Leadership: conflicting signals in recent times – Adebisi Sowunmi

May 27, 2014


Below is the text of a lecture given by Canon Professor M. Adebisi Sowunmi on Thursday, 24th April, 2014, at the Trenchard Hall, University of Ibadan, on the occasion of the ceremony organised by the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria, Oyo State Branch, to celebrate eight Medical Women Icons.




First of all, we give thanks to God for: making this day a reality; bringing all of us here safely; giving us the guiding lights, leaders, noble persons worthy of emulation, who are being celebrated and honoured today; and using the Medical Women’s Association of Nigeria [MWAN] (Oyo State Branch) as the channels for this due recognition and celebration. I heartily congratulate the eight women of honour who are being celebrated today for the divine grace given to them to be outstanding and exemplary not only among fellow medical women in Nigeria — Oyo State in particular — but also in the society at large, both nationally and internationally. May your shadows and reputation never diminish and may you continue to age gracefully in sound health, while remaining relevant. Amen. I commend and congratulate all members of Oyo State MWAN, under the inspiring leadership of your President, Dr. ‘Kemi Otolorin, and her able team in the Executive Committee, for highlighting and honouring these leading women in a special way today. May God renew your strength daily. Amen.

It is a great privilege and honour for me to have been invited to give the lecture at such a historical event when eight beacons of light in the medical field in this country are being celebrated. I thank the organisers of this event for this honour.



Leadership is a complex concept and phenomenon. The word “leadership” is derived from two words: i.e., lead, and leader. Lead is “cause to go with one, especially by guiding or showing the way or by going in front; guide by example or argument; be in charge of; a leader is a person who leads. It has been defined as: “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task” or “organizing a group of people to achieve a common goal” (Wikipedia dictionary – en.wikipedia.org). Leadership can be acquired from nature (i.e., genetic, inherited traits) or through nurture (i.e., through diligence and the application of intelligence and other skills), or both.

In the book The 100 Greatest Leadership Principles of All Time, edited by Leslie Pockell with Adrienne Avila, 2007, Warner Books, Sun Tzu provided a very good definition of (good) leadership: “Leadership is a matter of intelligence, trustworthiness, humaneness, courage, and discipline … Reliance on intelligence alone results in rebelliousness. Exercise of humaneness alone results in weakness. Fixation on trust results in folly. Dependence on the strength of courage results in violence. Excessive discipline and sternness in command result in cruelty. When one has all five virtues together, each appropriate to its function, then one can be a leader.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/leadership)


Some theories on leadership

The importance of leadership in human communities is likely to have been recognized quite early in the life of behaviourably modern humans, Homo sapiens sapiens, the oldest, fossil specimens of which date back to about 200,000 years ago or  only 50,000 years ago – depending on which of the two main schools of thought in palaeoanthropology one subscribes to. From the archaeological excavation carried out in a rock shelter, Iwo Eleru, situated 25 km. from Akure, southwest Nigeria, in 1965 by Professor Thurstan Shaw and his team from the University of Ibadan, we know that the geographical area which became known as Nigeria one century ago, was inhabited by an archaic form of modern humans at least about 13, 000 years ago.


I am not aware of theories on leadership in Nigeria; and unfortunately I did not have sufficient time to find out if there are. But from recorded Nigerian history and the numerous biographies and autobiographies of Nigerians published in recent years, one can infer that the concepts of leadership are basically the same as those I shall now proceed to outline.  Moreover, in outlining these concepts I shall point out aspects that particularly apply to Nigeria, while I shall then deal at some length with an analysis of leadership as demonstrated by notable Nigerian women.


In Western Europe there are records which show that there has been a deliberate search for or preoccupation with what constitute leadership. The aim of the search was to find answers to this question: “What qualities distinguish an individual as a leader?” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadershp). The record of this search goes back to the times of Greek philosophers, as indicated, for example, in the writings of the great Greek philosopher, Plato, about 2,300 years ago. The concept then was that leadership is based on the attributes of certain individuals. Arising from research into the lives of men, who rose to power, particularly with regard to their talents, skills and even physical characteristics, this concept was further developed as recently as the 19th century, resulting in what is known as the trait theory of leadership. This theory rests on the conclusion that leaders are born, i.e., leadership traits are inherited not developed. However, in the last 70 years or so, researchers have come up with several alternative theories on leadership. These other theories differ radically from the trait theory. However there has been some re-establishment of the trait theory, namely, the postulation that leadership “takes a strong personality with a well-developed positive ego”, and requires “self-confidence and high self-esteem”. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leadershp).


