Defining Achievement, Performance and Humility of Nigeria’s Political Class

by Akintokunbo A Adejumo

As I was having a brainwave and contemplating what to write about the topic of our political leaders’ “achievement,” “performance” and their “humility”, it occurred to me that I personally don’t resound with the concept of focusing life on achieving end results outside of myself. The English dictionary’s definition of ‘achieve – to bring to a successful conclusion; accomplish; attain; to gain as by hard work or effort – states that by its nature, achievement or accomplishment is an result, a conclusiveness. We all must accomplish things in order to function in life, for example, go to school, earn a degree or two or four, earn a living , marry and set up your own family, and see your children through education, but is that all that achievement means? It may be that achievement is not a completion or conclusion, but an ongoing metamorphosis of who we are inside.

What brought this to mind is the level of praise we tend to heap on our dubious pseudo-leaders as well as their often exaggerated and non-existent achievement or accomplishment. Apart from the fact that most of them are illegally in power either by forcing their way in by pointing a gun at our and at each other heads (the military) or by snatching ballot boxes, thumb printing ballot papers and generally rigging and murdering their way to power, they do not deserve any accolade, they are really, if we forgive them for doing these things to us, doing the job they are being paid hefty amount of salaries for.

When are we going to realise and let these people know that they are just doing what we are paying them those billions to do? And believe me, we are a very lucky country indeed to be able to afford such payments, but do we know it? They are not doing us a favour by employing us, or by building roads for us, or building a hospital or two, or by creating endless and purposeless quangoes; that is what we are paying then to do, for crying out loud. But they all pipe as if they have achieved something that nobody can ever do, except them. Damnit, no Governor is doing me a favour by building classrooms for my children, or tarring the front of my house; I am already paying then to do that. And I am not going to thank them for doing it.

In a thriving and working democracy, there is really very little or no room for recognising achievement or accomplishment by individual politicians or leaders, who, I keep reiterating, are mostly mediocre and fraudulent by their actions, because we, the people who elected or voted them in (unfortunately even though they rigged their way in, by allowing them to stay in power, we have to take responsibility for their actions) expect them to accomplish certain tasks for us to make our lives better. The best we can do is recognising them and commending them for doing their jobs. There really is nothing wrong in this. Anybody who does a good job (please note that I am not calling it a favour, but a job) deserves recognition, commendation and thanks, so that such person will be further motivated to do more. It is a normal civil thing to do.

But why are we praising Mr Governor or Mr Local Government Chairman for building a road, or a classroom or providing bore holes or hospitals for us. That is his job. That is what he promised us he will do. That is what we are paying him to do, and he must do it. And we are even thanking them for making money out of the road contract, because in most cases, these contracts are inflated so that they can make some money or they have received a bribe before awarding the contract. They rarely ever do things for us in good faith.

There is a little bit of answer for this. For example, because Osun State ex-Governor Oyinlola sat on his backside doing nothing for eight years, when Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola took over from Oyinlola, within 100 days, he had made a difference by employing 20,000 youths. Yes we can commend Aregbesola. But he really has not achieved, he’s just doing what we expect him to do. I hope we will not take it our “minimum standard”.

What we should be applying to these jokers is Quality Assurance, not Quality Control (as a Food Scientist). Quality Assurance is “are we doing the right thing?” which is monitoring performance and quality throughout the process, as opposed to “have we done the right thing” (Quality Control) after the process is complete and might have gone wrong from the beginning.

At our various jobs in life, our employers often recognize our efforts for doing our jobs, which he is paying us to do, by giving us promotion, awards, bonuses, etc. But he will not sing our praises to the high heavens.

We really need to educate ourselves and our people to let them know that these political opportunists are our servants, not our masters. We pay them, yet they still steal from us; we respect them because of they say we should, yet they hold us in great contempt; we sacrifice our lives for them, yet they take us for granted and think they have a right to rule us. No, they dont. We need to let our people know all these, or else we will not be able to sustain this democracy. Their arrogance and their dishonesty without any tangible performance or accomplishment is just too much for me.

Performance, like achievement is also something you expect from somebody you employ. So if we are all agog and carried away by the fact that Governor Fashola of Lagos State is performing, well, that is what we expect of him in the first place; however, because he has set his mind and heart on doing his job as it should be done, yes, we must commend him, but not turn him into a Messiah or a minor god.

