1. It is a great honor for me to be invited to speak at this esteemed gathering of some of the most  enlightened minds in our country. Although my training is in medicine, I assure you that I feel very comfortable to be in the midst of so many lawyers. After all, for the past 30-years, the first person I see every morning is a lawyer. And like most lawyers, she has further complicated my life by giving birth to: mother lawyer.
  2.  And, perhaps more than most other politicians, I have spent. Longer hours briefing lawyers, and being briefed by lawyers that I think by now I should qualify for, at least a diploma in law. Thank God I have received my training from some of the very best teachers. The likes of Chief Kanu   Agabi (SAN); J.B. Daudu (SAN); the immediate-past NBA President, Paul Usoro (SAN), and ahost of other great gentlemen of this noble profession.
  3. Permit me to congratulate the new leadership of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), and all the members who have elected them. Yet, again lawyers are leading the way, as you have done allthrough our history, in making the case for generational shift in leadership. I congratul ate my brother, ()lu Akpata, whom I had the opportunity to work closely with on the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable (NASSBER), that led to the many economic reform bills that we were able to pass in the 8‘“ Senate. I wish you and your team a very successful tenure
  4. The theme of this conference, “Taking the Lead: A Conversation on Leadership and Followership,” could not have come at a better time. The turbulent experience of the last couple of years have forced everyone into asking the kind of questions that we have rarely asked in the past. How (lid we get here? Things are happening in this country today that we would not, have imagined possible only a decade ago. How did we get here. 5.
  5. Conversations about the roles of leaders and followers, especially in a democracy have always in resulted in some kind of ‘chicken—and—egg’ puzzle. Like all such puzzles, we may never find an answer that satisfies everyone. It seems to me. however that the underlying assumption of our topic this morning is that in our quest to create a new social order in our country, both the leaders and followers have important roles to play. In fact, if we understand that ‘leadership’ has more to do with what we do, the responsibility that we are willing to undertake, rather than just the positions that. we occupy, then it is possible for us to speak of the leadership role of followers. Therefore, everything ultimately comes down to leadership.
  6. 6.In his famous book, The Trouble with Nigeria, the late Chinua Achebe argued that the trouble With Nigeria is “simply and squarely a failure of leadership.” He said: “There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian land or climate or water or air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is  the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to the responsibility, to the challenge of personal example which are the hallmarks of true leadership.” He went. on to argue that, in fact, “Nigerians are what they are only because their leaders are not what they should be.”
  7. I align myself totally with this argument. If we look across the world at countries that have made remarkable progress within a short. time, one thing that they all have in common is the emergence of a transformational leader or a group of visionary leadership elite who are able to rise above their nation’s social and political morass and set their country on a definitive path of progress and  prosperity. United Arab Emirates under the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan, or Malaysia under Dr.  Mallathir Muhammad, Singapore under Lee Kwan Yew. ()n the African continent, we have Paul Kagame, who have lead a country out of the trauma of the worst, genocide ever recorded in recent  history into one of the most favoured investments destination in Africa. Nearer home still, we have Gh2u1a; a country whose citizens flocked into Nigeria when their economy collapsed in the 80’s. Within a few (le ‘ades, Ghanaian leaders have managed to write another story for themselves. Everything destined for West. Africa that is good now goes to Ghana.
  8. I have been in public service for about two decades. I know that in a political environment that. is  so overwhelmingly dominated by patronage and vested interests, it is always very difficult to bring  about real and transformational change. But what would often make the difference is the vision that the leaders bring into their job; their vision of development and how they want their country and her citizens to be perceived by the rest of the world; their competence and their capability built on tested experience; the courage they have to ask difficult questions and to take tough decisions; the force of their personal integrity that would make the people believe 2md follow them through difficult changes.
  9. Many years ago, when the challenge of basic education for everyone was how to achieve the MDG  goal of getting every child into school, it was clear to me that the bigger challenge that we faced was that of quality of learning outcomes at this most important foundational level of our education. When as Governor of Kwara State, I launched the ‘Every Child Count’ in 2007. the main goal was to ensure that every child in our state had access to education and not just schooling; that the educational chances of a child must not depend on the economic condition of the parents. Now, this is exactly what the Goal 4 of the SDG launched in five years after is aiming for.
  10. Similarly, when the white farmers were being chased away from Zimbabwe, we saw an opportunity in that to bring commercial agriculture into Nigeria that is based on global best practices. We were criticized by those who still felt that small-holder farming was still the best way to go. Today, everyone has come round to agree that commercial agriculture is the way to go if we must position agriculture as real business. I believe that the on-going conversation about open-grazing and ranching should ultimately lead to an outcome that will bring greater economic benefits for the country ;md the farmers under a more sustainable system.
