Leadership, Politics, and Social Change:
Nigeria and the Struggle for Survival

By Victor Dike


To lead a multi-ethnic society while remaining committed to democratic principles or norms is an uphill task. This is because incorporating several ethnic groups into a single political system means bringing together the basic problem of ethnic conflict as well. Group loyalties dividing a multi-ethnic society can, and do undermine, a common identity, national culture, or consensus on democratic values. Nigeria is a nation of many ethnic and religious groups; and for this, governing the society is an enormous job. Given the presence of politically assertive ethnic groups, the stability and survival of the present democratic politics depends on how the leader controls the potential ethnic disputes that would result.


Change is ubiquitous in any society, particularly in that which strives to fulfil human needs. And it takes a committed leadership to accomplish a propitious change in a society. Nigeria's short life has been packed with successions of social changes. There has been the shift from regions to states, from farms to cities, from agriculture to industries, and now power shift from the north to the south. These changes have not been for the benefit of the common man. Only those in the corridor of power have gained from those with multiplicity of riches, while the ordinary citizens have remained in wallowing penury. In other words, the masses have been preoccupied with the struggle for daily survival. Since independence in 1960, the nation has mostly been under the claws of the military. The dominance, predominance, and prolongation of military rule in Nigeria combined with corruption to undermine due process, the rule of law, transparency, accountability, and efficiency in government. But the people have rightly rejected the military, with the election of a civilian president who assumed leadership of the nation on May 29, 1999.

The military failed because it was repressive, corrupt, and undemocratic. The euphoria in the nation now is crucial to the understanding that the present democratic undertaking will succeed. Democracy will increase the role of the ordinary people in the system, and the irrepressible struggle of the people to humanize the society. Political democracy should remain our goal, because with it as the explicit goal Nigeria would attain her goals.

President Olusegun Obasanjo should employ the democratic principles to improve the living conditions of the deprived group, and re-integrate into the society those who have been excluded from the economic and political system by the many years of military rule. The poor who have carried the baggage for so long deserve a break.

However, if nothing else would make us behave the threat of soldiers planning a comeback should. And in case one is not aware of it, we are being challenged. Is ‘Uncle Sege’ the answer? Despite the recent positive actions by the civilian administration, it is still dark inside and Nigeria is waiting for the dawn. Let’s hope the wait wouldn’t be too long. How can the nation’s problems of acute state failure or political collapse be addressed? One option is self-critical leadership, good governance, and transparency in state activities. Let’s spend some thought on leadership as it relates to social change or development.


Before delving into the issue of leadership, it is necessary to make certain what a "leader" is. The definition of a ‘leader’ is as diverse as the myriad of books and articles written on the construct. This is because each writer has defined leadership from a different perspective. No matter the angle from which the definition of leadership is viewed, a leader is one who exerts unusual influence and considerable power.
According to McFarland, a leader "is one who makes things happen that would not happen otherwise. If the leader causes changes that he intended, he has exercised power, but if the leader causes changes that he did not intend or want, he has exercised influence, but not power" (MacFarland, 1969, pp.167-178; Kofele-Kale, 1976, p.81). Sidney Hook shares a similar view as McFarland. In his work, The Hero in History, Hook depicted a heroic leader as one who makes things happen that ordinarily would not have happened. "The hero in history," he opined "is the individual to whom we can justifiably attribute preponderant influence in determining an issue or event whose consequences would have been profoundly different if he had not acted as he did."  The hero is "an event-making individual who re-deter-mines the course of history" (Hook, 1943, p.229).

Obviously, students of leadership would share the views of Hook and McFarland, that the prerequisites of leadership are influence and power.  Accordingly, a person who is endowed with these qualities in the context of a group, community or nation has the personality of a leader (Kofele-Kale, 1976, p.8).  Henry Kissinger (US Secretary of State in Nixon Administration) pointed out in one of his famous speeches that a leader has the power to invoke the ‘alchemy of great vision.’ This, in other words, means that a leader should possess the power or influence of transforming something common into something precious.  

