“Leadership by order”

The issue of leadership in Nigeria is of great concern to Paul Omolomo (not real name), a young graduate of philosophy that I met at a conference in Lagos recently. After exchanging pleasantries, Paul engaged me in a chat. The title of this piece is from our discussion, please read on:

Paul: Good day sir, the boys are hungry, and of what strategic importance is the uniform of a customs man to the ordinary Nigerian in the street? I don’t know if wearing of uniform is a requirement for economic development?

Me: Which boys are hungry?

Paul: There are more than 10.5 million Nigerian children out of school selling pure water and cheap imported items on the streets of Nigeria. Most families are miserable, living from hand to mouth. As I am speaking to you, the 2017 Appropriation Bill hasn’t been passed. Yet, the Senate is busy with a mundane issue of inviting Hameed Ali, the Comptroller General (CG) of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), to come to the Upper Chamber dressed in uniform.

Me: The Senate is working on the 2017 Budget, but what has uniform got to do with the boys that are hungry?

Paul: “The Senate has no single power to investigate the CG of Customs since he is heading an organization under the Federal Ministry of Finance.”

Me: “So, you’re saying the Senate should have invited the Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun.” Paul: Yes.

Me: If you say she must be invited, what questions will they ask her? Will they ask her questions about the proposed 2017 Budget? Or will she ask distinguished senators why the 2017 Budget isn’t ready in March 2017?

Paul: For where? She can never ask question. That’s an abomination o!

Me: Then what exactly is the problem?

Paul: The problem is that we now have “leadership by order” being exhibited by legislators in the Upper Chamber.

Me: Times are changing very fast, but I’ve not heard about “leadership by order.” Please, can you educate me about this new phrase in your leadership lexicon?

Paul: Sir, it’s the exact opposite of “leadership by example.” When most leaders don’t lead by example, the followers would suffer. In fact, they’ll be miserable. Our legislators find it very difficult to walk their talk. It’s difficult to follow them. You can’t say something as a leader, but do completely different thing. And be authoritarian in your leadership style.”

Me: Hmm, very interesting explanation.

Paul: We aren’t in a military regime, but I know that “leadership by example” is one of the traits of a good leader.

Me: Please, throw more light on “leadership by order.”

Paul: “When you have a group of law makers who love dishing out orders beyond the limits of their powers as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the country, then they are exhibiting “leadership by order.” That’s why the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir David Lawal, can’t escape appearing before the Senate on grass cutting contract scandal leveled against him. He must appear before the Senate o!

Me: I think in performing their oversight functions, National Assembly members can invite any government official for questioning.

Paul: Is that correct? That is why they vehemently challenged the proposed strategy by the NCS in enforcing correct payment of duties by vehicle owners. Most Nigerians are worried about the wonky strategy by the NCS for generating revenue. In fact, Hameed Ali needs to clean up the entire NCS, which was established on corruption in 1891.

Me: Paul, is that why the Senate is fuming? They shouldn’t forget that CGC has suspended the idea for now.

Paul: “Don’t mind them, sir! These lawmakers give the impression that they love people of their constituencies, but I doubt it. They give the impression that they are representing the interests of the citizens, only to be accused that most of them don’t pay correct import duties on vehicles they import into the country.

Me: Paul, don’t spread rumor o! May be the CGC has stepped on some “precious toes” in doing his job.

Paul: Are they saying Nigerians shouldn’t pay correct import duties anymore? You can see the reason why I say our legislators don’t “lead by example.” Sir, let me ask one important question before you go. How is Nigeria going to get sufficient funds to implement the proposed 2017 budget of N7.289 trillion which President Buhari presented to a joint session of NASS on 14 December 2016”?

Me: Nigeria is running a deficit budget in 2017, and the federal government is looking for money. The nation just sold US$ 1 billion Eurobond, and realized US$ 7.8 billion. While the Senate has approved another US$ 500 million Eurobond to enable the FG run 2016 budget deficit. The nation’s debt is mounting. I think Nigerians should be concerned. Members of the NASS should strengthen their oversight functions instead of looking at someone without uniform. These borrowed funds must be spent on infrastructure.

Paul: I agree with you, sir. They shouldn’t share the money in the name of politics. Unfortunately, nobody is talking about the nation’s debt. They only tell us about foreign reserves increasing without mentioning the debt of Nigeria. I know Nigeria is owing, but where is the future of younger generations in this country? I am sure funds realized from sale of bond has to be repaid on maturity.

Me: Of course, Nigeria must pay all debtors-local and foreign.

Paul: So, Nigeria needs focused and progressive leadership across all tiers of government to address the challenges of national development. For those of you who are close to powerful people in government, help us tell them that words without action erode our trust in leaders. We young ones expect our “leaders” to lead by example, and open doors of opportunities, with the interest of the citizenry as priority. Sir, thank you for your time.

Me: My pleasure always.


MA Johnson


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