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OBJ Vs IBB: The Leadership Question …Daily Independent editorial(2011)

Our greatly esteemed readers have to forgive us, but to state the very obvious; there is a leadership problem in Nigeria. If two old men who both claim to be in their seventies (in Nigeria you can never be too sure about age declarations) decide to trade salacious remarks, that frankly is their own business. However in this instance the two over- seventies are former heads of state. Since we do not have Thabo Mbeki engaging Nelson Mandela, Jerry Rawlings throwing bricks at John Kuffor, or John Major ramming it into Tony Blair, then obviously there must be something fundamentally wrong with our methods of recruitment and selection into leadership positions.

This dysfunction is revealed at all levels. However when the affliction becomes a debilitation at the highest level it means that there is a fundamental structural flaw. A glimpse into what may be the root cause can be seen from the statement last week of a former Federal Minister. In his statement (or was it a Freudian slip?) the hilariously garrulous Femi Fani-Kayode, former Federal Aviation Minister, stated that Chief Obasanjo, his erstwhile Principal, should have been grateful to Ibrahim Babangida for putting him in power. This position is utterly ridiculous. It also reveals a complete contempt for the people of Nigeria. In the ordinary interpretation it would have been expected that it is the people of the country (the electorate as opposed to a single individual) who put people into the highest offices of state.

Further illuminating us on the mindset of Nigeria’s misfiring political establishment, Fani-Kayode tells us that a critical difference between OBJ and IBB is that the latter rewards his friends and allies and showers them with great appreciation. Pray thee, are we operating a medieval court full of supplicants and applicants or are we running a modern society? For a man who was once entrusted with the running of the nation’s entire aviation sector with all which that entails, to reveal such a feudal way of thinking, in itself poignantly highlights a key fault line in our method of recruitment and selection. In this context, as the Yankees would have said ‘will you buy a used aircraft from this man?’

This is a time for introspection. There is really not that much entertainment in the OBJ vs. IBB spat. It however tells us a lot about why we are perennially an under-achieving nation. Nigeria is endowed with everything else apart from sensible leadership. This is why after earning three times (inflation-adjusted) the funds used for the Marshall Plan which resuscitated the economies of Western Europe after the Second World War there is really nothing on ground to showcase. Compared to what Lee Kuan Yew achieved in Singapore there is a lot for us if we are reflective to be ashamed about. Nevertheless, out of the battle of the Generals comes one truth. The absurd trading of tackles has once again confirmed the position of the sage Chinua Achebe that the problem with Nigeria is that of leadership. This being so its time to revamp our method of recruitment and leadership. In the meantime a period of silence from the gladiators and their camp followers will be most welcome.


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