The executive-director of African Heritage Institute, Professor Ufo Okeke-Uzodike, has lamented the rot in Nigeria’s educational sector, adding that universities actually do not care about the quality of graduates produced.
Speaking during the June edition of the Big Ideas Podium, the Enugu-based African Heritage Institution’s platform for public policy debate, Professor Okeke-Uzodike was just as unsparing in his assessment of vice-chancellors. “Many of our vice-chancellors cannot run our universities. Universities don’t care about the graduates they produce. Nigerians travel abroad for greener pastures as a result of leadership failure. If you look at the indicators you will see that Nigeria has a high number of illiteracy,” he said.
Noting that nation-building remains an illusion to Nigerians, he stated that Nigeria cannot have good educational institutions without having good leaders. According to him, Nigeria has 700 universities and other institutions but, ironically, still do not trust these institutions.
Also at the event held on Tuesday, June 19, the guest speaker and foremost leadership development expert, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, in a keynote address on the theme, “Building a Transformative Leadership for Nigeria,” observed that Nigeria had been plagued by decades of leadership challenges and cited that as the reason the country has not progressed as it should.
“The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian Character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air or anything else. Despite the recognition that leadership is crucial for the development of organisations and nations and leaders can be trained, there are very few organisations especially in Africa dedicated to building transformative leadership. As a result, our nations, societies and communities are suffering from an astounding leadership void,” he said.
Igbuzor stressed the need to build transformative leadership, adding that the fundamental task of leaders is to inspire good feelings in those they lead. “The leadership of any organization or country determines its success or failure. It is the process of providing guidance to followers, the art of influencing human behaviour to strive willingly for mutually compatible objectives. A leader is a person who knows the road, who can keep ahead and who pulls others after him/her,” he declared.
The guest speaker noted further that core leadership responsibilities include achieving the task, building and maintaining the group and developing the individual. “In any organisation or country, it is the leadership that mobilises people to get thing done. It is a balancing act in which the leader must grapple with both strategic and tactical issues and problems, attending to both internal and external forces and always keep their eyes on them,” Igbuzor said.
A good leader, he pointed out, should have the following qualities: character; charisma; commitment; effective communication; competence; courage; discernment; intellect and experience; focus; concentration; generosity; initiative; listening; passion; positive attitude; problem solving ability; responsibility; security; self-discipline; servanthood; teachability and vision.
For him, “leaders are ordinary people who accept or are placed under extra-ordinary circumstances that bring forth their latent potential, producing a character that inspires the confidence and trust of others”.
“Youth development is important because young persons are more amenable to change. They can learn quickly and run with new ideas. Finally, there is the need for a more nuanced leadership selection process in governance, business and civil society”, he maintained.
Other discussants such as dean of the faculty of social sciences at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, and first female professor of mass communication in Nigeria, Professor Stella Chinyere Okunna, and her counterpart, Professor Ajah Akpulu-Ajah of the Abia State University, Uturu, agreed with Igbuzor’s position on transformative leadership. They lamented that poor leadership has brought failure to Nigeria as a nation and that corruption has eaten deep into the fabrics of the Nigerian society, and canvassed for both a national development plan for the youth as well as restructuring.