By Tayo Ogunbiyi
Management thought leader, business entrepreneur, inspirational speaker and Harvard Professor, Dr. John P. Kotter , once submitted that œleadership, leadership, and still more leadership is the key to success in any human endeavour”. Undoubtedly, leadership is essential for all types of organizations, but even more important in public administration as tremendous complexity and diverse issues are continually arising in the public sector. Therefore, effective leadership is central to effective and sustainable implementation of government™s and policies programmes.
One vital attribute which every leader must possess in good measure is courage. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines courage as œmental or moral strength to venture, persevere and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.” Courage is the ability to act rightly in the face of popular opposition, shame, scandal, or discouragement. What lies at the heart of every courageous leader is not the absence of fear but the conviction that the action he is about to take, or taking, is the appropriate one. Many leaders know what is right but lack the courage to do it. This, according to Confucius, is the worst kind of cowardice.
For ancient Greek philosophers, courage was one of the cardinal leadership virtues. Courage is so vital to leadership that many Greek philosophers posit that there cannot be any success in leadership without courage. For instance, famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, once said that œcourage is the first among human qualities every leader must possess because it guarantees the others”. It is, therefore, an understatement to say that all leaders need courage to really act as leaders. Courage is epitomized in strength of character to persist and hold on to ideas in the face of opposition. It is also about strength of character and devotion to causes and ideas. It takes courage to make unpopular decisions. Most of all, it takes courage to either stand by such or reverse it.
In Nigeria today, courageous leaders, especially in the political sphere, are in high demand but unfortunately remain in short supply. It is , however, heartwarming that all is not totally bleak in the country in terms of availability of courageous leaders. Lagos State, in the current political dispensation is blessed with courageous leadership. Mr. Babatunde Raji Fashola, the Governor of Lagos State, represents a tiny fraction of political leaders in the country who have demonstrated that courage is vital to success in leadership. The story of Lagos in recent years has been that of progressive transformation. Wherever you go in the state, you can see the administration of Babatunde Fashola at work without seeing his face on billboards. He is quietly charting a new course for the state without making any clatter about it. His work simply speaks for him. There is a general consensus across the land that government is working for the good of the people in Lagos.
However, but for courageous leadership, all that Lagos residents enjoy today in terms of dividends of democracy would have eluded them. To attain change in an environment where people are used to doing things in particular patterns is , to say the least, a daunting task. Take for instance, the restoration of Oshodi which for years was a symbol of chaos and confusion in the state. What Oshodi turned out to be before government™s intervention was not part of its master plan. But, for obvious reasons, no one was ready to upset the apple cart. But Fashola is different. Once he was convinced that the old Oshodi was a blemish on the State of Excellence, he set out to do the right thing. Today, a leader™s rugged display of courage, in the face of misplaced opposition, is paying off as chaos has given way to orderliness in Oshodi and, indeed, other such dark spots in the state.
Today, the state government is embarking on audacious projects that are products of courageous leadership. The on-going rail project from Orile to Mile 2, the redevelopment of the Lagos-Badagry expressway into ten lanes incorporating BRT lanes and light rails, the implementation of the Lagos Traffic Law, the environmental regeneration programme, on-going reconstruction of the Mile 12-Ikotrodu road, the construction of the Lekki“Ikoyi link bridge, the construction of Ejigbo- Ajao Estate link bridge, maintenance of law and order, recovery and redevelopment of loops hitherto used by criminals as hide-outs, reforms in the judicial sector, incorporation of ICT in revenue generation and public administration to mention but a few are manifestations of courageous acts borne out of deep sense of conviction to develop the state. Embarking upon such assorted projects, in spite of the huge capital outlay as well as attendant frustrations, especially with regards to road redevelopment and social re-engineering (it takes courage, for instance, to reprimand senior military officer for breaking traffic law) could only have been results of bravery.
In 2008, when the state government decided to do the right thing by demolishing the collapsed Bank of Industry (BOI) in Lagos, it was met with stiff opposition from various interest groups. Aside, the opposition, several other challenges which were enough to deter the state government from pursuing the planned demolition were involved. But the leadership went ahead to give a go ahead for the novel implosion which brought down the building that had hitherto hung precariously on the Lagos skyline.
Fashola™s decision to sign the Lagos anti-smoking bill into law, unknown to many, was an act of courage. To date the National Assembly, because of pressures from various interests groups, is yet to make headway in respect of the law. Stakeholders have saluted the courage of Fashola for shunning the rapprochement of such groups which was clearly targeted at thwarting the life-saving bill. The governor has, through the signing of the bill, sided with the people over and above quest for investments.
In a world where uncertainty remains the order of the day, it takes courage for a political leader to be focused without being distracted. In our country, at present, it is obvious that what we need is courageous leadership that would take brave decisions and stand by it. We are in dire need of a leadership that would confront corruption head-long. We are in dire need of a leadership that will not sacrifice justice on the altar of political expediency.
Courage in political leadership is setting a direction for the long term and taking people with you. Many view the style of political leadership today as more cautious, less prepared to get ahead of the pack and less reformist. Political leaders are often not ready to take bold decisions in audacious manner. They would rather chose to look the other way.
This is where Fashola and his likes differ. As Governor Fashola celebrates his birthday this week and embarks on the last lap of his mandate, one would like to admonish him with the words of celebrated American author and writer , Patricia Lynn Reilly: œHold on to your courage: don™t let others preach it out of you”.
•Ogunbiyi is of the Features Unit, Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja.
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