This is important – We are underestimating the problem, and overstating our capacity (#NewLeadership Series by Chude Jideonwo)

Published:14 Jan, 2013

This is important – We are underestimating the problem, and overstating our capacity (#NewLeadership Series by Chude Jideonwo)

There is a truth young Nigerians need to know – and it is that if many of us find the privilege to step into public office today, we will act the exact same way as many of those whom we criticise, even despise.

Recover quickly and let’s interrogate that assertion.

The problem is neither a default in character (the “all Nigerians young and old are corrupt” doctrine) nor a sudden absence of conscience – the problem is, as I see it, one of understanding.

More than once, I have quieted down and listened to government officials who were once activists or critics or columnists or opposition members repeat that they “did not fully understand the depths of the problem that existed” or that suddenly they have seen the light.

That in itself is a major problem, and I don’t think we understand how grave a challenge it presents – and why we need to pay attention to what these people are saying.

It is very troubling to listen to the public discourse amongst young people and see them belittle and simplify the magnitude of the problems Nigeria faces or why it has been impossible for many brilliant, determined Nigerians in government to fulfill the promise that they made orrepresented.

They are preparing themselves to fall into the same traps that have caught their predecessors.

Let’s look back on perhaps the finest example of this tragedy – Bola Ige, that excellent man who government took away from us. It had been barely days since he joined the government, without looking at the files, sitting down with the decision makers, understanding the bottlenecks or indeed having a cup of coffee to think over the mountains ahead, but he went to the public space and declared that he would solve the problems of NEPA in a couple of months.

His timeline came and passed – and, of course, he failed.

Government in Nigeria is surely not a matter solely of good intentions.

If you are a politician, you face a number of woes: a severely corrupt set of grassroots politicians that subsists almost entirely on cash-patronage and is driven by primal, primitive interests. To break all that English into a simple phrase – it is cash-and-carry (to win a local government election in the South-West, I have heard, you need at least N20 million).

You face an electorate populace that will sit outside the home of a Senator to get their “dividends of democracy”, most times in cash. On rare occasions, they demand that a legislator sink a borehole in the community or build a bridge, a responsibility that is neither his nor does he oversee whose it is.

If you are, say a minister, your woes surely multiply – government is a complex layer of mundane, redundant, and gravity-defying bureaucracy that can consume (and corrupt) you. There are permanent secretaries who have outlived two decades of ministers whom you have to co-opt or circumvent (ask Adenike Grange). By the way, you cannot fire them, nor can you discipline them.

The Ministry of Youth Development is perhaps a good example here. It is a ministry that “handles” the National Youth Service Corps, but then, that is easily a joke.

Despite the fact that its budget is taken almost 90 per cent by the service corps scheme, the minister unfortunately has very little control over matters as simple as whether corps members allowances have been paid – in fact, effectively, the director-general and other officials of of the Corps are beyond his control No amount of “fire and brimstone’ threats can make any real change in those places unless he somehow finds himself having the ears of the president on a constant basis. Unfortunately, youth development is not a ‘powerful’ ministry – another major problem.

You find yourself beholden to a severely corrupt National Assembly whose members have been there since democracy returned in1999, who already know “how things are done here” and are armed, dangerously, with small minds and huge egos.

You are pressured on every corner to ease your own passage during sittings and hearings (ask Fabian Osuji) for everything fromyour budget to mini-controversies, and you find yourself having to learn a whole new range of social skills to get any work done.

And I have only mentioned two principalities.

One remembers Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala tell a tale on her first course in Nigerian government about how she had to go out and buy pens for the ministry herself because the process of getting the monies out was about to drive her crazy. And that’s just pens.

Have I told you the story of a government minister who entered into office and sought to do the simplest thing possible –a re-design of the ministry’s website?

Ah, then maybe I should tell you. First and foremost, the directors in his office could give him no clues, claiming the previous minister had single-handedly managed the site. There was no email trail made available to the new minister, no proper handover in documented format (theminister before him had simply upped and left).

When he eventually got a contact, informally, to the special assistant to the former minister (whom, as you must recall was no longer in the vicinity), he was told that the contractor who managed the back-end of the site could not reached.

Cut a long story short, to get anything done, he had to register a whole new URL and get a new website designed, leading to a situation where different ministries in Nigerians government circles have wildly different URLs.

