Friday, December 18, 2009

IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME

LEADING WHERE WE ARE
by OLUWATOSIN AJAYI

What I think is currently wrong with Nigeria:
Lack of Leadership.
Not just the lack of it, but the lack of understanding of what a leader is. Every Nigerian can list what is wrong with the country; every one has a statement that begins ‘What we should do in this country is …’. But very few do anything about it.

I was recently running a discussion for Nigerian students in the UK, and some one said that the problem is the leadership of the country. She said ‘they’ make wrong decisions; that ‘they’ care more about their pockets than the country. When asked who ‘they’ were, she said: ‘the leaders’.

I asked her to define Leadership, and she was stumped. She went away with a paper and pencil and tried to figure something out. She eventually asked me for my opinion.

I think she demonstrated a lot of the general thinking about Leadership among Nigerians, both inside and outside the country. There is a general feeling that Leadership is totally dependent on your position, therefore although most people rightly detect that the problem is Leadership, they wrongly think that it is solely political. This makes the problem ‘they’, never ‘me’.

People rarely ever ask ‘what is my part to play?’ As far as most are concerned, the problem is the government, or the other guy, whatever the case is; the solution rarely ever has to do with the individual who’s making a complaint taking action.

So are they right? Is Leadership something bestowed on the few, and are those few the ones who are to sort out every single problem that exists? Or is Leadership a responsibility we all have, that in whatever sphere of influence we have, no matter how small, we act in a way that improves things and causes others to do the same. In other words, we lead. I say the latter is right.

Going back to the question I was asked by the student. My answer was that Leadership is influence, and you don’t need a position to get that. Everyone has a sphere of influence, so everyone can, and should lead. I ended by giving what I thought was the most important Leadership role in any society, that of the parent. The family is the building block of society, and once the Leadership fails there, the country is in trouble.

So the problem is the understanding of Leadership, but more importantly than at the highest level, at every level. Our biggest problem is that we fail to recognise which area we should be leading in NOW! Once we realise this and start acting on it, we are on our way.

- Oluwatosin Ajayi (May 2008)

I love this essay. This is the new and important thinking that is spreading among Nigerian Youth today: that as the more vibrant half of the population, we (all of us) are the government and must act everyday to make society what we want it to be. HapPY New Year 2010 to all!

Mo Adefeso sends in her essay. She is one deep Nigerian.

What I think is currently wrong with Nigeria
and my thoughts on solutions to address the problem.
Mo Adefeso. April 2008

Most of Nigeria’s major problems - lack of adequate healthcare, falling standards of education, institutionalised corruption, rampant crime, poor transportation, insufficient energy and power provision and disregard for the rule of law - are the ripple effects of fundamental structural problems which originated long before the current dispensation.

Nigeria as a geopolitical entity was created without sufficient consideration for the existing governance structures that characterized the different communities. Successive governments, most of whom were military, focused on the creation of a pseudo-federation, and economic reforms which were not strategically thought through. The resultant devastating effect on Nigeria’s socioeconomic wellbeing has only recently begun to be addressed. There however continues to be little individual commitment to the greater good because that greater good appears non-existent. Citizens have become more concerned with meeting their own needs –often through unscrupulous means, because it is natural to become disenfranchised with a system that disregards human dignity and continues to fail its subjects.

In democratic Nigeria of today, geographical representation at the executive level of government (ministerial appointments) is still erroneously perceived as representative democracy. In addition, the average Nigerian has been socialized not to demand accountability from the leaders he/she has elected (or ever so often that have been selected to govern) and even partakes of the gains of their leaders’ corrupt practices. Our value system has been skewed to the extent that examination malpractices are viewed as ‘simply helping’ each other and the collection of bribes by police officers is considered as routine practice. No community can thrive without adequate mechanisms to enforce the rule of law. In Nigeria today, law enforcement systems which were systematically weakened by several incompetent governments, continue to be challenged. We have a crisis of leadership but there is no crisis of leadership without a corresponding crisis of followership, for people get the leadership they deserve either by their action or inaction.