Notable among the alternatives to the trait theory are the following four: (1) Situational and contingency theories which postulate that it is the situation that produces the person who acts as leader.

(2) Functional leadership theory which is somewhat similar to (1), and states that a leader is someone who contributes to group effectiveness and cohesion.

(3) The most recent theory is the integrated psychological theory which attempts to integrate the strong points in the trait, situational, and functional theories. But there is a remarkable introduction of two moral or ethical philosophies — servant-leadership and authentic leadership. The first-named philosophy is self-explicit. The latter I consider very fundamental to the concept of good leadership. It lays emphasis on the fact that a leader’s legitimacy is based on an ethical foundation, i.e., leadership in this context derives from the integrity of the leader and is built on the consequent trust and respect which the followers have in and for that leader. Leadership is earned. It elicits in the followers a psychological response — they enthusiastically support the authentic leader. This support is not self-seeking but derives from the qualities they have seen in the leader. The leader on her/his part values the followers and puts their interests and welfare far above any personal gain. With such mutual respect and trust, there is harmony and the welfare of all is enhanced.

(4) The fourth one is the neo-emergent leadership theory. This is a particularly interesting theory because it depicts the exact opposite of authentic leadership, and is very much like the situation in the Nigerian polity today. According to this theory the so-called leader or others with vested, self-serving interests are the ones who try to make others believe (s)he is a leader, not through any appropriate actions of hers/his, but simply on the basis of information – really false propaganda — (s)he or they give about the person in question.In contrast to authentic leadership this one is invariably is imposed on the followers whose welfare the “leader” is not in the least genuinely interested in, despite all claims and pretences to the contrary. The so-called leaders get to leadership positions not because of their demonstrated or potential leadership qualities but mainly through recourse to the liberal use of, often, ill-gotten wealth, ethnic and other sentiments, paid advertisements in the media, and in the specific Nigerian context, through the influence of so-called Godfathers. In most cases, leaders in this category hardly have any genuine leadership qualities. This is what I have termed fake or false, self-opinionated and orchestrated/sponsored leadership. I shall return to this later.

Apart from overt or covert coercion, followership is paid for in cash or in kind. The cash so given is an investment of sorts which is more than recouped as quickly as possible from public funds on getting into leadership position. The stealing of public funds is carried out with such impunity and recklessness that it borders on the pathological. The world-renowned psychiatrist, the late Professor Adeoye Lambo, had cause to suggest that those who seek public office in Nigeria should be made to undergo psychiatric tests!


Attributes of good or authentic leadership


In summary, research and experience have shown that the attributes or traits of good leadership include the following:

  1. intelligence,
  2. physical attractiveness,
  3. trustworthiness,
  4. humaneness,
  5. courage,
  6. self- discipline,
  7. diligence,
  8. determination or resoluteness,
  9. self-confidence – a result of the combination of “high self-esteem, assertiveness, emotional stability, and self-assurance”,
  10. integrity – the quality of … “individuals who are truthful, trustworthy, principled, consistent, dependable, loyal, and not deceptive” – this is akin to the Yoruba attribute of ọmọluwabi – positive flexibility, i.e., “ability to adapt to (their) continuously changing environments”,
  11. zero tolerance for mediocrity and incompetence,
  12. sociability, i.e., the capacity to be “friendly, extroverted, tactful, flexible, and interpersonally competent… analytical and verbal ability, behavioral flexibility, and good judgment.” (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/leadership).
  13. Having a clear vision
  14. Faith in God

Of course no one, not even the greatest of leaders possess(ed) all these traits; however, effective leaders did and do have a number of them which they manifest(ed) as occasions demand(ed).


