Home Media Book Review: Title of Book: LEADERSHIP: Leading Africa out of Chaos.

Book Review: Title of Book: LEADERSHIP: Leading Africa out of Chaos.

Books are organic creations, and this book,“ LEADERSHIP: Leading Africa Out of Chaos,” is no exception. And like everything organic, books have lives of their own.

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Book Review:
Title of Book: LEADERSHIP: Leading Africa out of Chaos.
Author: Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher.
Publishers: Tudor House Publishers
Year of Publication: 2024
Reviewer: Pst. Simon Imobo-Tswam

Books are organic creations, and this book,“ LEADERSHIP: Leading Africa Out of Chaos,” is no exception. And like everything organic, books have lives of their own.

This is why when a book gets it right (theme, message, substance, structure, language, style, design, clarity, etc.), it can “walk” with a literary jauntiness or a metaphoric swagger. And it can confidently slip from one eager hand to another, giving joy and, in turn, receiving acclaim. Put differently, a good book defends and promotes itself.

Conversely, when a book has too many issues, it “walks” with a limp or a shuffle. It feels shy and withdrawn, and it’s embarrassed with the constancy of explaining its thematic weakness, structural deformities, grammatical deficiencies and factual inaccuracies to every unwilling or hesitant hand that picks it up.

This book is no different. While laying no claim to perfection, “LEADERSHIP: Leading Africa Out of Chaos” has, in the main, shown faithfulness to its thematic thrust, fidelity to facts, and loyalty to structure and grammar.

This is not surprising, considering that the author is Prof. Iyorwuese Hagher, a world-class Professor of Theatre for Development and good governance advocate.

Even in the Prologue, Hagher shows his hand as a literary maestro with his Dickensian way of words: “My face is impassive and inscrutable, and I hope it will be as emotionless as the gray pillars of the gigantic cathedral. The pillars express a grim sublimate of an ethereal beauty achieved when an orchestra of dark green marble, Verona marble, Norwegian granite, and Alloa granite are superbly conducted by Byzantine architecture.”

He is not your regular writer who is out to answer the title of “author.” He is a teacher, researcher, art envoy, storyteller, dramatist, essayist, poet, playwright, novelist, peacemaker, development agent and cultural asset. And above all, he has already been a published author many times.

In essence, Hagher always has something to say and wants to say it. So, in writing this book, another book, Hagher is simply telling us that he has something more to say. And it is serious.

Hagher starts his book with three caveats: the book’s scope (which is continental), his refusal to join the West in name-calling (as obtained in Western literature), and his proffering of the solution of God-centeredness (through the teachings of Christ).

He refuses to apologize for this dogmatic position, conceding, though, that “God-centeredness intersects all faiths.” P.xiv.

The book examines the gilded habitations of leadership, interrogates the obsessions that hitherto occupy the minds of African power elites, and places the concepts of truth, justice, sensitivity, and shared prosperity at the heart of the leadership structure.

As an administrator, politician, lawmaker, international civil servant and leadership pathfinder, Prof. Hagher is familiar with power, including its accouterments, architecture, substructure, and superstructure.

And not unexpectedly, he has walked the passages of power, networked in the corridors of power, lounged in its sitting rooms, luxuriated in the bedrooms of power, and tete-a-teted in its anterooms. He has seen it all, as it were.

On the other hand, Hagher and his people, both at the micro and macro levels, have been multi-dimensional victims of power in its rawest and most arbitrary forms.

Hagher, therefore, has the power and locus to speak authoritatively about leadership or the lack thereof in the Nigerian-cum-African public space. He is thus uniquely qualified to write this book, talk to Nigeria and Africa, and to point the way forward.

LEADERSHIP: Leading Africa Out of Chaos is at the intersection of politics, economics, homiletics and ethics. Besides the auxiliary pages, the author has divided the book into 10 Chapters.

