Honiara : 31 May 2016
Letter to the Editor, Island Sun Newspaper.
Your newspaper published two letters in the past few days with very similar themes relating to leadership and nation building, one by Stephen Diisango and the other one by Chief Peter Usi.
Stephen’s letter largely highlighted what had been said by the Prime Minister, the Hon. Manasseh Sogavare when he had cited achieving the collective dream of a better Solomon’s lies on the shoulders of all Solomon Islanders.
In his letter Chief Peter, had said “Looking at our country at the moment we need more advice from our foreign representatives to advise us on how to control this country.”
I am not quite sure of the implications of Chief Peter’s comments but have noticed over recent month’s some criticism on aspects of local leadership and on individuals either in the present government or in the parliamentary opposition which, in a democracy and in a country with an acknowledged and generally well respected free press, is to be expected.
Some time ago, 19 months ago to be precise, I created my own website –solomonislandsinfocus.com – because I felt the need to aid worthy causes in the Solomon Islands and in doing so I had no political bias or motives, merely charitable ones in mind.
I have continued with my website and posted, from time to time, précis statements of government press releases which, in my view, were in keeping with aiding the Solomon Islands with news on developments and occurrences in accordance with either the welfare, economic achievements, reconciliation process and nation building.
I would like to make it clear that in posting government releases I have no political connection with the Solomon Islands Government and I am not a spokesperson for the office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet or any other department of government.
I do have a strong belief in the people of the Solomon Islands, despite my tenure in office in the Solomons having been brief and I strongly support the ongoing need for reconciliation, anti-corruption measures, good governance and, above all, nation building. In the latter sense I support what the Prime Minister said about nation building being a shared responsibility.
It is on the aspect of nation building that I would like to add some views, but lacking the writing and academic qualifications of many notable Solomon Islanders, including Dr Transform Aqorau and Dr , Tarcisius Tara Kabutaulaka and, indeed, without the indigenous right of a Solomon Islander to really give personal advice on national affairs, I need to borrow a few words that I read most recently from what I considered a brilliant speech on the subject of nation building by Professor Abrahim Gambari, the Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General.
I believe what Professor Gambari had to say a couple of years ago in respect of Nigeria at the time, does contain some important pointers for the future of the Solomon Islands nation building attainments if the commentary is taken in the same spirit I propose it should be read.
I will quote from just some aspects of his address.
"Building a Nation:
Nations are an important part of modern society. If we go back into history, we see that the world used to be divided into empires and kingdoms. In the modern period, however, nations or nation states have replaced empires as the basic unit of human political organization.
I myself have had the privilege of close association with the United Nations, an organization set up to ensure the peaceful coexistence and the social economic development of the worlds numerous nations.
However, I would like to emphasise the fact that nations just don’t happen by historical accident; rather they are built by men and women with vision and resolve. Nation-building is therefore the product of conscious statecraft. Nation-building is always a work-in-progress; a dynamic process in constant need of nurturing and re-invention. Nation-building never stops and true nation-builder never rest because all nations are constantly facing up to new challenges.
Nation-building has many important aspects. Firstly, it is about building a political entity which corresponds to a given territory, based on some generally accepted rules, norms, and principles, and a common citizenship. Secondly, it is also about building institutions which symbolize the political entity – institutions such as a bureaucracy, an economy, the judiciary, universities, a civil service, and civil society organizations. Above all else, however, nation-building is about building a common sense of purpose, a sense of shared destiny, a collective imagination of belonging. Nation-building is therefore about building the tangible and intangible threads that hold a political entity together and gives it a sense of purpose. Even in these days of globalization and rapid international flows of people and ideas, having a viable nation remains synonymous with achieving modernity. It is about building the institutions and values which sustain the collective community in these modern times.”
“The Leadership Challenge
Leadership is a critical factor in nation-building and it should be understood in two important but related ways. Firstly, there are the personal qualities of integrity, honesty, commitment, and competence of individual leaders at the top. Secondly, there are the collective qualities of common vision, focus, and desire for development of the elites as a whole.
The standards for recruitment and the performance of our individual leaders over the years have left much to be desired. We do not need leaders who see themselves as champions of only some sections of our population. We do not need leaders who do not understand the economic and political problems of the country, not to talk of finding durable solutions for them. We do not need leaders who are more interested in silencing their opponents, than in pursuing justice. We do not need leaders, who preach one thing, and do the exact opposite. We do not need leaders who place themselves above the constitution and the laws of the country, but leaders who lead by upholding and respecting the law. We do not need leaders who have no sense of tomorrow, other than that of their private bank accounts.
If we are to succeed in nation-building, we must have a leadership that is committed to the rule of law and has a demonstrable sense of fairplay and democratic tolerance; a leadership with ability and integrity; above all else, we must have a leadership that can see beyond the ostentatious pomp of office. We must have leaders who have a vision for (a Nigeria} better than the one they inherited; leaders who will lead by deeds and not by words; achievers, not deceivers. We need a leadership that will not only leave its foot-prints on the sands of time, but one, which by dint of hard-work, fairplay, dedication and commitment, will live forever.
Leadership is not everything, but it is an extremely important factor. Unless we have leaders with ability, integrity, commitment, and vision, we cannot succeed at nation-building.”
“The Challenge of Building Institutions for Democracy and Development
One of the greatest challenges of nation building is the challenge of institution building. Whether nations are able to manage their political and social disputes peacefully, without lapsing into conflict, or sustain economic growth without creating huge inequalities, critically depend on the quality of the relevant national institutions.
There are three important components to institution building: setting the rules; hiring persons with the technical expertise and moral competence to interpret the rules or implement the goals of the organisations; and ensuring that the institutions inspire public confidence by being transparent, fair and consistent. These are also the standards by which the performance of any organisation, in particular, public sector organisations should be measured. This shows that the act of creating the organisation itself is not as important as its proper functioning and overall effectiveness.”
“Institutions for public service delivery
The civil service is the main instrument and institution of public service delivery. Traditionally, the civil service performs three functions: supporting the policy making function of government at the federal, state and local government; facilitating or regulating the private sector; and providing managerial leadership for operating public sector enterprises.”
The Solomon Islands has progressed much since Independence in 1978, apart from the tragic set-back of the civil unrest, now referred to as the ‘tensions,” and I continue to have confidence in Solomon Islands future if all will work together to achieve the united, progressive, stable and economically viable country all hope to eventuate.