As a man thinks, so he is – Proverbs 23:7
Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks – Luke 6:45
True leadership is the authority given by the trust of the followers to use power for the benefit of all – Myles Munroe
Nigeria is a complex country. From its sheer size to the multiplicity of ethnic and religious groups. Anyone that must aspire to lead such a country must be prepared, particularly now that there is a growing interest in governance by the average Nigerian. Expectations and interests of the Nigerian people in governance are now different even though sentiments still becloud many. To this effect, the posture, carriage and the seriousness with which our leaders approach governance must be above par.
Majority of Nigerians may not be properly educated as result of our consistently deteriorating educational system, but I still believe that the country parades significant number of highly intelligent and forward thinking people. For this reason, it will no longer be business as usual for our leaders who relish taking the people for granted. Policies, decisions, speeches, body language and postures would be analysed to understand the real message our leaders are communicating to the people. However, the downside of this public scrutiny is the use of uncouth expressions to describe our leaders, which should be condemned. Use of such expressions distracts from the crux of the engagement which often becomes counter-productive.
Nevertheless, public debates, scrutiny and engagements with our leaders have come to stay, and this will only intensify. Proliferation of social media tools as well as constitutional democracy will help sustain the trend. This article is intended to serve the exact purpose, focusing on some of the scary and unexpected comments, postures and decisions of President Jonathan and his team.
Leadership is a huge responsibility in every respect. A time comes when a leader is expected to put aside political gimmicks and manoeuvring in the interest of the people he or she is leading. Just recently, Obama said: “I will measure ideas not by whether they come from Democrats or Republicans, but by whether they work for the American people”. Within religious or political space, the people ought to come first. Even in business today, the human capital of a company or an organisation is considered the most valuable resource.
Just when you think you have seen or heard it all, the red flags keep popping up from this administration. One would expect the “people’s” President to proudly toe same line as his predecessor by publicly declaring his assets, which would have in the least launched the promised “fresh air”. It was a shocker when he retorted on national TV that he doesn’t give a damn about the call for him to do that. It was a bitter pill to swallow for Nigerians who didn’t expect that from their President. It could have been a slip, but who cares, he is the President, who is not really expected to be that accountable to the people he leads.
As a graduate research student, working on the challenges of curbing corruption in a democracy, I was devastated when I read that my President said stealing is not corruption. Just when I was waiting for a tactical retraction of that statement by way of possibly padding it up with other explanations as they often do, I read that the head of one of the country’s anti-corruption agency also maintained the same position. Without going into the details of several definitions of corruption, the widely quoted definition by the World Bank and Transparency International, is very clear on what constitutes corruption (just google it). As if that was not enough, Mr President went ahead to say on another occasion that corruption does not come first or even second on the list of our problems as a country. This has obviously informed his attitude towards the menace since he assumed office. This is really sad, considering what the corruption is doing to our development at all levels.
I remember when this current reign of terror was still in its infancy. It appeared that the President slipped again when he implied that given the global trend of terrorism, it is Nigeria’s turn to experience it. Even though the problem was there before his administration, a reassuring attitude would have been that of zero tolerance for terrorists’ activities under his watch. He went ahead to tell the world that Boko Haram members were in his cabinet, and not one purported sponsors of the dreaded sect has been brought to justice. Senator Ndume who was arrested on allegation of links with Boko Haram is still in the upper chambers of the National Assembly. A judge recently remarked that the Government is not serious with the case. Ali Modu Sheriff who is alleged to be instrumental to the formation of the sect is now cooling off under the protective “umbrella”.
This administration has on several occasions alleged that some members of the oppositions are financiers of Boko Haram. One would expect by now that one or two of these people would have been investigated and even prosecuted. The one that broke my heart was when the Chibok girls were abducted. For two weeks the Presidency thought it was a hoax orchestrated by the opposition. While they were stalling, the farther away the girls were taken into jungle. Some supporters of this administration felt the recent bombing and killing of students in Yobe State was also intended to disrupt the President’s declaration for re-election. It appears that Boko Haram has become a convenient political tool to disparage the opposition and make excuses for poor governance, while we keep losing our compatriots in the North East on a daily basis.
President Jonathan is supposedly the most powerful President in Africa by virtue of the country he leads. I was amazed and depressed when I heard in a media chat that he deliberately does not want to use his full powers (within the ambit of the law of course) in piloting the affairs of the country, even in the face of growing corruption and terrorism. When allegations of Boko Haram sponsors were made, one would expect investigations and prosecution to follow. If this administration had not been tainted with regional posture, there is no action the President would take against any personality that will not be supported by the people if such is taken in the best interest of the entire country. If the President cannot take certain decisions in the interest of the country because of a few ‘powerful’ individuals, then we are in serious trouble under his leadership.
My greatest pain and disappointment with this administration is the current polarisation of the country along religious and ethnic lines. I have never witnessed Nigeria to be on the brink like we have come to in recent times. I certainly did not need former President Obasanjo’s letter to tell me that President Jonathan maintains a regional posture, sometimes passing off the signal as though the troubled states are not part of his domain as President of Nigeria. One of the credits I have consistently given to President Obasanjo was his ability to keep the country together. I will always give him that. It appears this administration can only thrive on sentiments because that was how it came to be in the first place. It goes without saying that what is earned by sentiment can only be maintained by sentiment.
Some of the gaffes from this administration are simply embarrassing. This must be having adverse effect on Nigeria’s image and standing in the international community, particularly, our weight in international politics. Some others I don’t want to elaborate on include the claim that Nigeria has stable power supply on Christiane Amanpour’s show which was discovered to be untrue; the early false announcement that the Chibok girls had been found (which though was later apologised for); the botched “arms deal” in South Africa, and the purported ceasefire deal with Boko Haram. We seems to be getting accustomed to them.
I know it is not easy to occupy that position, because among other things he has assume responsibility for a lot of things as the number one citizen. If anyone aspires to lead a country as complex and diverse as Nigeria, in this 21st century, then such a person must be prepared. Nigeria as it is does not need a maintenance leadership of “I gave you water, road and fertilizer”. We need to move beyond all that, please! It is obvious that the President is surrounded by individuals who are more concerned about their own pockets, thereby not also feeding him with the right information and counsel. These are the people doing this country the greatest disservice. Sometimes I feel we have a new set of cabal in Aso Rock who are running the show to their own benefit.
Before I rest my pen, I have noticed that the easiest way to discountenance dissenting voices that are not promoting mediocrity in today’s Nigeria is to label them “opposition”. I am not currently a card carrying member of any political party. I am more concerned about the quality of individuals who emerge as leaders at various levels of our polity. I am a concerned Nigerian who subscribe to the principles and values taught by Jesus Christ. In keeping with my Kingdom principles, I pray for Nigeria, President Jonathan and the other leaders regularly; for them to have a change of heart and put the people first in all their dealings. I pray they think about the pride a country where the systems work can bring to all of us, instead of a country where access to power means primitive accumulation of wealth at the expense of the people.
“…the spiritual man tries all things [he examines, investigates, inquires into, questions, and discerns all things] 1 Corinthians 2:15 (AMP)
Mr. Fred Adetiba, a staff of Premium Times, is currently a graduate student at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.