Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah has blamed the challenges facing Nigeria today on the leadership of the country calling them “accidental toys” wielding power without legitimacy.
Bishop Kukah, who is the Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, made this assertion, on Friday, at the Leadership Forum organized by the First Bank of Nigeria (FBN) with the Nigerian Leadership Initiative (NLI).
“Our leaders are like accidental toys. This is the only country where we have never had a president that had what we call name recognition.
“With almost every president of Nigeria, we only hear about them after the television. Apart from its accidental nature, there is also something reluctant [about those chosen to be leaders].”
According to the Bishop, who is also a Senior Fellow of the NLI, the leaders who have ruled Nigeria starting from independence have usually come to power through accidental means as opposed to an organized and established process as with other countries.
Giving a chronology of Nigerians leaders, Bishop Kukah said the accidental nature of leadership was glaring, “When you start from Tafawa Balewa and you go to Ironsi. You come to Gowon, who had just returned from London. He had not even settled down.
“Murtala, in a book written by Joe Garba said [to the plotters of the coup that brought him into power] I may protect you but I am not interested in the coup.
“Obasanjo has not forgiven me for literarily saying he cried his way to power… like a sheep being led to the slaughter. Shagari said all he wanted to be was a Senator. Buhari was somewhere in Jos.
“Abacha comes along. Then Abdulsalam came [and] was penciled for retirement. Obasanjo was sitting in prison. Goodluck Jonathan had no shoes.”
The Bishop opined that Nigerian leaders are not groomed. They attain power “just because they happen to have connections.”
“No one of them has said, “Because I wanted to be president, I sat and studied this country well… and travelled this country to understand this country.”
Bishop Kukah said as a result of this, “we have had Presidents. We have had Head of States. We have had interim government. [This is] just an explanation of the confusion.”
Power is not legitimacy
Bishop Kukah also said that most Nigerian leaders only have power which is not tantamount to legitimacy or authority.
He said power is “the (moral) ability to use one’s will to get things done either in one’s favor or for the sake of a larger group while legitimacy [is] the unwritten agreement which arises from the fact that the one who exercises power and the one who conferred power to him or her have done so by some tacit or active form of agreement.”
However, that agreement is lacking in Nigeria where leaders have come into power through a myriad of undemocratic means; whereas, “Legitimacy of a government is how power, once acquired, affects the lives of the ordinary people,” he said.
He however noted that the means by which power is attained may not be a reason for a leader to be bad because, “It is possible to attain legitimacy even after coming in through a coup if you have deployed power to the benefit of the people.”
“Some people came to power [in Nigeria] through coups but they also did not compensate us with the evidence of good governance.”
Godfatherism and leadership in Nigeria
Bishop Kukah also blamed the increasing problem of godfatherism for the non-performance of Nigerian leaders.
“How do you become a president in Nigeria? How do you become a governor in Nigeria?” He asked.
“There is the questionable nature of ascent to power in Nigeria. Only four have been civilians of the 8 Nigerian’s Heads of State who have come to power through military conspiracy and coups.
“There is hardly anyone who has not come to power through very controversial circumstances framed in allegations of electoral fraud and so on.”
Bishop Kukah said Nigerian leaders are held bound by their godfathers and therefore cannot perform.
“The predicament of most Nigerian Presidents, because of the circumstances of their coming to power, they are indebted to all kinds of sponsors… those who help you stage the coup,… those who brought you to power…
“When it is payback time, that is where the trouble starts.”
“The decision of who is going to be the minister of works is not based on the qualification of the nominees but “who brought the minister of works.”
“This is not how other countries operate and we must find a rhythm.” He concluded.
Written by Kukogho I. Samson on Daily Trust