Lack of Inclusive Leadership in Nigeria: The challenges and the way forward.

Being a lecture delivered at the Leadership Conference 2021 organized by Legal Ideas Forum Int’l : Leveraging On Emotional and Social Intelligence for Effective Leadership. 

Distinguished colleagues, ladies and gentlemen, it will amount to an ungodly act on my part to expeditiously propel into the discussion of the topic mentioned above; without above all giving kudos to the brains behind this conference, I mean the directing minds of Legal Ideas Forum Int’l.

These are young, vibrant and talented Nigerians who are deeply worried about the country’s leadership style, and saw the utmost need to work assiduously towards its positive re-direction by way of sensitization and consentization.

This token effort as put forward by the Legal Ideas Forum Int’l to my mind will not only serve as a catalyst for the Nigerian leaders to wake up from their deep sleep, but also serves as a template upon which inclusive leadership style could be premised.  Distinguished colleagues, kindly permit me to say that “may God continue to improve the members of the Legal Idea Forum Int’l in knowledge, wisdom and understanding”. They are really doing well.

What is leadership and who is a leader:

Before offering watertight definitions here, it is imperative to prepare the minds of both the readers and the listeners to the fact that the word “leader” as used in this presentation should be given flexible and unrestricted meaning (interpretation). The head of a country (Nigeria) is a leader, the president of a senate house is a leader, the speaker of house of representatives is a leader, Governors, Chairmen of local governments etc. are leaders, principal partners in law firms are leaders, heads of courts are leaders, even a husband in a matrimonial setting is also a leader etc.

So, again, what is Leadership?

Let’s see how some of themost respected thinkers of our time define leadership, and let’s consider the wisdom in their definitions.

Peter Drucker: “The only definition of a leader is someone who has followers.”
Warren Bennis: “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”
Bill Gates: “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.”

Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal. Notice key elements of this definition:

Leadership stems from social influence, not authority or power Leadership requires others, and that implies they don’t need to be “direct reports”
No mention of personality traits, attributes, or even a title; there are many styles, many paths, to effective leadership. It includes a goal, not influence with no intended outcome. Your success as a leader is measured not by what you achieved while in office or a position, but what your SUCCESSORS achieved. In a nutshell, leadership is all about influencing others to carry on the good works even in your absence.

Inclusive leadership: means that leaders commit to ensuring all team members are:
Treated equitably, Feel a sense of belonging and value, and have the resources and support they need to achieve their full potential.

Inclusive leaders are liberal and open to change. They genuinely care about their followers as people. And they respect and welcome differences.

6 traits/features of an inclusive leader includes: 1. Commitment to improve diversity and inclusionThis includes

-Allocating resources and holding yourself accountable for improving diversity and inclusion

-Treating all team members/followers with fairness and respect

-Understanding what makes individuals unique, and ensuring they feel connected to the team

-Working through obstacles, and adapting to meet the needs of others.

2. Courage to admit you don’t have all the answers on what needs to change or how to change it. This includes:
-Seeking feedback and acknowledging personal weaknesses
-Showing humility and admitting when you’ve made a mistake
-Challenging the status quo and calling out bias when you see it

3. Awareness of bias as an individual and as an organization. This includes:
-Developing an understanding of different kinds of personal biases, such as implicit stereotypes, groupthink, and confirmation bias
-Learning to self-regulate and take corrective steps to ensure fair play
-Establishing transparent policies for making merit-based decisions about promotions, rewards, and task allocations.

4. Curiosity and openness to different ideas and perspectives.This includes:
-Showing a desire for continuous learning and improvement
-Accepting your own limitations and seeking diverse perspectives
-Coping with ambiguity and accepting that some uncertainty is inevitable.

5. Cultural intelligence and confidence to lead cross-cultural teams. This includes:
-Valuing cultural differences and seeking opportunities to learn about other cultures
-Developing an awareness of how cultural stereotypes can influence expectations
-Accepting that people might need to change their behavior to navigate cross-cultural interactions.

6. Collaboration that empowers people to challenge and build on each other’s ideas. This includes:
-Putting together diverse teams and avoiding the appearance of favoritism among members
-Building trust so everyone feels comfortable speaking up
-Empowering teams to handle difficult situations and being ready to help address conflict if needed
-Avoid These Unintended Consequences From Your Diversity & Inclusion Efforts
When it comes to equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives, many leaders and organizations have good intentions. But there’s often a gap between intentions and outcomes.

