Nigerian leaders must immediately make it mandatory and compulsory for all Nigerian children to go to elementary and secondary schools. Please do not ask me where the resources to accomplish this goal would come from. The amount of money Mr. Obasanjo spends jetting all over the world can fund many of those schools. The South Korean President travels rarely, and one sees no reason why Obasanjo should be a perpetual tourist.

That is correct. Obasanjo is merely a tourist to the countries he visits. Why? People listen to leaders whose shops are well run, and since Nigeria’s shop could hardly be said to be well run, who would listen to Obasanjo? If the Prime Minister of Japan, a man running an efficient economy, talks, and people will listen to him, but not to a man whose economy is a mess. The man is merely using our money to satisfy his obsessive-compulsive craving to see the rest of the world. So let us cut down on his perpetual tours, and cut down on corruption, and use the money saved to provide elementary and secondary education for all Nigerian children, boys and girls. Remember the function of leaders, to come up with resources to accomplish group goals? Therefore, let Nigerian leaders come up with the resources to provide all Nigerians with elementary and secondary education.

And such education must emphasize science. There is no reason why we cannot invest in physics, chemistry and biology labs, and provide first-rate education in those much needed areas.

Korea sends 33% of its secondary school graduates to universities. We must do the same. If we have leaders in Nigeria, arrangements must be made for at least 33% of our secondary school graduates go to universities and, moreover, ascertain that the majority of them major in the physical and applied sciences…. subjects a modernizing economy requires. Seventy five percent of all university graduates ought to be in science and technology.

A poor developing country does not need to waste its meager resources producing social scientists and humanists who are destined to be unemployed, and worse do not really contribute that much to economic growth. Of course we need a few social scientists and humanists. Twenty-five percent of students graduating in these unproductive areas are probably acceptable risk management policy. Businessmen and technologists who produce jobs probably can afford to support a small population of idle social scientists, humanists and lawyers, but not too many of them.

Russia used to pay money to students studying physics, mathematics and engineering, as a motivation for more students to go into those fields. I say, let us pay monetary stipends to Nigerian students who go into the sciences. Those who go into the social sciences should not be paid; in fact, they ought to be paying for their higher education. Society has no obligation to help folks satisfy their hobbies.

Thirty-three percent of secondary school graduates, that is, one out of three students, is able to do university level work. The rest are not. Let us not waste our time debating the obvious. Intelligence is spread along a bell curve. About two percent of the population has superior IQ (over 132, on the WAIS), about five percent have above average intelligence (120-130) and about two percent are mentally retarded (under 70) and the rest of the population is average (85-115). These are universal facts. Not all people are Galileo, Isaac Newton, Copernicus, Kaplan, Harvey, Dalton, Boyle, Albert Einstein, Shrodinger, Hersenberg, Bohr, Pauli, Max Plank, Maxwell Taylor, Born and Bolm, the geniuses of mankind.

Most people in every country are average, and can only do average work. Therefore, a realistic polity makes allowances for the gifted and above average persons in it to go to universities, and for average persons to go to technical schools.

In practical terms, this means building no less then three hundred universities, and seven hundred technical schools in Nigeria. This must be done, now, not tomorrow.

A leader in Nigeria ought to initiate the equivalent of what Americans called land grant universities. In the late nineteenth century, the American federal government gave money and land to state governments to start state universities. Prior to that time, America had mostly private universities, schools that catered to the rich landed gentry that ruled America. When America decided to industrialize and realized that it needed to produce large middle class educated persons, it gave states the help to provide mass college education for the people. With the help of the federal government, America, a country of about 300 million persons, has 3000 universities, technological colleges and community colleges.

Nigeria, with its reported 100 million persons (can we ever have an accurate census?), ought to have one third of the number of America’s universities and colleges.

Please do not ask me where the money would come from to satisfy this seeming grandiose goal. I have already told you that it is the function of leaders to finagle resources for organizations to accomplish their goals. If you cannot find a way to come up with the labor and capital to operate the expected 1000 universities and technical colleges in Nigeria, please leave the leadership arena, and do not call your self a leader.