Leaders have duties too. John Gardner has pointed out that the task of leaders is to help societies "understand the problems that all must face, to aid in the setting of goals and priorities, to work with others in finding paths to those goals chosen, maintaining public morale, and motivation and nurturing a workable level of public unity" (Gardner, 1978, pp.132-135)  Leaders must activate existing institutions in pursuit of the society’s goals or, when necessary, help redesign institutions to achieve that result. Leaders must also help people know how they can be at their best "…with malice toward none, with charity for all…" In a free society leaders perform these functions within a framework of constraints. This includes an uncorrupted electoral process, the rule of law, institutional checks and balances and a free press (Ibid., 1978, pp.132-135).

Obviously, the checks on power must be in working condition, or the laws of the land would be circumvented. In this essay a "leader" refers to persons who occupy important positions in the formal polity such as Presidents, Prime Ministers, Ministers, Governors, Legislators, Party Officials, Local Government Chairmen, Council Members and of course, the local Chiefs.

Types of Leaders

There are many leadership types and each has peculiar attributes. In this article we will discuss the two types of political leadership found in contemporary African societies, namely:
Instrumental and Societal leadership.

We shall discuss their attributes and how they affect changes in a society. The "Instrumental" leader uses power and influence primarily in the pursuit of private (personal, close family, cohorts) goals.  Community objectives are secondary to an instrumental leader. The main concern of the instrumental leader is how he can use his office to achieve personal objectives. He may not be lacking in social/community commitments, but in practice more considerations are given to self over the interests of the society which he governs (Eulau, 1963, p.96).

The "Societal" leader is a public servant first and only secondarily a private person. While the instrumental leader uses his position to promote private and selfish goals, the societal leader subordinates private narrow goals for broader community objectives. For him power and influence are important only if they can be used to solve human problems.  While the societal leader is likely to resign when he is convinced he cannot influence changes to the benefit of the public, the instrumental leader would hold on to power as long as his private objectives are achieved. He does not care whether the community derives any benefit from his rule, or not (Kofele-Koale, 1976, p.82).

Given the above descriptions and the antecedents of Nigeria’s past leaders, it is clear that the majority of them were instrumentalists and opportunists. General Abacha for instance, was holding on to power, grabbing and hoarding as much money as he could possibly put his hands on without minding the effect of his behavior and actions on the society. General Babangida and others like him are guilty of the same crime. What factors contribute to the upsurge of instrumental leadership in Africa, and indeed, Nigeria?

Factors that Sustain Instrumental Leadership.

There are many conditions that make instrumental leadership possible in a society. Among other factors are:
q The guaranteed loyalty of the masses to leaders.
In Africa, and in deed in Nigeria, the masses through socialization have come to internalize the norms of respect for authority. They find it difficult to criticize or challenge authority (though this is gradually changing). 
q The title of office (Chief, General, Minister, etc.). 
This allows its holder to insist on being treated like one.  And if the behavior (performances of the leader and expectations from the public) of the present leader is the same as that of the past leader, some people may not worry about any change (Mazuri, 1966). That would make it a ‘usual’ behavior.
q Cluster of factors such as:
I). the symbols of office; ii) ceremonies surrounding the office, and iii) material resources.  In Africa, even the "ubiquitous walking stick," or a "staff" confers respect to the holder (Schapera, 1967; Kofele-Kale, 1976, p.84). 
q Seeing the leader as the "first citizen" and or the "Great comrade" the omnipresence and
 Omni-potence leader. This was demonstrated in Zik and Awo of Nigeria, and Nkrumah of Ghana (Bretton, 1967, p.88). Many sycophants usually invoke the names of the leaders in a way to get some reward.
q The deeds of African leaders (in deed, Nigerian leaders) are showered with lengthy
eulogies composed during his lifetime by men who recite them in his honor at public gatherings (Schapera, 1967, pp.97-102).  As one of my friends pointed out, musicians have a tendency to sing the praises of leaders and men of wealth.
q Weak, or the absence of institutional checks and balances (Gardner 1978, p.133;
Bienes 1993, pp. 271-282). The availability of resources to tap and steal is a good factor that breeds instrumental leaders in Nigeria.  African leaders take undue advantage of these short-comings and circumvent the few institutional restraints that are in place. Again, the story of the looting that occurred during the reign of General Sani Abacha in Nigeria has demonstrated why the checks on power must be kept in working order.
q The combination of the above factors gives the leader the room to become corrupt and
acquire wealth at will through inflated contracts, kickback from multi-national corporations and other questionable means. Under these circumstances, the leader becomes the richest person in the community (Schapera 1967, pp.97-102; Time, August 18, 1975, pp.65-67).

