The point is in voting for a president, your best bet is to vote the guy with the best people skills, not the best sheepskins. All else is in humor.
Too often, Nigerians especially their public affairs pundits seduce themselves into errors of unknowing. To give one example, Nigerians are always of the opinion that one needed technical or specialist competence to be a great leader. Point is history does not support this fanciful wish. Great leadership is not necessarily made by the beholder with the highest technical or specialist competence or learning.
Currently, history is adding the case study of President Muhammadu Buhari for its ‘’full and final’’ proof that politics is not a specialist’s game. In fact, to preempt ourselves politics is a generalist game. If proof was required here is one. General Buhari as he then was, campaigned amongst other things that in his being a general, he will serve himself and the nation with Boko Haram for dinner. And his campaign managers latched on the fact of his supposed generalship to sell the hope that immediately he comes to office Nigeria will return to normalcy – war and peace wise.
And we may also recall that midway into Buhari’s tortured regime, many advised him to devolve the management of the economy to his Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law. The idea was that Buhari should concentrate his genius, if that is the word, against Boko Haram and let Osinbajo run shop. The very suggestion was suspect. Osinbajo as much as is said, is a professor of law and has no specialist competence in economics or just any other thing save the law. But not to mind, this is Nigeria.
Anyway the fact is that as we write, Boko Haram has become a continuing and increasing, okay, non decreasing, phenomenon. And just lately, the ragtag insurgents had the audacity to attack a military post, massacring the officers and men. Of course there is dispute as to the numbers of casualties. According to some sources, it is as little as 23. Yet there are those who state the figures are in their hundreds. Whatever is the correct figure, one thing is clear. It is that the Nigerian army and its commanders had a bad day. And that is to put it mildly. And the fact of that is essentially a technical matter for the generals.
However, a more general matter for which others may comment authoritatively is this. That this routing of the Nigerian army outpost happened under the watch and command of Buhari. Buhari, we repeat, is a former general, is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, under a democratic platform. And he was a former dictator head of state too.
Thus, given Buhari’s background it may be correct to say that no persons will ever be elected to be president in a war period better equipped than General Buhari, retired. Buhari for our purpose may then be likened or taken to be a professor of armed warfare, whether asymmetric or otherwise. And if we are to believe his biographers, he also experienced war like some of us, though on the other side of events, Biafra, et al.
And his report card? It can now be said in justice that under Buhari, a retired General of the Nigeria Army, acting as Commander in Chief, the Nigerian Armed Forces may have had its most humiliating day in modern history. Before some persons get too agitated for their own health, the following. We are not interested in Buhari as a person. We are using him as a ‘’point of contact’’ to illustrate what should have been a truism with us. That truism is that to be elected a president it is never sufficient that the man comes with specialist knowledge in any one area or areas.
The point is this. Politics and management are aspects of running organizations. The other aspects are technical or operational. In a word a successful entity is run on two planks essentially – the generalist and the operational platforms.
Having said this, the salient matter is that the higher one rises in organizations the less technical or operational one becomes and is forced to become. In other words a pupil engineer who rises through the ladder to become a Chief Executive of a multinational construction company, will for all practical purposes cease being an engineer. His schedule of duty as a CEO will in spite of him, be about 99% managerial, generalist. That is the details of his day jobs will be dominated by completely non-technical matters. Top of the list will be his teeing out at the top golf clubs both at home and abroad. And this we must remind ourselves is not in any attempt to exercise his torso. No, it is for him to widen his contacts and cement existing ones. And of course he is doing those and is so required to do on the behalf of his company and its profits. That is the average CEO of a big company, who started out as a specialist will be scheduled with doing almost nothing that is specialist or specialized. In well articulated organizations before any engineering/technical problems comes to him it is resolved. He is only asked to append his signatures to approving A or B.
And the same principle applies to a president, in fact may be worse for him. Before any military matters come to Buhari, the matter must have been so interrogated and ‘’optionalized’’ that it is just ready for his signature and little else. It would have been so organized that he can’t raise questions. If he has to raise questions and not approve one of the options, then his commanders are or should be in shit. Presidential matters are too many, too deep and too varied for any one head to think through. In other words, a president is only hired to sign not to think.
However, nothing in this is to indicate that a president should not be educated or should parade Nepa bills in lieu of his certificates. The important point here is that there is no amount of education that will equip any persons to become a successful president or governor or CEO. Whoever says so is ignorant or purposively mischievous.
So, one smiles when the third wave presidential candidates parade their degrees and insinuate that those are guides to their doing well in economics and leadership. That is bunkum. The only way big societies or organizations are run are by people skills. People skills are the most important virtue of a CEO or president or governor. And politics is another name for people skills.
Down here in Nigeria all our most successful politicians have come with an abundance even if different shades of it. A guy like Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, was very clubbable. He charmed his men with his rainbow vision. A Chief Obafemi Awolowo, had a vision of development driven by cadre-knit group. And he had them literally under his thrall. Ahmadu Bello, given to a sense of destined rulership, was the prince with common touch. So his constituency was seduced by the fact of a high and mighty one reaching out to commoners.
Of our more modern masters one must give it to Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and Bola Tinubu, and James Ibori I am told. These men whether you like them personally or not, were/are able to wield and run a rainbow of different personalities into one pack of political warriors. Their key wasn’t any specialized knowhow. They may have had it, but what served them best is their people skills. To give an example, the Tinubu reign in Lagos is not due to his competence as a financier – he was an accountant. Tinubu’s genius is that he ‘’federates’’ well. And this is over a wide pool of persons in his south west region. And if Lagos is given as an example of Nigeria working, then Tinubu template is in a great measure accountable for that.
Now this. It is people skills that allow you a generalist, a president, a CEO the inclination to attract, appoint and reward appropriate technical types to work with you. So if a president fails it is not because he does have knowledge of the solutions. It is because he fails in his main duty. And that duty is to have people skills. A president is not hired to provide specialist solutions.
If you are still in doubt then let us recall this. Professor Wole Soyinka once quoted Professor Tunji Aboyade, a mutual friend of his and Obasanjo. And what about? Aboyade, a professor of economics said that General Olusegun Obasanjo is an economic illiterate. These are not my words. The fact is that it might as well be true. Obasanjo to the best of the facts in the open is an Army General, retired, with army engineering background. Yet, after having said these, it is clear Obasanjo is on the shortlist of Nigeria’s most successful presidents since Gowon – in economic terms. And what happened? Obasanjo visited his job with abundant people skills. That gave him the broadness of mind to scout for and hire experts in many areas including the economy. And they delivered. And the glory is his.
So if Buhari is failing in subduing Boko Haram it is for only one reason. His genius to attract the right and appropriate talent is, well, very well, undemonstrated. Many have accused him of nepotism and sectionalisms. Perhaps, the performance of his choice of commanders in this war against terror, is proof or consequence of his noted sectionalisms.
Well, the point is in voting for a president, your best bet is to vote the guy with the best people skills, not the best sheepskins. All else is in humor.