One performed needs assessment, and identified education, as one of the crucial needs to address, if Nigeria is to catch up with other countries. Nigerian leaders must resolve to build the elementary, secondary, technical colleges and universities necessary to educate Nigerians.

As in America, states are probably best placed to provide university and technical level education, whereas local governments are best suited to provide elementary and secondary education.

Of course, we must allow private schools. We do not need to pretend that all people are equal in wealth. As Jesus himself said, the poor will always be with us. It is the function of the public to provide education for the masses. If the rich want to have their own private schools, so be it. In fact, we must encourage private schools, if only to provide competition for public schools.

We know, from studies of public organizations that they tend to be less productive compared to private ones. America’s publicly run K through 12 Grade schools is a mess. Those Americans who can afford it send their children to well run private schools, where less unionized teachers are held accountable for teaching. We must, therefore, encourage private elementary, secondary, technical and university educational institutions. Their numbers is not a concern to us, here. The 1000 technical schools and universities identified as necessary for providing Nigeria with adequate education is what concerns us.

(Germany’s technical education system is universally acclaimed as the best in the world. Here, post secondary school students study technical subjects on campus, for two years, and then do two years on the job training in the area they studied. They then take a rigorous national examination to qualify to practice their trades. German technicians are demonstrably the best in the world. They fix and maintain things. We do not know how to fix and maintain the factories and buildings that we constructed. We ought to copy Germany’s technical schooling system. Our current British modeled Poly technical schools have mission confusion: they are confused regarding their objective, to produce academics or builders/repairers of things?)

Whereas America’s elementary and secondary schools are nothing to brag about, everybody agrees that her higher education system is probably the best in the world. We can borrow from America and hire university presidents whose job description includes finding money for their schools. The typical American university president is not necessarily hired because of his academic distinction, but because of his business acumen. He is expected to go after funds, and bring the money the university’s professors need to carry out their teaching and research functions. In other words, university presidents are managers and, as such, have the responsibility of acquiring the resources the crew working under them need to realize their organizations’ goals.

How do they accomplish this fund raising task? To begin with, they keep a list of all alumni. I get mail from my Alma mater just about every month, asking me to send money to it. Rich alumni sometimes donate millions to their former schools. Let me ask you this question. How many times has a Nigerian school contacted its alumni? The principals of our secondary schools, and the vice chancellors of our universities, do not even bother keeping in touch with their products. It is asking too much of these lazy folks to expect them to want to find out how those who passed through their schools are doing later in life.

Nigeria’s educators know only one thing: how to rely on the government to fund their shabby schools. Of course, we need government funding, but we also need to supplement that source of funds with money from elsewhere.

Consider the money that comes to American universities from its sports programs. Couldn’t we replicate that phenomenon in Nigeria?

Consider the relationship of American Universities with industry, relationships that generate income for them. Most business and engineering departments are in daily contact with relevant business organizations in their area, and work in tandem with them, know their labor needs, train students to suit them, do research for them, and garner money from them.

Simply stated, an American college president is expected to generate resources for his college, and not just rely on the lousy money state governments’ budget for higher education. Nigerian university presidents ought to have their job specification rewritten, so that they are expected to generate most of their schools’ funds through their ingenuity, and be evaluated annually by their governing boards, on how well they do in this department, as well as in the other areas they are expected to deliver.

Industrialization is a major area that Nigeria needs to emphasize. Nigerian leaders must industrialize Nigeria in a hurry. We are talking in decades, not in centuries. Joseph Stalin, like him or hate him, industrialized the former Soviet Union, in a hurry. Iron and Steel, Automobile, Airplane, pharmaceutical, textiles, etc must all be manufactured in Nigeria, now, not tomorrow. We need to borrow a bit from Stalin’s methods for industrializing Russia—his five-year economic plans, for example---- and combine it with the wisdom of the capitalist market.