Nigeria: instrumental leadership problem

Leaders make things happen; they are wave makers. A society without talented and committed leaders will retrogress or at best remain stagnant. That has been the problem with Nigeria. A careful examination of the attitude and behavior of the leaders of post-colonial Nigeria shows that many of the civilian, as well as military leaders, were mired in the pursuit of selfish personal goals at the expense of broader national interest or needs.  In other words, they were ‘instrumental’ leaders, or what David Apter called "consummatory" leaders (Apter, 1960).

Chinua Achebe, one of Nigeria’s legendary writers, in his little but powerful and widely cited book, "The Trouble with Nigeria" rightly pointed out that "the trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership."  He pointed out that "there is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character, there is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else," but leadership (Achebe, 1983, p.1).

The lack of selfless, non-corrupt and committed leaders have contributed immensely to the sociopolitical and economic predicaments facing Nigeria today. Corruption and lack of committed leadership could be traced back to the First Republic (1960-1966). It has been noted that ethnic acrimony and corruption among the founding fathers of the nation prompted the first military coup on January 15, 1966. Clearly, not everybody has the leadership acumen to lead an organization, not to mention ruling a country. And clearly no society should expect to have an endless succession of great and extraordinary leaders like Roosevelt of the United States, Churchill of Britain, or De-Gaulle of France. At the same time, "no society can function well with fools, rascals, or non-leaders in leadership positions" (Gardner, 1978, p.133). 

Unfortunately, Nigeria has had many non-leaders in leadership seats. The disaster that marked the administration of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, Babangida’s atrocious regime, and the horrible looting that occurred during the time of General Sani Abacha are quick reminders. During Shagari’s inept administration there was widespread corruption and grave economic mismanagement. With corruption and the decline in international petroleum prices, the economy went sour. The economic down turn caused an increased hardship for the majority of Nigerians.

Alhaji Shehu Shagari wasted the unique opportunity created by Generals Murtala Mohammed and Olusegun Obasanjo to keep the light of democracy shinning in Nigeria. His administration was incapable of settling the political and economic crises that unfolded during the second republic. This led to disorder and chaos. The people lost fate in him and the military utilized the opportunity - the "complete state of decay and crisis" to scale back the ticking clock of democracy in the country (Europa, 1992, p.2075; Dike, 1990, p.91). If the majority of Nigeria’s voters were politically mature and educated, Shehu Shagari could not have been re-elected in 1983, given his abysmal performance during his first term. What does it take to be a good leader?

Virtue, Value, and Governance

 "The virtuous leader lives!", intoned James E. Liebig in his book, Business Ethics: Profile in Civic Virtue. A virtuous citizen, according to him, is one who understands that personal welfare depends on general welfare and therefore acts accordingly (Liebig, 1990, p.1). What is Virtue and how does it different from Value? Ordinarily, "virtue" is easily confused with "value." The concepts of value and virtue have been extensively treated in academic journals. Before dealing with the issue of virtue, we shall illustrate the diversity in the usage of value by citing three definitions of the construct, as offered at different times by well-known social scientists.

For Gordon Allport, "A value is a belief upon which a man acts by preference" (Gordon, 1961). Harry A. Johnson defined value as a "…conception of standard, cultural or merely personal by which things are compared and approved or disapproved relative to one another - held to be relatively desirable or undesirable, more meritorious or less, more or less correct" (Johnson, 1960).  Rokeach in his book, The Nature of Human Values, describes value as "an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence" (Rokeach, 1973; Oloko, 1989, p.13). Value, therefore, is a morally neutral term that merely indicates preference - to choose one thing over the other.