When empathy and inclusion go awry, organizations experience unintended consequences, such as individuals who don’t reach their potential and strategies that fall flat. And as other people in the organization observe these consequences, the organizational climate suffers.

The following 3 unintended consequences occur when inclusiveness efforts fall short:
-Tokenism. Tokenism happens when organizations intend to be inclusive but recruit only a small number of people from underrepresented groups. “Organizations may hire one black person or one woman or one LGBTQ person, as if that is the minimum requirement of being inclusive,” says Dunne-Moses. Tokenism backfires because, in the absence of true representation, organizations don’t actually benefit from a diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. And individuals from the underrepresented groups may feel awkward or taken advantage of because they sense they’re only there to check a box.

-Assimilation: If minority followers/employees feel their culture is not the dominant culture in the organization, they’re more likely to assimilate into the organization. In other words, they take on the characteristics and values of the organization so as not to stand out. Yet by assimilating, employees risk dampening the diverse perspective they bring — a huge loss to the

-Organization: Leaders must understand and consider people’s different lived experiences to help their teams achieve their full potential. This starts with understanding social identity.

-Dehumanization: At times, individuals are hired through diversity initiatives, only to be treated as if they don’t have the same level of intelligence as their colleagues. “This is the most powerful and painful form of collateral damage,”

Dunne-Moses says. Be sure your diversity & inclusion initiatives have a focus on equity and avoid common mistakes organizations make in their diversity & inclusion efforts.

Inclusive Leadership Starts With Empathy. Empathy is the foundation of our ability to connect with each other on an emotional level and sets the stage for inclusion. Rather than a private sentiment, empathy should be an act.

“The capacity to be empathetic should catapult you to something meaningful — whatever that is for you or for other people — and it should show,” Dunne-Moses says.
Just as parents can teach their children to be empathetic, inclusive leaders can teach their colleagues to be empathetic by practicing empathy.

7 Acts of Inclusive Leadership.

When leaders/organizations commit to merging empathy and inclusion — and use that power to transform their organizations for the better — individuals adopt these 7 acts of inclusive leadership. “Think of them as superpowers,” Dunne-Moses says. “Each has the ability to change lives, open doors, and build bridges.” Whether you’re an individual or an organization, engaging in the following 7 acts of inclusion will allow you to reinvent your relationships and organization, even in times of crisis.

-Deepen your self-awareness.
As your first empowering act of inclusion, build a solid personal foundation.
-You have to have a high level of self-awareness and be comfortable in your own skin in order to be able to engage in acts of inclusion. If you are comfortable with yourself, that confidence will reverberate down on all the other acts.
-Foster social awareness.
From self-awareness comes social awareness, a part of emotional intelligence. Social awareness is the currency of dialogue and our relationships with other people. When people lack social awareness, they have trouble communicating, or tend to say the wrong things at the wrong times. As you pay attention to what’s going on around you, use the information you gather to build a culture of inclusion.

For example, if new persons are hired, take some time to get to know them, show them around, and offer to help them get acclimated. Simple acts of inclusion can change the culture of your organization.
-Reveal blind spots: The videos of police brutality against people of color have shocked many with a harsh reality. Before the days of cameras on our smartphones, few would have witnessed such incontrovertible proof. But now, virtually everyone who sees such clips reports that this new information pierces the curtain of their blind spots. It’s no different in your work life. In your daily interactions with people, when you enable yourself to be exposed to new information, you open yourself up to reinvention. Once you realize and take stock of your own individual weaknesses or knowledge gaps, as well as your organization’s, you’re better equipped to take action that makes opportunities accessible to all of your employees.

-Listen to understand: Listening is a powerful tool, and when used correctly, it can help the listener discover 3 things: -facts, plus underlying feelings and values.

As a leader, you have an opportunity to practice effective listening skills in everyday conversations, whether your employees are sharing stories about family or are enlisting your help in working through a challenging assignment.

