Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone…

(John 12:24)

It is the price of leadership to sacrifice self-interest or as Simon Sinek aptly puts it, “The cost of leadership is self-interest.” What makes such leadership powerful is that it does not need a position or rank to excel. Unforgettable leaders like Nelson Mandela, who in a sense sacrificed most of his life for his people without a title appended to his name, is a clear evidence of this. In its November 2014 edition highlighting the 100 most influential Africans, the London-based New Africa magazine had an interesting statement lodged somewhere in its profile of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir and his former Vice President turned rival, President Riek Machar. It said: “As their representatives engage in on-off negotiations in regional capitals, the pair’s inability to put their country’s interests ahead of their own is not only causing damage today, but makes the task of building a sustainable state and society for the future more difficult.” And the same is true for most failed states, where leadership tussles have been to the detriment of the collective good.

The truth is, there is a priority of interest at the heart of leadership which every leader or would-be leader must confront. A leader loses his or her leading edge the moment he or she begins to place personal interest above collective concern. Whole societies, even organizations, have been subverted and imperiled because people who are only attracted by the privilege and power of leadership somehow attain to leadership positions. Make no mistake, privilege and power are ready benefits of leadership. But as Gini (2004) said, “The central issue of power in leadership is not will it be used? But will it be used wisely and well?” And there is no better yardstick for measuring how well we will use power if and when we get it than by soberly assessing our own readiness to sacrifice our individual interest for the greater good. As someone said, “leaders eat last,” period.

Concerning this period leading to Nigeria’s forthcoming elections, analysts are of the opinion that the nation is headed for chaos unless the political gladiators on both sides of the divide begin to exercise restraint and shun the power-at-all-cost attitude. These are moments for vigilance and caution. We can be aggressive in our pursuit of political power without destroying the very system we intend to lead. Almost every country in the world that has degenerated into total anarchy or become a failed state has been preceded by political impasses caused by the selfish interest of politicians. There is still enough time for us, between now and the general elections, to reflect properly, put our house in order and pull back from the brink. The politicians must understand that the future of Nigeria is bigger than their personal ambitions and victory at the polls. INEC must be empowered to carry out its duties efficiently (diligently and transparently), just as the courts must be allowed to do their jobs, where needed, without interference. Voters must be allowed to exercise their civic duties without being harassed or killed. The onus is on the governments of the day (federal and states) and the political parties in general to ensure this moment makes us and not breaks us.

Nigeria Has a Great Future!    

Pastor Taiwo Odukoya, petroleum engineer, public speaker and author, is the senior pastor of The Fountain of Life Church, Ilupeju, Lagos, Nigeria.  He resumes a weekly Sunday column for Premium Times today.