Am sure we are quite familiar with the story by Spencer Johnson about four allegorical characters, Sniff, Scurry, Hem and Haw and there sojourn in search of Cheese.
While i won’t bore you with the full story line, i would do a summary of it and how it relates to the bane of leadership in Nigeria currently.
The four characters went in search of Cheese for nourishment and nutrition and found a station that had an abundant supply of Cheese. After a while, the cheese grew stale and ran out. Sniff and Scurry set out in search of fresh cheese, venturing into the complex maze they found themselves, daring the unknown until they found an incredible amount of fresh cheese, even better than the former.
What do we have for Hem and Haw, they were undecided about leaving their comfort zone and venturing out to seek fresher cheese. The repeated the circle, day in day out expecting to find their cheese supply replenished. And day to day, they grew weaker, disillusioned and paranoid about the the complex maze around them and fearful of the unknown of they dared to venture out.
Eventually, Haw ventured out after rationalizing with himself that Sniff and Scurry would definitely be better off where they are and at worse, if he ventured out, he would have shaken off the doldrums of lethargy that overwhelmed him and would get a new perspective of the maze. We all know where the story ended, he found the same supply of Cheese that Sniff and Scurry found and he was better off for it and realized he would have perished off waiting for the cheese at the former place. And he longed for his friend to join him and dared the unknown.
For Nigeria, the Cheese as long moved and gone and we still sit at the station expecting our cheese to be replenished. Other nations of the world, have moved to new grounds while we still forage in the wasteland of cheese long foregone.
How does this fit in? The men and women, our heroes past that fought for the independence of Nigeria, that charted the blueprint of Nigeria, from independence to the nearest future of now. The likes of late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhaji Sir Ahamadu Bello to mention a few had a desire and a vision of a Nigeria they believed in and worked assiduously towards realizing it by putting in place and setting up systems that lead to the growth and development of all the regions, (North, East and West) simultaneously and ensuring Nigeria was a doyen of Nations. These Nigerian gentlemen, had there ages on the average of 45 when they led the country to glory, both economically and politically.
The Gentlemen in uniform that came into the scene through coups and counter-coups were on the average 35 years in age. These men too had the a vision in mind to make Nigeria a glorious country and a prosperous nation on earth. The men that led the first coup, the 5 Majors had a strong solid resolve and objective for spearheading the coup. Gen Yakubu Gowon got married as a Military Head of State and Chukwuemeka Ojukwu was a young military officer when he led the secessionist attempt of Biafra.
Am sure we know much of this story and history of the rise and fall of all these men and many much more. But what is the crux of the story.
Leadership in Nigeria has taken a nose-dive from the loftiness it once was to a thing of sham. Growing up, i learnt i was the leader of tomorrow, and i looked forward in earnest to that day. Am in my mid thirty, but am not anywhere close to been the leader of my country i was told, about 30 years ago. And to some, its 40 years ago. What do we have, we have a crop of “pseudo-leaders” with “Hem” mentality who have refused to let go and cling desperately to power like there is no tomorrow and offer a hollow leadership to there teaming followers, who like a ship without rudder, is drifting mindlessly on the high seas.
We have developed the “they-them” mentality of those leaders should do something, putting ourselves in a position of hapless follower, who is nothing less than a programmed robot. Its sad to note that, we have failed consistently to see ourselves as the problem and not the so called “leaders”. We have failed to leave the cheese station just like Sniff and Scurry, who went in search of better opportunities for themselves. This is what first world nations did that took them and place them at the height they are now. And its what makes the United States cringe at the thought of Donald Trump been the number 1 citizen of their country!
The cheese of leadership of our country has gone stale, no i take that back, is rotten beyond what even scavengers would eat and we have failed to realize, just like i pointed out earlier, we are responsible for it. Each and everyone of us is a leader, not a potential leader. But i dare to ask this question, what example of good leadership are we laying for ourselves? Are we good at pointing fingers like Hem, who keeps blaming everything else for his missing cheese but fails to realize, that he’s to blame if he does not get cheese. Haw shook off the doldrums of pointing fingers and took responsibility for his actions and went in search of Cheese, fresh cheese just like Sniff and Scurry and he found it, in abundance.
“What Would You Do If You Weren’t Afraid?
That was the question Haw asked himself when he ventured out into the maze… The question we need to ask ourselves, what would we do, if we are not afraid to take a stand for sound leadership, starting from our homes and personal lives. Leadership is not up there or them. Its you and i and we need to wake up to that reality and be sensitive to the changes going on. The complex maze is the political system we have found ourselves and the dearth of leadership we have. And just as the other nations of the world negotiated out of the maze like Sniff and Scurry and made it to role model status they are right now, we need to shake off the doldrums like Haw and negotiate our way to a truly role model position of enviable leadership, first in our lives as individuals and collectively as a nation.
A Hem mindset, our leadership goes down the drain, a Haw mindset, our leadership improves. Who moved our cheese is not the question we should be asking, rather what would we do if we were not afraid to take up the mantle of self leadership.
Footnote: “Hem” and “Haw.” (The names of the little people are taken from the phrase “hem and haw,” a term for indecisiveness.)