It was the 10th Memorial Lecture of former Senate Leader, Dr. Abubakar Olusola Saraki. But it turned out to be a call for sober reflection on how and why leaders have failed to achieve good governance in Nigeria and Africa.
Top political leaders, traditional rulers, and government functionaries, present at the occasion, felt scolded for poor performance, as the crowd momentarily interrupted with applause and standing ovations.
The speaker was a former director of Kenya’s anti-corruption commission, Prof. Patrick Lumumba.
The former anti-graft boss was very blunt when he declared that instead of an economy hovering around N500 million, Nigeria ought to have an N4 trillion economy.
Condemning the resort to ethno-religious sentiments by leaders, Lumumba warned that the growing economic crisis in Africa, as a result of bad governance, might lead to an uprising against constituted authorities.
He noted that the continent continues to suffer a leadership crisis, years after gaining independence from colonialists. According to him, Africa will not move forward if politicians continue to conduct the politics of money and moneybags.
The Kenyan professor, who is also a staunch pan-Africanist, titled the lecture, ‘The Leadership and Followership Debate’.
Noting that history has proven citizens are capable of toppling bad governments when they are fed up, Lumumba said: “When you are leading human beings, they are not like cattle. You may keep them in a particular direction. You may think that you have lured them into a false sense of security. You may think that you have deadened their minds. But always remember that one day, if you don’t do that, which is good and right for your fellow man, there is a day of reckoning.”
He said further: “There is a day of reckoning, and history has demonstrated that it can come in a twinkling of an eye. History has demonstrated that kings have been toppled. History has demonstrated that presidents have been removed.
History has demonstrated that great men have been cut down.
“I am suggesting that Africa is not going to grow, as long as you are in a position of leadership and you have perfected the art of appealing to the stomach, rather than the minds of the men and women that you lead.
“I am suggesting that Africa is not going to realise her potential, as long as we continue to conduct the politics of money and money bags, not the politics of ideas.”
In a speech, former Senate President, Bukola Saraki, described his father “as a man who believed a leader is as good as his followers and that was why he gave scholarships to indigent students, gave money to people to start businesses.
“We chose the topic based on his principle. If he were alive, he would be happy to see the multi-party gathering, here. He was a Nigerian who tried to build bridges. His wide contacts cut across parties. It is for that reason that this lecture is devoid of partisanship.”
Saraki added that the choice of Lumumba was “because we know he will speak truth to power.”
In his remarks, the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, noted: “Good leaders elicit good followership, while bad leaders bring bad followership.”
He urged leaders to be willing to listen to their critics, pointing out: “Allah will ask what you did.”