(IL)LITERACY IN LEADERSHIP

 

The Nigerian quest for leadership continues and, unfortunately for progressives, zoning and entitlement to others standing down so that a particular region can enjoy its turn to produce the next president is the current preoccupation of the ruling elite and the chasing pack. The pro-zoning argument is mostly that it corrects marginalisation and encourages “a feeling of belonging”. As there is a gaping lack of evidence that any region has benefitted from being the sitting president’s home-region, one must question what exactly those who protest it are being marginalised from?

 

The North (I use these geo-political groupings only very nominally) has produced the majority of the country’s heads of government post-Independence. The consensus is however that it is largely the region lacking the most in infrastructure, education and several other key development indices. The South-West had its own turn but no one can point to the exclusive benefit this conferred on the region during those eight years. The incumbent is from the South-South and it would also be hard to point to anything that has accrued to that region specifically. What then can the accusation of marginalisation be in reference to, if the regions do not enjoy special benefits for producing the president? This zoning argument also scales down to politics at the state level, where the governorship “must” be rotated between the different regions that comprise the states. Marginalisation apparently also exists at the state and local government levels too. The majority of the country must therefore be suffering from this malaise of marginalisation at every point in time.

 

My guess is that it is not the benefits that would accrue to the region that these marginalisation politicians refer to. It is more than likely to be the benefits that accrue to the members of the office-holder’s circle of trust and their hangers-on – the ability to influence appointments (and accumulate political capital), the potential to increase their own personal wealth and [in the tiniest of whispers] the opportunity to assist with how looted funds, if any, will be laundered.. If the President or Governor emerges from your region, you can expect a handsome personal reward depending on how close a friend you are or how prominent a role you played in his election. The cry of marginalisation cannot have very much to do with the progress of the officer-producing region.

 

It is extremely idealistic but I am hopeful that one day, marginalisation will cease to be the motivation or justification for a candidate’s eligibility, and the most important factor in our choices at the ballot will be the quality of the candidate’s learning and the strength of his character. I have often wondered whether the prosperity of the world’s richest nations has anything to do with how well-educated their leaders are. I finally did some digging this week and the results are in the table that follows. The table tries as much as is possible to either go as far back into time as 1980 or, where the information was not readily available, to list the last four heads of government. The table omits schools outside the US and the UK, as most of us (Nigerian readers) are unlikely to be familiar with their pedigree.

 

Name of Head of Government

Profession/Education

 
UNITED KINGDOM  

David Cameron

Oxford University, 1st Class in Philosophy Politics & Economics  

Gordon Brown

1st class History

University of Edinburgh, PhD History

 

Tony Blair

Oxford, 2nd Class BA Arts, later became a barrister  

John Major

O-Levels, Correspondence course in banking  

Margaret Thatcher

Oxford, 2nd Class Honours BSc Chemistry, later became a barrister

 

 
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA  

Barack Obama

Columbia University (Political Science, International Relations); Harvard Law School

 

George W. Bush

Yale University (History), Harvard Business School (MBA)

 

Bill Clinton

Georgetown University (BSc Foreign Service); Oxford (Philosophy, Politics & Economics); Yale Law School

 

George H. W. Bush

Yale University, BA Economics

 

Ronald Reagan

Eureka College, BA Economics

 
GERMANY  

Angela Merkel

PhD, Physical Chemistry

 

Gerhardt Schroeder

Law

 

Helmut Kohl

History & Political Science

 

Helmut Schmidt

Army conscript

 
FRANCE  

Francois Hollande

Political Studies

 

Nicolas Sarkozy

Law

 

Jacques Chiraq

Political Studies

 

Francois Mitterand

Political Science

 
JAPAN  
Shinzo Abe Political Science, Public policy  
Yoshihiko Noda Political Sciences & Economics  
Naoto Kan Patent Attorney  
Yukio Hatoyama PhD, Industrial Engineering  
Junichiro Koizumi Economics  
SWEDEN  
Fredrik Reinfeldt Business & Economics  
Göran Persson Social & Political Sciences (didn’t graduate)  
Ingvar Carlsson

 

Diploma in Business Economics, BSc in political science  
AUSTRALIA  
Julia Gillard BA, Law
Kevin Rudd BA Arts, Asian Studies
John Howard BA, Law
Paul Keating (No higher education)
Bob Hawke BA Arts, Oxford
SINGAPORE
Tony Tan BSc Physics (1st Class)

MSc, MIT

PhD Applied Mathematics

 
S R Nathan Social Studies  
Ong Teng Cheong Architecture  
Wee Kim Wee Journalist (Political Features)  

 

There is a preponderance of degrees in political science, law, business, economics and arts (with Singapore throwing its own unique party). Leaders educated in the science of statehood, jurisprudence, commerce and humanities. Of course, this is incomplete, almost half-arsed, data and not much can be gleaned from it. For instance, we do not know from this table if the citizens of these countries prefer leaders with this sort of education or whether it is each country’s political infrastructure that ensures that the cream rises to the top. The table does not examine the presidents’ cabinets and the quality of the team they are surrounded with. We cannot tell if the countries are rich because their leaders are well-educated or whether the leaders are well-educated because the countries are rich.

Regardless, there does appear to be a correlation between the level to which a country’s leaders over time have been educated and how prosperous the country is. This is more so when Sub-Saharan Africa (in which a huge number of the world’s poorest countries are located) is examined in a similar vein and we see several countries that have been pillaged [mostly] by soldiers in the period under review. The soldiers that have usurped civilian rule have also mostly not been of the senior ilk – coups are rarely planned by generals. Many of these countries have also endured long stretches during with the same head of government. Imagine a first-year medical student performing heart surgeries, and answerable to no one for the inevitable cock-ups.

Going forward, while I realise that the “masses” probably do not care much for what university the president went to nor, indeed, if he even went at all, the nature of candidates’ education must be taken into greater consideration. It should come as no surprise, for instance, when people who know nothing of the theories of state get onto our television screens and spout heresies. How can we expect such people to be aware of their own responsibilities in the social contract? When merit is perpetually sacrificed on the altar of marginalisation, how can we expect progress or growth? Perhaps our change advocacy needs to make much more of an issue of this.

 

 

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One thought on “(IL)LITERACY IN LEADERSHIP

  1. It is important to highlight that in our country where most of the mekunus are not educated, it is generally evident why there won’t care about education as a criteria for candidates. Also, what is the value of a degree in our dear country? You cannot see a Yale graduate roaming on the street looking for jobs, but rather that’s the case here. If a 1st class student from Unilag does not have a job after three years from leaving the university, what then is the value of his degree?

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