The leadership challenge is clear. It will be impossible to achieve true social and economic development without effective leadership and true citizenship.
How a leader deals with the circumstances of life tells you many things about his character. Crisis doesn’t necessarily make a character, but it certainly does reveal it. What reveals character the most, however, is power – Power, it is said corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
According to the ancient Greeks, the founders of modern civilization, there are three kinds of people in any society.
The first kind of people in any society are the idiots: not necessarily mentally deficient, but rather one who is a totally private person, totally selfish and totally self-centred (sometimes donning expensive suits, uniform or agbada).
The idiot is always out for his personal gain and his personal interest. He does not have a public philosophy, he has no character, no knowledge and no skills to live by and he does not contribute to a flourishing society or community.
He is all out for his personal pleasures and his personal treasures.
The Greeks said the idiot is just an upgraded barbarian – you see them every day in society. They are the ones who form tadpole queues and drive against traffic.
They toss litter freely out of their cars and appropriate our commonwealth for their personal use; The Greeks refer to these as the IDIOTS.
The Greeks also said there is a second kind of person in any society called the tribespeople.
Tribespeople does not necessarily mean belonging to a certain tribe; which is not bad in itself. When the Greeks used the word tribespeople, they meant a tribal and tribalistic mentality. The Greeks said the tribespeople are those not able to think beyond their small tribes and their small social groups.
For the tribespeople, the primary, only and ultimate allegiance is to their tribe. Their tribe is their god and their religion is tribalism. Tribespeople are always afraid of things that are different or are a little alien to them.
They are always suspicious and fearful, and they always deal with different people and difficult situations with intimidation, force and with violence. The Greeks also said the ideal person for tribespeople is the warrior because tribespeople are a war-making people.
But it was not so for the Greeks. For them, there was another kind of person, and that was the ideal person: the citizen.
When we use the word citizen we are not talking about legal status or political status or the accident of birth; those are outcomes. We are talking about the idea and ideal of citizenship – which is a choice.
Who then is the Citizen you might wonder? The citizen according to the Greeks is someone who has the skills and the knowledge to live a public life and is able to live a life of civility. The citizen recognizes that he or she is a member of a commonwealth and thus strives for the common good.
The citizen knows his right in society but also knows his responsibility to society. The citizen can fight for his right but always with an awareness of, and with respect for the rights and interest of others; of their neighbours, of the smallest minority and of their worst enemies.
It is citizens, the Greeks said that make up a civilized society, because citizens settle their differences with civility, they produce a civilized society, a society that truly lives up to the meaning of the name society. Society literally means friendship and friendliness.
It boils down to choice…
This is the threefold distinction that the Greeks have given people in a society. That is the choice that each and every individual, whoever he or she may be, has to make in a society.
That is the choice that starkly faces us Nigerians today as we mark 59 years of independence. Will we be idiots living only for ourselves? Will we be tribespeople unable to think beyond our tribes’ group? Or will we be citizens?
Today, on the historic anniversary of the independence of Nigeria I hope you and I will make the right choice. It is with that hope that I address you as my fellow Nigerian Citizens.
Indeed, no sovereign can make any significant advancement when the number of idiots and tribesmen far outnumber the number of citizens.
When we conducted random surveys on the various cohorts of delegates at the Ausso Leadership Academy, the perception was: about 75% of Nigerians behave like idiots, 20% as tribespeople and only 5% as citizens. Do the results shock you enough to want to do something about it?
Nigeria is her people; If we want to see change, we have to start by being citizens of our country.
According to Maria Robinson “Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.”
My dear citizens of Nigeria, if dreams are free, why short-change ourselves? Let us dream big and reach for the stars. With perseverance, we will touch the skies. Let Nigeria take her rightful place in the committee of nations!
We can achieve this only through our collective actions as citizens.
Austin Okere is the Founder of CWG Plc, the largest ICT Company on the Nigerian Stock Exchange & Entrepreneur in Residence at CBS, New York. Austin also serves on the Advisory Board of the Global Business School Network, and on the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Innovation and Intrapreneurship. Austin now runs the Ausso Leadership Academy focused on Business and Entrepreneurial Mentorship
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