Does Nigeria need iron-handed leaders to be revived?

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iron-handed leaders

After shooting Mance Rayder’s heart as mercy-killing, instead of letting him undergo the slow agony of being burnt alive, Jon Snow was advised by Stannis Baratheon: “Show too much kindness, people won’t fear you. And if they don’t fear you, they won’t follow you.”[1] This thought-pattern has been adopted as justification for cruelty, violence and fear-instilling actions in people called iron-handed leaders. Some euphemists choose to refer to them as BENEVOLENT TYRANTS who are able to do ‘what is necessary’ for peace and progress. Recently, some Nigerian political analysts suggest that Nigeria requires more iron-handed leaders to exit corruption and experience progress.


Human beings love themselves and possess instincts of self-preservation for struggling and surviving in different circumstances. They struggle with other living and non-living beings to obtain and secure resources for survival and self-actualization. Despite the survival instincts, they are rational and social animals who continually seek happiness[2] in the human society. Thus, instead of continuously fighting, they relate with others to develop their creative potentials for happiness in the society. In this social relationship, they choose leader(s) who directs the modes of collaboration within the society for harmonious creativity and progress.[3]


These leaders are given the capacity to apply necessary force in the administration for peace and progress. This capacity to apply force becomes necessary for protection against invaders and control of necessary activities in the society. It is also necessary to contain the excesses of some misguided elements within the society. If the leaders are not strong enough, they may not protect the society from invaders, nor control the stubborn citizens. Thus, societies are purported to need iron-handed leaders for safety, peace and progress.


Iron handed leaders are seen as those who apply enough violence and force in suppressing, scaring and controlling ‘stubborn’ citizens. This application of force is believed to elicit obedience and discipline from everybody, by threat of pain or death. Such leaders in history controlled their states by torturing, maiming, jailing, assassinating or executing ‘stubborn’ subjects or their relatives. These actions were considered adequate to instil fear and obedience in citizens, thereby bringing  peace to the society.


Given the level of indiscipline, corruption, agitations and crimes in Nigeria, it may be easier to revive Nigeria through iron-handed leaders:

  • Their methods instil discipline in the citizens: “spare the rod and spoil the child”
  • The wicked and dangerous people, and all criminals will be subdued
  • All the agitators and will be pounded into obedience by force
  • The remaining people will fear them and submit to them
  • Then there will be no more agitations and crimes, only peace


On the contrary, the use of violence by iron-handed leaders have not yielded long-lasting peace and progress in history.

  • The subdued people will eventually revolt, unless they are completely annihilated
  • The annihilation of a people sets a precedence that would be repaid to the aggressor by other people, foreigners, other citizens or even close relatives
  • The material and emotional cost of sustaining violence in a society is high
  • The use of excess violence in administration crushes initiative which flows from calmed minds
  • The emotion of fear replaces the emotion of love and true commitment to the society
  • The citizens nurse anger in their hearts, waiting for opportunity to revenge


Nobody is born wicked, people pursue happiness through different means according to their personal thoughts or social influences. If they are properly influenced, educated and convinced to seek happiness through social virtues, they will willingly choose them. If citizens are treated justly, and directed towards self-actualization, they will freely collaborate for peace and progress in the society. The main role of a leader is not to impose his will on people by force, but to enable people find their life’s purpose in the society. Though some force is necessary to protect oneself, contain and redirect already misguided people without unnecessary casualties, societies grow from convictions and not from cruelty.


Colonialists formed Nigeria by yoking hundreds of ethnic groups and kingdoms together, without their negotiation or consent. “Nigerians have never agreed nor been given the chance to agree what Nigeria is”[4], thus, they continue fighting one another. The different ethnic communities have never agreed on how to collaborate in using what they have to solve their problem of sustenance and security.[5] Presently, there is no conviction among Nigerians on the purpose or direction of their citizenship in Nigeria. In the absence of an originally agreed purpose, ideal and order, each person struggles to survive by any means, even at the expense of other people.


At the moment, Nigeria does not need iron-handed leaders, who will  impose silence about perceived injustices. Instead, Nigeria needs emotionally intelligent strategists, who are able to unite Nigerians for a common purpose of collaborative productivity. Nigeria does not need a Stannis Baratheon who hangs, burns or tortures those who will not support his kingly ambition or subjective idea of progress. Instead, Nigeria needs a Mance Rayder, who was able to negotiate and unite hundreds of warring tribes against a common enemy. In the case of Nigeria, the common enemy is unproductivity.


[1] Game of Thrones, Season 5, episode 2

[2] Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book 1, Chapter 1, (1094a1-19)

[3] Chukwunwike Enekwechi, “Monetization of Nigerian politics” In Restartnaija

[4] cf. Richard Dowden, Africa altered states, ordinary miracles. (New York: Public Affairs, 2010). p.445

[5] Cf. Ogban Ogban-Iyan, Re-inventing Nigeria through Pre-colonial traditions, in Issues in contemporary political economy of Nigeria, (ed.) Hassan A. Saliu. (Ilorin, Sally & Associates, 1999). P77