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What Nigerian Political Leaders Could Learn
from The World’s “Poorest” President
Akintokunbo A Adejumo
Wednesday, Dec. 05, 2012
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I have been reading the story of President Jose Mujica — the leader
of Uruguay (please note the word “LEADER”) and I find it to be a
singular example of humility, sacrifice and an uncommon disdain for
all worldly material and other acquisition. In my opinion, this is a
leader who may be worthy of emulation by our so-called leaders in
Nigeria, and indeed, in Africa.
However, please let us recognise that being "poor" has not
necessarily made Mr Mujica a successful or good leader (Uruguay is
hardly the best country economically or politically in the world); but it
is a testimony that a man truly leads his country and his people, not
for his personal or family aggrandisement and benefit, but for service
to his people, acquiring nothing personally, but giving back to the
people, his people, that he sincerely loves and care for.
It is intriguing to consider how this powerful president draws on his
humble roots, his experience as a former leftist guerrilla, and his
reputation as a man of the people, to govern.
"His charitable donations - which benefit poor people and small
entrepreneurs - mean his salary is roughly in line with the average
Uruguayan income of [$770] a month."
In 2010, his annual personal wealth declaration - mandatory for
officials in Uruguay - was [$2,860], the value of his 1987 Volkswagen
This year, he added half of his wife's assets - land, tractors and a
house - reaching [$215,000]."
This characteristic alone is singularly worthy of emulation by other
leaders, especially in Third World countries, including our very own
Nigeria. It also follows God's or Nature's aphorism that no matter
what wealth or power we acquire in this world (and six feet under the
earth is the end of it all, and we don't even know when or how death
will come), we are most happy and successful in this world only when
it is used for the benefit of others less privileged, and to whom their
well-being is entrusted.
It is gratifying to the humanity that President Mujica is not greedy,
selfish, corrupt or self-serving. Unlike our leaders in Nigeria and
indeed Africa, who believe naïvely that they have not lived in this
world until all the wealth, power, possession and properties of this
world is appropriated to them and is concentrated in their hands and
their families only. They see success in the number of houses, cars
and swollen bank accounts acquired as a result of their greed and
corruption, never having a thought for the consequences of their
actions (and inactions) on the lives of their own people whose
welfare and betterment have been entrusted in their care, whether
by force, constitutionally or by the simple laws of Man.
Our political leaders are quick and never think twice to betray the
trust of the people who either voted or appointed them – this is for
civil servants - into power (and in the case of the Military, people
they are sworn to protect)
There is really nothing wrong with democracy, politics, religion,
ethnicity, quest for power or wealth; the problem is the way Nigerian
leaders manage to turn these values upside down, in cahoots and
collaboration with their followers (and you might say, sometimes,
Do you have to be poor or be frugal to be a good leader? The
answer is obviously No! Being poor is not a prerequisite to being a
successful, good, kind, fair, competent, compassionate and
incorruptible leader. In the history of the world, poor people hardly
have the chance to get to be leaders; however, a rich man who
becomes a leader may become poor as a result of giving up all his
possession to make the lives of those he leads better. That is the
It is even likely, as often happens in Nigeria that a poor man, or let’s
say a man who arose from a poor background, eventually has the
chance to become a leader of his people; but then what happens?
Such fortunate people become corrupted by power and wealth and
easily forget his roots, or his past, or how it was for him before he
had the God-given opportunity of making it to power and all its
Humanity has always had a problem with governments – no
government in history has ever been perfect, and this is unlikely to
change till the end of time – the reason being that it is fallible mortals
that operate governments.
Power is government and government means power; power often
attracts the corruptible, so anyone who seeks power must be
suspected of being corrupt until proven otherwise. Again, “It is not
power that corrupts, but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those
who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are
subject to it.” - Aung San Suu Kyi, “Freedom from Fear”.
“Experience has shown that even under the best forms of
government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow
operations, perverted it into tyranny.” ― Thomas Jefferson
Mr Mujica is poor, so what? Are members of his government poor?
