When things go wrong, and the nation appears to be on the brink, it’s fair to ask: why? The following questions suffice: why are things growing progressively worse rather than getting better under President Muhammadu Buhari? Is the present worsening security situation in the country the result of lack of our leadership recruitment process? Is the president listening to the voices of pain and suffering, or simply not interested and not in charge as some people have insinuated? In short, is the president plainly overwhelmed by the weight of challenges confronting the country, or overdoing his strengths?
You see, sometimes, a leader, a President may have enormous moral strength or raw power, but in emergency situations, these are simply not enough. When an elected government abandons its constitutional duties such as the security and welfare of the people, the people pay and the leader loses the trust of the people. Every passing day, the situation in the country gets worse. The attack on the Nigerian Defence Academy(NDA) in Kaduna last week, and the strangling to death of 36-year old Capt. Abdulkarim Bala Na’Allah, the eldest son of Senate Deputy majority leader in his residence in Kaduna in the early hours of Sunday, by assailants, summarise the intolerable state of insecurity in the land. The killings in Plateau caps it all: this is not how to govern a country.
In such critical moments that we live in, wisdom, they say, is better than weapons of war. Listening to voices of reason is a priceless asset that a leader needs to avert some of the avoidable problems bedevilling Nigeria under the president’s watch. But a leader can afford to ignore the warnings at his own peril. This is why conventional wisdom in leadership development circles is that a leader should discover and capitalise on his strengths. This is based on the assumption that they are aligned with the crying needs of the people. As the logic goes, chances are that a leader, no matter how well his intentions are, and how hard he works on certain weaknesses, he will make only marginal progress.
In that regard, it makes sense for a president to surround himself with people who have complementary strengths to overcome his own flaws. President Buhari, it’s sad to say, hasn’t done that. Agreed everyone has flaws, it becomes dangerous when there’s an overwhelming and overweening pride not to recognize these flaws. The short of it is that ignoring one’s weaknesses makes performance and the achievement of common goals extremely difficult to attain. As Robert E. Kaplan and Robert B. Kaiser, authors of The Versatile Leader :Make the Most of Your Strengths- Without Overdoing it” , noted, “taking a strength to an extreme is always detrimental to performance, even a mild tendency to overdo it can be harmful”.
Therefore, they advise leaders to be a little too forceful, but not failing to act forcefully to contain threats of present danger. When a president fails to heed this time-tested advice, as this administration has done, the President’s vitality takes a hit, and his moral strength is weakened. Unfortunately, that’s where we are today under the present administration. It’s wrong to assume, as some of the president’s men have often argued that some Nigerians hate him, and won’t want him to succeed. That’s a cheap shoot. It undercuts sounds reasoning. It, indeed, breaks the heart that Nigerians have been pushed too far to the cliff. Their patience have grown too thin. Our diversity has been threatened like never before. Where strength of character and conviction are required, this government has failed. It pursues little things like open grazing with zeal while neglecting the essentials. That’s why there are high-octaned reactions, some of them condemnatory of how the president is handling critical issues. As Mike Okonkwo, the presiding Bishop of Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) told journalists last week, “it’s only somebody who is blind or dishonest that will say he is satisfied with how the country is now… “ Quoting from the scriptures, he lamented that “we have gone round this mountain long enough and it’s not working, everything is run down, everything is leveled to the ground, everyone is on ground zero”. It’s a catastrophic point. But a great leader can take its citizens out of the rubble.
That’s the same thing almost everyone is saying. As the former Governor of the CBN and Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi said recently, “nobody should ignore the fact that things are not working in Nigeria…, and no one should be a conformist in an abnormal society”. The truth is that hope is fast fading in our country. Every sector is bleeding. Insecurity has squeezed us into a corner. The country is polarised down the middle. That’s the point, Prof. ABC Nwosu, a former minister of Health made in the interview he granted Saturday Sun last weekend. According to him, the president has “mismanaged Nigeria’s diversity”. It has never been like this since 1966, leading to the civil war, he said. For him, the ruling APC had a common agenda in 2015, “a conspiracy to get power”, and nothing else.
Speaking in the same vein last week, Nobel laureate Prof. Wole Soyinka, wondered why the president “is obsessed about everything which is being rejected right, left and centre”. Soyinka was reacting to the plan by the government to review grazing reserves for cattle herders across 25 states of the country. It troubles the mind that at a time a president should heal the land, he’s opening up more wounds. Is this the transformative change that he promised when he was seeking your votes to be president? Please, ask him.
The president needs reminding that he will be judged by how he’s able to turn things around for the remaining period left to exit power in 2023. Until then, Nigerians will continue to tie him to the problems he promised to solve . These are insecurity, the economy and corruption. All of them are now much worse than he met them. The APC when in opposition dug a hole for the PDP. It didn’t make it shallow. It has now fallen into it. It’s the price of hubris.
Let’s make the point clear: Nobody is saying that President Buhari has the magic wand to make Nigeria great overnight, or solve all the challenges that confront it. Each time, Nigerians complain, they are simply reminding the President, it’s his duty to perform, not to play the blame game. To borrow the words of Donald Regan(one-time Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan), a president “is present as a matter of luck and courtesy rather than by any(divine) rights”. That’s why elected presidents are not judged like ordinary men. They must make better things happen, and prevent worse things from happening. They should not squander public trust. This administration has squandered public trust, big time.
Altogether, Nigeria will remain on knife edge if the president fails to fix the problem of ravaging insecurity before he leaves office. This challenge, above all else, will be the utmost test of his ability to govern Nigeria if he doesn’t want to end up a collosal failure. I believe, if he is ready to make amends, put his eyes on the goal why he was elected, and how he wants history to judge him, the 20 months left of his presidency could secure him a slice better than a footnote in history. Time is fast running out.