City Boy and the Reality of Governance

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In the lead up to the 2015 general election, Nigeria – either by accident or design – was marooned between the Rock and a hard place. The choice of electing the ideal leader (if that’s applicable in Nigeria’s case) was not an easy run.

But a majority of the people was already tired of the rock (Goodluck Jonathan), who had refused to yield as they had expected. The idea of giving the hard place (Muhammadu Buhari) an opportunity was though with reluctance, it was the most popular at the time.

Within the APC, the choice of Buhari was debated repeatedly as many of the party leaders consented to his candidacy rather late. But he seemed pretty good to defeat the incumbent, with his mysterious 15 million votes, and so, everyone hopped on the train, hoping they would run the country together as a party and government.

However, there was an unreported incident that took place during the campaigns and would later summarise what ultimately became of the Buhari presidency.

There had been plans to make him (Buhari) visit a prominent Nigerian leader, an idea he was vehemently opposed to. His reasons, quite honestly, were personal. But his handlers insisted it was the way to go as part of their marketing and communication strategies. So, one day, he was literally “dragged” to the home of this leader.

After the visit and they made to leave, as this prominent Nigerian walked them out to their cars, he pulled back one of Buhari’s handlers, patted him on the back and said, as though a note for file: “Now, you will know why he was ousted as military head of state. Have a nice day.”

After serving out his eight years in power, does any Nigerian need to be told why Buhari was actually overthrown as a military leader? Although Jonathan predicted he would be missed, the truth is that no Nigerian actually missed Jonathan.

On the contrary, they have continued to blame him for making them consider a total failure as an alternative to him. There’s nothing in Buhari – inward and outward – that qualified him for that office. He just wanted to be president for the sake of power, and that was all he did.

He neither understood the issues nor was able to sell them. He could barely deliver simple leadership. He was and still a disaster. Yet, the people who went all out, including the incumbent, Bola Tinubu, to defend his administration are now blaming him for what the country has become. Isn’t that pathetic?

For the 2015 election, at least, as a reporter, who was privileged to have a sit-down with the major gladiators, I was not disillusioned about the fact that Atiku was Nigeria’s best bet. Not just because he was tagged the most prepared at the time, he was actually ready for the job. Atiku knew what the issues were and had the solutions outlined already. Maybe his politics was bad.

On the contrary, Buhari, during an interview at his Abuja home, preparatory to the election, mumbled all through. He was inane and clueless. He just wanted power. When he was confronted, albeit off-the-record, with the report that he actually had intelligence on the coup that threw him out in 1985, his response clearly suggested that Nigeria was in for a terrible choice that would leave unceasing disaster in its trail.

A leader who would not lift a finger to save himself was being prepped to save the entire nation? Yet, the people took their chances with him, accorded with staggering goodwill. It was anything but Jonathan, and so, good luck left Jonathan and smiled big on Buhari,

That was 2015. But I had thought that 2023 was Atiku’s best and last chance. I espoused his choice as much as I could. I have no personal relationship with him, but I was convinced by his persuasion of what should be done. His resolve to run a government of national unity, coming from where Buhari left off, compared to nothing.

No president at this time in the nation’s history can successfully run a government without the input of other tendencies, your enemies inclusive. Tinubu took over a mess. Yes, he did. But he was part of it. It was a government by his party. Did he not campaign saying he would continue with Buhari’s policies? So, he is culpable.

But unlike Atiku, Tinubu projected a government of national competence. I knew it was just another political jargon – balablu – more like. That statement made no practical sense whatsoever. Utter hogwash! You don’t run a government at this time with trainee ministers. At best, most of the current ministers should head agencies, parastatals, or junior ministers.

It was not surprising, therefore, that the government would take off with scandals, unverified but embarrassing allegations of graft and evident incompetence on the part of many of them. Of the about 48 ministers, you can hardly put aside 15 as outstanding.

There’s no doubting the fact that Tinubu is a damn good politician. His ability to trade off anything at any time further exacerbates this. He can grandstand and manipulate any process for result. That’s his forte. But he has never really been a good administrator. His seeming administrative acumen over the years was because he was surrounded then by damn good advisers, who bore his can at all times.

Again, this is instructive. By virtue of his political disposition, he has always been darwinian. But this is Nigeria – a geographical expression bigger than all of his aspirations and arrogance. His approach should have been markedly different and accommodating. Curiously, he has begun to give fillip to the assertion that the Lagos politics is akin to playing Ludo while in Abuja, it is a game of Chess.

Well, the reality is here, and it’s stark. It is not too late to change gear. Otherwise, all of you – from Yar’Adua to Jonathan, Buhari, and yourself – would make former President Olusegun Obasanjo appear like the greatest of all times. You don’t have to like him. He is still the best of you guys, with enviable global acclaim.

To change this, Tinubu must be practical. The presidency can no longer be about him. He has to be quick on his feet. His inclination to make hard choices must be spontaneous. He must be openly disposed to the principle of reward and sanction – reward and fire as the situation demands.

The president has to learn to lead by example. The change the Nigerian people desperately seek must start with him, and everyone working with and for him. Discipline, moderation, and dedication must be the overall watchword and creed.

More than anything else, you need to breathe life into your government and urgently, too. What you currently have cannot serve the purpose of change, but it can only be business as usual. The options are yours, and unfortunately, your time is fast ticking away.

There’s a mockery doing the rounds now: “The Yoruba Boys Are Here.” That, obviously, is not from a good place. It is a reminder of the fact that the current leader of the country is Yoruba and that the entire Yoruba race must be ready to take responsibility for his failings.

While that may not be too much to ask, the president, too, must know that the presidency is not an opportunity to hit back at real or perceived enemies. It is a position that allows you to unfurl how large and obliging your heart truly is and for the collective good.

President Tinubu, things are horrible. I don’t know what information you are being fed with and how honestly that is being done, but an independent poll can bring you close to the truth. Things have gone from bad to worse and are now heading in the direction no one knows.

It was Margaret Thatcher, a former British Prime Minister, who once said no government is elected to manage a bad situation but improve on the situation on the ground. Otherwise there would not be need to elect a new government. You have, therefore, lost the right to make excuses. Let that not be your stock-in-trade.

You publicly and openly claimed being president was your lifelong ambition. You campaigned across the country, espousing what you’d do differently. You boasted to know what the challenges were and that you were the right man for the job. You cited Lagos as your testimonial and promised to do better for Nigeria. Indeed, you said you’d hit the ground running.

So, what are those excuses and the demand for more time? Much as most of the challenges are artificial, you cannot be excused for poorly conceived ideas and policies either. It suffices to say, too, that many of the governors have not done enough to help. They are simply executive rogues who have made the situation worse than it should be.

City Boy, you are welcome to the reality of power, leadership and governance. You must take immediate actions, and your decisions must be decisive. There is no time to waste time. You have to be susceptible to wise counsel and design some back channel options to deal with many of these challenges. Learn to seek counsel at all times. You do not boast a repository of knowledge. Exhaustively dimension your options at all times.

In the final analysis, good leadership is ensconced in the ability to take responsibility, make hard choices, and desist from excuses. There’s none of Nigeria’s current crises that you can run away from. The earlier you understand this and embrace it, the better for you and everyone.

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