The “Introduction” (Chapter 1) summons us to examine the leadership concept, defines/ describes it, and gives us the types. P.2.

He knocks globalization for raising a “new leadership” – one that “safely stands on the banks of the sea, shouting, “Fair is foul, and foul is fair.” He laments, “Suddenly, everything is anything and is nothing at the same time….The human ego is not just everything – it is the only thing.” P.5.

Chapter 2, “Corruption in Africa,” examines corruption in-depth, identifies other culprits, and puts colonialism squarely under blame.

It indicts the GRA system as a function of “an urban apartheid” P.39. It spares not the Church from promoting a “white supremacist theology” using the Hamitic hypothesis.

This is reiterated on P. 250, where the book tells us: “Ham, it was vigorously claimed without proof, gave birth to and peopled Africa. All Africans were cursed, according to this theology. By this curse, they were to be hewers of wood and drawers of water for their brothers, the white race. Wherever an African was found, he was duty-bound to live out this curse by rendering total service to his white master!”

“Nigeria: The Corrupt Mindset” is Chapter 3. A former EFCC Chairman, Mrs. Farida Waziri, once declared corruption the “biggest industry” in Nigeria. Well, here, the professor unveils the underbelly of the “industry.” What we see is an eye-opener. Corruption is so pervasive that it appears everyone is an “industry player,” especially the politically exposed.

Chapter 4 is “Developing God-Centered Politicians.” Developing such a new breed of politicians is imperative if this most noble leadership is to emerge. Some significant issues linger, though: The training center should be the Church. However, the Church is vigorously divided on whether or not Christians should actively participate in politics. She frowns upon politics as a “dirty game” and those who insist on joining risk grave sanctions.

Hagher, himself a Christian ambassador in politics, asks (and we can hear the alarm in his voice: “How can we be politically neutral when today the entire creation is groaning (see Romans 8:19-22) under the weight of corruption, injustice, moral degradation, and environmental decay? P.112.

Chapter 5, “Crafting Leadership,” guides people in the leadership space on how to “utilize the four building blocks associated with leadership, i.e., Vision, character, competence and charisma” to make an enduring social impact (p. 140).

“Founding Fathers in Africa” is Chapter 6 and opens with: “Africa has produced many world-class leaders.” Hagher lists these leaders’ primary attributes as “vision, character, competence, and charisma.” P.169.

We see some worthy models here, and Julius Kambarage Nyerere, fondly called the Nwalimu by his adoring countrymen, is at the top of the list. Nyerere’s “vision for his country was to establish social justice in a multiracial society comprising blacks, whites, Indians, and Arabs.” P. 170.

The author adds: “The most significant signature trait of Nyerere’s leadership in Africa was his disdain for materialism.”P.174.

Next is Dr. Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the iconic first president of multi-racial South Africa. He, too, had a clear vision: “That of a happy rainbow coalition of blacks, whites, and colored living in harmony and building the economy and society of South Africa together.” P.185.

Many people cringe, acclimatize or make deals when confronted with injustice. Others absorb the injustice, but only so they can, in a transfer of aggression, cowardly transfer it onto others as “paranoid reactions.”

He adds: “Mandela belonged to those who confronted oppression, injustice, pain, hunger, poverty and deprivation as artificial problems to be tackled with every commitment until a solution or accommodation was reached. He knew when to speak and when to act.” P.188.

It is curious that when the author wanted to showcase leadership models in Africa in the first edition, he had to travel to East and Southern Africa to bring us Nyerere and Mandela. The nearest he came home was Ghana i.e. Kofi Annan.

He doesn’t explain to us, so we are left to speculate. Is it because there was/is a shortage of showcasable examples in Nigeria or West Africa that he went so far away? And is it because Nigeria’s leadership poverty is so serious that he had to go to Ghana to fish Kofi Annan out?

Both Nyerere and Mandela had positive visions and convictions. They were known for or identified with sonething: the former, “social justice,” and the latter, a “happy rainbow coalition.”