There is a need for a strategic plan to identify each of the interrelated facets of our societal existence which have been corroded over the years and develop a holistic and systematic approach to correct these. As a people, we must not only acknowledge the mistakes of the past but also take responsibility for our continued exacerbation of same by our mindset and actions. If we are indeed to take a place amongst the world’s leading economies, we must begin to question our national identity, collective priorities and value systems. It is however worth remembering that Nigeria is a nation in transition and historical analyses of the evolution of many ‘developed’ nations reveals that these also passed through phases such as Nigeria is currently undergoing. The solutions to our challenges, though simple, are difficult to implement due to vested interests of those who benefit from the status quo. What is urgently needed is a generation of leaders with a clear and unified vision for the country and its citizens; leaders of all ages and in all spheres of endeavour who would learn from past failures of the country, dare to challenge the status quo, and collectively build and strengthen institutions which would outlive personalities.

- by Mo Adefeso

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Coolest Money/Career Blog ever.


BingBlog really is amazing. Stanley Bing has been a Fortune magazine staple for ten years. How does he do it?

Apologies that recently, upnaira has focused more on griping about Nigeria and hankering after world peace ;) and less on the naira and dollar in your own pocket.
It's been less money/career and more business/economic development. Apologies.
More money features in future, right?

Have a merry Christmas season and a lovely new year.
By the way, what do you think is the coolest Business/Economic Development blog ever? (one candidate is Africa Unchained)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

2008 Essay by Rotimi Awopetu. What has changed?

I'm still fishing for short responses to the question: Nigeria's current issues, strategic directions and the author's role in the solution. Here is one by a brilliant Lagosian brother...please enjoy

WHAT I THINK IS CURRENTLY WRONG WITH NIGERIA AND MY THOUGHTS ON POSSIBLE EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, the 2006 census recording a population of 140m. A nation of abundant natural resources, variegated weather, the economic powerhouse of West Africa-contributing nearly 50% of regional GDP, a member of OPEC and the world's eighth largest exporter of oil. As a matter of fact, revenue from Natural Gas is expected to surpass oil revenues over the next 10 years. Nigeria is also blessed with talented and hardworking human resource. The country is listed among the "Next Eleven" economies, and is one of the fastest growing in the world with the IMF projecting growth of 9% in 2008 and 8.3% in 2009. An evolving democracy and a booming mobile phone sector have also contributed largely to recent economic development. In 2003, Nigerians were reported to be the happiest people in a scientific survey carried out in 65 nations between 1999-2001.

Nevertheless, Nigeria is beleaguered with a myriad of problems: comatose industries & refineries; increasing lawlessness in the oil-producing Niger Delta region; one in five children die before the age of five; 12 million children are not in school. More than 54.7% of the population (75 million people) live below the poverty line in a country where the life expectancy is 47. Also many Nigerians complain they have yet to see any major improvements in the basic infrastructure - power, water and utilities - or in their prospects of getting a job, while prices keep on going up. According to Transparency International, Nigeria still ranks as one of the world's most corrupt countries. Years of military rule, corruption, and mismanagement have hampered economic activity and output in Nigeria and continue to do so, despite the restoration of democracy and subsequent economic reform. Nigeria’s problems are in fact too numerous and complicated.

All the above listed problems can be summed up as BAD LEADERSHIP. The current reality of Nigeria is a direct reflection of the quality of leadership the nation has benefitted from. Once we can get it right with a strong, upright and visionary leadership, all else will fall into place. The other things I think we should expedite actions include:

Promoting shared values. Let’s consider those things that best unite us and celebrate them. Creating a brand for Nigeria

Strengthening the institutions of Judiciary and Law enforcement. Thus creating a system that will check bad leaders from assuming office and also kick out incumbent bad leaders.

Setting a national vision, breaking it down into timelines that are specific and measurable. This should be used to appraise leaders at national, state and local levels and also corporate leaders.

A review of our constitution and removal of immunity clause, rotational presidency and federal character.

A sound education at all levels; primary, secondary & tertiary.

The aforementioned by itself will not suffice unless we develop new thinking, “For as a Man thinketh in his heart so is he”. We need a national re-orientation.

Today’s Nigeria lacks quality education, standard health care and development with all the wealth being displayed. However, Nigeria has a bright future but we must take a stand. Let us stand as a people and resolve to get it right. Nigeria is a fine place worth standing for and we deserve nothing but the best.

- by Mr. Rotimi Awopetu

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