Despite all the propaganda spilled out by the University of Chicago, department of Economics, regarding the wisdom of the free enterprise economy, the fact is that for developing countries to develop, a combination of government planning and free enterprise is what is called for. Milton Freedman and his fellow propagandists for capitalism have wrecked many third world economies with their privatization philosophy. I know for sure that publicly run organizations are generally poorly run, and that privately run organizations are generally more efficiently run. But the fact is that we do not have adequate private capital in Nigeria, and the government must play a key role in starting needed industries. Once these industries are up and running, it is probably wise to sell them off to private businessmen.

Again, please do not ask me where we shall get the money to industrialize Nigeria. Do remember the popular aphorism: where there is a will, there is a way. Besides, Abacha allegedly stole over 3 billion dollars, and God knows how much the other klepocrats that ruled Nigeria stole. With the money those criminals stole, we could fund a few industries.

It is the function of leaders to find the money necessary to fund society’s projects. If you are a leader, then, find ways to posit goals, and go get the funds to fund them. That is your job description.

Recently Obasanjo fired a few bad apples from his cabinet, and expressed shock that he had such corrupt persons in his government. Please give us a break. Obasanjo must have been out to lunch, if he, in fact, did not know that corruption is rife in Nigeria. Even in the 1970s, Peter Pan, (Peter Enahora) was already writing about "How to be a Nigerian" as how to bribe people to get what you want. Just try getting the Nigerian passport, and find out that you have to bribe some one to get it.

Recently, I was at the Washington DC, Nigerian embassy, trying to renew my passport. As I stood on the line to talk to the chap behind the glass window, to collect the requisite form, a chap approached me and told me not to waste my time seeking forms to apply for my passport’s renewal. He said that I should just give him $80 dollars, and that I would get my passport renewed in a few hours. Low and behold, when I finally got to the creature in the glass boot, he told me that he ran out of forms to give to me. That is correct, I traveled all the way from Seattle, Washington, to Washington DC, a distance of three thousand miles, to obtain some forms (that would not cost two dollars to Xerox them) and a whole Nigerian embassy had no forms to give me. I am not a spring chicken. Of course, the Embassy had forms to give to the public, but probably hid them, and had its bribe-collecting agent tell those seeking its services to pay bribe.

And our head of state does not know these facts! If that is correct, the man must be a moron. Of course, Obasanjo knows that corruption is the way of life in Nigeria. How does any one get any thing done in Satan’s own country, other than by bribing someone? Mr. Obasanjo please do not insult our intelligence; please treat us like the adults we are. If you want to fight corruption, by all means do so, but do not pretend that you just woke up to its reality.

It is the function of leaders, particularly founding leaders, to lay down the political system that future generations will operate on. Hopefully, the on going National Political Reform Conference will perform that task, and find a workable political structure for Nigeria. Actually, if they are intelligent persons, what they need to do is self-evident, and does not need rocket scientists to do it.

Nigeria is composed of diverse ethnic groups, each of whom fears domination by others. Therefore, Nigeria needs a federation.

There are about twenty authentic ethnic groups in Nigeria (and a few derivative small ones). Divide Nigeria into twenty states, each state comprising of one ethnic group, except in cases where the ethnic groups are too small to be a viable economic entity, as in the middle belt where there are numerous small groups, some a few thousand persons, in which case, a few of them would comprise a state.

Nigeria needs a Hausa, Yoruba, Ibo, Efik, Ijaw, Edo, Urobo/Ishikiri, Tivi, Fulani, Kanuri, Bornu state etc. Any solution that falls short of making each tribe a state is a temporary solution, and will not last.

Obafemi Awolowo, perhaps the best tactical leader Nigeria has produced, had the insight to call for each tribe to be made a state. That must be the case, or else we are kidding ourselves.

Other than making each tribe a state, the present federal structure of Nigeria seems fine. We do not need to fix it, if it works. We need a president that serves no more than two five-year terms, a unicameral legislature that is elected every five years (bicameral legislatures waste money, please note that Britain is essentially moving to unicameralism, with the marginalization of the redundant House of Lords), and an independent judiciary, headed by a Supreme Court. The central structure is to be replicated at the state and local government levels.

