RESPONSIBLE AND RESPONSIVE LEADERSHIP BEGINS AT HOME. by Jennifer Nkem-Eneanya
Responsible and responsive…
Two traits that we take for granted that every leader must possess.
A responsible and responsive leader is not an ineffectual blame-shifter, or an aloof observer. S/he knows the situation, takes charge of the situation and communicates effectively and compassionately with those that they lead.
As a female Nigerian residing in Nigeria, I believe that responsible leadership starts from the bottom rung of the ladder, not the top. Responsible leadership is or should be learned from the very nucleus of society-the family.
A responsible leader is the father who provides proper guidance for his family and the mother who nurtures and teaches her children basic precepts like integrity, honour and strength of character. It is the siblings who learn mutual respect for humanity irrespective of the sexes and spread that respect to their classmates and relations.
A responsive leader is the teacher who pays attention to the needs of her students and provides them with growth-inspiring feedback. It is the next-door neighbour who notices that a wily stranger is lurking in the neighbourhood and ensures that the appropriate action is carried out. It is the caregiver who sees the bruises on a child’s body and inquires as to the cause.
Whatever the nucleus is fed will blossom and cause a rippling effect that will affect our communities. Why are young men in Rivers state, Nigeria prone to cultism after years and years of feeding ‘fat’ off the largesse accorded to oil-producing states?
Because of a diet bereft of responsibility, integrity and honour.
Why are men of the Nigerian Police Force constantly labelled as greedy, disrespectful, bribe-taking wolves in sheep’s clothing? Despite the fact that their ranks swell with new intakes year after year? That same diet.
Why would a primary school student toss garbage onto the streets? Why are young ladies walking the streets of GRA, Port Harcourt at all hours of the night, in all weathers, seeking clients? Why would a virile young man think his best shot at wealth, fame and fortune is through the business of kidnapping? Why would a cab-driver ignore traffic lights and constitute a nuisance to himself and other road-users just so he can pick up a passenger before the other cab-driver? Why would an immigration officer ask for double the price to issue an international passport?
Because responsible and responsive leadership is not being taught where it matters most- where it can be easily and quickly assimilated, in the homes.
Let’s face it- the ‘big’ government is not the robber skulking around in police uniform; it’s not the small business owner selling expired products; it’s not the bus conductor who will break a passenger’s head with a green bottle at the slightest provocation.
To create and lead an inclusive society is not the duty of one person, no matter how distinguished, feared or powerful he or she might be and no matter his personal thoughts and opinions about equality and inclusivity. When my country’s President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in three years ago, many assumed it would herald the immediate end of corruption at all cadres of government. More than one year later, asides from a few publicly tried cases, corruption remains a pervasive part of the Nigerian ecosystem.
That same President publicly stated that his wife belonged to the kitchen, the living room and the ‘other’ room and that has not stopped women from breaking glass ceilings or supporting one another.
Governmental policies, bills and laws are yet very important tools in creating inclusive societies but as with responsible and responsive leadership, I maintain that charity begins at home. If tribalism, discrimination and racism is allowed to bloom in our families, it seeps into the very fabric of society. No child automatically discriminates against another…they learn it from the social, familial and religious circles they are exposed to.
We can shape a better future that puts responsible and responsive leadership at the forefront through a massive re-education, and that begs the question that begs another question. What is education? Isn’t it time we re-engineered our concept of education?
This education however does not begin or end with teaching social studies or civic education or whatever subject nicely lists our rights and duties as citizens into a textbook which we memorize so we can pass our examinations.
I daresay that for the older generation, the African leaders who have been recycled time and time again- all hope may be lost- they are simply too stuck in the old ways of doing things. However, for the young adults, the teenagers, the children, now is the time to re-teach, re-engineer and re-educate.
We can start to exercise our rights- no more standing in the background and letting the pieces fall where they may. We must exercise our voting rights, our political knowledge and our influence in our various spheres and industries. Social media must begin to serve a purpose bigger than sharing our personal triumphs and struggles.