CRISES OF LEADERSHIP
In every society, there are hypocritical leaders just as there are leaders with integrity. Sadly, in most Third World countries – Nigeria especially – the former is quite endemic while the latter is so sparse. Put succinctly, most leaders in present day Nigeria are hypocrites while very few, if any at all, are men and women of integrity. Nearly 4 decades ago, the great literary icon, Prof. Chinua Achebe, in one of his books identified bad leadership as the main problem with Nigeria. Today, Nigeria suffers from the worst case of leadership crises the world has ever seen.
The hypocritical deportment and geste shown by leaders in almost all spheres of life in this country would leave one in stitches with laughter if it were not such a crying shame and indictment on the whole citizenry. From heads of families to heads of town/trade unions; from D.Gs of public establishments to heads of academic institutions; from political appointees to captains of industry as well as C.E.Os of private establishments; from the legislature to the judiciary, and through to the executive, the quality of leadership here in Nigeria is rather humdrum, ignominious and embarrassing to say the least.
Nothing surprises me anymore about our leaders. In fact, these days I have come to expect the absurd, ridiculous and farcical from them; and more often than not I am not disappointed. The only thing that breaks my heart and leaves me saddened and burdened whenever I think about the future of this great nation is the fact that 90 percent of our youths (the so called “Leaders of Tomorrow”) are growing up under this flawed system thinking: “This is how things are done”. This is the norm”. “That’s way to go”. “That’s how we roll”. Most young people in Nigeria see hypocrisy and dishonesty as social survival skills and leadership sine qua nons. This is really sad and heart shattering. I weep and fear for the future of Nigeria.
OUR HYPOCRISY STINKS
The word hypocrite comes from the original Greek word “hupokrites” signifying an actor in ancient Greek plays who wore a mask that exaggerated his particular role. Over the years, it has come to generally mean anyone who pretended to be what he is not. A hypocrite is, therefore, one who practices hypocrisy – the art of concealment of one’s true character or nature.”
Only an insignificant number of people in Nigeria today, both leaders and the led, can be referred to as dependable, reliable or trustworthy. We live at a time when people make promises they can’t keep, and say things they don’t mean and do things that violate everything they claim to represent. People claim to be what they are not, choosing rather to lie, cheat, defraud, deceive and shade the truth as long as they can get what they want. They care very little about their names, and are ever willing to compromise anything and everything to get ‘gold’.
Dishonesty street is not only getting over crowded by the day, you are considered a fool and out of fashion if you pitch your tent on ‘Truth avenue’. These are times when wealth is valued above character. The nation is immersed in an ocean of lies and deceit. Most of our leaders are embodiments of our culture of lies and corner cutting mentality – our collective shame and social iniquity. My heart always skip several beats and I suffer pangs of shame-induced heartaches and goosebumps whenever I hear some of our political leaders and public opinion moulders make preposterous statements or exhibit ridiculous actions that would make even the devil himself shudder.
INTEGRITY: A VANISHING VIRTUE
“The first key to greatness is to be in reality what we appear to be.” – – – Socrates
The word integrity is from the latin word “integrates“, which means wholeness or completeness. Integrity is, therefore, a state of being sound, whole or complete. It is the quality of maintaining a consistent moral uprightness in both our private and public life, our inward and outward life and in our words and actions. It is welding what we think, say or do into a whole person. It is not doing what “we want to do” but what “we ought to do”.
Integrity is simply lack of pretence (hypocrisy). It is being true to our inner convictions even under pressure to compromise. It is the courage to accept the truth and to stand with it, for it and by it, even if it means standing alone.
You would agree with me that integrity is one vital ingredient missing in most public and private lives in our nation. It is the lack of this virtue that is responsible for our many troubles and woes as a people. That is the basic reason why Nigeria is ranked among the most corrupt nations of the world.
You know when people cannot be trusted for what they say or do, they lose their power to become positive influences. Tragically, many apart from trying to cover up their evil tracks, and preaching what is totally at variance with their conducts, are too proud to admit their wrongs or failures and to accept blame for them.
Several years ago in Benin City, the great T. L. Osborn once unequivocally declared in a public programme: “I have walked with integrity all my life”. In other words, this man was saying there’s no skeleton in my cupboard, I have a good conscience, none of you can accuse me of wrongdoing, I live what I preach… my character is intact.