Please, please let us allow reason to guide our behaviors. We should not listen to the clamor for the creation of more states in Nigeria. Thirty-six states are already too many.

If you give Nigerians the opportunity, they would turn every town into a state. The folks are vainglory seeking, and when they loose the race to become the governors or whatever muckity muck governs their present state, they want to divide up that state, and carve out another state for themselves to become governors of.

This phenomenon is more likely to happen among the Ibos. As we all know, Ibos did not develop large social-political organizations before white men forced them into the Nigerian polity. Their political horizon is still village based. Their psychological make-up is attuned to small-scale social organization. They are generally lost in large, bureaucratic organizations. If permitted, Ibos would return to their village based social organization. Thus, each of them would make their villages a state.

Abia state is composed of a few towns. The distance between Aba and Umuahia, the two major towns in the state, is less than forty miles. Given good roads, you could drive to any part of that state within an hour. This small geographic area cannot be a state, in fact. Properly considered, it is not even large enough to be a county.

Compare Nigerian states with American states. California and Texas are just about the same size as Nigeria. Alaska is almost twice the size of Nigeria. So who are we kidding making areas not even large enough to be a county a state?

Our states are not economically able to support the governments sprouting in them. Yet people clamor for true federalism.

Please tell me how folks are going to pay for the governments of their mini states, other than beg money from the federal government? If they obtain most of their monies from the national government, how can they be on an equal footing with it? He who pays the piper calls the tune. You cannot have true federation unless states are capable of sustaining themselves independent of the national government.

A state ought to be able to maintain itself, economically. An American state can support itself without the federal government. Indeed, it is the states that give the federal government the money it needs to survive. California is the twentieth largest economy in the world. California’s economy is larger than that of Russia, and all of Africa combined.

Therefore, I recommend that our so-called states be redacted into economically viable states. Let us stop the silly shenanigan that every town can become a state.

Nigeria was put together by the British to serve British interests. That is real politics. We do not need to waste our time on infantile anger at the metropolis for stealing from its periphery. The metropolis stole from the periphery, and that is all there is to it. That is reality. Everywhere in the world, the powerful take from the weak.

Powerful Europeans drove weak Indians away from their lands, and stole their lands. Today, we assume that America is a white man’s land, when, in reality, white sociopath(s) stole the land from weak Indians.

Powerful Europeans bought Africans, and used our labor for free to build America. Such is life, C’est la vie. No body ever told you that life is fair.

Okay, the British put us together against our wishes. So let us pity ourselves for a little while before we get on with the business of facing reality. The British are victimizers and we are victims. Now, does that make you feel good? Feel that good, but now grow up, and smell the coffee, my friend.

The reality is that we are today one country, and that is good for us. Nostalgic as the past may seem, we cannot go back to it. In our past were weak independent tribes. Those tribes were too powerless to put up a fight against marauding Europeans. A dozen well-armed criminals from Europe defeated our fathers, and superimposed their criminal superstructure on them.

Please note that even at the height of British colonial rule in Nigeria, there were just a few hundred white men in the land. Yes, a few hundred armed bandits from Britain took over our lands and ruled us. Why were they able to do so? Guess? They came from a powerful country, and our tribal states were too weak to resist them.

Africa was too weak, and its weakness invited armed robbers from Europe (that is what the colonialists were, thieves) to take it over. That is reality, and we might as well face it.

I have bad news for you. If we continue being weak, the political climate might change and Europeans may agitate to go re-conquer Africa. They could rationalize their new colonial venture with the fact it appears that Africans cannot rule themselves.

Political ideologies do change, from time to time. The fifteenth century saw the ideology that said that Africans were inferior persons, hence justifying Europeans taking us as their slaves. The nineteenth century produced the ideology that non-whites are non-persons, hence justifying taking over their lands. International law did not recognize non-whites ownership of land. As far as international law was concerned, Africa, America, Asia and Australia were terra cotta, and whichever European power first got to them, and planted its flag, owned that territory.

