Stimulating Better Leadership And Governance In State Democratic Institutions – By Theophilus Okoro


Nigeria?s President Goodluck Jonathan (C



Governance is the exercise of power or of an authority with the objective of managing the affairs of a State, an organization or a society. Government itself exists simply as a trust to carry out the will of the people and protect their lives, liberty, and property. Leadership nonetheless, is the process of influencing a group towards the achievement of goals. However, the subject of leadership and governance keeps recurring in our national discourse, suggesting that leadership question is still critical to Nigeria’s quest for better governance and the consolidation of the democratic order.


It was Jean Jacque Rousseau a French writer, who postulated in his social contract theory of 1762, that; “the authority being wielded by a leadership to govern automatically seizes when such leadership refuses to render its responsibilities to the people”, He insists that leaders must govern wisely and justly, with ‘the good life’ of its citizens in view; and the citizens must submit to its authority.

No doubt, the need for better leadership and governance is increasing by the day in the Federal, State and Local government areas. To many, especially those who subscribe to the core values of integrity, honesty and dedication to the transformation of the country, It is a thing of sadness that Nigeria despite earning several billion dollars from oil sale alone over the last five decades, is still badly affected by poverty, inequity, illiteracy, injustice, incompetence, persistent and institutional uncertainty, weak rule of law, decrepit and absent infrastructure and weak institutions of state.

In institutions like the Army, Customs, Immigration, Police, National Assembly, in MDA’s, Hospitals, Courts of law, and even the Private Sector, Nigerians have continually condemned corruption, negligence and mismanagement to no avail. Though it is said that better leadership and governance is not the responsibility of government alone; but government does play a central role. To have effective governance therefore, there is need for input from a wide range of the public such as community groups, non-governmental organizations, cooperatives, research institutes, religious leaders, finance institutions, political parties, military and traditional leaders that should contribute to making and implementing decision in the state, to guarantee peace, progress, and stability.

But many democratic and good governance groups in Nigeria fighting to institute democratic culture and better governance in our state institutions, have not just lost ideas, but have lost steam and relevance as well. With over 168 million people with diverse views and ideologies about governance and so many institutions of state needing better leadership and democratic governance, one is left to wonder if this challenge is surmountable.  But having established clearly that widespread mismanagement of resources is the major cause of leadership and governance failure in the country, the question that then comes to mind is: How can better leadership and governance be stimulated in our democratic institutions of state?

Understandably, it was to tackle this challenge that President Goodluck Jonathan rolled out the Transformation Agenda which focuses on strong, inclusive and non-inflationary growth; employment generation, poverty alleviation, value re-orientation, increasing Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), improving the ease of doing business, enhancing the corruption perception ranking , improving Nigeria’s global competitiveness ranking and  growing the country’s enabling trade ranking etc. To achieve these major reforms, a world class Economic Management Team was put in place to drive the process but, there are a number of threats and challenges to its realization. These include the problems of insecurity, corruption, accountability, ineffective public service to deliver on government policies and programmes, lack of synergy between federal, state and local governments, as well as bankrupt leadership in most states and local government areas.

Also, we have realized over the years that individuals in leadership positions in our various democratic institutions are never prepared for the job. They often think they know the problems but a larger percentage of them neither understand nor grasp the most important details or even the temporal and practical implications of a given situation or problem. Most times, they lie and deceive in order to create the impression that they are working for the people. These problems have become recurrent that it is now highly necessary to stimulate better leadership and governance in our institutions of state in order to promote development and enduring democracy.

To do this, first, there is need to begin a process of nurturing leadership that understands what our national problems are; leaders that are truthful and persistent, that have lots of energy, and show initiative, and have a relatively high desire for achievement, that demonstrates the willingness to take responsibility and the mental capacity and action to tackle challenges for our development.

Secondly, there is need for re-birth of societal values through sound moral and spiritual development in homes, schools, and the society at large. Also, the society needs to condemn criminality, larger-than-life attitude associated with public office, arrogance and pride. Leaders who put more energy into practical economic objectives and provision of public good and infrastructure, should be celebrated as against those that concentrate on mundane politicking and narrow personal interests which have adverse effects on the provision of good governance. Also, leaders need to be intelligent enough to gather, synthesize, and interpret large amounts of information and they need to have vision, solve problems and make correct decisions. Again, they should be highly knowledgeable about the institutions of state they lead in order to make well-informed decisions and to understand the implications of those decisions.

Political scientists and researchers have equated having leaders who are well-read, competent with the right leadership skills, exposure and behaviour to a nation’s economic growth and quality governance. It is also generally believed, that a nation with well educated leadership, has a better competitive advantage. But if education alone is the proper yardstick to be used in measuring quality leadership and better governance, then it means that our councilors, local council chairmen, federal and state legislators, governors and those at the centre in Nigeria, have all it takes to bring about true national development. This has not been the case; as much as we would like our leaders or those who aspire for leadership positions to be educated and indeed most of them are; we should understand that leadership is not all about academics but character hence, the need to address the often neglected imperative of attitudinal transformation on the part of the political elite, the absence of which, good governance and development will continue to be an illusion.

Again, to achieve democratic governance in our institutions of state, there is need to enforce fundamental values of democracy in the power exercise. These values include among others: equality, justice, solidarity, tolerance, and pluralism, the taking into account the interests of the minorities in the framework of the adoption of majority decisions, non-violence, dialogue, negotiations, and free community life. It is the application of these values that will make possible the survival of democracy.

Nigeria is a multi-dimensional ethno-religious and socio-political entity, and at this time in the history of our nation when the National Assembly is talking about amending the constitution, there is need to remedy the imbalances in the national structure and to reflect the special needs of our people and the diversities and circumstances of our nation in the constitutional amendment. Also, leaders in all spheres of national life need to reconcile the different interests and many viewpoints that exist in our democratic institutions, to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interest of the nation. They also require a broad and long-term perspective on what is needed for sustainable human development and how to achieve the goals of such development.

Participation by both men and women is also a key cornerstone of better governance. This could be either direct or through legitimate intermediate institutions or representatives and such institutions or representatives should take into consideration the concerns of the most vulnerable in the society, ensure freedom of association and expression on the one hand and an organized civil society on the other hand. There should also be fair legal frameworks that would bring about impartial enforcement of laws, full protection of human rights, particularly those of the minorities.

Good governance is about developing capacities that are needed to realize development. In a well-cited quote, former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, noted that “good governance is perhaps the single most important factor in eradicating poverty and promoting development”. Franklin D. Roosevelt also said that the only sure bulwark of continuing liberty, is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government. Government therefore, should take bold steps towards exploiting the maximum benefits of the opportunities and strengths of the Transformation Agenda, while simultaneously reducing, to the barest minimum, the threats and challenges facing it. Above all, leaders of various institutions of state as well as the private sector and civil society organizations must be accountable to the public and to their institutional stakeholders. They should also build on credibility and trust, by being honest, competent, open, fair, and consistent.


Harold Geneen stated that; ‘It is an immutable law in business that words are words, explanations are explanations, promises are promises but only performance is reality’. Thus, democratic institutions in Nigeria must produce results that meet the needs of society while making the best use of resources at their disposal and putting the interest of the common man and the imperatives of building a nation that accommodates all at the centre of our development objectives. The enthronement of leadership through the polls should be based on merit, integrity, track record of service to people, and lack of greed and self-centred tendencies. It is only by nurturing political institutions like the legislature, executive, judiciary, press, security agencies, political parties, electoral body, electorate, MDA’s and the civil society that will be totally independent and stand the test of time, that an enduring democracy can be established.



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