There is hardly any human being alive that does not desire to be remembered positively after he or she exits this world or exits a particular position of leadership. In other words, there is hardly anybody on earth that does not desire to leave a positive legacy. Legacies are retrospective. They are evaluated after we are gone, but we build them in the present moment, with every choice we make, every decision we make and the actions we execute. But if history is anything to go by, then, it is safe to infer that most people, particularly leaders are often careless about their legacies. “They live,” someone said, “as they would never die and die like they never lived.”
Adolf Hitler will always be remembered as the terrible German leader who plunged the world into chaos. We remember Charles Taylor as the man who facilitated the near-total destruction of his promising nation. Americans remember James Buchannan as one of the nation’s worst presidents as a result of his incompetence, and Italy, in more recent times, remember Silvio Berlusconi for little more than bribing public officials, using legislative power for personal benefit and driving the economy into murky waters. Nigeria has a retinue of such leaders. But not only so, but we have also been blessed with some, who have come in intermittently, and left indelible marks in the lives of the people.
Posterity will judge us based on the impressions we leave in the minds of those we lead and on the basis of our achievements. We remember how the revenues from groundnut pyramids were used to build infrastructures across the North, including the Ahmadu Bello University. We remember how revenues from cocoa were deployed to facilitate free, quality education across the Western region including the building of the first television house in sub-Saharan Africa, the first standard stadium and the first tallest building in Nigeria. We remember how proceeds from palm oil and coal were used to build landmark infrastructures in the East as well as the University of Nigeria Nsukka. And we remember the men who built them.
Our legacies will be reduced to negativities and nothingness except we have tangible accomplishments, with meaningful impacts on the lives of the people we lead. In every region of the world, there are heroes of history whose legacies still astonish us. We quote them and measure the substance of every subsequent leadership by them. But the truth is, these people were human like the rest of us. We have everything within the purview of time, chance and resources to leave the sort of legacies they did, and even more. History will judge us harshly if we allow ourselves to be caught pandering to the whims of a narrow and self-serving clique at the expense of the common good.
Leadership tenures are fleeting and they demand the continuous implementation of bold, well-thought-out decisions with a deliberate focus on the welfare of the people. We have little time to make a difference. We have to be legacy conscious. You can be the leader we have been looking and longing for. You can be that leader, one in twenty, who took courage in hand and made a significant change in the lives of the people. But we must carry out sincere appraisals of the character and impact of our leadership and make the necessary alignments if we are to be the change we desire. And it is never too late to start.
The Swedish businessman and inventor, Alfred Nobel, is best remembered as the founder of the Nobel Prizes, the most prestigious prize in the world. Alfred Nobel, however, would have been remembered differently. In 1867, the inventor invented the dynamite. When in 1888 Alfred’s brother, Ludvig, died while visiting Cannes, a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary. The obituary stated: Le Marchand de la mort est mort – the merchant of death is dead – and went on to say, “Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Alfred was disappointed with what he read and decided to alter his legacy. On 27th November, at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality. He died of a stroke on 10th December 1896 at Sanremo, Italy. But before he did, he changed his legacy.
As Leaders and aspiring leaders, it is important to note that leadership is all about causes and effect. Whatever you do will reverberate through time and eternity. That is why we must always be mindful of our legacy whilst in office. As a matter of fact, every religion attests to this. Some call it karma. The Bible puts it this way: “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap (Galatians 6:7).” Your legacy is important. Whatever we do, right or wrong, with the privilege of leadership given to us, our children will reap the results of it; if we perpetuate division and suffering in the lives of the people, our generations will not be spared from it. But if we do well, the people will bless us. Every leader will leave a legacy and will be remembered for good or bad. You can define what that legacy will be today.