Can we look at one, two, or three of our public service leaders (Rt. Honourables, Distinguished Senators, (ex-)Governors, (ex-)presidents) and confidently say that this is one position or that helpful idea they stand for?

Nyerere had an abiding disdain for wealth and the privatization of public wealth. But isn’t that what particularly actuates, motivates, and powers our desperate public office quests here?

A critical takeaway from this chapter is how the reader is told how the Northern premier conducted foreign policy on behalf (or independent) of the Federal Government in the 1st Republic. 239-241. We need to bring History back to our school.

But there is another powerful takeaway, too. It is a testament to the book’s irrefutable claims that President Obasanjo, who wrote the foreword during his incumbency, did not protest when Hagher listed only two people, Nyerere and Mandela, as beacons of hope in Africa. And yet Obasanjo himself is a juggernaut in the African leadership environment!

In fact (in this edition), we get to see the biographic sketches, some very flattering, of Nigerian leadership models: Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, and Sir Ahmadu Bello, etc. Pp 167 -241.

The question is: How do we reconcile “the God-centered leadership” with these models, some with the whiff of scandals and the executive high-handedness that dogged their respective public service records?

The author admits, “In 1960, the British colonial rule was replaced by internal colonial rule in Tivland.” P.272. That “internal colonialism” was given official muscle by the regional Northern People’s Congress (APC), headed throughout its lifetime by Sir (Alh.) Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto.

How does “internal colonialism,” inspired by rigid feudalism, sit well with the “God-centered” leadership?

But he tells us even more: “So, at independence in 1960, the Northern People’s Congress began to exert religious pressure over Tivland. The first paramount Chief of Tivland, The Tor Tiv, Makir Dzape, an ex-serviceman, had died and was succeeded by Chief Gondo Aluor. Even though Gondo Aluor did not convert to Islam nor perform ablution or Muslim prayers, he was addressed as ‘Mallam Gondo Aluor,’ a strange title in Tivland. All the other chiefs began to manifest strange Hausa-Fulani and Islamic habits, which included the culture of the palace police, the “Dogarai” that continued their tax raids on the populace and beat, tortured, and harassed people for imperial tax defaults.”

Does the above scenario match the practice of the envisioned God-centered leadership: vision, character, empathy, generosity, courage, discernment, discipline, charisma, passion, positive attitude, problem-solving, and servanthood? This is a contradiction of sorts.

“A Pilgrimage in Christianity, Politics and Corruption” is Chapter 8. This chapter could also have been entitled: “Leadership Lessons from My Father.”

True, here we see Hagher enter primary school, become a Christian, and enter college and the university. Still, in this chapter, we see his father give him practical lessons in leadership: integrity, revolutionary politics, the joy of service, the nobility of sacrifice and the power of personal example. Every child needs a father like Ticha Daniel Hagher Gbaaiko.

Chapter 9, “Africa’s Future Leader,” presents a rebirth/restoration agenda for a New Africa through a resolve to confront injustice, social decay, and bad governance inflicted upon her by the poverty of leadership.

And last but not least, Chapter 10, “The Future Leader as Liberator,” closes the rear. Here, Hagher likens African countries to “prisons” and their leaders as “prison wardens,” with the “prison-owners” in Western metropoles. He counsels that the future leader of Africa must be a visionary who will lead Africa out of the prison of poverty, crime, war, disease, corruption, and death.” P. 326.

The book’s focus is God-centered leadership, which Jesus models. The thread runs through the book, connecting pages and chapters.

In fact, in Mk. 10:”42b-45) (quoted in the book), Jesus Himself gave the world the template when he taught: “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

It says much that the author draws his examples from a broad spectrum of characters, including Winston Churchill, Julius Nyerere, Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Ahmadu Bello, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Kofi Annan, and Nelson Mandela.