By listening to understand, you go beyond active listening to get a more accurate picture of the challenges your team is facing. You’re better equipped to resolve conflicts, and you increase efficiency, as well as inclusiveness.
Increase efficiency, improve employee commitment, reduce misunderstandings, and waste less time by upskilling your team so they truly Listen to -Understand one another.

-Create connections: What’s the purpose of creating connections? Those connections give you a diverse social network, explains Dunne-Moses. “I call it social capital, and if you can build social capital, you will more likely have what you need when you need it.” In an organization, diverse social networks and a network-wide perspective are important because they invite information from different sources and perspectives. Especially in a crisis, those perspectives expand your capacity to deal with differences. Just as you want your portfolio to be diversified, you also want your social capital to be diversified, because it makes you more intelligent, flexible, resilient, and agile.

-Lead with courageous vulnerability: Inclusive leaders lead with courageous vulnerability. In other words, they position themselves in the areas where they feel weak, and they do so courageously.

-Invest resources: Forward-thinking organizations understand that building inclusive leadership takes a thoughtful investment of resources, but will offer a valuable return in the way of employee satisfaction and engagement, innovation capabilities, and increased ability to respond to complex challenges.

Lack of Inclusive Leadership in Nigeria

Inclusion is the means by which individuals from all backgrounds are engaged, integrated, motivated and valued.

Inclusive leadership in Nigeria is more of paper based than action based. The way and manner the country is structured, the arrangements of leadership inclusiveness as encapsulated in the constitution creates an impression that all Nigerians irrespective of backgrounds are engaged, integrated, motivated and valued, an impression that is genuinely far away from the truth. I cannot remember the last time the man who is representing my constituency sought my opinion or that of the other constituency members on what to present at the National Assembly on our behalf, and yet the law says he is representing us. The reason why the submission that inclusiveness in Nigeria leadership style is paper-based still stands.
Governors and their deputies are not on the same page when issues bordering on their respective states are being discussed on media.

What we have in Nigeria is better described as “officer Occupiers” and not “Leaders”. Every new office occupiers in Nigeria are always, worst than predecessors. Government offices are being handled like personal offices. No genuine inputs from well-meaning Nigerians; no sincere consultations from people especially the grassroots ones etc.

Lack of inclusiveness has led to the strong feeling of marginalization and break up agitation. However, despite the lack of inclusive leadership in Nigeria, some few individuals have shown all inclusiveness in their private capacities which have yielded and still yielding positive results till date.

I repeat, the success of a leader is not measured by what he achieved while occupying the office, but by the achievements of his/her successors.

Distinguished gentlemen, I want to mention and briefly x-ray some individuals in the legal profession that have distinguished themselves and their leadership styles.
The first to mention is late Chief Gani Fawehinmi LL.d, SAN, GCON of blessed memory. He founded one of the Nigerian leading law books publishing firm known as Nigerian Law Publication Ltd (the publisher of Nigeria Weekly Law Report).

Late Gani’s leadership success is obvious to the blind and audible to the deaf. Nigeria Weekly Law Report is widely read till date and has also served as a source of democratizing the legal profession. Aside from the above Late Gani equally trained successive bar leaders such as Femi Falana SAN, Mike Ozhekome SAN, Festus Keyanmo SAN, Wemimo Ogunde SAN etc. Other such as Prof. Itsey Sagay, Prof. Ben Nwabueze etc have equally shown exemplary leadership styles.

Challenges of Inclusive Leadership in Nigeria.

Political leadership is parochial rather than national; and corruptly converts national resources into its project of primitive accumulation. Ethnic diversity is manipulated to stay afloat to the detriment of national cohesion.