He must have a cabinet of Ministers and Advisers; are these people,
who carry out his wishes and orders poor? Do they share or agree
with Mr Mujica’s modest and meagre lifestyle? The answers are not
known. Uruguay is not an exceptionally country, neither can we
classify it as a poor country; but one thing for sure, it is better than
Nigeria and indeed, many African countries.
The beauty of the Uruguayan situation is that with a modest and
focused President, the resources of that country are managed well;
corruption reduced to the minimum, bureaucrats do what they are
supposed to do and the government loves and really try to take care
of its people. This is governance. I don’t even care if it is not
democratic like America or the United Kingdom.
So do the Uruguayans love their poor President? They apparently
do, not because he is poor, but because he looks out for them; he
does what they want him to do for them; he or his government are
not corrupt and unaccountable to them; he is open and fair to them;
he does not tolerate excesses and corruption; and neither does he
tolerate mismanagement and inefficiency. His military obey him, his
Ministers do what he wants them to do for the people and generally
oversees a good government that his people can call their own.
I will admit I do not know much of the history of Uruguay, probably
because I have not bothered to do a lot of research, but the little I
know suffices to write this article. Uruguay is home to 3.3 million
people of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its
metropolitan area. An estimated 88% of the population is of
European descent. With an area of approximately 176,000 square
kilometres (68,000 sq. mi), Uruguay is the second-smallest nation in
South America by area, after Suriname.
Uruguay won its independence between 1811 and 1828, following a
four-way struggle amongst Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Brazil. It is
a democratic constitutional republic, with a president who is both
head of state and head of government.
So here we have it. Nothing really in common with Nigeria except that
it was once a colony of a European country and is today operating
under a democracy after long periods of military rule. This is enough
for me. The size of the country is immaterial as is the constitution, or
demography of the country.
Our leaders, and indeed the followers, do not have any need to re-
invent the wheel. Neither is governance rocket science. The quest
and avarice for illegal wealth, unrequited and misplaced power and
priority is our problem. On the humane side, we can also add
selfishness and appropriation bordering on the ugly side of our
cultural and traditional values. Apt also is the way charlatans and the
mediocre force themselves into power for the sole purpose of
Georgia, a former state of the defunct Soviet Union, which a few
years ago, was one of the most corrupt nation in the world, has now
got its act together and now boast of the least corrupt police force in
the world. After an intensive drive to purge the country of petty and
official corruption, many ordinary Georgians say they actually
welcome the sight of police.
"Everything has really improved," says Shalva, an elderly car owner
in the capital, Tbilisi. "There is no way the patrol officers are taking
bribes. They even changed my flat tire for free so that I could keep
on driving. What could be better than this?"
"There is no other country at the moment where more people see a
decrease in corruption in their country, and where more people say
the government is effective in fighting corruption," says Mathias
Huter, a senior analyst with Transparency International’s Georgia
office. "I think this is an indication that the Georgian government's
efforts to fight corruption have been very successful."
How I wish we could say the same of my country, Nigeria, where it is
even now more apparent that the Government itself is the main
inhibitor and stumbling block to riding the country of the bane of
corruption? In fact, one suspects that the government is actively
aiding the stupendous growth and sustenance of corruption. As
written earlier in an article, the various government apparatus in
Nigeria thrives on corruption – it may even be that it is corruption that
is keeping the country’s economy, entity and sovereignty from
Can we, nay, can our illegally-rich (in other words, thieving) leaders
learn anything from Mr Mujica of Uruguay? Yes, but only in terms of
morality and humanity. I am not sure of Mr Mujica’s governmental
competence and effectiveness, but if the fact that he is poor and
humble have anything to go by, yes, surely, our arrogant and corrupt
leaders need to learn a lesson in humility, fear of God and Man,
civility, love and intense care for one’s fellowman and woman and
selflessness in the discharge of one’s duty to his/her people.
I see undeserving idiots, mediocre, charlatans and thieves being
lauded and acclaimed everyday by the government, the society,
religious segments and even the academics with the conferment of
dubious honours, awards and accolades, chieftaincy and religious
titles and I say to myself, “Are we a degenerate and depraved people
who have unfortunately become used to suffering and battering from
the hands of an unworthy few?”.
The Truth always.
The Rot in
By Emmanuel Onwubiko
Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2012
Officially, the police
of Nigeria is said...