The anchor for effective and vibrant communal labour concept is leadership. Here, to lead is to serve. It is one leadership position where there is no alternative interest except the community interest. One earns no personal reward or benefit for being appointed or elected to lead.
The leadership burden is however humungous. One assumes the responsibility for fashioning out ways to mobilize the human & financial resources available within the community to address the many community-based needs/problems.
A certain set of character traits are the right ingredients for any successful tenure – Honesty, Unifier, Moral authority (proven integrity), and Competence.
By honesty, the leader works in a transparent and accountable manner. He makes frank/open admissions of states of affairs. He encourages open disclosures and deals with everyone at the communal level. He wins the trust and support of his community doing this. At all times, everyone will vouch for his integrity. Where he is at fault, he admits the same with a sincere apology.
This builds confidence in his abilities and he is able to command commitments towards the many communities lead developmental projects.
The real driver of communal support for his calls to action is his ability to unify the community behind their development goals.
He allows the expression of diverse views but always toward a common goal. The diversity of the community is never lost through the exhibition of dictatorial tendencies. He understands the spirit of Ubuntu. At least, he promotes the interest of the majority.
Man can never be without fault. So he understands a minimal fault is acceptable. Beyond that, he lives an upright life, cherish community values, exhibits its culture and reveres its institutions. He understands that to be able to serve, he needs to command respect & demand action. With questionable character, his words carry no weight.
A communal leader cannot succeed without a skill. He comes to the role with one. He cannot be bankrupt on skill or competence. The skill to do one or two of the commonly available trade or profession is a box to tick. Managing people & resources come as a plus. You cannot buy your way into this role with just patronage.
These four (4) leadership traits must greatly influence any elective or appointed role at the national level. Our leaders must offer honest leadership – be open & transparent, tell us the truth at all times, make clear admissions about issues, be accountable, etc.
What we seek is development as a nation. To do this, we need leaders who appreciate and recognize our diversity. Leaders who have proven abilities at uniting teams behind common goals. Leaders who will not divide us but leverage our unique talents/skills. If you cannot do this but only seek a continuous obeisance to your wishes and commands, then you do not deserve a seat at the national leadership table.
We do not expect saints in our national leadership roles. But we can also not allow devils to occupy those seats. Acquire some moral authority through your act(s).
Be one who can speak on issues affecting our society be it corruption, bribery etc without causing laughter among the citizenry. Let’s take you seriously when your words should matter and cause a change – that we can only do if you have some unquestionable character at least.
Our nation is near if not in a development crisis. We expect our leaders to possess some skills or talents at addressing the challenges we face. Seek to develop yourself, acquire some skill or learn some profession before offering yourself up for elective or appointed national roles.
We expect people to learn by doing, but we do not wish our leaders be competently bankrupt. Loyalty and patronage to a cause, institution or person should not be the benchmark. We are a serious nation with our destiny at risk. We need persons with some competence at work and now. Save us, do not put yourself up for election or appointment if you do not possess these four character traits at a minimum.
Our national development narrative is not one we should be proud of. If we can improve then we must take a critical look at leadership. Any development model that does not address our leadership challenges cannot produce its intended results. And communal labour concept offers some valuable lessons. Let’s adapt it, institutionalize it or if possible legislate it.
Let’s deliberately create a new leadership standard for our national development.
The author Richard Nunekpeku is a lawyer at E.L Agbemava Law Office and Agribusiness Entrepreneur.