Friday Sermon: The Burden of Leadership

By Babatunde Jose

The leadership conundrum in Nigeria has been an ever recurring decimal in our march towards self-sustained development. Many authorities have proffered all sorts of hypothesis on this problem but like the proverbial offensive odour of an elephant’s fart, it has refused to go away. Unfortunately, our leaders have failed to adhere to the various in junctions pertaining to leadership in a community. Most of them are people of questionable pedigree, dubious characters and most often people operating on the periphery of crime. Therefore: Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. (Matthew 7:16-20)

Jules Masserman, United States professor of Psychoanalysis, University of Chicago says the leader must fulfil three functions:

1.    The leader must provide for the well-being of the lead … The leader, whoever he is, must be interested in your welfare.  He must not be ravenous like most of the vampire leaders of the ‘Third World’; such as our present day political and religious leaders; who have turned the masses into their ‘milking cows, to be exploited to satisfy their greed and lust.

2.    Leader or would be leader must provide a social organization in which people feel relatively secure … a Leader must provide a social order free of self, voracity and ethnicity. Unfortunately, “there is still with us much sorrow and sin, injustice, oppression, wrong and hate. Still does arrogance deaden conscience, rob struggling souls of even the crumbs of pity, and make, of loathsome flesh and crumbling dust, fair-seeming idols for worship. Still does ignorance blow a mighty horn and try to shame true wisdom…  Still does greed devour the substance of helpless ones within its power: Nay, more, the fine individual voice is smothered in the raucous din of groups and crowds that madly shout what they call slogans, new, old falsehoods, long discredited! What can we do to make God’s light shine forth through the darkness around us? Prof. Jitendra Dhoj Khand.  We are a helpless people, who have refused to make efforts to help ourselves; architects of our own misfortune. Like Cassius lamented to Casca in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar,” And why should Caesar be a tyrant then? Poor man! I know he would not be a wolf, But that he sees the Romans are but sheep. He were no lion were not Romans hinds.”

3.    The leader must provide its people with a set of beliefs or national ideology. It is easy to talk of the fellowship of men under a single banner. This has not been possible in our clime as the leaders are bereft of vision and mission; and are not endowed with the spirit of corporate, political or spiritual leadership. They do not have any apparition of a ‘promised land’. Neither are they agitators who are more likely to possess these qualities.

Leadership denotes the ability to move masses of men, the talent to produce ideas, and forge the union of theorist, organizer and leader all in one; a rare phenomenon which we find only in great men of history: Ghandi, Napoleon, Caesar, Lenin, Mao, JFK and Hitler.

The leaders we have are charlatans, false leaders and men of untruth. Like they say: A false man cannot build a brick house! If he does not know and follow truly the properties of mortar, burnt clay and what else he works in, it is no house that he makes, but a rubbish heap. It will not stand the test of time and it will fall straightaway.  It is like a forged bank note; they get it passed out of their worthless hands.” Heroes and Hero-worship), p.58.  It is sad indeed! And the 21stCentury is fast going.

Let me end by quoting the conclusions of Olutola Abolurin in his treatise on Religion and Religiosity, when he said: Nigeria therefore is not suffering because of the open show of religiousness, rather there are too many professing religion who do not really have ingrained in them the virtues of the religions they profess and have no intention of seeking the redemptive paths offered by their religions. Religion has become for many the mask to wear to obtain preferment or to lull others into dropping their guards in their personal and business interactions.

The problem we have is the leadership of the society – political, business, civil, and religious. We all claim to be religious but we do not reflect the values of our professed religions in our behavior, in politics or in governance. Indeed for most of us, politics or business is a “do or die” affair and anything goes. And a lot get away with it. Institutions to curb our excesses are corrupted by us. Religious leaders unfortunately also pander to those who are rich or powerful, and in the process, undermine the religious values that should provide the moral anchor for the society. By our actions and inactions as leaders we debase the society and the people become cynical and alienated. We, the leaders in Nigeria, nay Africa, are the problem.

Barka Juma’at and a Happy Weekend.


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