Of course, when you go down to Twitter to hear the chatter, you hear things like this: “Why can’t this minsiter do a simple thing like change the website of this country?! Why do we have such daft people in government in Nigeria?”

The problem unfortunately, is not daft people. The problem is a daft system that has made itself so impossible to change that it takes the will and guts of a mad man.

What do you find, therefore? Brilliant technocracts who have blazed trails internationally or in the private sector or in the development community who find themselves hampered by the labyrinth of government in Nigeria – where they are unable to do the most basic things. Cushioned unfortunately by the interminable luxuries of that same government, they will not resign, but will simply throw their hands in the air, do the little that they can to “satisfy their conscience”, moan about how terrible it is to steer any change in Nigeria.

Where they are smarter, they launch into quick wins – developing a string of nice-sounding ideas and projects that will quickly win them column inches and the admiration of donors and foreign governments. They are seen as visionary and transformative, but they know that the minute they step out of government, their unsustainable ideas will be churned out, along with their strategists, consultants, and other suits.

The result is that we take no step forward, and two backwards.

This is the challenge that a new generation of leaders faces. Government is the most important force for change in any society so ultimately to make any sustainable change, you have to have people in this imperfect, impossible governance structure.

Getting into public service without seeking to correctly understand how deep the corruption, the ineptitude, and the failure of common processes runs means that you are getting into government without the competence and the capacity that you truly need to make any change possible.

We don’t need another generational merry go round where people go into government all fired up and ready to go and come out with no concrete achievement – ending up as additions to the long list of failed “whizkids”.

Therefore, any young person who is desirous of joining that system (indeed, any system) on a tangential or major level, must begin to take the time to understand that system –indirectly through observation, monitoring, and knowledge osmosis (conferences, sittings, etc), or directly through internships, mentorships and other interactions.

That is what will truly differentiate a new generation of leaders from the old: knowledge, and the capacity to make change happen.

Not to complain about how hard it is when you eventually arrive there, not to be crippled by the relentless graft that defines it, not to be slowed down by its institutionalided inadequacies; but to come into those offices fully understanding the complexity of our problems and how deep they run and armed with a plan and a strategy on how to circumvent or de-mobilise those situations and achieve sterling results.

For now, we are not at that stage yet.

Many of us are still under-estimating the problem, and we are over-stating our own capacity to make that change happen simply because we have read a couple of textbooks that have outlined “alternative sources of energy in emerging economies”, we have not faced any situations that test our character, or have attended one or two conferences on “The Asian Tigers” during our summer holidays at Stanford.

Many of us still imagine for instance – and this is truly worrisome – that good intentions are enough to solve our power problems and dismiss the circling of vultures including ex-heads of state who have vested interests in that sector and will fight reform tooth and nail; or that it takes just one fiery senator to dismantle the wickedness in high places that are siphoning Nigeria’s oil wealth.

I’m sorry, but it doesn’t have anything to do with passion, or righteous indignation. It has everything to do with the competence and the capacity to navigate these treacherous waters.

The solution bears repeating – Any young person who is desirous of joining that system (indeed, any system) on a tangential or major level, must begin to take the time to understand that system –indirectly through observation, monitoring, and knowledge osmosis (conferences, sittings, etc), or directly through internships, mentorships and other interactions.

These are not times for trial by error.

———-

Chude Jideonwo is publisher/editor-in-chief of Y!, including Y! Magazine, Y! Books, Y! TV & YNaija.com. He is also executive director of The Future Project/The Future Awards. #NewLeadership is a twice-weekly, 12-week project to inspire action from a new generation of leaders – it ends on March 31.

Related Posts

Recent Posts

UAE To Introduce New Laws Soon To Regulate Drones

The United Arab Emirates will finalize laws to more heavily regulate the sale of drones and their operations soon, aiming to minimize risks posed by unmanned aerial vehicles, an official at the aviation regulator said on Monday. Dubai International Airport was closed for more than an hour on June 12 due to unauthorized drone activity in the surrounding airspace that resulted in millions of dollars of losses for the economy. "Several incidents have happened...

Facebook ‘Blocks Accounts’ Of Palestinian Journalists

Editors from two Palestinian news publications based in the occupied West Bank say their Facebook accounts were suspended last week and that no reason was provided, alleging their pages may have been censored because of a recent agreement between the US social media giant and the Israeli government aimed at tackling "incitement". Last week, four editors from the Shehab News Agency, which has more than 6.3 million likes on Facebook, and three executives from the Quds News Network, with about...

