The structure of modern governments substantially derives from Biblical roots – “For the Lord is our Judge, the Lord is our Lawgiver. The Lord is our King; He will save us (Isaiah 33: 22). The three common arms of government are the Judiciary, the Legislature and the Executive. God combines all three and presides over all. He is the total and ultimate ruler of the entire universe and beyond. This must be the reason the Psalmist speaks thus of God; “for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). Apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans states unequivocally that “…there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1). God raises men and women (political leaders) for the governance of the nations, to provide leadership for the people.
According to Merriam Webster Dictionary, politics can be defined as “the art or science of government; the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy; the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government.” The process through which people rise to power and govern is generally called politics. The same source defines desperation as “loss of hope and surrender to despair; a state of hopelessness leading to rashness.” The point of desperation in politics could, therefore, be when political position seekers lose hope in the process, and then go all out to clinch power by hook or crook, resulting in the politics of desperation. These are characteristics of the contemporary Nigerian political context.
The politics of desperation manifests in different forms, such as campaign of calumny, hate speeches, snatching and burning of ballot boxes, use of political thugs, bribery of electoral officers and security personnel, electoral violence resulting in killings and maiming of innocent electorate or electoral officers and security personnel, assassination of political opponents, sponsored judicial miscarriage of justice, etc. It should also be mentioned that such licentious political dispositions are not limited to the key political arena, but can as well be seen in all other walks of life where people inordinately seek positions of authority e.g. in universities, when vacancies exist; in national professional bodies, when need for change of leadership arises; sadly, also in the religious bodies; etc. It is hereby posited that politics of desperation thrives because of the blatant absence of servant-leadership spirit among the public office seekers and holders, as well as among the generality of the populace. Our approach to the topic of this lecture shall be both practical and experiential.
The Concept And Examples Of Servant-Leadership
For good understanding of servant leadership, it would be expedient to examine the root of the word. The Greek root of the word ‘servant’ is δἱακονεω which means serve, support, serve as a deacon. The basic meaning is (a) to wait at table; this is expanded to (b) care for household needs, and from this to the wider meaning (C) to serve generally.
The Most Rev’d Dr Nicholas D. Okoh is the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Chairman of the Ibru Centre Board of Directors
The first sense (a) above is usually considered unworthy of free men among the Greeks because it involves personal subjection, but when used in connection with service done for the city or community or for a god, it becomes an honorable task and a fitting occupation for a freeman. Therefore, it is an honourable thing to be a servant of the State. Derived from δἱακονεω is δἱακονἱα, that is service, or the office. The person who does the work or service is the δἱακονος (deacon). The New Testament meaning of δἱακονεω is derived from the person of Jesus and His message (Matt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45). It is a term denoting loving action for brother and neighbour, which itself came from God’s love.
Another word relevant to our discussion is δουλος (slave). Other derivatives include δουλεἱα (slavery); δουλεω (serve). The slave by nature is someone else’s property, and his will must be subordinated to somebody’s will, his master. The Septuagint (i.e. the Greek Old Testament) employs δουλεω to describe the relationship between God and man. The concept of the δουλος affected one’s relation to one’s fellow countrymen. He who honoured God knew at the same time that he had been joined to His community to serve them. The use of δουλος in the parables of our LORD shows all men as δουλος to God. The absence of the spirit of servant leadership has brought about gross misconceptions among the political class in Nigeria regarding their relationship with the electorate. The fact is that the electorates are the masters, while the public office holders are the δἱακονοἱ (servants) and the δουλοἱ (slaves).
Servant-Leadership suggests an initial conflict or dialectic/paradox. The concept of servant leadership rests upon the belief that even though men had leaders, these leaders were still subject to God, the King of kings and Lord of lords. As King Nebuchadnezzar was forced to accept after his humiliating experience under God’s judgment, “The Most High God rules in the affairs of men” (Daniel 4:17). In another vein, servant leadership portrays the nature and purpose of man’s leadership over the societies or nations; they are not enabled to occupy position of leadership for the sheer pleasure of being autocratic, oppressive or exploitative, but in order that they might serve the people under God. In other words, a leader is a servant.
Abraham was very rich in material substances, and even had a private army that led and won a war to deliver the people of Sodom from their enemy captors. After restoring the rescued people to their lands, he rejected the offer of gifts from King of Sodom. Abraham gave the glory to God and rendered selfless service. Can we find leaders who will make ultimate sacrifices for the generality of the oppressed and poor people without expecting or exacting some forms of gratification?
Joseph was hated by his own brothers, who wished him dead. He was sold into slavery by the people he loved, betrayed and sent into prison by the people he served faithfully. He was tremendously gifted by God and lavishly favoured by Pharaoh. Yet, when he came into power, he demonstrated faithfulness in service to God and man. His response to his brothers was not vendetta but forgiveness. If only today’s leaders can learn from Joseph, that there is no revenge as sweet and fulfilling as forgiveness. Furthermore, with Joseph’s God-given wisdom, he gathered food during the years of surplus, and dispensed them to the people during the years of scarcity, without hoarding the food or creating a parallel market for selfish gain. Typical Nigerian political leaders would have hoarded the food, created parallel or black markets such that, in Joseph’s market, food will be surplus but very expensive; while in the Government’s market, food will be cheap but very scarce. The populace will be left to scramble for food, starve and even die, while the authorities remain indifferent for reasons most certainly obvious.
Moses learned about the training required to become a servant leader, when circumstances of his wrong attitude and messianic approach led him to commit murder and consequently flee Egypt. For forty years, he learned great lessons in humility. Even then, in spite of his many charismatic, prophetic and miraculous achievements, the fact that he was disallowed from entering the Promised Land he had laboured so much for, shows Yahweh’s supreme power and discretion over the best of human leaders. ‘God is no respecter of persons’. This is a major lesson to guide human leaders’ behaviour. At best, they are servant leaders and must not arrogate power to themselves. All power belongs to God and He exercises it at His behest.
There were several other Biblical heroes from whom we can learn servant leadership. These include, David the shepherd boy. His choice amongst his seemingly more qualified brothers shows that God searches the heart and not merely human qualities when choosing servant leaders. His defeat of Goliath shows that leaders who go out, function and fight trusting only in God’s name will succeed over their enemies. We learnt same qualities of submission from Jonathan, the friend of David and son of Saul. Jonathan, who normally would have been entitled to the throne of Saul his father, chose to submit his ambition to David becoming King. In other words, servant leadership excludes selfish ambition, but recognises and submits to the ultimate good of the people.
The Most Revd. Dr Nicholas D. Okoh is the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Chairman of the Ibru Centre Board of Directors
Daniel turned down material offers of King Belshazzar after he interpreted to him the judgmental vision of the strange handwriting on the walls. Servant leaders do not use their endowments for personal gain, like Balaam did. The oracles of Amos were full of judgment against Israelites leaders and privileged class because they oppressed and exploited the poor and lower class citizens. God expects righteousness and welfare by leaders over the led. He hates injustice, corruption, marginalisation and oppression in all forms.
Jesus Christ was the ultimate Servant Leader. He showed practical example that leaders are to serve the people they lead. This does not detract from the authority and dignity of their position as leaders.The Most Revd. Dr Nicholas D. Okoh is the Archbishop, Metropolitan and Primate of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) and the Chairman of the Ibru Centre Board of Directors