By Mon-Charles Egbo
Quite frankly, Nigeria is in short supply of leaders who demonstrate that public office is basically an avenue for selfless service to humanity. The country is lacking in public officials who seek only things that have direct bearing on the welfare and security of the people, through good governance. There is an acute dearth of minds and hearts that support the ideology that true leadership is about serving others. The great leader of the black race, unfortunately, is bereft of great humanists who do not see whatever differences in tongue, culture, class, religion and political inclinations as challenges but, rather, as opportunities to elevate and deploy those core values that deepen our common humanity.
Again, Nigeria is in dire need of leaders who are largely pedigreed, having been already accomplished in their various fields of endeavour, and whose attractions to public office do not in any way include self-aggrandizement. We lack office holders who are conscious of legacies through life-touching ventures, and also driven by passion for benchmarked services to the people and above all, defined by profound sense of nationalism, inclusiveness, objectivity and strategic thinking.
The foregoing, cumulatively, is the bane of national development. Availability of change-agents and transformational leaders who are also selfless and committed to national unity is what Nigeria desperately needs now to move forward speedily. It is even more rewarding when these public officials serve as legislators. In such capacities, they stand out as true advocates of their constituents, progressive-minded, detribalized and serving with dignity and honour. As legislative activists, they are visionary, empathetic and always inspiring hope. All their programmes and activities are aimed at connecting the people to good governance. They find fulfilment in mentoring others and in their politics, there is always a place for morality.
Yet, lamentably, once again, such servant-leaders are in the minority.
Nevertheless and among those rare few, as purposeful research reveals, there is Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan, representing Yobe North Senatorial District and, by the special grace of the Almighty, President of the 9th Senate. By every standard of objective assessment, he is an embodiment of a true leader.
From the classrooms where he moulded many lives, he moved to political leadership where he is creatively inspiring and mentoring future great leaders.
And so for the fair-minded who are also guided by thoughtful examination of his leadership trajectory and service credentials, the emergence of Lawan as chairman of the National Assembly is invariably one of the best things that Nigeria has witnessed in recent times. Going by his published blueprint prior to election and then performance records so far, he is not only full of ideas for a much better Nigeria, he is vastly knowledgeable on how the country can surmount her numerous challenges. His pan-Nigerian dispositions are quite compelling. His beliefs and activities towards nation building are contagious and cherished by the unbiased public and fellow progressive-minded. He is an exemplary democrat. He is a man of uncommon courage with proven passion to offer leadership that is capable of changing the fortunes of Nigeria and rewriting its story.
As the head of Nigeria’s highest legislative body, he has a way of seamlessly making his colleagues understand the purposes for which they are entrusted with people’s mandate. This he achieves by his near-collegial style of leadership. He believes that Nigerians have a right to raise legitimate questions and are also entitled to good governance and quality service delivery. He advocates that it is only by close collaboration among arms and tiers of government, supported by effective communication, that good governance is optimally delivered to the people. And then probably due to his pedigree, he is always seeking to deepen the knowledge and perspective of others. This is the reason today there is a Senate bound by unity of purpose and diligent commitment to national interest, which Lawan has since proudly christened the “Senate That Works for the People.”
Despite his influence and exalted position, Lawan has not departed from who he truly is. He remains a man of remarkable simplicity whose understanding of public affairs is unimpeachable.
A social survey of his constituency presents one with a people’s advocate and representative par excellence. In Nigeria’s history, Lawan is the first and still the only presiding officer of the legislature whose imprints are conspicuous across the length and breadth of his constituency, despite the understandable distractions that such office comes with. Households feel the impacts and due dividends of his representation. No wonder he has been in the legislature since 1999, uninterruptedly, through the ballot. His words mirror his thoughts the way his deeds are consistent with his words. His guiding philosophy is that an enlightened, healthy and economically-empowered people translates to a viable, virile and developed polity. And in this wise, farmers, including cattle breeders, petty traders, market people, the aged, the vulnerable and the youth are unanimous that his instituted annual free medical outreach and education support programmes, as well as periodic family support and economic empowerment interventions, are progressively-lifting people out of poverty. This is as undisputable as it is verifiable.
