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

Our Citizens Aren’t Having Enough Sex – Swedish Government.

Swedish people might not be getting laid enough – and the government is worried.   In an attempt to tackle the issue, the country’s government will ask its people about their bedroom habits in Sweden’s first major sex study in 20 years.   Reports in Swedish media have suggested a decline in sexual activity, sparking the major survey on all things sex. The nation’s loss of libido could be a ‘political problem’ if it is linked to stress and other health issues, according to Public...

Budget Padding: “Audit Constituency Projects Allocations” – Pro-Democracy Group

A pro-democracy body, the Civil Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), has called for an independent audit of all previous constituency project allocations to members of the National Assembly (NASS) to determine to make sure spending practices are held accountable to the Nigerian people. The statement was made in a press released signed by Auwal Musa Ibrahim, CISLAC’s Executive Director.   According to the statement, the recent revelations by the former Chairman of the Appropriations Committee for the House of Representatives, Abdulmumin...

APC Wins Imo North Senate District, 2 State Constituencies In Re-Run Election

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has declared Mr Ben Uwajumogu of the All Progressive Congress (APC) winner of Imo North Senatorial District rerun election held on July 28.   Uwajumogu scored 56,076 votes to defeat Mr Athan Achonu of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who scored 43, 815 votes.   Prof. Arinze Agbogu, the INEC Returning Officer for Imo North Senatorial District, who announced the result in the early hours of Friday, said the outcome was a summation of scores of July...

#AMACThugs : How Thugs Extort Businesses in Abuja in The Name of Government – Japheth J. Omojuwa

If you are a resident of Abuja or a regular visitor, you’d have noticed this often fierce looking young men wearing bibs stand on select road points in Abuja disturbing motorists. They are often dressed in their mufti with a bib over that or dressed in green for those who chase after Abuja taxi drivers. The most notorious of this lot are the ones that go to offices looking to extort and obtain money from the business...

Japheth J. Omojuwa: How AMAC Thugs – Abuja Municipal Area Council – Make life Difficult for Businesses in Abuja – Investigation

If you are a resident of Abuja or a regular visitor, you’d have noticed this often fierce looking young men wearing bibs stand on select road points in Abuja disturbing motorists. They are often dressed in their mufti with a bib over that or dressed in green for those who chase after Abuja taxi drivers. The most notorious of this lot are the ones that go to offices looking to extort and obtain money from the business...

Arsene Wenger May Buy An “Experienced Striker” Soon.

Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger, has admitted that he is trying to sign an “experienced” striker this summer.   The Gunners have already signed Granit Xhaka, Rob Holding and Tasumo Akano, but with only Olivier Giroud as their recognised forward, Wenger is still searching for a new player.   Speaking after his team defeated the MLS All-Stars 2-1 in San Jose, Wenger said: “At the moment I have not too many attacking options in terms of experienced players,” he said.   “But let’s not forget we...

#SaveMayowa: Our Side Of The Story – Lifestake Foundation Founder [Video]

There has been several many sides to the alleged scam perpetrated through the #SaveMayowa campaign, a campaign which was launched with the aim of raising money for Mayowa who needs surgery to treat her Stage 4 Ovarian cancer.   However, the founder of Lifestake Foundation, Aramide Kasumu has explained what led to the accusations leading the public to believe the #SaveMayowa campaign was a scam.   Aramide also apologized to everyone, adding that she never meant to hurt anyone.

“Don’t Go Into Politics If You Don’t Want To Be Scandalized” – Obasanjo

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has asserted that all political actors and leaders are prone to scandals. He made the assertion yesterday while responding to a question by a participant at the Murtala Mohammed Foundation Summit in Lagos that scandals in politics was widespread. The former Nigerian leader was among a panel of discussants with former Malawian President, Dr. Joyce Banda and Aisha Mohammed-Oyebode, Chief Executive Officer of the Foundation and widow of...

Looters Will Return Their Loots, The Nation Needs The Money – President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that he was very much home with the suffering of ordinary Nigerians.   The president assured that government was taking deliberate steps to improve the lives of citizens.   Buhari stated this yesterday when he received the Council of Abuja Imams at the presidential villa, Abuja.   According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the president told the Imams that his government is acutely aware of challenges of life facing the average...

EPL Transfer Funds: “Rivals’ Budget Quite Scary” – Wenger

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger says “it’s quite scary” to look at the money being spent to strengthen his Premier League rivals ahead of the new season.   Wenger spent £30 million on Granit Xhaka in May, but has yet to make another major signing, while the likes of Manchester United and Chelsea have both brought in several expensive reinforcements.   Manchester City are also closing in on a big-money deal for John Stones that could reach as much as £50 million, while United...