  1. Lack of Ideology
    In Nigeria, the political elites constitute a non-productive class who rely on the control of state structures to access economic rewards. The over-politicization of the Nigerian state is also understood in the context of the unmediated struggle for power, influence and patronage. The nature of political contest ensured the emergence of a local governing class without ideological commitment. Rather than pursue political contests within ideological frameworks, politics became a contested terrain for shallow, self-centered political gains. 
  1. Electoral Malpractices Challenges:
    This problem has become a popular phenomenon in Nigerian politics. Indeed, election rigging has become the norm in the nation’s electoral process. However, electoral malpractice is not a recent phenomenon, it has existed since independence and has continued to exist till today. For instance, in the first republic, the leadership of various political parties were accused and alleged of election rigging. The same happened in the second republic. And forth republic was also not different. Our leaders scheme electoral fraud to get into elected offices. It is important to note that a faulty electoral process can never produce capable leaders. Therefore, if the process of selecting leaders is not free, fair, and credible, good governance will remain elusive.
  2. Lack of Rule of Law:
    Nigerian leaders do not show respect to the rule of law, especially, judicial decisions. This hinders the judiciary from discharging its duties effectively. The judiciary is so unpredictability because the political elites still undermine the independence of the judiciary through patronage appointments, and judicial administration is marked by weak enforcement capacity.
  3. Absence of Accountability and Transparency:
    Transparency and accountability are absent in Nigerian leadership. An accountable government is one that is responsive to the demands of the citizen. Accountability is best enforced through the instrument an independent judiciary and the of rule of law. Citizen can seek redress in the courts for acts of omission or commission by a government and its officials. However, Nigeria has not done well in this regard, it has been corruption at all levels. And this corruption is not unconnected with profuse index of weak accountability and lack of transparency. Nigerian leaders abuse public office for private gain.
  4. Corruption Challenges
    Although corruption is a global challenge, Nigeria appears to suffer greatly from this menace. Every one appears to believe that the nation has a culture of corruption; Nigeria is a rich nation floating on oil wealth, but almost none of it flows to the people. The countless reforms and lack of honesty by our leaders have left Nigeria poor as poor can be. Politicians are expunged and later re-admitted into their parties, then, what hope for good governance? When the leadership is deeply entrenched in corrupt practices.
  5. Weak Institutional Patterns:
    The personalize nature of rule in Nigeria (as well as in many African states) implies not only that public policy making lacks the logic and that typically characterizes such an activity in order contexts but also that governance structures are largely informal and subject to erratic change.

In Nigeria, political power became concentrated in one leader. Making the rise of the supremacy of the office of the President over all organs of government. Nigerian leadership and their cohorts have simply privatized the state for their selfish interest. Leadership in Nigeria is marked by parochial, personalized and selfish tendencies, political brigandage, ethnic rivalry and cleavages and privatized state apparatuses.

Way forward on leadership inclusiveness problem in Nigeria.

First, we need to be clear in our minds about what leadership really means, what we should have but don’t. Leadership is the ability to inspire, motivate, and mobilize a unit of human beings – family, organization, institution, state or country – to make steady and measurable progress. This ability is strongly linked with vision. To inspire and mobilize, the leader must have a clear destination in mind. Where are we coming from? Where are we going? Where do we need to get to, and how do we get there? What values, ambitions and strategies to attain those ambitions will drive this journey?

Without this worldview, a strategic ambition placed in the context of domestic and external realities, a country like ours can exist, alright. We have plodded along for a while now, “surviving”, frequently on the edge of the precipice but (so far) always pulling back from the brink. But this pattern won’t take the 100 million Nigerians living in extreme poverty anywhere near prosperity. Instead, we should be thriving. This is the difference between becoming the “black China”, on the one hand, and the strategic war-game scenarios in Western intelligence agencies that “an implosion of a country of 200 million people will unleash a flood of refugees”, on its region and the world. In one scenario, we take our Destiny in our hands and create the future we want. In another, we are a problem that the world’s strategic thinkers worry about.

Leadership also calls for an ability to manage risk. As a summary of Dr. Ben Carson’s book “Take the Risk” puts it: “No risk, pay the cost; know risk, reap the reward”. Choices have to be made, and all choices have consequences. Sound, informed, strategic choices lead to progress. The complacent worship of the familiar, the gods of small things like crude-oil dependency, the pursuit of ethnic and religious hegemony in a plural and secular state, lead only to poverty and conflict.

Second, we must now make our politics a real leadership selection process. It is increasingly obvious that the current contradictions of the Nigerian state cannot be sustained for much longer. Something will have to give. Who has the vision, the capacity and the competence to lead Nigeria into the 21st Century as a modern, prosperous and stable nation? This is the central issue we must address, as our politicians joust for power in 2023.