Traits of bad leadership

  1. One can rightly submit that bad leadership is basically born of corruption and its characteristics are the exact opposite of those of good leadership. Some of the root causes of corruption are the antithesis of the attributes of good leadership as outlined earlier here.
  2. loss of a right sense of values, a lack of respect for and adherence to high standards of integrity – ọmọluwabi. These traits are encouraged and reinforced by a lack of effective sanctions, as well as a pervasive enthronement of money, wealth, and other material manifestations of “success” in life, no matter how attained.
  3. lack of public spiritedness and consideration for the welfare of others,
  4. insatiable and pathological greed for money, wealth, and position,
  5. extreme selfishness —  a state of pathological self-love, which can lead to a suppression or distortion of the truth, or even murder,
  6. mental and physical indolence,
  7. short-sightedness – a consequence of
  8. lack of intelligence,
  9. lack of readiness to make sacrifices of time, energy and money for the sake of self and others.
  10. lack of courage,
  11. lack of high self-esteem
  12. lack of self-confidence,
  13. no respect for merit and knowledge resulting in the  promotion of mediocrity and sheer incompetence.
  14. a compelling desire for undeserved benefits and privileges, and
  15. Lack of fear of God.

As with good leadership, a single individual does not possesses all these vices but a combination of some of them.


Good women leaders as role models

Good women leaders have demonstrated and continue to demonstrate the highest attributes of leadership because of their innate capabilities to carry out, in an amazing manner, multiple tasks efficiently and admirably; they are empathetic; furthermore, they have been able to surmount the numerous forces which women have to contend with in order for their leadership qualities to be manifested. Good women leaders can thus be regarded as role models of leadership. And I am being objective!




Today, we are celebrating eight of the outstanding Nigerian women leaders. In order to appreciate more fully the significance of the impact made by these female icons, it is necessary to reiterate the strength of the tide against which they had to swim – they more so than the average Nigerian woman.

Most societies today are basically patriarchal, the male being the “primary authority figure … and fathers hold authority over women, children, and property. It (patriarchy) implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and is dependent on female subordination.” (Patriarchy —  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patriarchy). In contrast, “In a matriarchy, power lies with the women of a community…. lineage is determined through the mother, or … women hold dominant positions in the family structure.” (Matriarchy — New World Encyclopedia ….http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Matriarchy). However one of the current views in anthropology is that matriarchal structures “generally occur in times of societal stress or instability, where the men are absent or unreliable.”  (Matriarchy — New World Encyclopedia….http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Matriarchy). Actually this was the case in, e.g., the Igbo community of Isele Ukwu during the Nigerian civil war (‘Zulu Sofola, pers. comm. 1984?). But I think that the original design of the Creator was for non-patriarchal societies since God made Man, male and female, in His own image and gave them both the injunction to be fruitful and multiply …fill the earth and subdue it … with authority over all the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. {cf. Gen. 1: 28}  In contrast to matriarchal societies, “patriarchal societies are exploitative and oppressive to all, especially children and women” (Alele-Williams 1987: 5). Perhaps male dominance became established, following the beginning of agriculture because of the average greater muscular strength of men — such as is required for the defence of territories. Probably with the greater physical strength of men came the propensity for suppressing others, especially women and children, as well as the relegation of women. The physical advantage of men was then extended to practically every facet of life. This probably resulted in unjust customs, cultural practices and traditions, gender stereotyping, and abuse of religion. Women thus have to confront and surmount prevalent prejudices and negative discrimination against them in order to achieve their goals of being treated with respect, attain self-fulfilment, enjoy all the benefits of human rights and be equal partners in the development process, be it at the domestic, local, national or international domain.

These obstacles are particularly severe for women who have leadership potentials. Mercifully, several women, including those being honoured today, by dint of hard work, high level of integrity, intelligence, and resoluteness, among other leadership attributes, have surmounted these obstacles and risen to the peaks of their careers. They also send out unmistakable signals of good leadership. One quick illustration is in the Nigerian judiciary. The current Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) and the President of the Federal Court of Appeal are both women, the first women to occupy these exalted posts! One is deeply heartened by the single-minded transformation of the judiciary under the leadership of this CJN.





The starting point for successful women leaders is their upbringing by parents (especially fathers) who encourage their daughters to attain the highest level of education they desire, and who would not sacrifice or mortgage their (daughters’) future under any circumstance.

