Baba Go Slow was the sobriquet given to the former Governor of Lagos State, late Sir Michael Otedola. Some of his traducers alleged that he was notorious for taking naps to ease off the pressure of being the helmsman of the economic nerve centre of the ‘Giant of Africa’. Buhari’s critics have not yet coined a name for him but he has given them the lead when he made a public gaffe at the recent African Union Summit in South Africa that his performance in office would be greatly hampered as a result of his old age.
This is rather tragic for a man that has sought to govern the country for twelve years. Did he not factor that in before putting his hands on the plough? Is this a surreptitious way of looking back? The Biblical example of what happened to Lot’s wife who metamorphosed into a pillar of salt should serve as a stern warning.
History is replete with examples of shining stars that emerged as leaders in the twilight of their lives. Golda Meir, the first and only female Prime Minister of Israel became the Chief Executive at 70. She is credited with the deft handling of the Yom Kippur war of 1973 which re-enacted the feat of the six day war. She laid the foundation for the diplomatic handling of the Middle East crisis by initiating peace moves with the then United States Secretary of the State, the legendary diplomat extraordinaire – Henry Kissinger. Winston Churchill became the British Prime Minister at 66 and greatly motivated his countrymen to sturdily stand up to the axis powers led by the sinister Adolf Hitler through his fiery speeches. He was surprisingly thrown out of office at 71 in 1945 by Clement Attlee in one of most baffling British electoral upsets but rebounded by getting elected again in 1951 at 77.
William Ewart Gladstone stepped down as British Prime Minister at 84. He was fondly known as the ‘People’s William’ because of his pro people economic policies while he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Grand Old Man as his other alias goes is ranked as one of the greatest Prime Ministers that ever bestrode Number Ten Downing Street because of what has now been termed by economic historians as the Gladstonian liberalism. It consists of limited government expenditure, low taxation while making sure the government had balanced budgets. He also harped on self-help and the freedom of choice and greatly emphasized free trade, miniscule government intervention and the equality of opportunity through the instrumentality of laissez-faire reforms.
The folk hero of the White House, Ronald Reagan was re-elected as United States President in 1984 at the age of 73. Apart from surviving the assassin’s bullet barely three months after being sworn in in 1980, he battled gallantly with Alzheimer’s disease which made him the cruel butt of jokes as he was pilloried in the press for his litany of faux pas. This didn’t stop him from dismantling the Soviet Union, tearing down the Berlin wall which was the greatest bastion of serfdom at the time and sent the Soviets packing out of Afghanistan in the height of the cold war without causing World War Three.
Manmohan Singh became Indian Prime Minister at the age of 72 in 2004. He already had a high reputation as a high flying achiever when he instituted several reforms which greatly liberalized the Indian economy as Finance Minister and averted the need for the destructive prescriptions from the International Monetary Fund. The fact that the former British colony is the world’s greatest beneficiary of information technology outsourcing is attributable to his financial genius. He did not disappoint his admirers as Prime Minister as he instituted the Rural Health Mission, Unique Identification Authority, Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and the Right to Information Act. Forbes magazine ranked him as the best Prime Minister since Pandit Nehru and went on to receive honourary doctorate degrees from his alma maters – Oxford and Cambridge with the latter instituting a scholarship scheme in his honour for his outstanding achievement while in office.
Shimon Peres emerged as Israeli Prime Minister in 1995 at the age of 73. His short stay in office – less than a year saw him win the Nobel Peace Prize for Oslo accord with Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin. Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was elected as Liberia’s first female President at 70 in 2006. She established the right to free and universal education, equal rights for women and built 800 miles of roads with local manpower. Her administration witnessed massive investments in mining, agriculture, forestry and offshore oil exploration. Her strategic alliance with the Chinese has brought in billions of dollars’ worth of investments that has put the war torn nation on the swift path to recovery. Her efforts were recognized globally with her winning of the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize alongside veteran women’s rights campaigner, Leymah Gbowee.
Wines and Cakes taste better when older and this should apply in the field of political leadership. Buhari is not new to leadership as he has been a military governor, petroleum minister, military head of state in his younger days and has had a thirty year hiatus to prepare for the demands of his present office. He shouldn’t talk like a diffident teenager on his first date.
We expected a tough talking leader to stir the nation with words and action on tackling the myriad of the country’s woes. For a man who is yet to appoint his Chief of Staff and Secretary to the Government in his third week speaks volumes of the ‘preparation’ he has been making since 2003. The needless junketing when he should hit the ground running by getting his countrymen to be on the same page is disheartening.
Is this change we all clamoured for?