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Leadership, Sycophancy and Loyalty – By Arnold A. Alalibo

By Arnold A. Alalibo | NNP | June 1, 2019 – James Cardinal Gibbons says, “the trouble with being a leader today is that you cannot be sure whether people are following you or chasing you”. The aforementioned quote is most realisable in a democratic rule where there is a dearth of propitious leaders and followers. When great leaders are catalysed by good followers, what results is a better feat by the leaders. But that is only feasible when the followers are at liberty to agree or disagree with such leaders. The proposition that leaders are self-made is presumptive. In fact, leaders, good leaders, are proceeds of good followership.
Those who lead decoy commendations or criticisms from their subjects. When denunciation or eulogy is constructive, leaders are edified. It is not odd to castigate or commend a leader whose performance is deserving of such. To quote Lord Bryce, they are: “Visionaries whose instincts for their nation’s future have a course to steer, a part to seek, a nation to lead and a people to mould”.
In Africa, it is knotty to be on the side of truth and stick out one’s neck for those in authority. This is particularly unsafe in Nigeria where such an attempt might court severe persecution. Many Nigerian leaders are consistently inconsistent, selfish and hardly stand for the truth or principles. Because of the venal standpoint of these leaders, some get ensnared when the chips are down.
But it has also been observed that many leaders take unscrupulous stance because of poor followership and lack of gratitude by the led. When leaders are encouraged, they tend to lead aright. This was the practice even in the ancient era.
In many African countries, leadership is genetic. A leader seldom cedes position to someone outside their family, their circle of friends or those in their political cliques, who share similar interests or sentiments with them. Those who profit from this system and feed fat on it would like to entrench it deeper. There are occasions when some politicians, who could hardly afford three square meals before assuming office, now have their children or wards safely quartered in expensive schools in far away Europe and America. Under the circumstances, will the progenies of these politicians accept new leaders that may not guarantee their continuous indulgence in the ill-gotten wealth? Yet, there are praise-singers who exhort this exploitation.
Puffery is all about selfish gains. All across Nigeria, the predominant trade is to become a hype and praise leaders to high heaven. It is now salutary in most local government councils, State Assembly, including the well-fortified Aso Rock to become a sycophant and know one’s way around. Sycophants have since taken over the job of sincere policy thinkers and makers and most of our social, economic and political ideas are now initiated and proposed by the unregistered association of Nigerian sycophants.
But not every positive write-up or opinion about a leader is sycophantic. For instance, those who extolled late Chief Obafemi Awolowo and his party for their noble stand against the Tafawa Balewa government’s attempt at signing a military pact with the British in the First Republic were no sycophants. In fact, by their posy they gave kudos to these leaders who today have been widely acknowledged for their many roles in their rows for the nation’s independence.
Men like Amos, the Israeli writer, who extolled David Ben Gurion for providing the needed leadership for the emergence of the modern Israeli state, was not a sycophant. General Vo Nguyen, who with his inspiring articles in the newspapers applauded the Vietnamese leader, Ho Chi Minh, was not a hired praise-singer, but a soldier.
Ghanshyam Das Birla, who abetted Mahatma Gandhi in his struggles for India’s independence in the early stages of his leadership was not a lackey. Several writers or followers, who have sacrificed pecuniary advances for describing good leaders are no fawners. Leadership is not a simple task. In a time of impasse when some decline to be identified, genuine leaders emerge and take principled stand. Take, for example, during the debate on the constitutional amendment and the controversial tenure elongation in former President Obasanjo’s regime, it took persons with compunction and principle to stand against it.
Hence, those leaders who for ulterior motives or fear of their political lords remain reticent in the visage of crises are cowards. Credible leaders would disclose their positions despite intimidation or threats from the powers that be. Winston Churchill describes these courageous leaders as those who “will take a decision to protect civilisations even though at great risk to themselves”.
A leader’s authority normally derives from the persons in need of their services and in their ability to rule and, of course, in the willingness of the individuals to suspend their own judgment and accept their leader because they trust them and the system they represent. But sometimes the relationship between leaders and their followers turns suspicious. There is a drifting apart not because the leaders are unpopular, but they lack credibility. Leaders who deceive their people create integrity-related problem, especially when there is a gap between what they say and what they do; between what is reported and what eventually turns out to be the truth.
Like the shepherd boy in the fable who has his fun in deceiving his community that wolves have come to take his sheep when in fact nothing of the kind happened, a government that readily rationalises its right to lie in a crisis will never lack for either lies or crises when it least expects them. Nigeria is a state that comprises diverse ethnic groups, and it will be critical if a government fails to recognise this fact. It was in appreciation of this that the old national anthem placed a high premium on it: “though tribes and tongues may differ, in brotherhood we stand.”
As leaders continue to emerge, the best way to identify them as good or bad is their reaction during emergencies. They can also be identified in their response to criticisms. Harry Truman says: “Handling criticism if it’s untrue, disregard it; if it is unfair, keep from irritation; if it is ignorant, smile; if it’s justified, learn from it.” Good leadership is based on trust and principles and it is examplary. The right example is contagious and induces imitation. When leaders lead by the right illustrations, they will earn respect and loyalty. And even if they err on occasions, their worthy paragons will place them on an invincible position. They won’t be slurred.



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Posted by on Jun 2 2019. Filed under Arnold Alalibo, Articles, Columnists, NNP Columnists. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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