It is heartening and instructive to note that the eight women leaders being celebrated today, all had this good fortune. It is also very striking that the first Nigerian female doctor, Dr. Elizabeth Abimbola Awoliyi, was similarly fortunate. She was brought up by her parents, Mr Evaristo and Mrs Rufina Oyinkan Akerele, the elder of two girls among five boys. “Because of the foresight of her father and the great premium he placed on the education of all his children, both male and female, she was sent to study Medicine in Dublin in the footsteps of two of her elder  brothers, Dr J. Ani Akerele and Dr Flavius Abiola Akerele.” (excerpt from the published  MWAN 2nd National Executive Council Meeting April 2012). And that was as far back as August 1929! What a foresighted and farsighted, liberated father – liberated from what was until perhaps very recently, the obnoxious cultural practice which was not in favour of giving girls the same opportunities for education as boys.


Furthermore, in order for these women leaders to succeed in mobilizing others, apart from their innate abilities and passion for justice and equity and the active support of their parents, at least four other factors are crucial: (i) a loving and supportive husband, who is “liberated” enough not to feel intimidated by or be envious of his wife’s visibility, popularity and success in her chosen career or pursuit; (ii)  a stable, well-organised and happy family life, with well-nurtured children who are assets and pride to the family and to society; (iii) a successful professional career or other types of enterprise; and (iv) she must be a loving and submissive (not subservient) wife and a dutiful mother. Again, by the grace of God, these factors hold true for the eight women being celebrated today.

If any one or all of these four factors are lacking the women will be regarded as failures and those they hope to mobilize will be disenchanted, convinced that following such women will be calamitous for them too — they certainly will not get their husband’s support.   Some cynics already have mischievously (and maliciously) nicknamed women’s empowerment movements as ẹgbẹ ki ’lọkọ ó ò ṣe? (i.e.,  an Association of women who set out to defy their husbands)!


In the period before the British and Fulani colonization of Nigeria, women played crucial and central roles in the socio-political and economic life of their societies. They were involved in the administration of towns and cities.  In Yorubaland, there were female Obas in, e.g., Ile-Ife, Oyo, Ondo, and Ilesa up until the 18th century (Mba, 1982).  Benin had female paramount chiefs, ogiso, before the establishment of the Benin kingdom between the 12th and 13th centuries.

In Nupeland, titled members of the royal family “occupied influential position at court” … and “took  part in the  king’s Council.” (Ballay, 1983: 6). “…women ruled the old kingdom of Daura until it was transformed from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society.” (Alele-Williams 1987: 8). There were ruling Queens in parts of Hausaland, one of the most famous being Queen Amina of Zaria, a warrior and builder of the Zaria city wall. Thus women at the time could and some did occupy the highest positions in government.

But starting from the 18th century, for reasons, which are still enigmatic, changes occurred, culminating in the establishment of patriarchy. In Yorubaland, e.g., the political leadership positions of women changed to a token in the Council of the Ogboni or chiefs either as erelu or as Iyalode, the head of all the womenfolk. In Benin as in Yorubaland there were only male rulers.

However, in times of crisis such as war or social upheaval when the men could no longer cope, individual powerful and influential women assumed leadership and succeeded in restoring the integrity and survival of the community, e.g. Queen Mothers Idia and Omosogie in Benin and Princess Idolorusan in Itsekiriland (Mba, 1982).



Under the effective and self-less leadership of outstanding, dynamic, courageous, articulate and well-informed female individuals, women dared to challenge or defy the powerful colonial administrators,  traditional rulers or “native authority” Council chairmen (Mba, 1982; Johnson, n.d.), during the colonial and transition to Independence periods. Well known are the protests of women in south-eastern Nigeria in 1925-1930 against oppressive colonial taxation and the male, local collaborators of the British. The heroic struggles of Egba women under the fiery leadership of late Mrs Funlayo Ransome-Kuti in the 1930s to 1950s are familiar to most of us. They succeeded in forcing the ruling Alake to go on exile! Let us note that through these struggles and protests socio-economic justice was achieved not only for women but for the men-folk too.

The inclusion of Mrs Margaret Ekpo and Chief Mrs T.O. Ogunlesi in the Nigerian delegation to the constitutional talks in London in 1953 marked a significant, though token recognition of women’s capabilities and role in governance. This was a great encouragement to (then) young Nigerian women such as Mrs Fola Akintunde-Ighodalo, who later became an outstanding woman leader in civil society as well as in the civil service. As is well known she, in spite of many odds, had the distinction of being the first female permanent secretary in the whole of the Federation. This she was able to do by the grace of God and her characteristic toughness, diligence, initiative, courage, determination, and some bit of stubbornness – some of the key attributes of successful leaders.