Man Who Abducts Children To Sell In Ogun Nabbed

A suspected child abductor, Ola Ibikunle, has been arrested by the police after he was caught with a four-year-old girl in the Oyero area of Ijoko, Ogun State. It was learnt that Ibikunle, a bricklayer, had held his victim, Eniola, by the neck and was about to strangle her in an uncompleted building when he was caught by passersby. The suspect, who confessed to have stolen a three-year-old boy and sold him for N1,500, was later handed over to...

Sokoto Uncovers 13,000 Ghost Workers In LGAs

Sokoto State Government said it has discovered no fewer than 12,915 ghost workers whose names were added into the payroll of the 23 Local Governments Areas of the state. The State Commissioner for Local Governments and Community Development, Alhaji Mannir Dan-Iya, disclosed this at a media briefing in Sokoto. "The Ministry, through the Monitoring Department and other stakeholders has concluded a local government junior staff verification of about 58,143 workers, comprising of scheduled and unscheduled staff. "The verification exercise has yielded a...

Obanikoro’s Ex-Aide Reveals How He Helped Transport N4.7bn Election Funds

An officer of the Nigerian Navy, Lt.-Cdr Olumide Adewale, has told the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission that he helped his former boss, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, to transport money, which was flown to Akure and later handed over to Abiodun Agbele on the instructions of Governor Ayodele Fayose of Ekiti State.   Adewale, who was the Aide-de-Camp to Obanikoro when the latter was the Minister of State for Defence, said this on Wednesday when he was grilled by detectives of the...

“EFCC Is After Me”, Fayose Cries Out.

Ekiti State Governor Ayodele Fayose alleged yesterday that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has shifted attention to the finances of the state.   According to him, this followed the failure of the agency to establish any link between him and the funds from the Office of the National Security Adviser under Col Sambo Dasuki (rtd).”   He said the EFCC had been harassing banks in Ekiti, seeking for records of government finances and chasing contractors, claiming that the contractors gave him...

Former White House Intern Becomes First Transgender Woman To Speak At A DNC

The first transgender woman to be a speaker at a national political convention took to the stage in Philadelphia where she told the touching story of losing her husband and how it pushed her to want to expedite change. Sarah McBride, a 25-year-old trans woman and former White House intern, told the crowd: 'Knowing Andy left me profoundly changed, but more than anything else his passing taught me that everyday matters when it comes to building...

Pope Francis Prays At The Wall Of Death During Visit To Nazi

Pope Francis walked through the main gates to Nazi death camp Auschwitz retracing the steps of thousands of Jews slaughtered during World War II. As he walked in silence under the infamous sign Arbeit Machy Frei - 'Work sets you free' his thoughts were clearly with the victims of the concentration and extermination camp where more than 1.1m Jews were killed. Those private thoughts became clear when the words he signed in the visitor's book were revealed. The Pope...

Woman Reunites With Nigerian Man Who Rescued Her As A Baby 22 Years Ago In London

A woman left in a phone box as a baby has reunited with the Nigerian man who found her 22 years ago, Metro UK reports. Kiran Sheikh was two hours old when she was abandoned at a call box in Forest Gate, east London on April 30, 1994. The mother, who was trapped in a violent relationship, gave birth on the floor in her bathroom, dumped the child then called Samaritans, urging them to...

Police Arrest Notorious Kidnapping Gang In Rivers State

The Inspector-General of Police, IGP Ibrahim Idris has warned criminals, especially kidnappers in the country never to think Nigeria is lawless. IGP Idris gave the warning when Operatives of the IGP’s Intelligent Response Team “IRT” arrested a notorious kidnapping gang known to have been terrorizing law-abiding citizens in Rivers State and its environs. The gang met its end when they kidnapped a woman and her one year old daughter from her Port Harcourt home, demanding the...

“Dogara Tried Breaking Into My Office To Discard Evidence” – Jibrin

A former chairman of House Committee on Appropriation, Abdulmumin Jibrin, on Thursday said unnamed individuals acting on the orders of Speaker, Yakubu Dogara, had moved computers used by officials of the committee.   Mr. Jibrin has accused the speaker of budget fraud, an allegation Mr. Dogara denies.   In a statement Thursday, Mr. Jibrin said there was also an attempt to burgle his office, saying all the systems were shut down.   “Speaker Dogara has ordered that all the computers in the appropriation secretariat be...

Bastian Schweinsteiger Retires From International Football

The midfielder brings an end to a 12-year spell with the Germany national team, during which he won the World Cup and picked up a silver medal from the European Championship Manchester United midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has announced his retirement from international football after making 120 appearances for Germany. The 31-year-old is one of his country's most capped players and featured in five games for Die Mannschaft at Euro 2016 as...

President Buhari Reopens ABUJA Airport Runway After Renovation.

The federal government has reopened the runway of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja for the landing of all kinds of aircraft.   The minister of state for Aviation, Hadi Sirika, who stated this yesterday, while inspecting the airport, said the runway was opened after the successful completion of the renovation work that had been going on there.   While calling for the return of full business to the airport, the minister noted that with the completion of repairs in the...