Such an aggressive ideology is actually brewing somewhere in the psyches of white folks. And it is given credence by black Americans pathetic performance at American schools. These folks poor showing at American schools has resulted in the perception of them, and by generalization, Africans, as less intelligent persons.

History moves in cycles, and one can see a powerful racist demagogue articulating the fascist ideology that Africans are incapable of governing themselves, and that like children, they need to be governed by the assumed adult white persons. (Let our leaders keep misgoverning us and inviting that possibility.)

Pre-colonial African tribes were not economically viable political entities. We need larger political frameworks to be able to compete with other countries.

I am thankful that we have Nigeria as a country, and all those idiots calling for the actualization of Biafra ought to be jailed. (The fools talking about movement for the actualization of Biafra are not even intelligent enough to come up with an authentic African name for their infantile state; they name their insane country with a Portuguese name. Biafra is a village in Portugal.)

We need Nigeria, and must work for her survival. Indeed, in the future, we must work for a Unified Africa, a federated Africa where each of its five hundred tribes is a state in the anticipated Africa federation. We are, however, talking about the now, not future. In the now, we have Nigeria to contend with, and must make it work. We must take one step at a time; we must learn to walk before we can fly. We must make Nigeria work before we can dream of a unified Africa.

Nigerian leaders must figure out a way to train Nigerians to identify as Nigerian. We must find ways to see ourselves as Nigerians and not just Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba.

Another need of Nigeria is her need for infrastructural improvement. Nigerian roads are abysmal. Real leaders could do for Nigeria what President Eisenhower did for America. Eisenhower was the allied military leader in Europe, and while there, saw what Hitler did to German roads: built autobahns. When elected the president of America in 1952, Eisenhower decided to replicate excellent German roads in America. His administration funded the interstate freeways.

Nigeria needs freeways built to crisscross it from north to south and from west to east. We also need to build railways, airports, seaports, and generally improve all means of transportation. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. We can go to Germany and copy its excellent high way system (it is better than American freeways…Americans are cheap, the pavement of American freeways is only eleven inches thick, whereas Germany’s is twenty seven inches; Germany’s road are better made and last longer).

We should just copy what others have done right. When, after the Meiji restoration, Japan decided to modernize, it sent delegates to Europe and America and from them copied whatever works. It copied the Prussian military and bureaucracy, copied French local government system (prefectures), and copied America’s economic system (and injected Japanese management system into it). Today, China is unabashedly copying the West, and is increasingly becoming industrialized. Indeed, China sometimes ignores Western Copy right and Patent laws, and steals the ideas behind them, to do what it has to do to industrialize. If others would not share their idea, “borrow them”.

For example, if American pharmaceutical companies insist on selling HIV/Aids medication at prices that Africans cannot afford, and Africans are dying of Aids, their actions are immoral; I say, ignore their patents, and manufacture those medications, and sell them cheap in Africa, to preserve African lives. Even though one understands that Western pharmaceutical companies invested lots of money doing the research that resulted in the medications they sell to us, and need to make profits to recoup the cost of their expenditure, but in as much as they do make usurious profits, we ought to disregard their pleas to fleece us. No one has a right to make profits while others die.

Nigeria needs rural electrification, provision of pipe borne water to all villages, and hospitals and clinics to treat the people. The fact that we have to talk about this matter is a shame. If we had leaders in Nigeria, by now, these things would have been taken care of.

It is possible to provide electricity to all parts of Nigeria in five years, to provide pipe borne water to all villages in five years, and to build hospitals and clinics in every local government area in five years.