I wish to give a very brief consideration of group leadership among women, motivated by some individual women leaders. Women continued to champion the cause of women for equity and justice, as well as the promotion of the health and well-being of women and children. They worked through women’s groups and organisations which they were largely instrumental in establishing. Because of the limited time I had to prepare this lecture, I shall refer only to a few examples of such groups in south western Nigeria, fully conscious of the fact that women in other parts of Nigeria also played similar roles. I regret my inability to consider these as well.


Women in the south west Nigeria blazed the trail in the formation of women’s associations aimed at improving the lot of women and empowering them. It will not be an exaggeration to say that the foundation for virtually all subsequent, indigenous women’s movements for female emancipation and equity in south western Nigeria was laid in the late 1940s with the formation of the first three social organizations in Ibadan. These were formed by three prominent women whose leadership qualities had already been recognized in their respective communities. I refer to (1) Women’s Improvement Society (WIS) founded by Chief Mrs. T.O. Ogunlesi in 1947; (2) Ibadan People’s Society founded by Chief Mrs Wuraola Esan, the Iyalode of Ibadan, and (3) Women’s Movement founded by Chief Mrs Adekogbe. The initiative and far-sightedness of these women are highly commendable and revolutionary. Thitherto there were market women and traders’ associations to promote the business of members. There were also local religious associations. But those three new organizations marked a radical departure because, according to Ogunsheye (2008: 2), they were “concerned with the education of women, the economic empowerment of women, equal opportunities (and remuneration) for women in work, equal status and equal opportunity to participate in politics and the general development of the society.” It is not surprising that these three women became active members of the ruling party in western Nigeria, the Action Group of Nigeria founded by the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It is instructive to note that women leaders in governance at that time were women of proven integrity and ability, chosen on account of their attributes. They and several others like them provided clear and admirable signals about the types of women who should be in governance, authentic leaders.

A fourth important association, Isabatudeen Society for Muslim women, was also formed at about the same time by Alhaja Humani Alaga..


I shall focus on the WIS because it contributed tremendously to the empowerment of its members, especially through “offering free translations to illiterate patients in hospitals…(organizing) mother craft demonstration classes for the patients at antenatal clinics…It also organized “skills acquisition programmes for young women (in mostly domestic sciences)”, literacy and primary health care classes for market women. It established a hostel for “young, working  girls.” As a practical measure to rescue the children of market women at Dugbe (one of the biggest markets in Ibadan at the time) from playing in the rather unhygienic surroundings of the market WIS established in 1958 a Day Nursery for these children and those of working mothers. It thus provided early education for these children and a safe and healthy environment for their mothers, who would be able to devote their full attention to their work. The building for this nursery was accomplished with privately donated money, most of it from the founder of WIS! It seems WIS is the first female NGO to be registered. When it asked the government to include Nursery Education in its Education programme, the idea was rejected, because, according to it “it would be a luxury for Nigeria at that point in time”! (Ogunsheye, 2008: 3) How myopic! But two members of the Society, Chiefs T.O. Ogunlesi and J.E. Bolarinwa took up the challenge and established the first privately-owned Nursery and Primary Schools.  A primary section was added to the Day Nursery of WIS in 1996


The National Council of Women’s Societies and its genesis

At the instance of the regional government, the four societies mentioned above formed an umbrella association, known as the Council of Women’s Societies (CWS) in January 1961. It subsequently expanded its membership through the inclusion of over 50 women’s organizations spread all over the then western region of Nigeria. With the inclusion of Lagos members it then became known as The National Council of Women’s Societies (NCWS), and was inaugurated in August 1961. It is now a nation-wide organization.

The aims of the NCWS are:

(1)            To promote the welfare and progress (economic and social) of women with emphasis on education and training; (2) to awaken and encourage in women the realization of their responsibilities to the community; (3) to secure guarantees that women are given every opportunity to play their part fully as responsible members of the community; (4) to encourage the affiliation of all women’s non-political organizations in Nigeria.

