By: Ademola Orunbon
Accountability, leadership and transformation are inexorably linked. Accountability is an acute and overt manifestation of leadership. Leadership involves accepting and acting on the accountabilities of the position. Transformation will not occur without leadership. One of the first aspects of a business that needs to be transformed is accountability. Among the strongest evidence that a business is transforming is that the executives, managers and employees have a new relationship to accountability, and this new relationship to accountability is manifested in the performance of the business, relationships with stakeholders, and service provided to customers.
The term ‘accountability’ means “The quality of being accountable; liability to give an account of, and answer for, discharge of duties or conduct; responsible, amenableness.” I want to highlight the quality of being accountable since it provides a valuable insight into how leadership accountability is developed. Development begins with commitments which shape the person’s being. That is, if one wants to develop leadership accountability one begins with a strong commitment to being accountable. This commitment in turn shapes the context for the leader so that opportunities to develop occur clearly and with opportunities for action. Developing leadership accountability happens when the person acts on commitments to be accountable.
Ever since human beings started gathering together in couples, families, tribes, clans or nations, there have been leaders – someone whom everybody looked to for direction in terms of what the group should do. Over the centuries, there have been good and bad leaders. Good leaders have allowed themselves to be held accountable for their actions as they have led their people to a more secure, better reality, and bad leaders have refused to be held accountable as they have led themselves to a more secure and better reality at the expense of the people they led. It’s that simple.
Right now, the world is experiencing the biggest leadership crisis it has ever had. That doesn’t mean today’s leaders are necessarily worse than their predecessors but, because the world is now more connected than it ever was, the impact they have beyond their own borders is significant. For example, previous leaders never had access to the tools that today’s leaders have which give them the capacity to influence views and events around the globe. Such tools give today’s leaders a bigger voice than they possibly deserve. Imagine if Donald Trump never had Twitter …
It is hugely ironic that, as the world has evolved to a collective consciousness that has set the stage for collaborative leadership and leadership with a higher purpose, some of the leaders that currently dominate the headlines – Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un and our own Muhammadu Buhari – display none of the characteristics or qualities of this new generation of leader that the world so desperately needs right now. These leaders share one thing in common – regardless of what they say, they are in it for themselves first and they avoid holding themselves accountable to the people they are supposed to be leading. Some of them may say they do, but they don’t. They do what suits them and not what’s in the interests of the greater good of their people.
Indeed, Nigerians can no longer hold their emotions, as President Muhammadu Buhari increased the fuel price and electricity tariff to N162 and N66 respectively within a week. For the fact that Nigerians are now coming out of the lockdown, they really need stimulus, not an impetuous disregard for the challenges they face. In fact, many Nigerians have not earned an income for months, due to no fault of theirs. This increase is ill-timed and ill-advised; it is also a travesty, as it would have a knock-on effect on millions of poor Nigerians who will struggle to meet the increased costs of transport and basic goods. The development will eventually lead to increase in prices of goods produced by manufacturers, which will automatically result in an increase in inflation.
Now, what happens when the person at the head of a country, community or company doesn’t hold him or herself accountable? It will take a little while, but soon those they are leading also start refusing to be held accountable for their actions. Now that presents a problem. You can’t expect accountability from anyone else until you are prepared to hold yourself accountable for your own actions, inactions, deeds and statements. This applies to our work and our family life. If you are not prepared to be accountable at work, you are not going to be able to hold your staff accountable.
At least, if you are not prepared to be accountable for your actions in your home, you are not going to be able to hold your children accountable for their actions. You may be able to pull rank simply because of your position, but you have no moral authority and will get grudging respect to your face while you are despised behind your back. And your children will grow up with damaged values. Leaders, managers and parents have failed to understand this most basic principle of accountability. Accountability all starts with you. You can’t think it should apply to others but not you – that you are somehow exempt from being held accountable. Sure, it’s frustrating to see political leaders get away with theft, but they do so because the people they lead don’t hold them accountable.
Despite PMB’s electoral promise to reduce petrol pump price from N87 per litre that he met it in 2015, Buhari had increased the price thrice within three months in recent times, now to N162, and with this increment, PMB has further impoverished Nigerians instead of him to ameliorate the suffering after a long time of lockdown for the fear of Covid-19. Nigerians should be reminded that on April 14, 2015, President Buhari’s ally and former Minister of Petroleum and Energy, late Prof. Tam David-West, told Nigerians that PMB (who was then President-elect), will reduce the fuel pump price from N87 to N40 per litre. In fact, Buhari did not debunk this statement made by his friend and major supporter then. Look at all these promises made then, whose to be held accountable to this misleading statement?
More Nigerians from all walks of life have continued to condemn the recent increase in the pump price of fuel, the angry consumers have argued that the increase came at a time that was least expected, while slamming the Federal Government, they described the move as insensitive and anti-people. Their take was that by increasing the price of fuel at a time Nigerians are grappling with the economic and social reality of the Covid-19 pandemic, it was nothing but to further traumatize them. What a country? Nigeria. It is glaring that the masses are suffering, and from all predictions from experts, deeper poverty looms. With all these happening, the government has only succeeded in impoverishing the common man on the street.
Before Covid-19, a litre of petrol was sold at N145; now the price has risen to N162. Already taking severe beating from the economic fallout of the pandemic, many Nigerians have been dealt with an additional blow by the petrol pump price hike. Indeed, the chickens have come home to roost. Our country has relied heavily on imported petroleum products for many years, despite being Africa’s biggest oil producer and exporter. Successive governments have failed miserably to fix our refineries, with fuel imports gobbling up billions of taxpayers’ money. It’s bad enough that the government removed petrol subsidy at this time without putting in place palliative measures to cushion the impact and effect of price hike on long-suffering Nigerians.
Imagine, in space of three months, the pump price of fuel has been increased three time, those people that protested when the fuel was increased to N97 by Goodluck Ebele Jonathan-led administration which was reversed to N87 per litre then are no where to be found now, let me ask a question! Where are our activists, our protesters, those Unions and those mobilizers that converged at the Gani Fawahinmi park in Ojota then? In fact, I guessed that, Nigerians are too dazed to say a word. It’s almost as if they have been hypnotized, or what do we called the sudden change of the heart of our so-called nationalists and civil liberty organizations and activists.
Circumstances currently playing themselves out in Nigeria right now will provide a case study of how not to do things. It will probably take a lot more time than most good, upstanding citizens would like it to take, but we need to hold our leaders accountable when they refuse to do so of their own accord. Things would be much different then. Instead of allowing the behaviour of current bad leaders in the world or in our country to cause you to become discouraged, rather allow them to inspire you to not be anything like them. Use their examples as an example of how NOT to do things and make sure you bring about change for the better for all around you.
I urge you not to sink to the levels of small minded leaders in it for themselves but to join me in demonstrating greatness as you lead others.
Orunbon, a journalist and public affairs analyst, writes from Federal Housing Estate, Olomore, Abeokuta, Ogun State.