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Retired General Abdusalami Abubakar handed over the leadership baton of Nigeria to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on 29th day of May 1999. This change in power was the beginning of a fresh and hopeful democratic rule in Nigeria. This year marks Nigeria’s 14th anniversary as a republic with fledgling democracy. Yet, the practice of democratic leadership in our country may be described as the libertarian version of the old military rule.
John Maxwell once opined that, “Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” His opinion bears much truth about the features of genuine democratic leadership. In true democracy, the person at the most vantage point of leadership is considered the chief servant influencing other distinguished servants in the country. Perhaps, the summary of all the chief servant’s duties is to provide valuable service in terms of internal and external public image-making, implementation of strategies in pursuit of a regular state of order and management of all human and natural resources to improve productivity.
Leaders are citizens that are often burdened with the responsibility of other people’s welfare. Consequently, they would only be effective if they have the interest of the citizenry at heart. In a lecture given by Professor Michael J. Sandel of Harvard University on the subject of Justice, I learnt that under John Stuart Mill’s furtherance of the utilitarian moral theory, “The sole evidence it is possible to produce that anything is desirable is that people actually do desire it.” In other words, the only possible evidence we have to say something is desirable is to truly prove that many people desire it. If we apply this principle to leadership, we may say that a person is only a good leader if many more people actually think he or she is.
I believe that the knowledge and practice of genuine democratic leadership should begin from the home. Parents who cannot demonstrate true leadership in the presence of their children cannot demand proper conduct from them when they assume leadership position in future. Similarly, leaders whose decisions and lifestyles are against the absolute welfare of the people and do not inspire good leadership should be ready to hand over authority to worse leaders than themselves. The shape of Nigeria’s democratic leadership in future depends on the responsibility consciousness of both the young and senior members of the citizenry. May we find wisdom in times of need. God bless Nigeria!