  11. Earlier, I mentioned the National Assembly Business Environment Roundtable. The objective was to identify some of the legal constraints to investments and ease of doing business in Nigeria. By eliminating those constraints, we would have at least dealt with the legal aspect of the challenges. Now, what. is left is for the executive to back it up with the right kind of policies that will give confidence to potential investors and existing businesses. When we look at the development of the
  12.  MSMEs in Nigeria, we tend to focus largely on access to credit. While credit is important, the business environment and the general conditions under which the businesses operate are even more important. This was what we saw and tried to change within our spheres of authority at the National Assembly.
  13. 12. In continuing my discussion on leadership, I will like to point out that while leadership is critical to the development of any society, in a democracy leaders do not recruit themselves. It is the people that determine the kind of leaders they want which would ultimately create the kind of society they  get. This is where the responsibility lies for followership. And perhaps, this is why some say that a people only get the kind of leaders that. they deserve Of course, I am aware that this is sometimes meant in the normative sense. Where the people ‘ e too poor, too uneducated, too divided, it would be difficult for them to think beyond immediate gratification or make informed political choices based on their best interest, rather thtm prejudice or sentiments.
  14. 13. At the beginning of this conversation, I asked a pertinent question, which I believe most Nigerians are also asking, even as we speak. How (lid we get here? Like all complex and heterogeneous country, we have always had issues around our differences, but this country is divided today than it has ever been in sixty-two years. How did this happen? In the last. couple of years, we have lost more innocent lives thzm even countries that. are in war. How did it happen that the life. ofa Nigerian citizen now seems almost worthless? How (lid it happen that companies and businesses that have been in this country for decades are now packing up shops and moving to other places whose economies are not even as big as that of Lagos alone? How (lid it. happen that the best and brightest of our youths prefer to be second class citizens in other people’s countries rather than stay here where their skills are most needed? These, and many more are the questions.
  15. 14. If, as I have argued, all these happened largely due to failure of leadership; it should therefore follow that the we can only get out of the sad situation that we have found ourselves today if we are able to get. leadership right. And if we must get leadership right, we have to start with the recruitment  process. The democratic system of government is regarded as the best form of government, not because it always leads to desired outcomes, but because even when people have made a mistake in electing the wrong people into leadership position, they only have to live with their mistake for  a definite period of time, after which they Would have the opportunity to make corrections. As that opportunity beckons at us now, we must ask ourselves, what kind of leadership is suitable for the critical situation that we have found ourselves? What kind of Governors do we need? What kind of President do we need? The s;une applies for all other positions of authority. To start. with, we cannot insist on having the best to lead in our private spaces, while we continue to lower the bar in  our politics.
  16.  As we have all learnt, perhaps, in a most difficult way, the choices that we make in leadership  recruitment do have serious implications; and as our recent experience has shown, it could literally be a matter of life and death. And this brings me to, perhaps, the most important issue in our politics at the moment. It is unfortunate that despite the desperate situation that we have found ourselves, the issue of‘zoning’ has dominated our political conversations more than the real issues that matter most to the ordinary Nigerians or that could actually save our country. However, this is also a reflection of where we are in our political evolution.
  17. As a political party, who was coming to power on the basis of the political crisis occasioned by the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) had instituted  ‘zoning’ as part of the principle for giving every part of the country a sense of belonging and for managing our overall diversity in a deliberate manner. This principle has worked well for our party and for our country over the past. two decades or so. However, who would have envisage d that time will come when Nigeria would find itselfin this dire strait, yet again confronted with these kind of existential challenges. The argument of some of us therefore, is that more than any other time
  18. in our political history, this is the time that calls for us to ensure that only the very best among us are able to emerge to lead us out of the current desperate situation that we have found ourselves, regardless of what part. of the country they come from, what language they speak or how they  understand and worship God. This is an extraordinary situation that calls for extraordinary
  19.     IIICRSIII‘CS.
  20. Distinguished ladies and gentlemen of the noble profession. You would agree with me that over the years, lawyers have remained frontline actors in our politics. Apart from your various involvements in ensuring that the rules of law are followed and that justice is served, I believe that as an association of professionals you are all critical stakeholders. You therefore have a lead role to
  21. play in our quest to improve the quality of leadership for our country. Bad leadership has become a very expensive luxury that Nigeria can no longer afford. Non-partisanship is not the same as being apolitical. Professional bodies like yours have led the process of great transformation in other countries. You cannot do the same. Where bodies like yours have decided to stay aloof and chosen to be indifference, it has been to the collective peril of everyone. Whether as followers or as leaders,  you all have a role to play and I am confident that you will play your part.
  22. Thank you very much for your audience. May God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
  23. Dr. Abubakar Bukola Saraki, CON
  24. Former President, Federal Republic of Nigeria.

Abubakar Bukola Saraki MBBS CON (pronunciationⓘ; born on 19 December 1962) is a Nigerian politician who served as the 13th president of the Nigerian Senate from 2015 to 2019.[1][2] He previously served as the governor of Kwara State from 2003 to 2011; and was elected to the Senate in 2011, under the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), representing the Kwara Central Senatorial District, and then re-elected in the 2015 general elections