Laura L. Brown, in The Meaning of Achievement, asked “Does a mother “achieve” raising her children to be conscious, contributing members of society? Is that an end result or an ongoing endeavour? Is something considered an “achievement” only if we win first prize? Or only under certain circumstances? Or only when someone is there to be witness?

Where do we learn what is considered an achievement? How, as a society, are we valuing the contributions and participation of each member in our group- government, family, neighbourhood, community, workplace, city, nation, and world?”

“We recognize and sometimes reward people for “achieving” milestones that we have determined significant, like graduation from high school or college, receiving a promotion, winning a sports tournament. However, there are no public acknowledgements of ongoing perseverance through troubled times or difficult circumstances, no matter how long they last. No one is waiting to throw you a party for being a reliable, loyal, giving, and genuine human being. Are those not also achievements?”, further asked Laura L. Brown.

I can look back at my life and list off the accomplishments that I think I should have been recognized for attaining, though most of them in retrospect do not matter to me anywhere near as much as the unseen, intangible and internal achievements for which there were no celebrations, congratulations, bonuses, or public announcements. Ultimately, those “achievements” and the accolades (and attention) that accompanied them faded away and what was left were the experiences, the knowledge, the growth and understanding toward a personal evolution as a resident of this planet at this particular moment in time.

Achievements, what I believe to be the real accomplishments of human beings cannot be measured by society in so much as they are not finite and continue to evolve and expand. Is there a point at which one achieves ultimate compassion or concern for others’ well being? Is

there a gauge for how much love given or received is deserving of a celebration or recognition? The pursuit of knowledge, excellence, performance and the desire to share it with others as an ongoing lifelong endeavour will never reach an end point as is required by the definition of ‘achievement’.

In Nigeria, we are used to asking our leaders, whom we appointed or elected to serve us (even the military are allowed by us to rule), whose salaries we pay and who live free and feed fat off us to give us a minimum standard. Why do we as a people not always demand the best standard? Why do we get even less than “minimum standard” and we start licking these corrupt idiots’ arse?

I was in a seminar organised by the National Association of Seadogs (aka Pyrates Confraternity) where the chairman was the veteran journalist, Felic Adenaike and the guest speaker was the well-known social critic and columnist, Dr Tony Marinho, and he was so miffed by what we as a people demand of our leaders. Why do we always demand the minimum standard, he asked? Why not at least optimum standard if we cannot get the highest. We are undervaluing ourselves and giving these opportunists the chance not to even perform. We put ourselves at a disadvantage by giving the leaders the excuse not to perform, or if you like, not to perform.

In any society, leaders or anybody that sticks out his/her neck to lead a people must perform to the best of his/her ability to ensure the people they are leading get the best, totally without any personal gain. That is, the highest standard.

In Nigeria, when a Governor or local Government Chairman gives a contractor inflated contract to merely scrape the road surface, and pour tar or asphalt on it which will last until the beginning of the rainy season when the tar or thinly laid asphalt would be washed away, usually within 3 months, we are still happy that the road was tarred in the first place, but we never see that “that minimum standard” was a waste of everybody’s money and a fraud committed on us. The same contractor will spend thousands congratulating the corrupt Governor on the pages of newspapers for “achievement” after 100 days or first year anniversary in power. Yet, the contract has not been fulfilled and the people do not see the impact of the project on their lives and community. Does this sound right? Yet, these brainless leaders go about posing – not posing, but actually believing they are – like gods and meting out money to their close family and business friends.

To be frank, I don’t think it is even a good thing to congratulate people, especially our Nigerian leaders for doing jobs we pay them to do and are not even doing well or with sincerity. It swells their heads and makes them think they are super-humans and invaluable to society when in reality, the world, and the country can do without them. Compatriots, please just look back to 50 years ago, how many leaders, military, politician, civil servant can we really say have done their service to this country with complete and undiluted honesty and sincerity and complete selflessness? How many can we honestly count? Not a lot and that explains why after 50 years of self-rule, we are in this quagmire of underdevelopment, poverty, corruption and destitution, despite our vast wealth.