To a great extent the NCWS has been pursuing these aims. However, it is sad that from the national headquarters its Constitution has recently been changed and it is no longer truly an NGO. It is in fact fast becoming an appendage of government at all levels. This is a wrong and dangerous signal and it is inimical not only to the interests of women but to those of the society at large.

Among the achievements of the NCWS in the southwest are the following: (1) the setting up Day Nurseries for market women and working mothers; (2) the organization of monthly trade fairs to promote the products of rural women; (3) it was the first to ask for a Ministry of women’s affairs in order to promote the empowerment of women – I wonder how many people know the true origin of this very progressive concept – there are now  Ministries of Women (sic!) Affairs at the Federal and State levels; (4) it advocated for equal pay for equal work and succeeded in having the obnoxious policy of differential payment between female and male employees in government service abolished; and (5) in 1960 it organized a landmark seminar on the topic “The African Woman Decides her future”, sponsored by UNESCO. The aims of the seminar were “(a) To examine some of the major problems arising from the interaction of traditional patterns and modern civilizations which confront African women and to exchange ideas and experiences. (b) To consider definite plans and project by which African women can be better equipped to make a greater contribution to modern society on the basis of equal opportunities and responsibilities with men in all spheres of economic, political and social activities.” (Ogunsheye, 2008: 4-5). It was an international conference with participants from Guinea, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic, Southern Cameroon, and of course Nigeria.


South Western Nigeria women’s pioneering initiatives on equity and justice for women come full circle

The pioneering initiatives on equity and justice for women by women in south-western Nigeria came full circle with formulation and publication of the “National Gender Policy” by the Federal Ministry of Women (sic) Affairs and Social Development in 2006. This is a most fitting tribute and acknowledgement of the struggles of women. “The goal of the National Gender Policy is to ‘build a just society devoid of discrimination, harness the full potentials of all social groups regardless of sex or circumstance, promote the enjoyment of fundamental human rights and protect the health, social, economic, and political well-being of all citizens in order to achieve equitable rapid economic growth, evolve an evidence based planning and governance system where human, social, financial and technological resources are efficiently and effectively deployed for sustainable development’ ”. It is noteworthy that one of the issues listed to be tackled within this Policy is patriarchy! You will recall that earlier on in this lecture I did emphasise that patriarchy is one of the deeply entrenched hurdles women have to surmount in order to achieve self-fulfilment. But it certainly is not yet Uhuru. There is the need for women’s organizations in particular to closely monitor and ensure the implementation of this Policy. While there are some heartening developments, some of the laudable goals have not yet been achieved in the time envisaged, e.g. The teaching of “Mainstream gender studies in the taught and evaluated curriculum of all formal and non-formal educational institutions/courses at all levels – primary to tertiary by 2010”


Why are there conflicting leadership signals in recent times?

The type of leadership prevalent in a community, nation, home, or any other human group is crucial for both corporate and individual development and welfare. As outlined above, and as is well known, there are good leaders and there are bad ones. The former consistently radiate the right signals while the latter are capable of generating only the wrong signals.

This lecture couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, because there are seriously conflicting leadership signals from virtually all facets of our national life, including homes.

Why? I venture to highlight six causative factors:

  1. One of the root causes of conflicting leadership signals in recent times, especially in Nigeria, is the pervading misconception of what leadership really is.That was why I dwelt at some length on what constitute good leadership, in contrast to bad leadership. Quite a number of those called leaders or who style themselves so are not authentic leaders.
  2. Fake/false leadership coupled with mediocrity or outright incompetence is promoted through being more highlighted and more vocal. It is therefore more prevalent than authentic leadership.
  3. Pervasive corruption among so-called political leaders —

Because our economy is largely dominated by the political leadership the signals from that leadership to a great extent determine the state of the nation. Furthermore, these “leaders” have access to huge public funds; examples abound about how these funds have been misappropriated by those entrusted with them. There are staggering cases before the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for example. The immunity clause in the Constitution is aiding and abetting these crimes against our commonwealth. The cartoon below taken from  The Punch of Friday, 18th April, 2014, brilliantly captures how endangered the nation is, unless corruption is seriously tackled!