The question is, how many of us can say that with all confidence, conviction and unashamed boldness? How many of our leaders, both past and present, can stand on the rooftop to make such declarations? How many can say that to their parents, spouse, children, friends, communities and organisations? Without question, integrity is a vanishing commodity of this generation. This is an era where many have abandoned moral standards and values in favour of experience and convenience. Character has been thrown to the wind. People value gold more than God, personal gain above character, and fame over their reputation.
Homage is no longer paid to truth, neither does people pay much attention to the things that matter most. Role models are becoming scarce by the day in this age of tolerance where anything and everything goes. We say noble things but are hardly engaged in noble acts.
Many people are called hypocrites because their lives, attitudes and conduct could not build trust, inspire commitment or produce positive results. Their ethics and morals do not integrate. Their morality is not consistent with defined standards of right and wrong. They do not exemplify balance in both their words and actions. To say it mildly, they have no integrity.
Billy Graham described integrity as “the glue that hold our way of life together”. J. K. Ewing posits that, “Once integrity is gone, the rest is a piece of cake”. Without a doubt, Integrity is vital to our lives, especially to leadership if we hope to go far as a people and as a nation. What more can influence positively than a life of honour and virtue.
THE WAY FORWARD
I believe character is the keystone to a healthy and thriving society. Character is that which make a lasting impression and difference in people’s lives and one of the most influential forces in making our world a better place. It is the matter of the heart, the core of our being, it is who we are and what we consistently do whether people see or not. Sadly, experience has shown that good character is one of the most difficult things to learn and definitely the hardest social skill to imbibe. This is perhaps due to the fact that it is mostly being propagated by preaching instead of ‘practise’ and personal example especially in this part of the world.
Leo B. Blessing captured this excellently when he posited that“the foundations of character are built not by lectures but by bricks of good example laid day by day”. This is where our leadership and social problems lie. Majority of our leaders, and even we the led, cannot be said to be role models or good examples. We say one thing and do another. This is shamefully wrong and totally unacceptable.
Nigeria can only move forward when the leadership has the character and courage to do what is right even in their sleep. Our march to greatness begins when the leadership stands by what it professes in its secret chambers and is willing to lead by example in every area of their lives. When this happens, we the youths will have no option than to inculcate good morals and adopt virtue-cast character, held together by the twin cords of integrity and honesty.
Again, in the Western world, role modelling and mentoring are compulsory and indispensable aspects of the child development programme. High school students and undergraduates are assigned role models and mentors to guide them in life. Parents, teachers and indeed everyone in charge of providing care for young people are required to frown at and come hard on dishonesty and hypocrisy from children. But in Nigeria, it is not the same. There are no such things as role models and mentors. Similarly, parents, teachers and other care givers lie blatantly and unashamedly to their spouse, colleagues and associates, right before these young ones, and they (the young ones) imbibe this culture of lying as they grow up.
That lying is the foundation of all immoral acts and deviant behaviours is a fact that is lost on us. A simple lie may lead one into committing heinous crimes in the future in order to cover that lie. A liar today will likely become a cheat tomorrow. And a youth who is a cheat is a potential unfaithful spouse, dishonest business partner, immoral religious leader, and a corrupt public officer. Lying is the first baby steps which sets one off into a journey that leads to social harlotry and political immorality. The cold hard truth is that parents (family unit) are to blame for this intractable social malaise we found ourselves in more than any other social unit. The offspring of a snake, according to a popular Igbo proverb, will always possess a long tail and no limbs. Parents who lie and condone lying will definitely raise children who lie with ease and impulsion.
A social problem requires a social solution. Also, it is often said that: “Charity begins at home”. Consequently, I make bold to state that one major route out of this social quagmire (dishonesty and hypocrisy) we have plunged ourselves into is encouraging parents and all care givers to show zero tolerance to lying and hypocrisy, not only with regards to their children but also themselves. For indeed, the best sermons are preached with our lives not our lips. Example, not opinion polls, is the main thing in influencing others.
Remember also that“once integrity is gone, the rest is a piece of cake.” If leadership can honestly and sincerely lead the way, and the youths place premium on integrity and character, it will only be a matter of time before we attain true greatness in this nation. Those entrusted with the sacred responsibility of leading in one way or another should ensure that they do not end up as worthless pieces of cake. The world does not remember money, mansions, properties and things people leave behind. The only thing that counts long after we have breathed our last is our “Name”. What name are you making for yourself?
By Okechukwu Nwachi
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