I am sincerely grateful to the Integrity International Magazine for selecting me to be the keynote speaker in the 9th International Leadership Conference of the Organization holding today in this prestigious arena. I note, with a deep sense of humility and responsibility, that this invitation speaks volumes about the organization’s confidence in my person to do justice to the topic and offer my humble contributions towards the search for peace and good governance in the world in general and Nigeria, our dear country in particular.
Let me start by re-iterating the familiar definitions of the key words in this title namely: Democracy, Peace and Leadership. Abraham Lincoln, a one-time President of the United States of America defined Democracy as the Government of the people, by the people and for the people. It is a form of government that has been practices by several countries of the world including the United States of America where it has been in vogue for the past 2 centuries. Because of its inherent positive attributes, it has been globally accepted as the best form of government.
Peace can be defined as a social situation prevailing in any nation, community or other human environment or geographical entity, characterized by absence of war, conflict, friction or other social disturbances or upheavals.
Leadership simply refers to the art of governance or directing the affairs of a nation, a people, a community or an organization, in order to achieve set objectives and ensure peace, orderly development, and the attainment of security of life and property of the people involved.
Global peace is dependent on the peace prevailing in the individual countries or nations of the world under different forms of governance. The peace in the individual countries of the world is in turn a function of the quality of governance and leadership. Very often, people associate peace with absence of a shooting war. Noting can be further from the truth. A country may be peaceful yet is being plagued by myriads of problems such as mass poverty, unemployment, astronomical cost of living, high rate of illiteracy amongst the citizenry, monopoly of natural resources and power by a section or some sections of the society, and consequent marginalization of another or others, rancid corruption by the ruling class, neglect of the welfare of the masses especially in the area of health-care, education and infrastructural development, intimidation or oppression of the masses, tribal hatred which could graduate into massive extra-judicial killings of the weaker or minority group, terrorism, oppression or suppresson of the women folk, police or army brutality, kidnapping, etc. These and many more are categorized as structural violence.
Any nation experiencing all or some of these forms of structural violence but not a civil war cannot be said to be peaceful.
In the contemporary world, different nations of the world have come together under different organizations or unions so as to forge unity, peace, good neighbourliness, good governance, trade, cultural exchanges and peaceful exploitation of common natural resources and rapid economic development, amongst other aims and objectives. Thus we have the United Nations Organization with several service agencies, The African Union (formerly the Organization of African Unity), The Arab League, The British Commonwealth, The ACP, ECOWAS, EU, etc. Despite the presence of all these bodies, conflicts and wars are still rampant on the globe.
Available statistics have shown that most of the conflicts/crises that occur in the world are found in the African continent.
CAUSES OF CONFLICTS, WARS AND OTHER FORMS OF INSTABILITY IN THE GLOBE
The following are some of the causative factors for the different forms of crisis that have enveloped the world:
NIGERIA’S DEMOCRATIC EXPERIMENT, THE JOURNEY SO FAR
As the keynote speaker in this particular conference, I feel safer and more competent to dwell on democracy and peace in Nigeria, a leadership challenge, rather than global peace and leadership challenge. This is because we should try to put our house in order before trying to put the world in order, if at all that is achievable:
An excerpt from the defunct National Concorde Newspaper of Thursday, July 1, 1999 issue (p.7) stated as follows, and I quote: “The political class is largely unprincipled and opportunistic, paying only lip service to democracy; the country’s public service requires serious overhaul and re-orientation; the police and other internal security outfits remain authoritarian and lawless. The rule of law is not yet sacrosanct, and draconian decrees remain in the statue books; a large segment of the civil society is docile and fatalistic and still harbouring antidemocratic or fascistic tendencies inherited from decades of military tyranny; the economy remains prostrate and corruption is rife; and the predatory and violent character of the state has yet to be changed”. Unquote.
Ladies and gentlemen, a cursory examination of the above analysis made 15 years ago will reveal the fact that most of these observations are still valid today, which seems to suggest that we have learnt or nothing from the mistakes of the past. In fact some of the challenges have doubled or even trebled in magnitude while new ones such as BokoHaramism, Niger Delta militancy have arrived at our political doorsteps.
At this juncture, what should be the qualities of an ideal leader in Nigeria, so as to reverse the subsisting situation of things? Before going into this aspect of the discourse, let me first of all commend our President, His Excellency, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan for his patriotic and selfless efforts in giving Nigeria the right leadership during the past 4 years despite daunting challenges strewn on his way. I also appreciate his efforts to transform and reposition Nigeria towards joining the league of 20 most developed economies of the world.
QUALITIES OF AN IDEAL LEADER IN NIGERIA OR ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD
A leader who brings all the above traits to office is bound to inspire good followership and citizenry loyalty which will certainly propel the nation on the path of progress and greatness. There is no doubt that Nigeria has been in search of leaders with above qualities at all tiers of Government since independence in 1960.
Prof. Ebong Thomas Eshett is of the Federal University of Technology, Owerri.
Being excerpts of lecture delivered on the occasion of the 9th International Leadership Conference/Awards conferment organized by Integrity International Magazine held at the National Merit House, Abuja, Nigeria Last Year
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