How is this to be done? In the early part of the twentieth century, America decided to electrify its rural areas, and built dams at strategic locations, and constructed other sources of energy, and by the 1930s, had met its goal of providing electricity to all Americans. I suppose that we have scholars in Nigeria, and that they do study America’s economic history, and know how America was transformed from an agricultural society into the industrial giant it is today? When Alexis Du Toquiville visited America in 1831, he saw a rural society. The leaders of Hipville America subsequently decided to accept the industrial revolution that began in Britain in the 1740s, and become industrialized, and mobilized its energy, and by the early twentieth century, America was no longer Appalachian boondocks, but a mighty industrialized country. (The reason we study comparative economics and politics is to see how others do what they do, and if they do it better than us, learn from them.)

We can study how America accomplished its goals and do the same. That is what Nigerian leaders ought to be doing, and not devoting their intelligence to figuring out ways to rob the nation down.

Stalin decided to modernize an essentially primitive Russia, and did so in three decades. He did so through his infamous five-year economic plans. He destroyed the Kulaks that stood on his way to improving Soviet agriculture. By the 1950s, when Stalin died, Russia was considered an industrialized country. Please do not tell me that what Stalin did was all-wrong. May be he over did some things, but in the real world, the fact is that you cannot make omelet without breaking eggs. If you want to industrialize your country, you must deal with those with investment in the backwardness of the country, you must rootlessly destroy them.

Even America that today glibly talks nonsense about the virtues of the free enterprise economy did not hesitate in employing non free enterprise methods in modernizing its economy. Hamilton, America’s first Treasury Secretary, placed prohibitive protective tariffs on manufactured goods coming to the US, as a means of keeping them out, so as to give America’s infant industries a fighting chance to develop. A developed American Industry was later able to compete with Manchester and Birmingham. In case you have been sleeping, when America decides that something is in its national interests, it would destroy those who are obstacles on its path. Indeed, if America, today, decides that it is in its best interests to keep Africa a primitive continent, whose resources its companies rob, it would do so. It would not even have to try hard to accomplish its objective. All it has to do is give its comprador agents in Africa bribes, and they hold down their own people. The slave sellers, called our leaders, will sell their brothers down the river, as they have done in the last one thousand years.

If you are an adult, you pretty much know whether you have leadership skills or not. Do you have a history of initiating activities? Do you have a history of getting other people to work with you to accomplish goals that you and they set? Do you have a history of finding out where to obtain the resources needed in attaining the goals you and other people seek? Do you easily commit to goals that are larger than your personal goals? Have you ever done something for the simple fact that it is good to do so, and not because of what is in it for you? Have you so believed in something, and dedicated your life to it, that you are willing to die, if necessary, in pursuit of it?

If the answer to all these are affirmative, you have leadership traits. But if the answer is negative, you are not a leader.

If you lack leadership skills, you can train for them. Business schools do teach them. The goal of this essay is to encourage training of leadership and management in Nigeria. Read on.

Most economists tell us that national economies should strive for no more than five percent unemployment. In seeking to realize this idea of zero unemployment (five percent unemployment is considered zero unemployment, for there are those, who, for any number of reasons, cannot work, such as the mentally ill, the mentally retarded, and those between jobs), most modern governments accept Keynesian economics. (Monetary policy, fiscal policy, taxation policy etc.)

Governments now accept that it is the function of the national government to provide jobs for its citizens. Does this assumption apply to Nigeria? What is the unemployment rate in Nigeria? Sixty percent? Does Nigeria, in fact, keep good statistics on any thing? It can’t even tell you how many people are in Nigeria or how many ethnic groups are in Nigeria. It is always saying that Nigeria is about, 100, 120, and 120 million persons, and that Nigeria has over two hundred ethnic groups. Why not give definite figures? How about 100 million persons and 20 ethnic groups? Try those numbers for size; they approximate the truth, not the fantasy figures banded about by our lazy government officials.

The folks governing Nigeria actually do not know what they are doing by permitting large unemployment in Nigeria. Sociologists tell us that persons between the ages of 14-24 are more likely to engage in criminal activity. Thus rational societies keep these people occupied, at sports, schools, universities and jobs, to prevent them from having the free time to engage in antisocial activities. But what does Nigeria do? Our government, through its inaction, in effect, says that it does not care that its young people are unemployed. Do you know the consequences of this behavior? Guess? Criminality.

