Thursday, September 21, 2006

Nigerian Leaders Hark! What is the Value of a Man?

Airplane crashes are joltingly painful, especially to friends and relatives of the crash victims, yet, they are poignant reminders of the ephemeral nature of life. Without warning, in a fleeting moment all the substance and stature of the human being is brought to an abrupt and screeching eternal halt. We carp and squabble over money, power, politics, ideologies and things that are of meaningless consequence on the scale of the eternity of time and the infinity of space that makeup life and existence.

For those who died in the September 17, 2006 Army plane crash in Kwande, Benue State , it is the end of all these meaningless carping, squabbling and jostling. All their families and everyone with whom they interacted in the course of their lives have left are memories. The years and efforts put into their jobs and relationships reduced to mere electrical impulses transmitted across the tiny spaces (synapses) between the networks of connections (dendrites) and cells (neurons) that make up the brain and nervous system.

The worth of a man is often dictated by the type of memories we hold of him after he dies. We hold on to these memories cherishing the fond and good ones and trying to forget the not so good. Sometimes, there are those memories that are too grim to forget. Often, these are borne out of the actions or inactions of a man or woman in a given situation. In men who by fate find themselves in positions of authority and leadership, these actions or inactions often have far-reaching and compelling impacts on large sections of the society.

Good leaders often are remembered fondly with feelings of euphoric nostalgia and yearning. Bad leaders are remembered with loathsome bitterness and regret. Often, it is not that the good leader was pristine and perfect through and through, and did not falter or do any bad deeds, or that the bad leader is outrightly evil and did not do any good deed. It is the degree of these deeds and the level and type of impact (negative or positive) the deeds have on the society that determines a good or bad leader. On this scale, Hitler was most certainly an evil and bad leader. There is no question also that Abacha, Mobutu and Idi-Amin likewise were bad leaders who left indelible negative memories in societies which they led. In the same vein, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi are undoubtedly two of the greatest leaders of the 20th century.

Understandably, most leaders fall between the two extreme types of leaders given that one would expect a stochastic distribution of types of leaders. For some reason, Nigeria seems to have a more than disproportionate share of leaders of the Mobutu and Abacha ilk, perhaps because years of despotic and dehumanizing reign of military dictatorship has inured Nigerians to the anguish of bad leadership. Being on the left tail of the normal distribution for so long has warped the reasoning of the average Nigerian to the extent that he justifies acts that are flat out wrong and deplorable by flimsy self-serving strange, if not moronic logic.

Nigerian leaders would do well to strive to leave more positive impacting memories on the citizenry that they lead by doing good deeds and staying within the ambits of the law as they dispatch their responsibilities. Take the case of the late Finance director of INEC, who led a lie as a pastor while looting the government coffers to the tune of 7 billion Naira. Surely that individual has left an indelible negativity in the collective memories of Nigeria , likewise has Tafa Balogun, ex IG of Police and many other leaders in Nigeria . It would not be inaccurate to say that such Nigerians have led worthless and destructive lives. And for those who believe in life after death, the damnation is double barreled. Not only are the memories they leave behind forever seen as profane and despicable, these individuals are equally self-condemned to eternal damnation as defined by any of the major creeds in Nigeria that they are likely to belong. In the end, the true value of a man is measured by how many lives one has impacted positively and not how much wealth he amassed.

It is worthless to acquire wealth without impacting peoples’ lives positively with it, and even worse to acquire wealth illegally as many Nigerian leaders do. The world’s two richest people Bill Gates and Warren Buffet realize this and are giving back to the world almost all their wealth through philanthropy. These indeed are two great men and big men of the kind never seen in Nigeria.

The writer of this article pays his respect to the 13 people who lost their lives in the Military aircraft crash last Sunday and pray that their families find the strength to bear the loss. Were Nigeria a well run society perhaps this might not have happened. Perhaps the army would have had newer aircrafts with better trained pilots and air traffic control staff. Perhaps there would have been a well structured emergency response procedure in place and rescue teams to rendered adequate and prompt help immediately after the crash. But that is if only governors, presidents, directors, vice presidents, legislators, civil servants and private and corporate executives would stop looting millions of dollars and pounds to acquire homes in Europe and America and fund profligate life styles. Until all the brigandage stops, Nigerians unfortunately would be bereft of the true value of life.

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