“The only natural disaster we have is bad leadership,” is often quoted to justify the leadership crisis we have, not just in Nigeria, but in Africa in its entirety. The quote is not incorrect, but it contains half-truth, and this is it: that for effective leadership, vigilant followership is necessary.
|Hon. Ojema Ojotu|
John Wooden seemed to share my opinion when he asserted thus: “Followers have the responsibility to be self-aware and accountable. They must reflect on their own actions, values, and behaviors and strive to align them with the vision and values set forth by their leaders.” This means that governance is not a one-way traffic, it’s a complementing endeavour where leaders become followers and followers become leaders. Conflicting, right? Come with me.
Leadership/followership crisis in Africa is better appreciated in the poem of Niyi Osundare, titled: “The Leader and Led.”
The poem is set in the jungle. The pack are gathered to elect their leaders. In the form of manifestor, animals who believe themselves to possess the qualities of a leader come forward to stake their claims to the leadership of the pack.
First to come forward is the Lion. The pack rejects him because of the “Ferocious pounce of his paws.” The Hyena says the crown is made for him, but his “lethal appetite” is a serious worry. The Giraffe “craves for a place in the front” but he’s too far from the ground, from the masses.
The Zebra leaps forward but the duplicity of his stripes knockes him down. He has Yahoo tendencies. The Elephant “trudges into the power tussle”, but the pack dread his “tramping feet.” The Warthog is too ugly, and the Rhino riotous. No animal that makes a contest for the leadership of the pack is elected, and so the pack “Thrashes around like a snake without a head.”
The striking imagery brought by “Thrashes around like a snake without a head” has metaphorical implication. Africa has been, since independence, trying to figure out a timeless leadership recruitment template. While some choose such variables like tribalism, ethnic affiliation, nepotism in recruiting leaders, others follow the path of physical features.
Now, what would the pack do? Do they continue to meander around the jungle without a leader? The totemic Tortoise who is regarded as the Forest Sage has the solution:
“Our need calls for a hybrid of habits,”
“A little bit of a lion,
A little bit of a lamb,” proclaimed the Forest Sage.
“Tough like a tiger, compassionate like a doe
Transparent like a river, mysterious like a lake
A leader who knows how to follow
Followers mindful of their right to lead.”
The kernel of this article is contained in the last two lines: leaders who follow and followers who lead. By implication, followers are not acquitted of the call for service and governance. They are not passive, but active in the decisions that shape them.
Followers don’t refuse to support a leader because he is not of his tribe. A follower leads the leader to God in prayer to succeed. He suggests ideas that can work, and constructively points out areas the leader isn’t doing too well. After all, leaders are human beings too.
Dear Apa/Agatu Federal Constituency, as Hon Ojotu Ojema leads from behind, he needs your prayers, constructive criticism, support, active engagement in this project of development.
Hon Ojotu Ojema has the humility to listen to you. He is vocal to project your concerns, like he’s doing already. He is spiritual enough, as a pastor, to take matters beyond the constituency to God. He is proactive enough to lobby home what is due for his constituency. He is fierce enough to confront challenges that threaten his constituency. He has “A little bit of a lion, and a little bit of lamb.”
Dear Apa/Agatu Federal Constituency, we are all leaders and followers. Let’s activate unity of purpose for sustained development. Thank you!
Ojila Yahaya Monday,
Media Assistant to Hon Ojotu Ojema,
Member Representing Apa/Agatu Federal Constituency