If the trend of high youth unemployment continues in Nigeria, one expects there to be brigands, and high way robbers everywhere. One hopes that these unemployed, hence angry youth direct their anger at their leaders, and kill them. That is correct; they should visit the various governors and legislators and kill them. Why not? If you do not do what you are supposed to do for youth, provide them with education, sports, and job opportunities, why should they respect your life? Just give me one good reason why an alienated youth should care for adults?

I am not a sentimental type of person so do not give me clap trap reasoning. I know, for sure, that if we do not address the needs of our youth that they will necessarily become criminals. See what happened in America’s inner cities. The racist white world ignored the plight of young black Americans. Of black American children, 70% are raised by single parents, usually hard pressed women (the men get the women pregnant, and abandon them…I know, I know the reasons for this, I have read one million sociological studies on this subject, beginning with Patrick Monyham’s studies on the black family, in the 1960s…black men are unable to secure jobs in racist America, hence cannot take care of their children, hence leave their women to go on welfare, and at least obtain some handout to feed the children etc.).

The nurturing and economic needs of inner city youth are not met. What do you expect of them? Do you want them to care for the black community? Care for those who abandoned them? Of course not. Thus these under-socialized kids go wild, and randomly kill black people, and do not exhibit the slightest guilt or remorse.

You feel remorseful if you harm those who helped you, not those who ignored your needs, particularly when you were young.

Nigerian leaders, like senseless fools, ignore the plight of our youth, and these youth roam the streets of Lagos etc. unemployed. Many of them will turn to criminal behavior, and hopefully, start killing the parasites that call themselves our leaders. Useless garbage needs to be gotten rid of.

I personally do not shed a tear when a Nigerian so-called leader dies. In fact, I rejoice. It may seem macabre, but the happiest day of my life was the day Abacha dropped dead.

Compare and contrast my reaction, which I assume is the same reaction of many Nigerians, to Americans reaction when Kennedy was shot. The entire American nation became depressed, literally. The American people mourned their great leader.

When our criminal leaders die, we feel good riddance. So what exactly is the good all the money these thugs in government steal doing them? If their people do not miss them when they die, what good are they?

As for history, Nigeria has not produced a political figure that would be noted in history books a hundred years after his death. Even Nnamdi Azikiwe, popularly called Zik of Africa, compared to Kwame Nkrumah, was no African leader. Mr. Benjamin Azikiwe was, at best, a tribal leader. History books will note him for the piddling, although exaggerated, role he played in anti colonial movement. He will be a minor footnote in history books. Future generations of Africans, on the other hand will read about Nkrumah and Nelson Mandela.

I have a question for you: since Nigerians are narcissistic and seek others’ attention, why don’t they, as leaders, aim at securing their places in history books? Why don’t they become the types of Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and the other great leaders of mankind? Perhaps, they want history to remember them because they stole from the public to grow fat bellies?

Talking about their fat bellies, it is poetic justice that these useless leaders generally die from cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes…although like superstitious persons everywhere, they attribute their death, not to physical diseases from over eating, but to juju.

I suppose it is asking too much for our leaders to understand that they are supposed to be role models, including physical role models? People look up to their leaders, and if they are physically trim, people will struggle to be so. A trim Kennedy made Americans struggle to be trim.

The typical Nigerian leader is around five feet ten inches tall. That means that he should not weigh more than 175 lbs. To weigh in the healthy range, he must eat right, not too much, and must stay away from cigarettes and alcohol (or limit intake of alcohol), and exercise regularly: run for an hour, three times a week, swim, ride bicycles, and generally do whatever keeps him in healthy shape.)

If you observe children, some as young as age six, you can identify those who are “natural leaders”. A child with leadership abilities will go get a ball, and gather other children to play with him, and assign roles to the other kids to play. In effect, he has set a goal (playing soccer) and gathered resources (ball, players) and organized the resources to achieve the group’s goal (play). He coordinated the activities of the players, assigned roles to the players, monitored their activities to make sure that they conduced to their goal attainment, win over another team, planned activities, evaluated others activities and performed other leadership and management tasks.