Comparatively, ‘virtues’ are dispositions or traits that are not wholly innate.  They are acquired, or at least in part, by teaching and practice, or perhaps, by grace (a virtue coming from God). Virtues are traits of "character," rather than traits of "personality," like charm or shyness. And virtues involve a tendency to do certain kinds of action in certain kinds of situations, not just to think or feel in certain ways (Frankena, 1963, p.63). For MacIntyre, "virtue" is an acquired human quality, the possession and exercise of which enables us to achieve those goods which are internal to practices, and the lack of which effectively prevents us from achieving any of such goods. In other words, virtue means recognizing and doing the right thing (MacIntyre, 1981).

Thus, virtuous persons are those of high ethical standards who pursue (or have pursued) the good for the benefit of society as well as for themselves.  Intellectual virtue (acquired through teaching) is equally important in a society. However, this essay emphasizes moral virtue (produced by habit and practice). Virtuous leaders are persons of honesty, integrity, and trust.
This applies to people in business as well as those in government. Virtuous business leaders are those leaders who are mindful that the needs and realistic expectations of others in the society in which they carry out their businesses, must be satisfied if their own needs and realistic expectations are to be met. Therefore, "Virtue requires the acceptance of equity in human relationships, and a commitment to act accordingly. It involves that core element, the belief system of a person" (Liebig, 1990, pp.1-5).

The recent upsurge of crises in the oil producing Niger-Delta areas is a good example of the lack of virtue on the part of the oil companies that are doing business in the area. The Jesse incident - the vandalism of oil pipeline and fire that killed many people also demonstrates the government’s failure or refusal to find a lasting solution to the problem. The oil companies that degrade and damage the environments in the Niger-Delta areas are not putting back enough money into the communities from which they drill billions of dollars worth of oil. Sadly, some of the communities do not have good roads, schools, drinking water, health clinics, and even gas stations (Mowoe, Dec. 7, 1998, p.2).

To prevent the country from being torn apart by ethnic discontent and sentiments, the oil
Companies and the government of Nigeria should change their attitude toward these communities. I hope that President Obasanjo and his civilian administration will right the wrongs in this area, and break away from the nation’s sordid past.

Politics, Policy, and Change in Nigeria

Volumes have been written on the subject of politics, policy, and social change. In this section, I will offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and ‘common sense. I will emphasize the important roles of leadership and group cohesiveness to effect change. Because the direction of change in a society depends on the manner in which resources are mobilized by the leader, and the attitude of the people toward change. The ruler must be concerned with the needs of the ruled, and must strive to gain their support. But with long-standing ethnic prejudice in a multi-ethnic society such as Nigeria, this has not been very easy.

The concept of politics is diverse. Aristotle and Plato defined politics as a concern with general issues affecting the whole community. This involves the pursuit of the public interest, the operation of the state, and the formulation and execution of public policy. Contrasting public concern with private matters, they viewed the public concern as morally superior. Thus, political leaders have the responsibility to conform to constructive ideas and actions with "perfect goodness" (Andrain 1975, pp.12-20).

In addition, It is the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government. It involves competition between various interest groups (parties) or individuals for power and leadership in a government or other group. The winning party guides or influences policies, and the distribution of resources in that polity (Dike (forthcoming) August 1999). In other words, politics does involve the struggle for power and wealth - that is, the production, distribution, and use of scarce resources. Historically, some leaders have sought the common good and others a private good. But without the ‘politics of virtue’ (that is, doing what is right), a leader may not bring about the necessary changes that would benefit the general public. How does one differentiate actions that are for common from those that are for private? The effects of a particular policy decision are the determining factors.

The process of making and implementing decisions involves cooperation and competition, both of which may lead to social change. As many writers have noted, many factors are involved in social change; no single factor can adequately account for it (Lauer 1982, p. 37). And as a society, our needs can be fulfilled only through the cooperative efforts of everyone. Change or social change is defined as "significant alteration of social structures." And social structures here mean the "patterns of social action and interaction," which include norms, values, and cultural phenomena (Moore 1967, p.3). Others have defined change as "variations or modifications in any aspect of social process, pattern, or form;" it is also "any modification in established patterns of inter-human relationships and standards of conducts" (Fairchild, ed. 1955, p.277, as cited in Lauer 1982, p.4).