Third, Nigeria’s next political leadership should emerge through a process of negotiated consensus, and then placed into an electoral process in all or the leading political parties. This is what happened in 1999. It is not ideal, but the times call for it. Our politics has become so broken in the past decade that, left to itself, and with “democratic” outcomes determined mainly by financial inducement, it is unlikely to produce the leader Nigeria needs now. Realistically, this negotiation needs to take place within and across the political parties, ethnic blocks, civil society, traditional rulers, elder statesmen including our former presidents, youth, and gender. While, for now, the APC and the PDP are the dominant parties, we cannot write off the possible emergence of a strong third force combining “new breed” with disaffected members of the old order.

Fourth, the role of equity and justice in nation-building must be frontally addressed. It’s possible to do so without compromising the emergence of competent leadership. The unique political positioning of the Igbo of Southeastern Nigeria since the civil war 50 years ago, and the need to achieve true national reconciliation from that trauma, is an important factor in the future of Nigeria. Candidates from the major ethnic groups – Yoruba, Hausa-Fulani — and a Niger Delta minority, have been voted into office by every part of Nigeria, the Igbo Southeast included. But Nigeria has yet to elect an Igbo as its president.

Beyond the sad reality of its ethnic geo-politics, what Nigeria needs most is good, competent leadership. That possibility abounds in every part of our country, including the Southeast. But, given Nigeria’s quest for nationhood and the country’s already frayed existence, the opportunity exists to kill two birds with one stone. Even more fundamental is the imperative of a new constitution that returns Nigeria to a true federal structure. Without a constitutional restructuring of Nigeria, the country has no future, as economic progress and political stability will remain elusive.

Our next national political leadership selection must squarely address these related issues of national equity and constitutional reform.

Fifth, fixing Nigeria’s leadership crisis requires that the middle class, intellectuals and youth consciously engage in politics. Ideas rule the world – at least in the parts of it that are making real progress. Our independence struggle and post-independence politics were led by intellectuals and professionals from the middle class. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Ahmadu Bello wrote tomes to express their ideas. Today, philistines and “mumullectuals” have largely replaced thinking people as leaders. If we are to secure the future of our children, Nigeria’s middle class must reclaim its surrendered space and retire from its self-inflicted political apathy.

That future is threatened by weak economic management and a return to debt slavery. Our youth should take its future in their own hands. They should (a) join political parties and engage in structural politics, as opposed to just activism or an ineffectual obsession with social media; (b) register to vote and vote in elections, regardless of distractions and obstacles; and (c) run for office where they have the relevant qualifications and experience.

Sixth, electoral reform is job number one in Nigeria today. Without it, we have a democracy in name only, a hollow ritual. The recommended negotiated consensus towards new political leadership in 2023 must include extensive reform of our electoral laws and institutions before the end of 2021.

Finally, reading is essential for leaders, because leadership can be learned from reading and from training. I recall an interview on CNN Television on this subject some years ago. The program “Reading for Leading”, anchored by the inimitable Richard Quest, interviewed global business and economic leaders on how reading made them better leaders. As Admiral James Stavridis (rtd), former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and until recently Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University writes in “The Leader’s Bookshelf,” his book on leadership, reading is essential for good leadership because it helps us evaluate ourselves (“what would I have done in that situation?”), allows us to think deeply about who our heroes and role models are, sharpens our written communication skills, and improves our leadership skills.

We have excellent leadership in the Nigerian private sector, but we need much more of that leadership caliber in the public sector in order to create the enabling environment for mass wealth creation.

Leadership training should be more institutionalized in the civil service. Rare for an African country, Ethiopia has a civil service university. Political parties should have their officials and candidates trained in leadership at home and abroad.

About the Author

Moruff Balogun attended the Nigeria Law school kano campus and was called to the Bar in 2012. He is a member of Human rights’ committee of the NBA, Ijebu Ode, Ogun State. He is a member of the police duty solicitors scheme, Ogun State, and the convenèr of Lawyers’ diary.

He was an Associate at A.A.BARUWA & CO. Ijebu ode, Ogun state where he rose to the position of Head of Chambers.

He was a member of Dr. Babatunde Ajibade SAN’S campaign team and Presently the Public relations officer NBA IJEBU ODE BRANCH.

He is a prolific legal writer/author and has numerous publications to his name. He is an active Litigation Lawyer and has distinguished himself in his area of practice.

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