  1. Non-inclusion of a greater number of very competent, nationalistic, diligent, dedicated, selfless, and visionary women of high integrity in governance and leadership positions in the society: Perhaps one of the reasons for our remaining an under-developing (not developing) country is because of the non-inclusion of a greater number of very competent, nationalistic, diligent, dedicated, selfless, and visionary women of high integrity from governance and leadership positions in the society.  The exclusion of such women, undoubtedly, is yet another cause of the conflicting signals in leadership in recent times.
  2. Acquiescing/actively collaborating followership of fake leaders.

The followership is not entirely without its own share of responsibility and blame. Bad leaders don’t descend on us from outer space, they come from among us, with or without our consent; we deserve them if we acquiesce!

6. Lethargy and succumbing to the temptation of being corrupted by power and financial gains.



  • I have endeavoured to outline some of the attributes of good or authentic leadership as well as the distinguishing characteristics of bad or fake leadership; I have also considered some of the theories on leadership. Women leaders in Nigeria, from pre-colonial through to recent times have, on the whole, been positive influences in the society. Good women leaders have illustrated and continue to illustrate the highest attributes of leadership, in spite of the otherwise daunting obstacles they had and still have to surmount. They have, by dint of hard work, high level of integrity, intelligence, and resoluteness, among other leadership attributes, have surmounted these obstacles and risen to the peaks of their careers. They have also been very positive influences in the society. Without being sentimental I believe that these women are role models of leadership.


  • Some effective ways of resolving many of the conflicting signals in leadership in recent times:

1. We need to be more proactive in the election and acceptance of leaders in governance; at the moment majority of the electorate have no say with regard to whom respective political parties put forward as candidate for political office. This ought not to be so.

2. We cannot afford the luxury of merely philosophising and discussing in a detached manner the continued, nay, intensified, mindless strangulation of the country. We need to take appropriate actions.

3. Biographies and autobiographies of good women and men leaders are becoming more and more available in the market these days. Concerned women and men — individuals and/or groups — should ensure that the biographies of such role models are better publicised, especially to the younger generations – both male and female.  The lives of these icons send right signals about leadership.

4. High commendations are deserved by the pioneering women leaders, “Amazons”, and their worthy successors, women of high integrity, dedication, and foresight; selfless, diligent workers, astute mobilisers of women and the nation. But there are yet many battles to fight. Yes times are hard and challenging, but tough times produce tough women (and men). There is a need for more collaboration with the men-folk — women cannot do it alone. It is also highly desirable to provide space for the active mentoring of many more of the younger generation of women. An occasion such as this is one such space.

It is evident to every discerning Nigerian that the country is greatly and urgently in need of not only economic and political restructuring, rebuilding and hence recovery, but also of a moral and spiritual revolution. The call for economic and political restructuring is daily re-echoed – the need for such a restructuring is in fact one of the purported reasons for the on-going national conference at Abuja. One can only pray and hope that at the end of the day it would have been worth all the huge expense and our expectations will not be dashed to pieces.

5. The progress and development of any nation depends largely on the conditions and status of its women. The great Indian nationalist and statesman, late Pandit Nehru, is reported to have said: “In order to awaken a people, it is the women who have to be awakened. Once they are on the move, the household moves, the village moves, the country moves.”

I rest my case!


I thank you for your gracious attention.




References (other than those in the text, sourced on the internet)


Alele-Williams, G. 1987  “Women in leadership.” Paper presented at the seminar on ‘Women studies: State of the art now’ – Institute of African Studies, University of Ibadan (typescript, 17pp)

Ballay, U. 1983 “Women between tradition and modernization in a developing country: the case of Nigeria.” Paper presented at the second annual Women in Nigeria Conference, A.B.U., Zaria (typescript 34pp.)

Johnson, n.d. “Madam Alimotu Pelewura and the Lagos market women.” Tarikh 7 (i): 1-10

Mba, N.E. 1982 Nigerian women mobilised: women’ s political activity in Southern Nigeria, 1900-1965. Berkeley: Institute of International Studies, University of California.

Ogunsheye, F.A. 2008 60th anniversary celebrations of Women’s Improvement Society and 50th anniversary of Women’s Improvement Society Nursery and Primary School.


TUESDAY, MAY 27, 2014.


2:20 p.m. [GMT]







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