As we have seen, change can start anywhere. In fact every system is to some extent altered by changes in any of its parts. Given our leaders’ penchant for corruption, Nigerians are cautiously optimistic about the positive changes that are presently taking place in Nigeria. And since what has been on the minds of the world is that Nigeria is bad, we have to get our act together. After that we can say to the world, ‘You held me in contempt, now look at me. Am I so contemptible?’
(Allport 1979).

Can the present political leadership maintain the tempo of positive social re-engineering going on in the nation? For any intended change to occur in a society the people must be convinced by the leaders that such a change is both possible and desirable. Hence the need for systematic set of ideology that reflects the feasibility and desirability of particular change. Ideology interprets the past, make meaningful the present, and portray an ideal future.

Lack of political ideology is a serious problem in Nigerian politics. Strangely, some politicians are known to have discounted the importance of ideology in politics. And since some of them are not committed to politics or democracy ideologically, they tend to waffle on issues. Consequently, nobody is held responsible for any policy failure in the society. For our politicians to behave, we should device means to hold them responsible for their actions or in-actions.

In an educated and politically mature society the vote is the ultimate weapon of the people. But we must positively change our personal attitudes to be able to change the social structure. "For in part, at least, the structure is the product of the attitudes of many single people" (Allport 1979, p.507). Why is good value and virtue essential for the survival of a polity such as Nigeria?  Can a leader successfully govern a vibrant society without an ideological compass?

Policies and decisions constitute a crucial part of political leadership. Usually when the majority of a population refuse to accept certain policies as binding, this would move committed leaders to make changes in the various parts of the system: the content of the policies, the ruling personnel, the governing structures, or even the society over which the policies have jurisdiction. This is a democratic process that Nigeria should strive to adopt, if it needs to survive as a democratic nation. In a democracy there is no room for arbitrariness. Policies must be debated, and exhaustively too before implementation. To underscore the feelings of many well-meaning Nigerians, we cannot afford to fail this time around.

Policy represents a set of decisions taken in response to specific problem. Some good examples are the recent actions of President Obasanjo: the setting up of a panel to probe the human rights abuses since 1993; to probe abandoned projects since the mid-1970’s; the termination of the contracts and the major appointments made by the Abubakar military regime. Justice Chukwudifu Oputa is the chairman of the human rights panel, while Alhaji Iguda Inuwa is the chairman of the committee on abandoned projects. Let’s not neglect the present favorable and inviting period in Nigeria. Instead of gazing at each other with ‘suspicious or doubtful curiosity,’ let’s unite and expose those who have dragged us to the mud.

The civil rights panel will identify the persons involved in the various abuses, the nature of the abuses, and the policy responsible. It will also recommend measures to ameliorate the problems and formulate strategies to forestall incidence of human rights abuses in the society in future.
All these policy actions have drawn praises from within and outside Nigeria. However, all these probes will not have the desired effects if their recommendations are not implemented. Legal action, proper reparation, and exposure in the press may be the better ways to curb corruption, and moderate social discontent. Perhaps nothing frightens politicians more than chastisement in the press.

President Obasanjo’s boldest policy decision so far has been the retirement of 149 political-senior military and police officers – an apparent purge of those who participated in the autocratic and atrocious regimes of Generals Babangida and Abacha. His spoke person, Doyin Okupe, was quoted as saying that "In future, all officers of our armed forces must recognize that the ultimate reward for participating or benefiting from coups will be premature or forced retirement from service in the minimum" (Cindy Shiner, June 16, 1999).

Nevertheless, I would recommend death sentence as the minimum punishment for benefiting or participating in military coups in future, and for the politicians who should conspire with other government officials to loot the national treasury. There should be no sacred cows here. Any person found guilty after a due process should be given the stated punishment. The consistency and enforceability of this consequence will ensure discipline and professionalism in the Armed Forces. It will also guard against the excesses of our civilian politicians - many of whom are in office to acquire wealth illegally, and not to serve the public. In particular, this will ensure the survival of democracy, and an antidote to corruption in Nigeria. For the actions to be legitimate, the Congress should haste and insert the appropriate provisions in our constitution.