Aid Reaches Besieged Syrian Towns Amid Conflict

Aid has been delivered to four besieged towns in Syria for the first time in almost six months, the International Committee of the Red Cross says. Seventy-one lorries reached rebel-held Madaya and Zabadani, near Damascus, and government-controlled Foah and Kefraya, in Idlib province, on Sunday. They brought food, medical supplies and hygiene kits for 60,000 people. Last week, the UN suspended aid deliveries across Syria for 48 hours after a deadly...

Writer Who Shared Cartoon Mocking ISIS Killed Outside Courthouse

A prominent Jordanian writer facing charges for sharing a "blasphemous" anti-ISIS cartoon that outraged Muslim groups was fatally shot in Amman on Sunday, state news agency Petra reported. Nahed Hattar, a member of the country's Christian minority, was shot three times outside a courthouse in the capital where charges against him were being heard. Public Security Department personnel, who were near the scene of the attack, rushed...

Trump Leads Clinton In New National Poll

US Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is leading his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton by 1 point nationally in the race for the White House, a new poll shows. The new Morning Consult survey released on Tuesday, shows the New York billionaire is favored by 39 percent of likely voters and the former secretary of state is backed by 38 percent. Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson has 9 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein has...

S’Court Begins Hearing on C’River Guber Polls Tussle On Tuesday

The Supreme Court sitting in Abuja will on Tuesday commence hearing in the governorship legal tussle between an aspirant, Mr. Joe Agi (SAN) and the Governor of Cross River State, Ben Ayade, of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and INEC. A notice of hearing issued by the Supreme Court Head, Litigation Department, Mr. Ibrahim Gold in Calabar states; “take notice that the above Appeal (SC256/2016) will be listed for hearing before the Supreme Court of Nigeria sitting at 9.00am on...

Ideals, Imperatives and Patience Towards a Nigeria that Works – Laolu Akande

An ideal situation is one where things work most perfectly, and as desired. It is where and when expectations and fulfillment dovetail. We all live for ideals. There is a way the quest for the ideal gravitates our lives towards feats and accomplishments that otherwise could have been missed. Imperatives on the other hand are the unavoidables, necessary and required things or better still, actions that must be taken. But in order to attain ideals, there would always be...

No One Is Above The Law Including Patience Jonathan, Says APC

The Acting National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Timi Frank, has dismissed recent protests by some groups in the Niger Delta in support of the wife of former President Goodluck Jonathan, Patience. He said it was disheartening that any group in the region could hold a protest in favour of Mrs. Jonathan at the Port Harcourt zonal office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, over the freezing of her account containing about $31.4m. This was contained in a...

FG Implementing infrastructure Roadmaps to Curb Recession – Fashola

The Minister of Power Works and Housing, Mr. Babatunde Fashola, has highlighted the specific steps being taken in the infrastructure sectors to reenergize the economy, saying the measures were meant to correct the mistakes of yesterday and move the country from economic stagnation. Fashola, who spoke at the Wilson Centre in Washington DC, USA, while presenting a paper on “Leadership and Politics of Reform In Africa: Lessons from Nigeria,” said the immediate and long term solution...

Shekau’s New Video A Propaganda- Nigerian Army

The military yesterday said the factional leader of the terrorist group Boko Haram Abubakar Shekau is “unstable and irrational saying he must release the abducted Chibok girls unconditionally. The Army  was  responding to the latest video released by  Shekau, describing it as propaganda and sign of desperation. Boko Haram on Sunday released another video in which Shekau appeared for 38 minutes, speaking in Arabic, Fulfulde, Hausa and a line in English. Shekau appeared before a black background with two armed...

Police Defuses 67 Landmines Buried By Boko Haram In Bama Army Barracks

The Commissioner of police in Borno State, Damian Chukwu, has said that operatives of the Explosive Ordnance Department (EOD) under his command defused 67 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) buried by Boko Haram insurgents at the military barracks in Bama. Mr. Chukwu, who spoke to journalists on Sunday evening, said the explosives which have since been evacuated, may have been planted in the barracks shortly before troops of the Nigeria military liberated Bama town. He said the defused...

Governor Wike Appoints Special Assistant On Traffic Lights

The Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, has appointed Daye Graham-Douglas as his Special Assistant on Street/Traffic Lights. The governor in an online statement by his Special Assistant on Electronic Media, Simeon Nwakaudu, yesterday stated that the appointment took immediate effect.

