By Babatunde Jose
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Edmund Burke
“A democratic society, an open society places an extraordinary responsibility on ordinary men and women because we are governed by what we think. We are governed by our opinions; so the content of our opinions, the quality of our opinions, and the quality of the formation of our opinions basically determines the character of our society. And that means that in a democracy and an open society, a thoughtless citizen of democracy is a delinquent citizen of democracy.” Leon Wieseltier.
It follows therefore that “People get the leaders they deserve”; the man who sells his vote for a pittance, the voter who sells his PVC and the supporter who accepts stomach-infrastructure to subvert the democratic process, the Okada riders who ride themselves to death in heralding the arrival of a corrupt politician to a rally, the women who receive 1000Naira Ankara fabric from politicians and those who accept customized packs of pop-corn from political office seekers are all in the same category with the corrupt and bad leadership. To all intents and purposes both the leaders and the followers are birds of the same feathers. They can never bring about a virile democracy. This unfortunately is the bane of our society.
Followers provide valuable supports to leaders. They are supposed to listen, replicate, conform, query and legitimize the leader. Leadership and followership are closely intertwined. Effective followers can shape productive leadership behaviour just as effective leaders develop subordinates into good followers. Without followers there are no leaders: It is a dyadic relationship. The fundamental idea is that leaders influence followers and vice versa, and that the whole sense of leadership do not only rely on power definition per se but the degree of which people would want to follow. This includes followers’ reactions in each decision of the leader. Dyadic relationship views leader-follower relations as very essential factors for national development. Leadership and followership is a major universal challenge to all nation states; while some countries have overcome the primitive or dictatorial stage to propel their economy and the social welfare of their people to a comfortable level; other emerging developing economies are still reeling to grow above the challenges of ‘impotent leadership and followership syndrome’.
Leadership and followership relationship should always be harmonized to enable the society achieve her vision and set goals. In this clime there is a need for leadership and followership to adopt a new paradigm. Consensus selection of leaders should be avoided; Leaders should be elected through democratic and transparent processes. Tribal sentiments should be set aside in electing and criticizing our leaders. Our target and criteria for assessment should be our vision and goal as a people.
Followership in Nigeria has not generated much debate. But there have been cases of resistance movements that have been spearheaded by followers; such as the Aba women tax riot of 1929, the Agbekoya farmers revolt 1968/69, Ali Must Go 1978, Babangida Must Go Protest 1989, June 12 Protests and recently the Occupy Nigeria Protest: A socio-political protest movement that began on Monday, 2 January 2012 in response to the fuel subsidy removal by the Federal Government of President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday, 1 January 2012. Total number of deaths: 16 (Lagos, Maiduguri, Ilorin and Gusau; All shot by the Nigeria Police Force). They involved civil disobedience, civil resistance, strike action, demonstration and Internet activism. These resistance cases are protest against poor governance and ineptitude of Nigerian Leaders.
Nigerian followers could be very loyal and supportive to leadership and have participated actively in the achievement of the nation’s goals. However, when a people are ravaged by poverty, they become docile and it weakens their ability to rise up to the challenges of checkmating the excesses of their leaders. This docility has a negative impact on Leader- follower relationship. Leaders that are checkmated by their followers will limit their excesses and realign themselves to public opinion. But in the midst of docility and sycophancy, leaders will be getting away with their dishonesties, corruptions, venalities and ineptitude. This exactly is what is happening today. The balance of power between leader and follower however, must be maintained in order to provide a culture of openness that promotes self-engagement.
Ever since the social contract between man and government, in which man surrendered some of his right to the centre called government, there was a social contract that as a result of the surrender of these rights, government should be able to use law to regulate the society and ensure the security and welfare of the people. Ever since independence, Nigeria has been facing leadership crises; wobbling from one regime to another. Leadership has not been able to deliver the needed dividend of our God given resources to her people nor provide satisfactory social welfare services nor social amenities; yet her followers have been very resilient. If followership is to be cultivated the morale of the people must be activated. There is need for leaders to be sensitive to the needs and opinion of followers. A docile followership contributes to the detriment of its welfare. People should stop seating on the fence believing that change to a new paradigm will be actualized through miracle; change is created through human effort hence Nigerians should live up to their civic responsibilities in other to create a good and sustainable leadership and followership relationship.
Problem of Followership in Nigeria include poverty which prevents the people from playing their rightful roles in checkmating the excesses of the leaders. Ethnicity is another problem. Nigerians protects corrupt leaders without integrity and shield them from criticism and prosecution as a result of misplaced tribal loyalty.
Nigeria is a country that parades corruption as a value system; this can be attributed to lack of integrity on the part of her leadership. Corruption has ruined the economy of Nigeria and has led to lack trust for her leaders. If Nigeria is to develop and grow according to her potentials, her leadership must act with integrity at all times.
The Amalgamation of 1914 engendered various perceptions; some saw it as a mistake, while others saw it as a necessity for the administrative convenience of the colonial masters. However, Nigerians including her leaders pay more allegiance to their tribe than to the country. Even in time of elections people vote according to their tribal interest and when leaders emerge too, they reciprocate these tribal gestures. Though National interest should prevail over tribal or ethnic interest, unfortunately, Nigeria remains in fact, a ‘mere geographical expression’.
Nigerian followers are fund of not telling their leaders the truth, they praise them, tell them lies; sycophancy is the order of the day. Negativized tranquillity is a situation where followers remain adamant and aloof of the excesses of leadership activities. Nigerians are susceptible to use by some leaders to fan trouble: Hence, followers’ sometime ally with leaders to create trouble in the society. Powerlessness in influencing government decisions is a major problem of followers in Nigeria. Elections in Nigeria are highly manipulated and leaders do not come to power through the peoples vote, they manipulate election and election results to the extent that vote casted do not count. Since peoples votes do not count, their opinion too is undermined.
Sitting on the fence and watching the reckless abuse of office by leaders such as massive corruption and abuse of office would have reduced tremendously in Nigeria if followers have been bold enough to come out to criticize or challenge the excesses of their leaders.
The problem of leadership in this country does not lie in the hands of Alfas, Imams, pastors and General Overseers, mosques or the Church-camps where prayers and night vigils are conducted for the supposed wellbeing of this country. No! It lies in the hands of me and you, we the followers who stand aloof from the political fray and watch our country stolen from us by a band of kamikaze leaders who we inadvertently elected and to whom we stupidly surrendered our rights. Heaven, they say, helps only those who help themselves.
“Subhana rabbika rabbil ‘izzati amma yasifun wa salamun alal mursalin wal hamdulillahi rabbil ‘alamin” :”Glory to thy Lord the Lord, of Honour and Power! (He is free) from what they ascribe (to Him)! And Peace on the Messengers! And praise to Allah, the Lord and Cherisher of the Worlds.” (Quran 37:180-182)
Barka Juma’at and happy weekend