Understanding the clamour for technocrats as leaders in Nigeria

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Cooking is an art that requires balanced knowledge and mixture of several ingredients for a delicious meal. If the house-owner desires more pepper in his meal, does he replace the cook with an expert in pepper production? The pepper producer may increase the pepper, but without proper knowledge of preparing meat, maggi, stock-fish and other ingredients like a cook, he will present a well-peppered poison of a meal. Also, the quest for material-science specialists for managing a multifaceted society may lead to a misbalanced/disorganized society. Hence, the quest for technocrats as leaders in a multi-faceted society like Nigeria may not birth the new Nigeria.


After seeing images of built-up cities like Dubai and California, some Nigerians call for technocrats take over Nigeria’s leadership. They suppose that by taking over leadership, technocrats will easily build up Nigerian towns and cities just like Dubai. Also, observing indiscipline and uncooperative attitudes among Nigerians make them call for strong or military-minded leaders to discipline Nigerians. Thus, Nigerians have been switching between various extreme professions depending on the social problem that becomes temporarily significant. Yet, Dubai and California were not already-made towns from heaven, but products of people who are transformed to collaborate, build, improve and constantly maintain the cities.


A technocrat is “an expert in science, engineering, etc. who has a lot of power in politics and/or industry.”[1] As in other sciences, technocrats are trained and employed to understand the structure and behaviour of the physical world. This is to enable them utilize these knowledge to manipulate physical objects in creating and distributing useful commodities. Technocrats’ interests in politics often rise from a noble desire to impact the society from their expertise. Hence, some Nigerians desire a takeover of Nigeria’s political-leadership by active technocrats, instead of career politicians.


“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and motivates others to follow the way.”[2] Thus, socio-political leadership will imply understanding the way a society should go, going and motivating others to follow. Knowing the way for a society’s destiny implies proper knowledge of the society, its peoples, cultures, history, environment and potentials. Going the way requires practical knowledge and strong-will to transform these features towards the society’s destiny. And motivating others to follow the way requires understanding and convincing the people to trust and follow towards good destiny.


Knowing the way

Nigeria is a country of several kingdoms and communities colonially joined under a militarized government[3] for economic exploitation.[4] The militarized government confiscates and auctions[5][6][7] any of the various peoples’ mineral resources as desired by the former colonialists. To appear democratic, the militarized government created states, local-government and ministries for sharing few imported products as infrastructure, salaries and charity handouts. Due to the totalitarian seizure and export of mineral resources, Nigerians became unproductive, dependent and extremely poor. A way to Nigeria’s destiny would be the retrieval of these resources for Nigerians to learn and produce what they need.


Although personal studies help, but being a technocrat does not automatically bestow the knowledge of the people, their culture, environment and potentials. Nor does being technocrat grant people the strong-will to place the society’s development above their personal desires. Also, being technocrats of science/technology/business does not automatically grant the gift of harmonizing and convincing people to work together. The will/gift of harmonizing people to work together flows from the individuals’ contact with the society, personal conviction and commitment. Some leadership skills are taught in political science, but the strong will for common good comes from personal conviction.


Some technocrats may or may not have the gift of understanding and harmonizing people to work together for common good. Though it may be an added advantage, technocracy is not a qualification for good leadership. Leadership involves the ability to understand, develop and harmonize different people’s capacities in the society (technocrats and non-technocrats) for common good. It is not necessarily for people who build structures that other people will not value or maintain. But people who will harmonize the people to build and maintain the type of society they want for themselves.


Leaders are like building contractors directing experts from various fields (plumbing, mason, painting, carpentry, etc.) to build a beautiful house. He may not be an expert in any of the fields, but he needs the gift and will to harmonize the experts for the desired outcome. He who knows how to get something done will always have job, but he who knows why should always direct him.

[1] Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, International Student’s Edition (8th). S. V. Technocrats

[2] Cf. Prof Otito Agulanna, Introduction to philosophy: a lecture on bioethics, University of Ibadan, Ibadan. August 2016

[3] S. O. Oyedele, “Federalism in Nigeria” in Issues contemporary political economy of Nigeria (edited) Hassan A. Saliu, op.cit, p.57

[4] Walter Rodney, How Europe underdeveloped Africa, 2009 edition (Abuja: Panaf publishing Inc. 2009), p.273

[5] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 2 “… all lands in which minerals have been found in Nigeria and any area covered by its territorial waters or constituency and the Exclusive Economic Zone shall, from the commencement of this Act be acquired by the Government of the Federation…”  “No person shall search for or exploit mineral resources in Nigeria or divert or impound any water for the purpose of mining except as provided in this Act.”  “The property in mineral resources shall pass from the Government to the person by whom the mineral resources are lawfully won, upon their recovery in accordance with this Act.”

[6] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 2, paragraph 1

[7] Nigerian minerals and mining act 2007 act no. 20, chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1, paragraph 3