By: John Oluwadero
Growing up in the village as a missionary kid and living my adult life in the city as a student and later as a development practitioner, I have come to realize that, by reason of our Traditional/Cultural belief system in Nigeria, ‘elders’ (by age and/or social status) have come to see younger ones (by age and/or social status) not as team player but rather their subject. This is one of the major leadership problems we have in Nigeria and Africa at large.
This philosophy has been a major setbacks in some families where the Parents will hardly ask for the opinion of their children in making decisions because they feel they (as parents) understand and know better, and eventually they come to realize (perhaps with time) that enlightenment and not experience is actually the best teacher. Maturity is not a function of age; it is a state of the mind. I have seen family businesses suffer downfall because the father won’t listen to the advice of the son, and just when the father finally get either convinced or unwillingly forced by circumstances to listen to what his son has to say, the business began to flourish again.
This philosophy of treating young people as subject has now transcended from homes into workplace; into Churches, into government agencies, corporations and even into our tertiary institution of learning. It is by reason of this philosophy that a Governor will expect civil servants, who actually elected him, to be grateful to him for paying salaries for few months out of the several months he owes them.
It is by reason of this philosophy that the wife of a Governor will deem it an insult for her to obey queue during an anointing service because she perceives other church members to be her subject
All of this happens because traditionally as Africans, we have the mindset that younger ones (by reason of age and social status) are our subject and not a team player. We consider it as an insult to bring young people on the table for dialogue and intellectual discourse.
However, I am of the opinion that the solution to this leadership shortfall is education. It is expected that tertiary institution of learning will be a platform for training new leaders on embracing inclusive, civil and servant leadership mindset as opposed to traditional autocratic mindset.
Unfortunately, those we expect to train these students to be inclusive, civil and servant leaders are in themselves traditionally autocratic because, they too, are a product of a societal system where autocratic traditional leadership is a norm.
Such is the case at the University of Ibadan where the students via the leadership of the Students’ Union recommended the establishment of a Students’ Welfare Board to the management and the University Senate as a response, suspended the Students’ Union just because they felt that students, especially those without beards, are so unfit, unworthy, inexperienced and immature to advise the management.
It is by reason of this philosophy that the University Senate will shut down the University just because the students demanded the provision of Students’ Identity Card ahead of their first semester examination, despite the fact that they have paid for the ID. It is a fundamental right of every follower to demand accountability from their leaders. Students paid N1350 for their ID card as opposed to N650 they paid last session (That is about 93% increase). Three months after, students are yet to be issued their ID Cards.
Over the years, the use of electric cooker in halls of residence has been allowed. Chapter 6 of the Students Information Handbook, under the heading ‘Electrical Appliances’, paragraph (i) acknowledged the use of electrical appliances in kitchenettes. The University has a social and welfare contract to maintain with the students according to the provisions of this handbook. For the management of the University of Ibadan to decline in maintaining this social and welfare contract is an indication that the University is no longer the best (in Nigeria) in providing quality welfare services for her students, hence a false claim of ‘the First and the Best’ by the University. This fact is actually a minus on the management scorecard.
One truth that we all need to understand in Nigeria is that ‘every society reproduces a generation of its kind’. The University of Ibadan boasts of producing graduates that are worthy in character and learning. I am not too sure if the University in recent times are intentionally committed to producing graduates that are worthy in character. I have read through some posts and comments as regard the ongoing crisis and I must say I find some to be an insult on the University management.
However, we must all accept that the insult is as a result of the autocratic traditional leadership style of the University management. Uncaring parents are likely to have rebellious children. We are gradually producing a generation of young people that will traditionally become rebellious because they find the autocratic traditional leadership style of their leaders as a challenge to the achievement of their goals in life. Just imagine the Oyo State Commissioner of Police threatening to waste students’ lives if they dare stage a peaceful protest, demanding justice and fairness— statements like this ends up making students rebellious and resentful.
Young people generally derive a sense of worth, relevance and importance when they are included and given the opportunity to make their own contributions to governance and administration- and most often than not, they have brilliant contributions and that is why private sectors are on the lookout for talented and innovative young chaps.
The University of Ibadan as a community consist of Staff (academic and non academic) and students. The fact that the students outnumbered the staff means that the students should be a constituency of concern and care by the management, by reason of purpose and populace. Without the students, there will be no need for staff. Hence, students are the most valuable team player of the University management and should not be treated as subjects/slaves.
I believe for Nigeria to get better and specifically—for the crisis at the University of Ibadan to be solved there is an urgent need by the University management to abolish this unproductive, unfruitful autocratic traditional leadership style and adopt the inclusive, civil, servant leadership mindset, where everybody, be it students or staff- is somebody.
John Oluwadero is an alumnus of the University of Ibadan, a Pharmacist and Africa Regional Representative for Commonwealth Youth Sport for Development and Peace Working Group