Scandal Rocks IDP Camp as Female IDPs Offer Camp Officials Sex For Food

Given the living condition of Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPS’s) in the North East, there is an indication that about 66 percent of camp officials, 28 percent from host communities and 6 percent of elders are sexually molesting the vulnerable ones, a situational Assessment survey on IDP’s in North-East conducted by NOI Polls has revealed. NOIPolls, incorporated in 2007 has been in the forefront of championing public opinion research in Nigeria and across the West African sub-region in technical partnership with Gallup...

$7 Billion: I Won’t Apologise To Soludo – Falana

A senior lawyer, Femi Falana, on Sunday said he would not apologise to former Central Bank Governor Chukwuma Soludo over his allegation that the ex-bank chief “dolled” out $7 billion government funds to bankers while he was in office.   Mr. Soludo has denied the allegation, saying he acted right in his dealings as Central Bank chief.   Mr. Falana, however, said he based his statement on facts made available by the Central Bank during Mr. Soludo’s stewardship.   Read Mr. Falana’s full statement below:   On...

Thousands Of Zimbabweans Lose Money As MMM Crashes

Thousands of people, among them civil servants and vendors, have lost thousands of dollars to fraudulent online pyramid scheme MMM Global Zimbabwe after it collapsed recently. The social financial network, which relied on an accelerating number of new members to pay off the old, abruptly terminated its services last week leaving participants stranded. This comes as Econet’s mobile financial service platform, EcoCash yesterday distanced itself from the pyramid scheme. Participants claimed they were using EcoCash for their transactions. Zimbabweans have in...

Army To Deploy 1,900 Personnel, 6 Drones, 6 Gunboats

A total of 1,900 military personnel would participate in the governorship election rescheduled for Wednesday, September 28. In addition, two drones are to be deployed  in each of the three senatorial districts and six gunboats for the riverine areas. The Commander, 4 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier-General Benbela Raji disclosed this yesterday evening while briefing journalists shortly after a combined security meeting with the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) and other sister agencies in Benin. He explained that the military personnel...

SERAP Seeks Court’s Permission To Prosecute Patience Jonathan Over $15m

Socio-Economic Rights and Accountability Project (SERAP) has sought the leave of the Federal High Court in Lagos to apply for an order of Mandamus, compelling the Attorney General of the Federation Abubakar Malami (SAN) to prosecute former first lady Mrs. Patience Jonathan over $15m unexplained wealth frozen in four companies’ accounts. SERAP, in the suit filed on its behalf by its executive director, Adetokunbo Mumuni is asking the court to declare that the failure of the...

Shekau Appears In New Video, Says He Is In Good Health

A factional leader of the Boko Haram militant group, Abubakar Shekau, has appeared in a new video released on YouTube. Shekau, who sat throughout the 40-minute video, denied claims by the Nigerian military that he was killed or badly injured in recent air strikes. Speaking in Arabic, Hausa and Kanuri, he said he was still in charge of the militant group. “Oh tyrants, I’m in a happy state, in good health and in safety,” he said. Earlier this month,...

Oil Edges Higher Ahead Of OPEC Meeting

Oil prices rose modestly in Asia on Monday ahead of a producers’ meeting this week that might agree to cap supplies. But analysts warned that optimism should be tempered by experience of two years of gluts and disagreement among members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). OPEC and Russia are slated to begin meeting later Monday on the sidelines of the International Energy Forum in Algiers, looking for ways to stabilise prices that...

I Am Hale & Hearty, Dangote Debunks Death Rumours

Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote has debunked rumours making the rounds that he has passed on. The report what published by a German news medium DW-TV3. It reported that the industrialist died after a short illness in Germany. “I am hale, hearty and alive. Please disregard malicious report saying otherwise. Thank you,” he tweeted. Credit: http://guardian.ng/news/oil-edges-higher-ahead-of-opec-meeting/

BIAFRA: Nnamdi Kanu Wants Judge Investigated

The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, has demanded the investigation of Justice John Tsoho of the Federal High Court, Abuja, for alleged judicial misconduct. Mr. Kanu, who is facing trial following allegations of treasonable felony, maintaining an unlawful society and possession of illegal items, accused his trial judge, Mr. Tsoho, of negating judicial principles and upturning a decision of the court without prior permission by a higher court. In a petition...