Friday Sermon: Legacy of Shame

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Nigerian Senate

By Babatunde Jose

“Verily, what reaches the momin of his good works and good acts, after his death, is the knowledge (benefitted from)… and a righteous child which he has left (behind him), or a book which he has given to inherit, or a place of worship which he has built, or a house for the homeless which he has built, or a canal which he has caused to be dug, or an act of charity which he has done out of his wealth while in his health and life. (The good effects thereof) reach him (even) after his death.” [Bayhaqi, Ibn Majah]

With the current expose of the true colour of our leaders, one is at a loss as to what goes on in their minds. How do they want history to judge them and what legacy do they want to leave behind. Are they really leaders or opportunists, carpetbaggers, or fortune hunters; buccaneers or freebooters? Are they conscious of the need to put their footprints on the sands of time or they want to engrave their names in the black book of history?

Leadership has been defined as a process through which a person influences and motivates others to get involved in accomplishment of a particular task. This single definition, although universally accepted, fails to define the particular paths and ways of people who are deemed as great leaders. All great leaders had something unique about them and yet they were bound by greatness that helped them to lead masses to innovation and new ideologies.

Since the oldest times known to men, masses have been led by efficient leaders. Such men and women have been responsible for ushering their people into a new and more modern world as we know of it now. Although times have changed, the contributions of these great leaders cannot be forgotten and although practices and ways of doing things have changed as well, the ways of these great leaders cannot be overlooked. What made them great might still be applicable in today’s day and age.

A good leader is what Steve Martin called “a mensch”: A mensch is a person who is decent and honourable, a person of high integrity who has genuine caring for his fellow man. A mensch always looks for an opportunity to do good in life, to be of help to others and to give without regard for anything in return. A mensch doesn’t cut corners in their relationships with people. You always feel safe in the presence of a mensch because you instinctively know that they will not deceive you, undermine you or diminish you in any way. Being called a mensch is the ultimate compliment you can receive.”

Strive to live your life as a mensch, and you’ll have left your greatest legacy for anyone who has come in contact with you. Our leaders today do not fit this billing. They are not only selfish, but inordinate in their self-aggrandizement. They are cheats and liars and at other times knaves and scoundrels. They have no sense of history because they lack vision and mission. This being so, they do not have a plan for the well being of the people they profess to lead. Because they lack mission, they are oblivious to the need to leave a legacy. As far as they are concerned, they live for the moment.  Nigeria can burn to cinder, as far as they are concerned. All they are after is their large slice of the national cake and a nest egg for their immediate nuclear family and the next generation. Unlike great men of history, whose characteristics were resilience, knowledge, people-skills, motivational approach and leading by example; foresight, vision, strategic planning and the ability to lead people to success; determination, persistence, beliefs and courage.

One of the greatest leaders of all time, Prophet Muhammad spearheaded the spread of Islam in and around Arabia. His contribution to Islam was such that it has become the second largest and the fastest growing religion of the world today. He united a chaotic society in the name of morality and humanity and led his people out of severe persecution and mistreatment. He led his people to a number of migrations and successful victories in wars against armies much larger than theirs. His greatest leadership qualities were his courage, leading by example, motivational approach, persistence and decision-making: However, the same cannot be said of his Arab successors who have today created a niche for themselves as terrorists.

There was Julius Caesar, easily one of the greatest military leaders of all time, Caesar was also one of the best political leaders the world has ever seen. He led several campaigns with numerous victories and was singlehandedly responsible for the expansion of the Roman Empire. He was also responsible for reforming the Roman government and thus laying the foundation to a great empire. His greatest traits were his decisiveness, boldness, eagerness, motivation, opportunism and strategic planning.

One cannot see our present crop of political leaders, meeting any of these standards or exhibiting any of these exemplary attributes. Singing ‘Ajekun iya’ is not what historical legacies are made of. Building 50-bedroom hilltop mansions is not it either. Men of outstanding contributions to society are never remembered for the magnificence of their mansions, except for the Taj Mahal and the pyramids of Egypt, which are two of the ‘seven wonders’ of the world.

The legacy of leaders are measured by the quantum of change they bring to their societies and the index of human development. It is this yardstick that makes Adolf Hitler a greater leader than most charlatans who today parade themselves as leaders.

Although despised through the world, Adolf Hitler was one of the greatest leaders of all time. After becoming the Chancellor of Germany in 1933, he was responsible for one of the greatest economic and military expansions the world has ever seen. He successfully invaded more than 10 countries with his brilliant strategy and meticulous planning. His oratory skills, propaganda and planning made him a leader par excellence. The Volkswagen Beatle was born out of Hitler’s conviction to give every German a means of mobility.

Instead of creating a lasting and enduring legacy, our people are busy perfecting the ignoble art of stealing from the ‘cookie jar’: A leadership that signs the national budget six months into a 12-month financial year cannot be a serious leadership. A legacy of shame; and that is a pity.

May Allah deliver us from the hands of failed messiahs; Amen.

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Barka Juma’at and Ramadan Kareem.

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