Education and leadership recruitment for a plural society: A case for Nigeria (3)



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Text of a lecture delivered by Bishop Matthew Hassan KUKAH, at the Third Convocation Ceremony of the Afe Babalola University, Ado Ekiti on October 20, 2015.


Abraham Lincoln taught all Democrats the benefits of managing diversity. The story has been well told in the book by Doris Kearns Goodwill, titled, A Team of Rivals. It is a great story of how Abraham Lincoln, after winning the elections, assembled to his government those who had bitterly contested against him. He realized that rebuilding a country ravaged by war and making his people great was more important to him than allowing pettiness and jealousy to eat him up. This famous team of rivals was made up of William Henry Seaward whom he named Secretary of State, Edward Bates who became Attorney General, Salmon Chase who became Secretary of the Treasury while Edward Stanton became Secretary of War. Edward Stanton stands out because he was the top-drawer lawyer who thoroughly humiliated Abraham Lincoln in an earlier life at the Bar. Both men were polar opposites with sharply divided dispositions on different issues, including the war. However, Lincoln’s sagacity saw him manage diversity so effectively that he was able to look beyond their weaknesses and draw out their inner strengths. This is the measure of a good leader.

Building networks and friendships is perhaps one of the most important and enduring lessons for any aspiring leader. A good example is the relationship between Dick Cheney, the former Vice President under President George Bush, Jr. and Donald Rumsfeld who served as Secretary of State for Defense. To see both men simply within the frame of the Bush years is to miss the point. They had a rather interesting history and it is worth repeating because in his autobiography, Known and Unknown, Rumsfeld tells part of the story.

He recalled that in 1968, a young man called Dick Cheney who had won an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellowship, had applied to serve in the Office of Economic Opportunity then held by a young Senator by the name of Donald Rumsfeld. Dick was interviewed and the detailed result of the interview has been the subject of controversy between both men. Cheney believed he failed the interview, but Rumsfeld said that he really did not hire Cheney because at that time, he needed a lawyer in the office and not a young budding academic! The relationship did not end there because Rumsfeld was promoted to the position of Chief of Staff to President Ford in 1974. A year later, when Ford appointed him Secretary of Defense, he decided to recommend Cheney for the position of Chief of Staff to replace him. Rumsfeld would make history as the youngest Secretary of State for Defense (1975-76). However, nearly thirty years later, Dick Cheney repaid the favour when he became Vice President by recommending Rumsfeld as the Secretary of State for Defense to President Bush in 2001. Again, in the process, Rumsfeld would go down in history as the oldest Secretary of State.

Those in public life, those holders of public office must love their people. Addressing the members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012, after his election, Mr. Xi Jinping, the new Secretary General and President of China made an astonishing statement that neither Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammed, nor Obama or anyone else can disagree with. He said: The people are the creators of history. They are the real heroes and the source of our strength. We are aware that the capability of the individual is limited, but as long as we unite as one like a fortress, there is no difficulty we cannot overcome. One can only work for a limited period of time, but there is no limit to serving the people with dedication. Our responsibility is weightier than mountains, our task arduous, and the road ahead long, We must bear in mind what the people think…..and we must work together with them diligently for the public good and for the expectations of history and the people.

The measure of our success has to be related not to how many battles we fight whether against corruption or injustice. The success lies in how much dignity it brings to the human person and the extent to which the welfare and wellbeing of the citizen become the epicenter of government policy. In the words of Obi Egbuna in his little novel, Daughter of the Sea, we can look back and say: We need neither empires nor emperors. What we need is society where we measure our success not by the presence of the rich, but by the absence of the poor. Thank you very much for your attention.

• Kukah is the Bishop of Catholic Diocese, Sokoto

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