Corruption is widely known as the bane of Nigeria. This construct, corruption, has been defined as "…a behavior which deviates from the formal duties of a public role because of private [gains] – regarding (personal, close family, private clique [cohorts], pecuniary or status gains; or violates rules against the exercise of certain types of [duties] for private [gains] – regarding influence…" (Nye 1967, p.419). In fact, many writers have noted that it is probably the only viable industry in the society (Dike, forthcoming, August 1999). This covers "grand" corruption, at senior levels, and "petty" corruption, when junior officials take facilitation payments. The abysmal failure of military rule and our previous civilian administrations is associated with huge corruption in the state and the economy. Like other problems in the society, this essay cannot fully address the problem of corruption because of its limited focus.

As Kofo Awosika pointed out in his recent piece "A President’s responsibilities": "People are poor because they are being denied access to opportunities. People steal because they are hungry and destitute. People are hungry and destitute because they cannot earn wages. They have no wages because they have no work. They have no work because they have been retrenched. They have been retrenched because industries cannot cope with their wage bills. Industries can not cope with their wage bills because production costs have increased. Production costs have increased because our infrastructures have died. [The infrastructures have died because the funds meant for their upgrading, repairs, maintenance and installations of others meant for the common good end (up) in private pockets]" (The Guardian, June 17, 1999).

President Olusegun Obasanjo must not stop at his first salvo. The people’s enthusiasm and interest in the administration should not be allowed to die down. He should establish a forum for people to voice out dissent on controversial issues in the society, and procedures under which ordinary citizens can sue for any infringement on their civil rights. More importantly, a general public sector reform is apropos. Reform here refers to large-scale and comprehensive change in the role, structure, values, staffing, or size of the public sector. This should also involve privatizing our ill-managed government corporations, and contracting out services in the domain of inefficient and corrupt corporations to the private sector for greater efficiency and accountability. International blueprint in the process could be adopted, but it should be adjusted to meet local conditions.

The struggle for survival

As psychology has noted, to redouble one’s efforts is a healthy response to an obstacle. For Nigeria to survive as a nation, we have to remain vigilant and intensify our efforts in areas of deficiency. And our ‘value-violators’ should be punished. In addition, our negative frame of references (e.g. the advance fee fraud - "419") that are anchored in our social environment should be dismantled. We should be realistic in our struggle for survival, because the world is watching.

President Obasanjo should wage war on ethnicity and nepotism, which are inimical to the unity of this great nation. This does not mean that groups would not retain their identity and work for their progress. But this should not be carried out in a manner that would undermine the unity and stability of the nation. And in future politicians who are pandering to ethnic interests should be rejected at the polling boot. It is imperative that Nigeria is re-structured into a mobile society; a nation where one could live in any state of his choice, secure employment at the state and local levels without limitations, and participate meaningfully in the affairs of the community of his abode (see Umez June 11, 1999).

And ‘hard work, good skills and intelligence’ should be rewarded strictly on merits, without regard to ethnicity and religion. This will help to tame the dangerous trend of ‘brain-drain’ in the nation. It will also motivate people to give their undivided loyalty to the central government. At last, this will mean unity and the establishment of a common identity for Nigeria. But given Nigeria’s cultural diversity, this may not be an easy undertaking.

Instead of setting up programs to encourage national unity, our leaders are dismantling or weakening the few programs that are in place. For instance, the recent reduction of the age group for prospective ‘youth service members’ from 30 years to 25 years by General Abubakar is a step toward scrapping the program. The National Youth Service Corps program was designed by General Yakubu Gowon after the civil war to foster national integration and reconciliation (The Post Express, June 11, 1999). One problem with our leaders is policy instability. We need more programs like the NYSC to facilitate and encourage inter-cultural interaction in the nation. President Obasanjo and his civilian administration should not allow this program to die. However, the program could be redesigned if it has not been achieving its purpose.

