Posted on: 2015-11-19

Freshmen on hot seats

On November Wednesday 11, 2015 President Buhari of Nigeria allocated duties to new ministers, expected in the next few years to steer the ship of Nigeria's renaissance with him. The high expectation Nigerians had of the ministers was like waiting for a Messiah. Nigeria has suffered for so long from woeful leadership because the essential qualities of authentic leadership have been habitually jettisoned. The country, no doubt, needs mending and the people are sick and tired of unfulfilled promises. It has been said countless times that the problem with Nigeria, more than anything else, is leadership. So much speculation went ahead of the President's disclosure of the ministers' tasks because most Nigerians truly wanted the most competent and motivated leaders for the nation. Essentially, therefore, these ministers who are all new to their assignments must put God first, knowing that He got to those positions before them. For the Christians among them the Bible can certainly help.  

Biblical hints and models

The Bible has inspired many great leaders down the centuries. Its ideals offer great  inspiration for leaders in their task to bring about "change" and make a difference. The Catholic Biblical Association of Nigeria, an assembly of scholars evaluating the Bible's perspective on leadership, wrote: "leadership is a charism, which like other gifts from God is given to individuals for the edification of others. It is intrinsically altruistic, therefore whenever this fundamental feature is willfully neglected, it fails to achieve its divinely ordained purpose". The theologians surely had in mind the clear teaching of Jesus Christ on leadership: "... anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be firsts among you must be your slave" (Matt. 20: 26-27). He also said to them: "You call me Master and Lord, and rightly; so I am. If I, then, the Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you must wash each other's  feet" (Jn 13:14-15). Jesus starkly demonstrated the essential qualities of good leaders, like integrity, humility and selflessness. Regrettably, leaders  who possess all such qualities in one are hard to find. I think that such qualities have, for too long and to our detriment, been considered non-essential in public life and politics. In reality, they ought to be. Politicians, professionals and business leaders today should respond to the world's challenges, not with selfishness or cynicism but with the virtues of faith, hope and love. When politicians conduct their work according to ethical,  principles of the Gospel, God, as well as the common good are truly served

Never forget

The Bible contains other petals of wisdom for leaders. Among the important ones is that a leader not forget where he is coming from and how he got where he is. The children of Israel were admonished by Yahweh to never forget who they were before their victory and freedom: "Be careful, do not forget Yahweh who has brought you out of Egypt" (Deut. 6:12). That phrase became a defining one for the lifestyle of all orthodox Jews who  wear philacteries of remembrance on their bodies till date to keep them focused. The gesture of king David as he settled down in his house of cedar is golden for any leader to adopt. To remember God in the day of success should not be beyond any Nigerian leader. One would be at pains to find any one leader in the country who does not profess belief in God. David spoke golden words to the prophet Nathan in proposing to build a better abode to house the ark of God.: "Look I am living in a cedar-wooded palace. while the ark of God is under awnings". Although God turned down David's offer, his reward was nonetheless great. God made him a promise which brought an avalanche of praise to David's mouth. God said to him "Your dynasty and your sovereignty will ever stand from before me and your throne be forever secure" (II Sam. 7:16). Whichever leader would  wish to hear such extraordinary promise must remember God and the people who "produced" him for office!

Be courageous

In his interview made into a book entitled "Light of the World", Pope emeritus Benedict XVI affirmed that of all the attributes which a leader needs, courage is the most important. Samuel was a great prophet in Israel because of his courage in denouncing King Saul when he did wrong by not obeying what Yahweh God of Israel wanted of him. "But now your sovereignty will not last;...since you have not carried out what Yahweh ordered you" (1 Sam. 13: 13-14). Such courage to speak truth to power is highly risky but will guarantee success for new leaders in their exalted position.

Exemplify integrity

So exemplary was the integrity of Eleazar, the old leader of Israel who was asked to merely pretend to eat portions of sacrificial meat prescribed by the king if only to save his neck. Eleazar declined, saying some of the most inspiring words ever said by any leader.  "Pretence... does not befit our time of life; many young people would suppose that Eleazar at the age of ninety had conformed to the foreigners' way of life....even though for the moment I avoid execution by man, I can never, living or dead, elude the grasp of the Almighty. Therefore if I am man enough to quit this life here and now, I shall prove myself worthy of my old age, and I shall have left the young a noble example of how to make a good death, eagerly and generously, for the venerable holy laws" (II Macc 6: 24-28). The leaders of our country's renaissance need to be exemplary and demonstrate similar integrity to succeed in the transformation and change process of the moment. Is this too much to ask?