Under our reprehensible and utterly disgusting hero-worshipping culture (no, I don’t even want to call these people heroes, because they are certainly not my heroes), there is no way excellence in governance can be achieved in Nigeria. Ministers, commissioners, so-called special advisers and assistants, top civil servants, board chairpersons and other appointees appointed by various tiers of governments always owe their loyalty and service to those who appointed them. They never feel or realise or work that they were appointed to serve the people of the country and not their masters or political parties. It is disgusting and nauseating to see most of these appointees the way they defer and denigrate themselves in the presence of their masters. I have very little respect, if any, for most of them and especially their masters.

I hate it when I see our money being spent by these useless and brainless leaders congratulating themselves, or actually doing propaganda and proclaiming non-existent achievements and/or performance on the pages of newspapers and on radio and TV. First, they are wasting money which could better be used for more serious and urgent public needs; secondly, they are lying their heads off and think they are pulling the wool over our eyes, and thirdly, they are just doing the jobs we are paying them to do, so why are they congratulating themselves, or why are some sycophants congratulating them for doing their job

In Nigeria, for the past five decades, when it comes to the resources and the income of the state, the common Nigerians are taken advantage of by ignorant, greedy, selfish, corrupt civil or armed political looters. There is nothing more deserving than dedication to public service mainly because it is a sacrifice to abandon the desire to make money and serve the people. Not in Africa. Looting the treasury until it is empty is the goal.

Hear Farouk Martins in his article “Nigeria: Debates By Political Looters May Distort Achievements” (14 March 2011), “Africans like the rest of the world have been blessed with skilful managers of resources and money of the state. No matter what our differences were with some past leaders, in retrospect, Nkrumah was dedicated, Awolowo was a skilful manager, Pa Ojukwu was a good businessman, Aminu Kanu was the best political leader and Mandela’s goodwill is world class. Nevertheless, when we are faced with a choice of leadership, we allow extroverts to snatch debates by appealing to our hearts. Many of us have called for part-time political leaders in Africa with the hope that the attraction to loot will be curtailed and minimized. However, when we see men that have served the country with no expectation to be paid back in salary or gratuity, we discard them as losers. We have a string of human right activists, philanthropists and professional students or professors that cannot be elected. There is no doubt that our interpretation of achievement is skewed”.

I am personally of the belief that contemporary challenges of development in Nigeria demand a critical and deliberate re-invention of the philosophy of governance and political leadership which must reflect a profound understanding of the very great tasks ahead of us as a nation and as a people. The liberation of the African continent at the moment would require that leadership considerations are determined by such virtues as strength of character, intellectual depth as well as dedication and commitment of the personages involved. Authentic leaders of this country must, of necessity, be those that are imbued with vision, audacity, firmness, clarity of purpose, sympathetic spirit, trustworthiness, patriotism, coherence, a strong drive for positive action, optimism, modesty, humility and dynamism.

When you look at it, African leaders’ problems are a cultural thing, a flaw in our culture. Our rulers, even in ancient days were absolute rulers. They were treated like gods,(perhaps the fault of the people they rule themselves?) and demand absolute obedience and rule their people rarely with compassion, but with the conviction that they are meant to rule and their people are just pawns or serfs, there to do their bidding and anything they do for their people are favours. They were rarely humble; in fact a humble king, oba, sultan or emir was considered a weakling.

This flaw has been carried forward to the present days, whether military or democracy and that is why you rarely see an African leader behaving with humility and compassion to his people. African, and indeed, Nigerian leaders really do have a need to approach the socio-p

olitical environment with humility. Furthermore, these leaders, expectedly because of the way they force themselves on top are relatively unprepared, uninformed, uneducated and inexperienced about the context of governance. In fact, they are completely ignorant and do not know what governance is, not to talk of good governance. Thus, they need humility and a willingness to learn and serve in terms of their own understanding of the context, humility in terms of their certainty regarding their own worldview, and humility about their assumptions concerning the motivations and goals of the great work and responsibilities ahead of them.

Only then, but then most forcefully, should leaders display the courage to pursue what they believe is the right course of action. Young, brilliant and dynamic leaders who best represent competence and excellence in public service, intelligence in the service of the people, governance not dictated by politics but politics dictated by good governance, not motivated by ludicrous propaganda but ordered by visible accomplishments, integrity and humility, are what we need in this country if we want to progress.

Right now, I can hardly see these coming, at least not for a very long time; perhaps after my death. Our cultural an moral values need to be revisited, reviewed and reworked to give us a system that will benefit our societies, and not only for Nigeria, but indeed our raped and looted continent, Africa.

Let the Truth be said always.

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