Friday, August 26, 2016

Finding Exemplary Leaders

Diogenes the Cynic
Photo: Wikicommons/Tony F
Leaders inspire exemplary behavior. We look to them to guide us in the face of uncertainty and see them as unifiers in times of discord. Leaders are visionaries who demonstrate tact, poise and levelheadedness under pressure, check their egos, and look beyond their interests for the greater common good.

In more ways than one, Barack Obama has displayed leadership qualities.

In the course of his presidency, President Obama has reacted with grace to provocations ranging from false assertions regarding his place of birth to Congressman Joe Wilson’s infamous ‘You lie’ interjection at his first State of the Union address. He put behind him the criticisms his one-time rivals Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton leveled at him during the presidential debates, offering them high profile positions in his administration. And where disasters have struck, he has been quick to show concern and offer support to affected Americans regardless of creed or party affiliation—like he did with New Jersey Republican governor Chris Christie. Both men shared a much publicized friendly hug when Obama visited the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. In his eight years in office, Obama has consistently shown, through his actions and words that he is the president of all Americans, not just of blue states, Christians or Blacks.

By contrast, President Buhari’s conduct since becoming president has been unsurprisingly parochial. Unsurprising, because in 2012, he spoke ominously of bloodshed if the presidential elections weren’t transparent, and having won in 2015, unabashedly asserted that states where he got the least votes shouldn’t expect to benefit from his presidency. Such remarks befit a thin-skinned egoist not a president.

Recently, in keeping with his warped thinking, Buhari shifted responsibility to his party members, asking those ‘friendly’ with Niger-Delta militants to beg them to stop bombing pipelines, as if the Niger-Delta were an autonomous region beyond his jurisdiction. One wonders if his uninterest and unwillingness to visit or engage in talks with the Niger-Delta is rooted in the fact that the region voted overwhelmingly for his rival and then incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan. If it is, then he’s got the wrong job. As every good leader knows, listening is the first step in bridge building.

President Buhari’s parochialism has also revealed itself in his loud silence on the vicious attacks wrought by cattle herdsmen on several villages. He remained mum on the issue, until recently, neither condemning them nor sympathizing with bereaved Nigerians. Yet, he’s been quick to offer condolences to France et al in the wake of terror attacks. Perhaps it is his stake in the cattle business that informed his reticence. Either way, through his actions or lack thereof, he has communicated to Nigerians that his interests precedes those of the country. That the change he promised during his campaign was going to be business as usual, where Nigeria’s needs take a back seat to the president’s, as typified by Buhari’s trip to the UK to treat an ear infection, an ear infection for Pete’s sake, amid an economic downturn.

At a time Nigerians are being told to tighten their belts in preparation for a tumultuous ride, the president deemed it fit to spend taxpayer’s money on medical treatment abroad. Lest we forget, the Aso Rock Clinic with a budget of 3.87 billion naira (which costs more than all 16 federal teaching hospitals) caters to the president, vice president, their families and staff. Why couldn’t he take a stroll down there and save Nigeria some cash? Or are Nigerian doctors not up to the task of treating the president?

Granted, the expertise of Nigerian-trained doctors is somewhat questionable, but that’s a corollary the endless stream of vacuous and uninspiring leaders Nigeria has had since independence.

Incidentally, the president, by virtue of his office, could raise the profile of tourist’s attractions across Nigeria and boost the economy if he forwent vacationing abroad. Ever wondered why American presidents favor staycations? Because taxpayer’s dollars are put to work on America soil.

Contrary to what Nigerian leaders claim, they’re not interested in serving our fatherland with love and strength and faith. Otherwise, the missing Chibok girls would have been rescued ages ago, divide-and rule stratagems won’t be employed to win elections and looters of public funds won’t be rewarded with ministerial positions and the like. 

With that in mind, it would take more than prayers and a lamp to find leaders who can save Nigeria.