Some of the models on this shortlist are Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and even Christians—some were members of fraternal organizations. Meaning: Even non-Christians can subscribe to God-centered leadership, as no religion supports corruption, executive wickedness or bad governance.

But give it to him: Hagher is a bold man. This is a season of political correctness, and every intelligent person is getting married to self-interest. Christians are getting swamped by the world’s system and drifting away from the Faith. And even so-called bishops are embracing syncretism and subscribing to the fraud of Interfaith ministrations.

In this season of compromise and ambivalence, Good and Truth are no longer moral absolutes, but relative concepts. Celebrated pastors are making the work of unbelievers easier: they go on air to prove how the Bible is wrong and point out its “errors” to the acclaim of a godless and unbelieving world.

It is at this time, this same time, that this public intellectual has decided to proclaim, not unlike Nehemiah, a return to God. He recommends God’s Word, the Bible, as the compelling operational manual.

This is uncommon courage and his conviction has empirical support. Jesus lived by it and changed world history in just three and a half years!

Hear him: “Africa needs God-centered leaders who are disciplined, visionary, selfless, sacrificial, reformatory, proactive, and effective. The God-centered leader derives his moral power from God’s Word and puts God at the center of all his thoughts, actions, and speeches.”

It takes courage to say the truth, even in a corner. But to stake it all, to proclaim it from the rooftops as Hagher has done – that is not ordinary courage; that is suicide!

In Nigeria, where religious competition between Muslims and Christians is rife, and it is, sometimes, a matter of life and death, Hagher risks political harm or even personal injury. He is very cultured, but that virtue masks his uncommon bravery.

Here, Hagher reminds us of another great man of courage and gallantry, i.e., Sir Galahad, a frontline character in the Arthurian legend. Galahad was one of the knights of King Arthur’s Round Table. The legend goes that Galahad, with Percival, were the only two knights who found the Holy Grail by their courage. But Galahad it was who drank from the Grail and died immediately.

In his journeys through the many stations of life, Hagher has found the Holy Grail, but there is no death in this Cup. In this Grail, there is only life upon life: the God kind of Life. From this life, flows grace, wisdom, sympathy, discipline, empathy, selflessness, passion, sacrifice, sensitivity, effectiveness and foresight.

Having drunk from the Holy Grail and lived (the Cup only kills the unregenerated), Hagher invites Nigeria and Africa’s power elites to the Banquet. The invitation is to drink from the Cup that “runneth over” and, hence, ignite a downward and sustainable overflow of leadership dividends.

As the way forward, Hagher prescribes that the New and Redemptive Leadership must move away from “the dark alleys” of poverty, disease, stagnation, ignorance, beggarliness, etc. He audaciously proposes a systematic “disbanding of the prison system.” P.326.

Many academics are arm-chair critics. They criticize from the comfort of ivory towers—some shout so they may negotiate their transfers from the towers to the gilded palaces of power. Still, some are dissatisfied with our dystopic system but, out of unenlightened self-interest, do nothing save to help state institutions to perpetuate electoral corruption!

That’s where Hagher is different. He sees leadership poverty in its grossness and takes remedial action by setting up the first leadership institute in Africa called “The Leadership Institute, Nigeria.

This is a great book that is revolutionary in its prognoses and prescriptions, but it also has its contradictions.

The author promised not to name names, a departure from Western narratives. But, along the way, Hagher broke this solemn authorial promise and named Mobutu Sese Seko, Sani Abacha, and Jean-Bedel Bokassa.

The book has its defects, including typos, but overall, it’s a great production with great insights and great prescriptions.

Because of its excellent reference value, I heartily recommend it to public officers, administrators, policymakers, scholars, researchers, and students. It’s a compelling book for everyone who is offended and/or ashamed by the problems associated with leadership poverty in Nigeria and Africa.

Imobo-Tswam is a retired newspaper editor. He can be reached at simonpita2008@gmail.com.

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