The problem of secret cults or youth gangs in our tertiary institutions is a serious threat to the survival of Nigeria. Our universities have been turned into killing fields, instead of places of learning. The most recent incident was the killing of the principal assistant registrar at the Delta State University, Abraka (The Guardian of June 13, 1999). The congress should institute appropriate and enforceable laws against cult activities on university campuses.

It is recognized that there are laws around to this effect. But these laws have either not been enforced, or they have not been effective. Unenforceable laws are only good on the book. The leader who can only give orders but cannot enforce them is not a leader by the standard of many societies. And to restore quality education in our educational institutions, the Congress and Prof. Tunde Adeniran (the recently appointed education minister), should increase funding for education and institute policies that will improve the low moral and motivation of professors and the support staff.

Sound economic policies should also be instituted to diversify the nation’s mono-product economy. The diversification of the economy would help reduce Nigeria’s dependence on the outside world for her basic needs (food, etc), and lend credibility to claims that the country could someday join the ranks of superpowers. In particular, it will create employment for our burgeoning population. Among other measures to stimulate employment in the society is to give aid to state and local governments and accelerate public works. Our social problems (poverty, diseases, illiteracy, prostitution, crime, etc), are in one way or another related to the sour state of the economy. These things can all be done with proper leadership in Abuja.
Economic development or growth (increase in an economy’s capacity to generate more goods and services) requires changes in human skills, attitudes, values - and people have to be formally educated; construct an economic infrastructure - basic transportation, communication, irrigation, and other power facilities; maximize agricultural productivity; increase capital accumulation - that is, tangible physical goods that will serve as means of production. These include machinery, technological innovations, buildings and equipment (Andrain 1975, pp.284-288).

Therefore to survive, we need a strong ethic – to save and invest, not simply to consume; to develop sophisticated skills, with an educated and a highly motivated work force. As John Stuart Mill has said: "What a country wants to make it richer is never consumption, but production. Where there is the latter, we may be sure that there is no want of the former…"(Mill, as cited in Bartlett 1981, pp.1-2). A democratic political system seems best suited to achieve this.

Nigeria has been doing poorly in these areas, despite her enormous oil wealth. For our economic revival efforts to be successful, the civilian administration should axe those corrupt and inefficient managers of our public utilities and facilities - NEPA, NNPC, NIPOST, NITEL, the Refineries, the Ports, and other establishments that are the hub of our economy. How does one justify the payment of monthly salaries to the executives of these corporations that are not performing? No serious society can afford to do that. The salaries of our executives should be tied to their productivity - that is, the effectiveness of their policies.

It is imperative to understand that the "underdevelopment of a country is the result of its deficient value system and economic structure" (Chirot 1977, pp.2-3). It is equally important to understand that the key social forces that have fostered democracy in the United States and other stable democratic nations are not yet in Nigeria. Our deficiencies are many; but we must have to give democracy a chance to survive in the society. For this, the present socioeconomic re-structuring in Nigeria should be pursued with speed and sincerity.


Leadership commitment is essential to the survival and progress of Nigeria. The people have an important role to play too. But the people’s commitment would be difficult to secure if the leaders who are calling on them for sacrifice do not themselves make any sacrifices. To stamp out corruption in the country, Nigerians should always elect or appoint people of probity to manage the affairs of the nation. This group must analyze each situation in the society critically, in order to determine appropriate target of change, who should be involve in the effort, and what method will most likely lead to the desired outcome.

The majority of Nigerians are pleased with the initial policy actions of the civilian administration. Nevertheless, we should keep an eagle’s eye on the legislature, because some of them are corrupt. Nigeria still lives in the history of the future. The way our history will be written depends upon the extent to which and the manner in which we - leaders and the people - strive to shape our future. There is a lot of unknown in the society. But since we cannot foresee what the remote future has in store for us, we can only hope for a better tomorrow. Nigeria, the world is still watching!

Victor Dike, Sacramento, California


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Transmitted: 1999

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Copyright Africa Economic Analysis 2000