Empirical observation indicates that only a small percentage of any human population has natural leadership skills. However, many persons can be trained to become average leaders. If a nation is lucky to have a few outstanding leaders, it will achieve a lot.

Some leadership traits are inherited. Not all of us can be Napoleon. Napoleon reportedly once tested his hold over men by asking his generals to jump into an icy river, and the generals, bedecked in their military splendor, immediately leaped into the cold water; they obeyed him. They did so because they accepted his leadership. They were willing to go to war, fight, kill and get killed for their leader. Not all of us can elicit that kind of total obedience from those around us.

Psychological studies have shown certain attributes of leadership that we know are inherited. Leaders tend to be extroverted rather than introverted. Jerome Kegan, at Harvard, has demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that introversion and extroversion are inherited qualities. Although you can train the shy, introverted child to become somewhat outgoing, he is not going to be totally at ease in social settings. In, as much as, leaders tend to be socially out going, it follows that they inherited that trait.

This does not mean that all leadership traits are biologic in origin. Many of them can be trained for. We can consciously train people to set goals, initiate action that serves public interests, and seek out ways to mobilize human and material resources to attaining them. In America, business schools consciously teach courses on leadership, along with management courses.

Whereas, it is self evident that not all of us are going to be outstanding leaders like Alexander the Great, Attila the Hun, Theodosius the Barbarian (German), Genghis Khan, Tamarind, Shaka Zulu, Napoleon, even Adolf Hitler, most of us can become lesser leaders, if we train for it. I, therefore, suggest that we consciously train for leaders in our schools.

Some make much ado about the so-called differences between leaders and managers. Leaders are said to have visions and set organizational goals. Managers are said to be those who, while they did not set the organization’s goals, come into it, and use men and material to achieve them. Management is said to be different from leadership because a great manager may not set organizational goals, while he may help whoever set the goals to achieve them. This may be true or not. It is universally agreed that management can be trained for, whereas leadership is not easily trained for.

Leadership is mostly social psychological, whereas management is mostly technical. You can train in finance, accounting, production and marketing, the core aspects of management, but it is doubtful that you can easily teach a person charisma, the ability to influence other people to the point that they are willing to sacrifice their lives for you?

If you want to be leader of a modern polity, you must understand management and that entails studying basic economics, finance, accounting, marketing, human resources, operations/productions management, general management principles, organizational behavior, e-commerce, labor relations, customer care, and the other courses taught at master of business Administration schools.

In, as much as, leaders deal with government, they must also study aspects of political science, public administration and law. However, training in political science is not relevant to being a politician. Political scientists are journalists who report on the activities of leaders, but are seldom themselves leaders. Many of them, in fact, are too timid to give other persons orders to do something. Leaders must be prepared to give people orders to march to war, to kill and be killed. It takes tough skin and iron will to be able to command men to kill and be killed. Thus Leadership has nothing to do with academic sentimentality, the type of stuff considered in graduate seminars, in safe Ivory Tower. Talk fest is not action fest.

We can package management courses in a few books, and train all persons aspiring to enter politics in Nigeria on them; and require them to sit and pass examinations based on them, to demonstrate that they understand leadership and management. No one should be a member of the National Assembly who has not taken courses on public and business finance, macro and microeconomics, and leadership.

One ought to know something about running a business; a country is a big business, before one pretends to run it. Part of the reasons why there is too much corruption in Nigeria is that our leaders, in fact, do not understand what leaders are supposed to do: set goals and achieve them through the aid of other people. Our folks call themselves chief without understanding that the term chief means leader. If it means leader, and a leader is a person who sets goals and accomplish them through the auspices of other persons, and you are not doing so, why do you call yourself chief? Chief is not just an honorific title; chief means a leader of a group.

Click here to continue reading "Ozodi Osuji Lectures #20: Training for Leadership in Nigeria"

Posted by Administrator at October 25, 2005 01:15 AM


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