Vanguard (Lagos)

17 January 2013

Nigeria: Elite Are Tools for Transformation - Agbaje

THE need for quality leadership as an antidote for national transformation has been in the forefront of discourse as eminent Nigerians have highlighted the need for this in the polity.

Though the transformation agenda of President Goodluck Jonathan is aimed at transforming the lives of Nigerians across the federation, some critics opine that a lot still need to be done to achieve this feat.

Perhaps, this informed the inaugural lecture organised by the January 9 Collective (J9C), a pressure group formed after last year's January 9 fuel subsidy protest, in Lagos.

The event, which was organised to coincide with the first year anniversary of the protest took place at the banquet hall of the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, Lagos. The event had in attendance eminent Nigerians, traditional rulers, scholars.

A former governorship candidate in Lagos State, Mr Jimi Agbaje, who was the guest speaker, argued that without the elites, national transformation will continue to erode the nation.

Speaking on the lecture entitled: "Elite, leadership and national transformation", Agbaje maintained that national transformation can only come about if the elites are actively involved in politics.

Agbaje, a pharmacist, who decried the absence of quality leadership express worry that the political system in the country is not made to bring out the best but mediocre.

According to him, "The country is crying out for leaders that model integrity, excellence, compassion and responsibility. The vision is to develop "no excuse" leaders of integrity and exceptional organizational skills from both the private and public sectors in Nigeria and the diaspora who will perform instead of just pronounce; give expertise and competence instead of title and position; initiate bold developmental programmes instead of seeking handouts; respect and honour our people instead of dictatorship, control and abuse; and, leave legendary positive impact in our country instead of failures and excuses."

He further lamented insufficiency in skill acquisition on the part of the present crop of leaders noting that "transformative leadership can only be effective when certain skills are cultivated. The skills of a leader ensure that the effort of transformation is what it needs to be."

The one time governorship candidate of the Democratic Peoples Alliance, DPA, said it was important that leadership needs to be demonstrated at all times by everyone.

Restating the need for Nigerians to be optimistic that national transformation can be achieved, he said "can we get there? And how do we get there? First of all, we must believe that we Can! Second, we must understand that we Must! And third, we must recognise that getting there requires a quantum leap in many areas."

Beside the need for quality leadership, he stated the roles of civil society organisation in nation building noting that "those of us who strongly believe that Nigeria's development can only be achieved and sustained with the active participation of civil society organisations (CSOs), the coming into being of J9C is most welcome. I have been opportuned to interact with some members of the Collective and can publicly attest to their zeal in bringing about a much better Nigeria."

For Nigerians to take up its role as Africa's giant, Agbaje said "we need to transform from being a people interested in just sharing the national cake as it is today to a people realising that the way forward is in baking a much larger cake. Oil prices may be high but the reality is that the citizen's average share of the cake is not just getting smaller, his ability to bake a bigger cake is diminishing by the day."

Continuing, he said "today, our citizens can be categorised into those that do not even know how to contribute to the baking (these are in the majority), those who cannot be bothered and the last group being those that know how to bake a much larger and tastier cake but are being edged out by the system in different ways."

While explaining the roles which education and moral values play in national transformation, he said it was important to inculcate them to form the nation's core values.

To bring about any envisaged national transformation, he stated that "education and moral values will play key roles. All citizens (from early childhood to late adulthood) must be deliberately and systematically educated about the importance of producing a national cake that will satisfy the needs and wants of our citizenry. This means the development of age-appropriate curricula and related practical projects at all levels."

While pointing out that national values influence transformation, he said Nigerians must be convinced to deliberately and collectively "embrace a new set of morals or national core values - that encourage baking rather than just sharing of the national cake!"

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