Nigeria: The continuing search for leadership (2)





The way out of the woods

From all that has been said so far, it seems evident that Nigeria is in desperate need of a leadership that can transcend and span all the boundaries that presently encumber Nigeria – ethnic, religious, cultural and psychological. In this effort the challenge is to build a united, integrated and cohesive national entity. It would have to replace the current centrifugal tendencies in the polity with counteracting centripetal forces. It was the late Albert Einstein who had observed that problems cannot be solved at the current level of awareness that created them.

In other words the solution of challenging problems often involves a mind-set change. Such a fundamental change can be the genesis of transformation and hence paradigm shifts from entrenched positions. It would often involve leaders who can learn to put themselves in the other compatriot’s position.

Such leaders often evince humility and steadfast determination verging on passion. Apart from humility and passion, such leaders demonstrate on overarching umbrella of rock-solid integrity, honesty, charity and compassion. These are the values that will drive them to connect with the followers.

Indeed, “when safety, respect, trust, community inter-dependence and reinvention characterise the interactions between groups, those groups will achieve something together above and beyond what they could achieve on their own…” namely, a society anchored on truth, justice and equity. Another Utopia? What is demanded is nothing short of the re-invention of Nigeria. So who will bell the cat?

In the last five months we have gone from the euphoria of the change mantra to the reality check of governance in a plural society. Now we have passed the hallowed magic threshold of one hundred days. We have seen inelegant efforts to espy some success verging on the sycophantic, to the raucous cacophony reminiscent of a bolekaja melee as part of the condemnatory admonition of the less impressed. There is no question that when the unexpected happens there is the opportunity for a new beginning. Such was the expectation of many Nigerians on the emergence of General Buhari.

Three months on the chair of governance two strands have emerged besides the unrepentant cheer leaders – those who have voiced disappointment on the apparent slow pace of government business and those who have voiced apparent horror on the apparent sectional tilt of his appointments. Of those who raise eye-brows on the slow pace many have been disappointed that for a man who ran for the office a record four times he should have come to office better prepared and to hit the ground running. Some have counselled patience.

At the last count out of thirty two appointments including the strategic appointments of Secretary to the Government of the Federation and the Chief of Staff to the President of the Republic, twenty six have been northern. Almost unthinkable in a plural society some would say. Some have seen this as a loud trumpet proclaiming and reinforcing the view that the disposition of GMB cannot work with all Nigerians except those from his geographical enclave.

Some have made the excuse that it is too early in the day to judge, while some have counselled that this is just the beginning of the bazaar of appointments since the President of Nigeria has a patronage bag of over five thousand offices to fill. Few have been impressed with the post hoc alibis.

It has been for some beyond belief that a man who had for the better part of his political career, some would say unfairly, the political tag of a religious bigot or fanatic as well as that of an unrepentant and unapologetic northern irredentist to be so insensitive to the potential signals from his first appointments in a plural society smells of a hidden agenda.

Others have counselled caution. Whatever may be the case GMB must now face the challenge that any leader must face when perception collides with reality. It is a hard call but it is not impossible to change if the strategy for amelioration is built on the chemistry of truth, justice and equity. Obviously, the challenge before GMB is similar to the challenge that faced GEJ in 2013 when it became obvious to some of us that the pan-Nigeria coalition that propelled him to office in 2011 was not in alignment with the governing coalition that he had put together for governance majorly around the PDP. The rest as the pundits would say is now history.

Let me end on the note I had sounded at the University of Lagos three weeks ago at the 2015 Eni Njoku Memorial Lecture – the options for the president are clear and historical. His failure to build the Nigeria of the dream of Nigeria youth could generate a historical cataclysm of unthinkable proportions. He deserves better. Thank you for your patience and forbearance. I am done. God bless Nigeria. God bless our President and God bless Nigerians – from the North to the South, from the East to the West. Amen.

• Anya, a professor is pro-chancellor and chairman Governing Council, Michael Okpara University of Agriculture and chairman, Alpha Institute for Research in Science, Economics and Development.

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