Friday, August 21, 2009

Wanted: Transformative leadership

It is good that most Nigerians are eager to see their country on the path to meaningful development after decades of missed opportunities. Statistics from international development organisations about the country’s development status are dispiriting enough. Out of the over 140 million citizens, 70 per cent live on less than two dollars daily, according to the development agencies, which also say that 66 per cent of our people have no jobs.

The situation may have been exacerbated by the global economic crisis and the Niger Delta crisis which has seen daily oil export decline from 2.5m barrels to 1.6m barrels. The failure to meet oil production targets is one of the critical factors affecting this year’s budget performance.

Still, we are optimistic. President Umaru Yar’Adua, for instance, is proceeding with his Vision 20:20:20. He hopes by the year 2020, Nigeria will be among the 20 largest economies in the world. This is a lofty ambition, indeed. But as everyone knows, there is no way Vision 20:20:20 can be realized without the states and local governments buying into them. By buying into this vision, one is not talking of their official declarations of support, but taking concrete and far-reaching steps to modernize their economies and governance systems generally.

The reality, however, appears different. I have in the last few years been touring various parts of the country in search of like-minds to form a coalition to transform governance at every level in Nigeria, rather than just the federal administration. The country is in desperate need of a paradigm shift. What many people expect from the government is the routine, namely, provision of basic infrastructure like roads and payment of workers’ salaries.

This is nothing other than business. The country cannot develop, let alone join the club of the world’s largest 20 economies by 2020, if intellectuals, professionals and others who should know better ask the government to merely concentrate on the routine in the 21st Century. To make the kind of stupendous progress that will see become a large economy in the next 13 years, it means that we all must leapfrog, that is, more than double our present growth rate of about mere 5% of the Gross Domestic Product.

Countries like Malaysia, Brazil, Thailand and China did not make it by merely providing basic infrastructure and paying salaries of civil servants. Theses countries began by recruiting transformative leaders. Transformative leaders are leaders who are dissatisfied with the status quo, they do not want business as usual in the governance of their societies. They are imbued with the right vision for the transformation of their countries and consequently work towards the realization of the dream. They are also imbued with well above average intelligence, or what the great Chief Obafemi Awolowo called mental magnitude.

Their love of their nations is, of course, well known. Transformative leaders draw up a roadmap on coming to office and prosecute the war of transformation with all resources and talent at their disposal. From time to time, they review their performance, find out where they have gone wrong, make necessary adjustments and continue with the religious implementation of their development agendas. Besides, such leaders always have self-pride. They believe that if some countries could get it right, there is no compelling reason why their societies could not make it also.

It may well be pointed out that it is not only Asian nations and territories that have stunned the world with stupendous development in recent times. In South America, there are the examples of Chile and Brazil. Chile was another hopeless Third World nation up to the 1970s. General Augustino Pinochet altered its development trajectory from 1973 with his economists from the University of Chicago.

His human rights record is nasty, but Pincohet did develop Chile, making it the third largest economy in South America. Despite years of military rule, Brazil is today a very important manufacturing economy. It is the fourth largest aircraft manufacturer in the world, and most of the luxury buses in Nigeria are from there. Even in sub Sahara Africa, there are the success stories of Namibia, Botswana, Ghana, and, of course, South Africa.