As a frequent business traveller particularly around Africa, I am often intrigued and, sometimes, bewildered at the discussions on the leadership question among the citizenry across nations from the continent. I am most times comforted by the patriotic fervour and enthusiasm that runs deep in their veins. UBUNTU, a Zulu word that loosely translates to human kindness but deeply means having the human virtues of compassion and humanity, is quite prevalent. Often, I juxtapose these thoughts with that of my beloved country Nigeria and am in a quandary as to how we came to this sorry pass.
I use, today, the Rwandan example to bring home the fact, again, that we need to learn a lot from some of our brothers around the continent. As I have often said, Leadership is about public good and not self- preservation and nowhere else is representative of this virtue than Rwanda. A particular event in Kigali titled IMIHIGO which is about performance contracts, accountability and citizen- centred development amply demonstrates that.
The event which held on Friday September 9 at the exquisite Kigali Convention centre is an annual one and was chaired by the President of Rwandan Paul Kagame. It brings together central and local leaders who come to present performance outcomes for the last financial year and signing of new contracts for the new financial year. The system which was introduced in 2006 is credited with improving accountability and speeding up the pace of citizen- centred development activities and programmes in the country. Hitherto the evaluation of the IMIHIGHO was done by government officials but the exercise is now handled by the Institute of Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR), a private think tank, to ensure its outcomes are more scientific and objective. With the research institute serving as the arbiter, the results are fact- based, independent and reliable unlike when the evaluators were the ones who were supposed to implement the same contracts based on observations and assumptions.
At Nigeria’s weekly Federal Executive Council meetings we often hear … Council resolved to award the contract for xyz to….and more often than not, no policy statement emanates from there. It is a weekly or bi weekly contract award session. One had heard previously of ministers announcing the award of contracts or signing of memoranda between countries, states and private sector organizations which were never binding and were as worthless as the paper on which they were signed. What doesn’t get measured does not get done.
We do not track neither do we evaluate. We, as a nation, and not only the federal government but also the sub-nationals (state governments) and the local governments, pride ourselves with slogans that even the proponents do not believe in.
President Kagame, in his key note address from which I take some excerpts said, ‘’Leadership is not an individual task, it is about how the opportunity that gives you a leader works with others to achieve a common goal. Leadership is also about learning from our mistakes and applying lessons learnt.” He went on, “Failure in leadership is when you choose to pursue your own interest and not the interests of the people you lead. Our success must be evaluated based on the change we see in the lives of Rwandans not the life of individual leaders. Imihigo is not about praising individuals or punishing others. It is about changing the lives of our citizens. You cannot sit back, pray and wish for success, you cannot reap what you have not worked for. Freedom is the opportunity that gives you hope that you will stand tall. This Rwanda is ours, it is our house. It is not a house someone has lent to us. It is ours to work on and transform. This freedom of ownership is indispensable.’’ The speech was powerful and poignant particularly as it connected back home with Our Change Agenda in words. It resonated well with the entire Rwandan citizenry who knew where they were coming from after going through an unprecedented genocide that threatened the very fabric of their existence and only a leader in the mould of Paul Kagame could hold them together and instil in them a sense of unity and belief in their oneness. A strong leader who has built strong institutions in equal measure. A landlocked nation that relies on its human resource elements which it uses to develop capacity, its burgeoning youthful population which it unleashes onto the ICT space, and its diaspora remittances whose citizens contributions is added to donor funding to build infrastructure and social amenities. You could see a sense of genuine pride and patriotism from a leader and which is reciprocated by the citizenry. No one is coerced to imbibe the cause. They look at their antecedents coming from 22 years post- genocide and conflict and say: on our honour we must make this country work not only for this generation but those unborn. For their tomorrow they are ready to give their today. Juxtapose this with the Nigerian experience and what you are confronted with is cynicism and bigotry. There is an apparent lack of belief and faith in the leadership strata.
The recently launched ‘Change Begins With Me’ has already started on a turbulent note with claims that it was a stolen concept. In equal measure, Nigerians have started to deride the programme as not striking a chord and a bit of the same old slogans and mantras that do nothing to bring out the nationalistic fervour in us. The vim and gusto is lacking as the people believe rightly or wrongly there is a serious disconnect that needs to be addressed by the leaders. They insist and rightly so that by their actions and deeds our leaders must show commitment to the cause.
The time for spiritual reawakening and rebirth (note I didn’t say religious) is now. We need to have a common agenda and destiny and a conscious effort must be made to affect national development from our respective spheres of influence and quit complaining. Citizens must hold their leaders at all levels accountable and those who err should be made to return the loot and in addition jailed to act as a deterrent. We often hear that the person or persons who are involved in looting or corrupt practices are from a particular ethnic group or belong to a certain religious creed as if that is an excuse or a licence to steal. The situation hitherto where corruption was not only rife but endemic and stealing in high places was elevated to an art form must be condemned in its entirety. Our collective patrimony must not be mortgaged and we must stop whining and wailing. We must pick up the gauntlet and show the way.
Our ‘Giant of Africa’ appellation must count for something. History might forgive us for taking a wrong decision but history will not forgive us for not taking any at all. The time is now and we must seize the moment.