It took answering several probing questions on relationship / marital issues before my wife finally bought my story that she should marry me. That was the first hurdle. The other hurdles came with subsequent visits to see her relatives. One of the uncles was particularly difficult. In response to his question on why I believe his niece is the person for me, I said: “As a Christian, I have learned to recognize God’s voice… The day I set my eyes on Bimbo, I had a witness in my spirit that she is my wife.” He remarked: “Uh huh! So you will marry her if she was one-eyed and one-legged?” I paused for a while before telling him I would still marry her if I have a witness in my spirit.
All this happened 17 years ago. Are the drilling sessions responsible for the progress and stability in our marriage? Not necessarily. One thing they did achieve was that they afforded my wife and me the opportunity to reflect on the seriousness of what we were getting into. The more questions I answered, the more she was able to assess who I was at the core. The sessions also gave me the opportunity to check my motives.
Quite recently, I reflected on what I was put through preparatory to leading a single lady on a marital journey. When I juxtaposed this with the leadership selection process in Nigeria (a nation of 170 million people), I concluded that Nigeria is not going anywhere unless we change our approach.
What is Leadership?
Leadership is simply the art of getting things done. In getting things done, vision (a pre-determined, preferred future) is a critical element of this process. Vision answers the question: Where are we going? It is for this reason that all great leaders are visionaries.
The need for leadership
Leadership is about progress; it involves forward movement. However, in the process of moving forward we encounter constraints that tend to slow or even stall our movement. Therefore, the need for leadership stems from having to deal with the challenge of progression. Great leaders, in addition to being visionaries, are problem solvers. You cannot be a leader and complain about or shy away from challenges.
Private Leadership versus Public Leadership
Everyone is a leader because the first rung on the leadership ladder is self-leadership. To become a successful leader, you must first lead yourself successfully. Private leadership should therefore precede public leadership.
When someone vies for public leadership position, it goes without saying that the general public should focus on the aspiring leader’s record of achievement in his or her private life. A man with a mediocre performance in his private life cannot show exemplary performance as a public leader.
Unfortunately, as important as the private life of an aspiring leader is to his potential achievement as a public leader, this aspect is relegated to the background or sometimes shrouded in secrecy in Nigeria. Aspiring political leaders shun political debates and we wonder why we are not making progress as a nation.
The bane of Nigeria’s development
The public leadership selection process is the biggest challenge to Nigeria’s development. It is a statement of fact that leadership selection process in private organization is more detailed and rigorous in comparison to public organization.
In determining the suitability of candidates for positions in private organizations, recruiters critically examine the track record of candidates. It is not out of place to see a prospective candidate for the chief executive position in a private organization (with less than N5 billion in annual turnover) go through selection interviews that last 3 – 6 months whereas executive governors of States with annual budgets in excess of N100 billion are handpicked by godfathers!
In the choice of leaders for public offices in Nigeria, federal character (quota system) is the order of the day. There’s even a government agency charged with the responsibility for ensuring the continuity of the system. At the time right thinking people clamoured for the scrapping of federal character, its variant – zoning – found its way into Nigeria’s ruling political party.
From my interaction with some family heads, I’ve come to the conclusion that the critical thinking going on in some nuclear families in Nigeria surpasses what goes on in many government agencies, local and state governments!
Leadership is personal
Because the first rung on the leadership ladder is self-leadership, the determination of the suitability of aspiring public leaders should be personalized. The questions to these aspirers should be: How have you led yourself? How well have you led your immediate family? What major problems have you solved in your life?
When someone seeks a public office, it is an invitation to the public to examine, investigate, and scrutinize his private life in order to determine his suitability for the post he seeks.
The profile of an overseer below clarifies the point that leadership is personal. “It is a trustworthy statement: if any man aspires to the office of overseer, it is a fine work he desires to do. An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money…” (I Timothy 1 – 3; NASB)
Benefit of personalised leadership
When personalised leadership becomes a significant factor in the choice of public leaders, the building of Nigeria from ground up would have begun. Then we would begin to remedy situations whereby family units (the building blocks of a nation) are in tatters while those responsible for the despondency in families parade themselves as public leaders.
With personalized leadership at the core of public leadership selection, aspiring leaders would make it a point of duty to be the right kind of leader at home. After all, charity, they say, begins at home.
The public arena should not be a leadership testing ground for persons seeking public offices. The risks to the general public in terms of poor leadership are just too high. In choosing public leaders, we must seek and pay attention to their performances in their private life. What they achieved or failed to achieve are clues to what will happen when they get to public offices. We can only ignore these clues to our peril.
Leadership is personal and those that oppose personalised leadership are those that have failed in their private life. Need I say that we don’t need such people as public leaders?