Home Columns The problems of leadership in Nigeria: Possible solutions and recommendations

The problems of leadership in Nigeria: Possible solutions and recommendations

by Adedimeji Quayyim Abdul-Hafeez - 20 February 2021 1743 Views

The problems of leadership in Nigeria: Possible solutions and recommendations

When comments are being proffered from an average Nigerian on the state of affairs in Nigeria, the most likely comment to be heard is how the country is up in flames and how the country is about to explode. Sad, isn’t it? It is extremely disheartening that we only describe our country as an entity riddled in agonies and problems - how we direct all our blames to the maladministration of our governments and how we attribute all our hinges on the inefficiency of our leaders. What makes it sadder is that solutions are not being proffered to solve these problems we complain of. This hypothesis is not to deny the fact that our leadership is not bedeviled with problems; far from it! It is distasteful that we propose and formulate problems without prescribing solutions that could cast away these challenges into the realm of extinction.

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Leadership in Nigeria has been continually faced with challenges affecting the efficient run of administration in the governance of our dear country, Nigeria. It has led to the situation where there is distrust between the leaders and citizens they govern. It is normal that a country is faced with problems and challenges. Of course, no country is infallible. It would however be shameful if while encountered with problems, steps are not effectively taken to totally ameliorate, decelerate and extinguish the problems. It would also not be befitting that in the course of suggesting the possible solutions and challenges facing the pivotal administration of a country, the problems affecting the leadership in Nigeria are not examined. In the course of presenting this presentation, the problems affecting the administration of the entity of leadership in Nigeria are examined and solutions would be proffered to tackle these problems.

Admittedly, Nigeria is faced with quite a plethora of problems. Leadership may play a pivotal role in the descent into failure and collapse. Corruption, mismanagement of material and human resources, the crushing effect of economic depression which leads to the manifestation of high cost of living, adoption of exclusive (ethnic) policies to assure self-succession tendencies, incompetent leaders, dirty politics being played to the detriment of the masses, poor grassroots leadership amongst others have been problems facing the leadership in Nigeria.

This excerpt from an article by Haruna M. Wando published on the 31st of August, 2017 from The Nation Newspaper is apt in dealing conspicuously on the problems bedeviling leadership in Nigeria:

In the absence of patriotic and charismatic leadership, corrupted elites model the state to serve their narrow interests, instead of the interests of the citizens.  As a consequence, the state itself is unable to fulfill its purpose or perform those functions of protection, delivery of basic social services and provisions of institutions to respond to legitimate demands and needs. The failure to perform these functions creates three major gaps in most African societies, notably ‘security gap’, ‘capacity gap’ and ‘legitimacy gap’.


Security gaps have been most evident in Africa, because of the inability of African states to preserve effective sovereignty and order within their territories, situations that other states, non-state actors, and simple criminals seek to fill with violent, hostile, or illicit acts.  Capacity gap exists when a state fails to play a central role in meeting the needs of its citizens. In the same manner, legitimacy gap provides an opening for political upheavals and crises. This gap exists when the state fails to maintain institutions that protect basic rights and freedoms, hold individuals accountable for their actions, enforce laws and ensure broad- based citizen participation in the political process.


Nigeria provides a perfect case study on problems of leadership because only few countries in Africa have experienced greater trauma in the attempts to fill the gaps examined above. Years of military rule and the attendant problems of corruption and accountability had widened these gaps.  In his book Power and Leadership in Nigeria, Chuba Okadigbo (1987: 134) examined the role of leadership in Nigeria and concluded that: “The lack of national cohesion, indeed of any bold attempt by raising institutions or leaders to really unite Nigeria, is indicative of leadership failure in Nigeria, i.e., of failure of personal leadership as well as institutional or structural failure”.



Professor Chinua Achebe came to the same conclusion in his book  The Trouble with Nigeria, when he simply identified the problem of Nigeria as failure of leadership.  The Nigerian problem, he concluded, “is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership”. Still on the problems of leadership in Nigeria, Mahmud Tukur (1999: 393) argued that generally most governments in Nigeria have failed to take “an activist conception of the purposes and functions of the state…the basic inclination (is) to regard the sphere of social morality as lying outside the purview of public concern”.



Examining these problems leads us to the realization of the fact that the crux rests on Nigerians to proffer solutions affecting leadership in Nigeria and applying them to further improve the quality of leadership in the country. Good leadership with integrity, dedication, honesty, focus and commitment could be achieved via these means:


 Youth Participation

The participation of the youth in the governance and leadership of the citizenry would go a long way in boosting the quality of leadership in the country. The infusion of youth who can critically think and adapt policies to various sectors would ensure that governance is administered on a very high scale. Also, the influx of youth in governance would strengthen the pursuit of good leadership in the country.


 Strengthening the Law Enforcement Agencies


In every sector, we are bound to find leaders who tend to exploit the sectors for the actualization of their selfish agendas and objectives. These leaders, when caught, need to be dealt with in the full ambits of justice. It is suggested that law enforcement agencies are strengthened to independently, without interference, ensure that these leaders are brought to book to serve as a deterring mechanism in the actualization of good leadership in the country.


 Upholding Press Freedom and Freedom of Expression


Journalists, as watchdogs of the activities of government officials, shouldn’t be victimized while holding the government accountable in the performance of their duties. Their rights to freedom of expression of citizens and journalists should be upheld and not infringed upon to further strengthen their voices in the quest of demanding that the populace is properly governed. This would keep the leaders on their toes as they sense that there are journalists who would question their shady activities if the people are wrongly administered or misgoverned.


 Strict Adherence to the Provisions of the Law


Abiding by the laws enshrined in the constitution and other statutes would further boost good leadership and governance as it would ensure that leaders don’t commit anti-legal activities in the course of governing the people. The laws are enacted for the proper administration and governance of the people and it would be against these objectives if the law is deviated from and being followed. Following the laid down procedures would ensure that the due process is followed in the actualization of good governance to further enhance and boost good leadership.


 People-Oriented Policies


Policies should be formulated to encompass equity, justice and fairness. If policies are tailored to meet the needs of the citizens, it would ensure that these policies, when implemented, are to better the lives of the individuals being governed. It would bring a cordial relationship between the rulers and the governed as there would be harmonious cooperation sowed in the minds of the citizens casting doubts and distrust they may have against their leaders. This would ensure the involvement of the people in the development of the economy, boosting the quality of leadership in the country.

 Leaders Should Be People-Oriented

Apart from formulating policies to advance the betterment of citizens, the leaders should be honest and transparent in their dealings with the people. They should bear the mantle of leadership and governance with absolute truth and honesty. It is important that leaders are conscious of the fact that they are to lead and not to rule. Leaders should also desist from indulging in acts and activities which could smear their personalities and lead to hardships being faced by the people.

 Educating the Citizenry on Choices of Leaders


One of the problems affecting leadership in Nigeria is the choices of leaders elected by the citizenry. The electorates should be educated in the choice of the leaders they elect before elections to ensure that “round pegs are not placed in square holes”. Sensitization of the citizens to actively participate in electing leaders with good traits and qualities would ensure that leaders who have the best interests of people at heart are elected to bear the mantle of leadership. 


The attainment of effective and efficient governance and development can be only achieved through good leadership. The relevance of good leadership cannot be overestimated in the course of administering the affairs of the people. It is contended that if these solutions are adapted and applied to our political landscape, changes would be seen in the achievement of good leadership subsequently uplifting the bane of democracy in the country.

Adedimeji Quayyim Abdul-Hafeez is a creative, multipotentialite, budding journalist and legal practitioner. He receives mails at and tweets @quayyimbakr

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