A Republic And The Opportunity Cost -By Tony Osakpamwan Agbons

The last couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster of sorts for a certain genre of ‘humankind’. In the words of the Ozziddi king and legendary music icon Sunny Okosun, “there is fire in Soweto”. This piece is however not about the rainbow nation, South Africa where the obnoxious apartheid regime ruled for decades with a hot iron sword decapitating anyone who dared to challenge it with venom and fury. The republic referred to here is a gargantuan country with a rich diverse history and culture. It is terraqueous with stupendous human, and natural wealth. It is a nation endowed on all fronts of the cardinal point. The supposedly ‘pride’ of the black race located strategically at the epicentre of the latitudinal and meridian equator. Blessed with angelic beauty that is comparable only to the spatial celestial domains, its inhabitants dot and spread across its landscape like coral beads in the blue ocean depths. You may begin to wonder which republic I am pontificating right there! Let’s take a deep dive as we unearth this republic.

In 1989, Japanese business executive and scholar, Sidney Yoshida developed a principle – The Iceberg of Ignorance. It is a key leadership and management principle that shows the clear disconnect between managers and frontline employees in an organisation. His findings revealed that top-level management only know 4% of their companies’ problems. In her blog,, Dr. Kathy Allen author of the book, Leading from the Roots: Nature Inspired Leadership Lessons for Today’s World (2019) expounded this theory further.

An iceberg of ignorance helps explain how risks are shared within an organisation when problems are ‘hidden’ from senior leadership. Yoshida’s research shows how problems are known and understood by different levels of an organisation. On the organisation’s front lines, 100% of the problems are known to the staff. Their supervisors know 74% of the problems known to front-line staff. Middle management knows 9% of the problems front-line staff are aware of. Shockingly, top executives know and understand only 4% of problems known to front-line staff. The dire situation of the republic is a sharp reversal of the iceberg of ignorance. The `ruining` political class know all that is wrong. Worse still is that they do not even pretend about it.

In the republic, 100% of the problems of the land are known to but not borne by the political leaders. Their sycophants know 74% of the problems, their benefactors/lackeys know 9% of the problems and their group of sycophants/acolytes know 4% of problems. All the challenges of the republic are well known to, and all borne by the average citizens of the republic yet the warped leaders/rulers/ruiners of the republic remain oblivious. This dissonance aptly describes the state of the republic, and it is the reason well-meaning citizens are scampering, trying to find ways to melt the iceberg.

The myriad of challenges facing this republic is self-inflicted. It is a commination of leadership failure ab initio. You and I know that once we solve the leadership conundrum of the republic an Eldorado beckons, no ifs, no buts. It is as simple as ABCD. How can the republic get good, responsible servant leaders? We go back to the fundamental mono frame of political ascension process. Until the republic gets that right, I am afraid it is going to be a long night and a wild goose chase. I recall from the days of yore, my basic Economics lesson on Opportunity Cost.

According to the Encyclopaedia Brittanica, “Opportunity cost in economic terms is the opportunity foregone in the choice of one expenditure over others. For a consumer with a fixed income, the opportunity cost of buying a new dishwasher might be the value of a vacation trip never taken or several suits of clothes not bought. The concept of opportunity cost allows economists to examine the relative monetary values of various goods and services”. Juxtaposing this scenario in political leadership, social and moral currency, you will agree with me that the republic is already bankrupt.

For the republic, what could have been the `soft value` gains of a seamless electoral process in the last General Elections was truncated by a self-induced technical glitch? What a golden opportunity missed! The moral calculus of the February 25 and March 18, 2023, elections are unfathomable. Put party politics aside, take a moment and imagine the moral implications of that election done in a free, fair, and transparent manner. Imagine the agency, INEC saddled with the responsibility of midwifing the process doing their job gracefully. Imagine the ‘thieving’ political class not interfering or inducing the electoral operators to do their selfish bidding. The winner(s) would have been the toast of everyone with congratulatory messages donning the landscape. The loser(s) would have gallantly picked themselves up to get ready for another day in the sun. At the last count there are nearly 500 court cases littered across the republic. The polity is heated up and the judicial system is stretched to elastic limits as they grapple with unending litigations. All these could have easily been avoided and an opportunity cost created for developmental innovations to thrive. Valuable time and energy dissipated on this judicial circus show would have been averted.

On a final note, let it be said that nations develop not only from human or natural resource endowments but by empirical moral capital. In such climes, the tangent of growth is accentuated by a deliberate focus on ‘doing the right thing’. Every spectrum of society is anchored and built on a framework of the ‘common good’. There are no half-measures. Everyone is subject to the rule of law and no sacred cows. The players are either in or out. Let nobody be deceived, the Federal Republic of Nigeria cannot and will not rise above the ashes of mediocrity if the prevailing culture of ‘crash’ impunity and impudence subsists. We go nowhere! The republic certainly cannot continue on this trajectory where anything goes. An attempt to continue on this path will be an accident waiting to happen. Our value system must organically be recalibrated in such a way that only the best of us is thrown up to lead the rest of us. As it is often said, “he who comes to equity must come with clean hands”. The opportunity cost of not finding our lost moral compass and continually enabling the worst of us to lead the best of us, will be our beloved republic forgone. It is at this huge cost, we are keeping our giant of Africa comatose.

Dr Agbons is Lead, Institute of Leadership and Good Governance @

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