The Time For An Ideal

Nwachukwu Joshua

In our time more than ever before, the chief strength of the wicked lies in the cowardice and weakness of good men. –Pope St. Pius X

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In our time more than ever before, the chief strength of the wicked lies in the cowardice and weakness of good men. –Pope St. Pius X

Today, the English community together with Christian folks most especially Catholics and Anglicans would be celebrating the anniversary of the death of one of their own. Thomas More alongside Bishop Fisher was beheaded 478 years ago for defending a truth which they held sacred. They were executed during the English reformation for refusing to accept King Henry VIII as the Head of the Church of England, also for defending the doctrine of indissolubility of marriage and for upholding the Catholic Church dogma of papal primacy. Though he was murdered on July 6 1535 but his feast day is celebrated on 22nd in the Catholic Church every year.

He is still recognized as one of the greatest among the lawyers, Christian humanists, and classical scholars of early sixteenth-century Europe. He was not only a lawyer, he was also a politician, and was elected to parliament at the age of 26.

That is why he is called “a man for all seasons.” In fact Emperor Charles V on hearing of the death of More said: had we been master of such a servant, we would rather have lost the best city of our dominions than such a worthy councilor, Jonathan Swift, the great Anglo-Irish writer, described him as “a person of the greatest virtue this kingdom [of England] ever produced. G.K Chesterton described More as the greatest historical character in British history.

In 2000, he was declared patron saint of statesmen. When Pope John Paul II named Thomas More as patron saint of statesmen in 2000, he cited More’s witness to the “primacy of truth over power” at the cost of his life. He noted that even outside the Church, More “is acknowledged as a source of inspiration for a political system which has as its supreme goal the service of the human person.”

In today’s world many persons welding power be it political, religious or economic, show an inept understanding of leadership, More is a shining example of what true leadership is.

The verb “to lead” means to be out in front, inherent in this definition is that the one who leads should know where the group is going. In rating the effectiveness of leader many consider his communication skills or dress sense. But these features though important do not scratch the essence effective leadership. What then makes an effective leader? Aristotle, Augustine, and Thomas Aquinas said it is virtue.

Alexander Harvard, a French-born lawyer and founder of the Harvard Virtuous Leadership Institute (HVLI), in his research quickly came to the conclusion that authentic leadership must be based on an authentic anthropology, one that includes aretology, the science of virtues. Virtue is a habit of the mind, the will, and the heart, which allows us to achieve personal excellence and effectiveness. Leadership is intrinsically linked to virtue. First, because virtue creates trust; second, virtue, which comes from the Latin virtus, meaning “strength” or “power,” is a dynamic force that enhances the leader’s capacity to act. Virtue allows the leader to do what people expect of him. The two major virtues needed from a leader are magnanimity and humility.

Magnanimity is the habit of striving for great things. Leaders are magnanimous in their dreams, their visions, and their sense of mission, as well as in their capacity to challenge themselves and those around them. Magnanimity is a virtue capable of setting the tone of one’s entire life, transforming it, giving it new meaning, and leading to the flourishing of the personality. It is the first specific virtue of leaders. Another very important virtue leader need is humility. A Humble leader knows when he doesn’t know the way and consults others.

We are leery of libertines, architects of world’s many injustices, despotism in Africa, and in the western, and the dictatorship of tolerance. Today, evil under the guise of tolerance has declared bestiality, homosexuality, trans-sexuality and access to contraceptives as fundamental rights. But rather than make human persons more human, these so called rigths will make into an animal.

In Nigeria, power is a means of personal enrichment. This has cost us not only proper economic development but also many innocent lives, snuffed out in auto accidents on bad roads, died in hospitals due to lack of medical equipment, killed in plane crashes, or killed in riots. Thomas More was known as an incorruptible judge and a man with professional prestige. Can this term ever be applied to any Nigerian leader? I think the answer is No.

I recall a comment made by a former minister of finance, Chief Festus Okotie-Eboh, when responding to allegations of accumulation of wealth by government officers quoted from the bible “to those that have, more shall be given…”

Nigeria will only become a great country when corruption is over throne, leadership enriched and spiced with virtues, when government officials point to the right direction in words and deeds. Though our current leaders have passed a plethora of anti-corruption laws and floated agencies, they are not marching their words with their actions.

It is not all bad news though, In the Nigerian judiciary, in recent times we have seen the desire for change under the reign of Chief Justice of Nigeria, Honorable Justice Aloma Mariam Mukhtar who is occupying a similar position with Thomas More.  Her determination to fight corruption in judiciary is evident to all.  We hope she wins the fight. We hereby challenge our leaders to fight corruption even if it costs their lives. If Thomas More could do it, they can also.

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