Buhari and the Leadership Deficit, By Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú
Two years on, we are yet to see the courageous leadership we thought a man of his age, training and experience would bring to governance. We elected him, hoping he will have the courage to break from the norm; we thought he would challenge the status quo; we believed, rather naively, that he would seek new opportunities, make the tough decisions, stand for every Nigerian rather than his section of the country…
He jinxed his presidency right from the podium after he was sworn in. He declared: “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”. Since that May 29th, 2015, it has been an avalanche of bungles, failures, and questionable decisions. Many are so distinctive as to merit special acknowledgement, like the herdsmen menace, where the killing fields of Plateau and Benue tells the story. Even the anti-corruption fight has been a mighty bungle. Buhari has made himself an administrator of contemptuous silence. He has proven it to us once again, that leaders are not created equal; that someone holds a position of leadership, does not mean he should. Below is his scorecard, two years into his presidency.
What Was Buhari’s Vision?
Buhari had no vision, he had a mission. His mission was to become the president of Nigeria again. He did and that was it! Nigerians invested their hopes and aspirations in him after being battered by years of neglect and Jonathan’s assault on their psyche; these confused Buhari further and complicated his Messianic complex. In his confusion, aided by his surprising unpreparedness, he made himself the vision. That is, Buhari the ascetic and Lord of integrity. Critics may wish to point to his anti-corruption fight. No! For Buhari, that is a goal. It was his thing. A goal is different from a vision. A vision is long ranging; a plan for the future, executed in the present with imagination and wisdom. Does his anti-corruption fight fit this definition? The answer is no! He has no vision. If he has, he did not sell it. He did not get our buy-in. We gave our buy-in, even when we did not understand the vision. If it was a vision at all in his own mind, it is poor in quality, tunneled and inarticulate, and that was how it became a goal. To some of us, his months of prevarication in selecting his ministers and the eventual ‘more of the same’ list, spoke to us. Leaders without vision always fail. A poor, tunneled, and inarticulate vision cannot inspire a nation, motivate performance, or create sustainable value. Poor vision, tunnel vision, inarticulate vision, or a non-existent vision will cause a leader to fail, as we are beginning to see. As if under a spell, Buhari appointed his political enemies to positions of value where they could blunt and bungle his plans. His justice department is nothing to write home about. Corruption cases are prosecuted to fail. There is no alignment between his appointees around a clear and achievable goal.
He seem totally unaware of the huge problems of governance in a nation characterised by escalating poverty, an exploding population, unemployment, lack of infrastructure and disease. Our president lacks intellectual curiosity. He is not growing, and leaders who are not growing cannot lead a growing country successfully.
Past Performance Is Not a Certain Indicator of Future Performance
As humans, we take a long-term track record of success as reliable indicators of performance. So it was with us and Buhari. We placed so much on his integrity and strict short stint as military head of state without giving enough weight to other contributing factors. If we did, “President” Abba Kyari would not have been a surprise. President Buhari confirmed the stock broker’s cliché; past performance is not always a certain indicator of future performance.
Lack of Curiosity
Our president has a disabling lack of curiosity. Perhaps, we should expect that from an old man but we have seen great leaders who took their countries out of the doldrums despite their age. The best leaders in the world know they don’t have to be the smartest but they must be willing to learn quickly; they are profoundly aware of how much they do not know but are ready to learn. President Buhari is not curious about the pains, challenges and problems of this country. He seem totally unaware of the huge problems of governance in a nation characterised by escalating poverty, an exploding population, unemployment, lack of infrastructure and disease. Our president lacks intellectual curiosity. He is not growing, and leaders who are not growing cannot lead a growing country successfully.
The King of Contemptuous Silence
These are tough times! A president must communicate his plans to those who elected him at all times. He must take his case to the Nigerian people. Communication is more pertinent at times like this, as a balm to soothe throbbing wounds. The president does not speak. He does not communicate. He is the silent king and the king of contemptuous silence. His communications team members are insufferable arrogant men whose language is condescension. Up till now, there is not a word about the president’s illness. No one in the adminstration is communicating effectively in constituencies across the country. All they throw at us are vapid statements that betrays a dearth of good thinkers and listeners, who know when to dial it up, down, or put it off. In Buhari’s presidency, there exists a crisis of leadership and communications.
A powerful coalition was put together for him to win the presidency. He won and shredded it by acquiescence and nonchalance in a rare combo. He handed his mandate to President Abba Kyari and Chancellor Mamman Daura. Where was Abba Kyari when we were working hard, campaigning for Buhari?
A General Without Troops
A leader must be careful who s/he lets through the front door. The reason behind this is not far fetched. People bring their traits, attitudes, and work ethics along with them. President Buhari chose people who brought contagion to his administration. Last week, APC political leaders in the South-West fired the first salvo of an open political field in 2019. A political grenade, that was, to watchers of politics. It is shameful that a man who did well as brigadier general, has now become a general without troops. A powerful coalition was put together for him to win the presidency. He won and shredded it by acquiescence and nonchalance in a rare combo. He handed his mandate to President Abba Kyari and Chancellor Mamman Daura. Where was Abba Kyari when we were working hard, campaigning for Buhari? Unfortunately, Buhari’s proclivity for provincialism made him appoint those who disdain his life of integrity and asceticism to the detriment of those who worked hard for his victory. He destroyed the coalition that brought him to power. The party is in disarray, unfunded, with vultures circling it, waiting for its eventual death. It is a blight and an indictment that many people within his own party are warming up to contest the party primaries with him. A good party leader should run by unanimous adoption.
On this 17th day of October 2017, the only pass mark I am willing to give President Buhari is returning relative peace and quiet to the North-East. Two years on, we are yet to see the courageous leadership we thought a man of his age, training and experience would bring to governance. We elected him, hoping he will have the courage to break from the norm; we thought he would challenge the status quo; we believed, rather naively, that he would seek new opportunities, make the tough decisions, stand for every Nigerian rather than his section of the country, and remain true to his core values of honesty and integrity. He hasn’t done any of these. These are stuff for courageous leaders. Courage is having the conviction to do the right thing when it would have been fine to do things right. Buhari is not even going things right. He is haphazard. Without courage, leadership is a farce.