Lawan has been tagged with all sorts of labels since he became Senate President. But he creditably justifies his actions and defends his choice to collaborate with the other arms. Particularly, he is always mindful that Nigeria is still bearing the brunt of missed opportunities and that we cannot afford to miss yet another opportunity to get it right. He knows history, understands the moods of the public and is a visionary on matters of public policy. The manner he spearheaded Nigeria’s budget reforms and fight against the coronavirus pandemic are enough illustrations. The same is also said about his vocal and principled stance on the nagging issue of insecurity. Certainly, he has a relative solution but his powers to act are limited by the constitution, otherwise the National Assembly has since churned out pragmatic legislations for statutory executive actions. Lawan plays his roles with an uncommon intensity and attention to detail.
In addition to being a good partyman who believes in strengthened political processes such as internal democracy and supremacy of the party, Lawan pursues and dispenses bi-partisan political leadership. Of course, the ballots that made him Senate President cut across religious, regional and partisan lines. Again, his swift intervention through President Muhammadu Buhari saved the governing All Progressives’ Congress (APC) from near implosion. Though this is common knowledge as well, four days before the emergency national executive committee meeting, Lawan had met PMB on APC’s imminent disintegration, where he hinted that “I had the opportunity to discuss that with the President who is the leader of the party in Nigeria and, by the grace of God, in the next few days, we will see certain actions will be taken.”
Senator Lawan thinks Nigeria first. He recognizes and respects the distinction between politics and governance. He is inherently dispassionate on issues of governance and national interest. His dreams and visions are for a Nigeria where peace and unity reign supreme.
There abound factual information about Ahmad Lawan’s unquestionable determination and dedication to revamping the economy. And by the same token, he is evidently committed to all other socio-political and economic readjustments that would give the common man a new lease of hope, notably constitution amendments as well as electoral system and petroleum industry reforms. He is a bridge-builder and supporter of good and progressive ideas. There are veritable evidences that Lawan is a unifier who demonstrates that we have to firstly understand our strengths and weaknesses, in order to come to middle ground for progress and prosperity. In the best tradition of public service he discharges his duties and constantly preoccupies himself with how to make Nigeria work.
Driven by his astute understanding of Nigeria and its many problems as highlighted on his agenda for the National Assembly, he canvasses that it is only by unity that progress can be made towards surmounting the challenges.
As just a singular testament to his pan-Nigerian outlook, he was in Abia State recently where he reiterated his position and proclaimed that “today and indeed even tomorrow and forever, we can achieve better. We can achieve more when we are united. Nigeria is designed by the grace of God to be a nation of many people of different orientations, different sentiments but we must be a people with common purpose and common destiny and this is what we are trying to achieve. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter what you believe in. What matters is that you are a Nigerian and the other person next to you is a Nigerian too.”
And in furtherance of his politics of inclusion for national integration and apparently a veiled reference to the regional clamours for rotational presidency, Lawan had a word for Ndigbo: “Let’s unite ourselves in this state and indeed in the South-East. Let’s face common agenda of being in the centre of Nigeria. In fact, let’s even attempt to be the leaders of Nigeria because it’s a valid aspiration. Let’s not stay away from being part of the real centre of action in Nigeria. That we can achieve when we sit together and talk among ourselves. Time is of essence. Nigeria needs all of us to be united. Nigeria needs all hands to be on deck. Nigeria needs the effort of each and every part to make it work and we can make it work.”
Similarly, the headships and compositions of the Senate standing committees and also the national spread reflected in his appointed aides are quite indicative of his bi-partisan, detribalized and accomodating disposition towards national unity.
So, empirically, there can be no better valid evidence that Lawan is truly a dedicated, public-spirited servant-leader and a patriot who wants the best for the country. He delights himself with intellectual and higher pursuits and also things that bear relevance to the public, principally the unity of Nigeria.
Therefore, it is only fairly inevitable that Senator Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan is encouraged to do more for this country that he has demonstrated more than adequate passion to serve. As indeed the new face of Nigeria’s unity, he is eminently qualified and deserves a higher place where he continues to have roles in policy and governance, for the overall good of the people, unity and prosperity of the country and, of course, to the glory of God. After all, it is an African tradition that whoever performs well at the ground floor is called to serve upstairs.
But in the interim, this is to celebrate him, wishing him a happy birthday, long life and prosperity.
•Egbo is print media aide to the President of the Senate