Few minutes after concluding the piece originally meant for this week, I dashed off to SaharaReporters’ site. The title of Sonala Olumhense’s article “An Outbreak of Political Worshippers” serves as a bait that lures me to read the item.
Olumhense’s article was acerbic criticism of event that took place at the luncheon with President Goodluck Jonathan. Olumhense was one of the Nigerian professionals in the United States invited to lunch with Mr. Jonathan in New York.
Billed as a PR stunt to sell or resell Nigeria to Nigerians abroad, the event soon turned to exaltation of the president by “political worshippers.” Mr. Jonathan was instantly transformed into Nigeria’s savior and the apotheosis of all kingly and godly qualities.
Apparently in disbelieve, Olumhense was miffed by the superbly choreographed musical comedy of praises by some of Mr. Jonathan’s cabinet members namely Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala Coordinating and Finance Minister, Olusegun Aganga Industry and trade Investment Minister, Ade Adefuye Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US, and two unidentified MCs.
According to Olumhense, Adefuye spoke about Mr. Jonathan’s “heart and his wonderful decision-making” ability. Okonjo-Iweala “described how well the Nigerian economy is doing,” while Aganga “praised Jonathan’s wisdom, leadership and achievements.”
“One of the MCs bragged about Nigeria’s ‘achievement’ as Mr. Jonathan would speak in 4th place at the United Nations General Assembly debate… that Mr. Jonathan would ring the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange,” recalls Olumhense.
That President Jonathan is a weak leader as aptly stated by Olumhense is an understatement. It’s no news therefore that the bootlicking cabinet members of Mr. Jonathan are taking full advantage of a disabled and deluded president whose leadership deficit grows everyday with his presidency.
The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. Mr. Jonathan has failed miserably to define reality. He is caught up in his own power, pride and arrogance that ultimately drive his administration. As a leader, Mr. Jonathan is afraid to make mistakes and failed to admit them when he did.
He has created an atmosphere within his administration where risk taking is not encouraged. He is more concerned with his popularity than any other thing which leads him to believe his own press.
The need for courageous advisers and cabinet members who could brave the presidential aura and awe and tell Mr. Jonathan the truth cannot be stressed enough. A good leader must encourage reflective backtalk which allows the leader to learn and to find out more about himself. Mr. Jonathan believes in pleasing people than in serving people.
The make-up of Mr. Jonathan’s cabinet and advisers tells us that he likes people who would deceive him and tell him lies he would like to hear. In the contrary, a good leader encourages dissent.
Mr. Jonathan needs people around him who have contrary view, who are devil’s advocates, who can tell him the difference between what Nigerians expected and what is really going on. Instead, Mr. Jonathan hires reflectors and clones who will mirror his opinions and desires.
The Okonjo-Iwealas, the Agangas, the Adefuyes and countless others in Mr. Jonathan’s administration are all too aware of what they perceive as dangers in speaking up. The duty of Mr. Jonathan is to look into the eyes of his staff and tell them point blank: “I want you to tell me exactly what’s wrong with me and my administration, even if it means losing your job.”
As a leader, Mr. Jonathan does not possess optimism, faith, and hope. Optimism and hope provide choices. But how can the president give what he doesn’t have? The opposite of hope is despair. Nigerians are in despair. And when the people are despair they feel trapped, crushed, helpless, and choice less.
Mr. Jonathan is incapable of balancing stakeholders’ competing claims and needs of a huge nation like Nigeria. The leader thinks of the impact of every decision he makes on public opinion, on the poor, the middle class, on consumers, on labor unions, on the states, on the municipalities, and so many other groups in the society.
As a leader, one is sure to face choices that affect not only his own life, but many others. A leader must put others first many times people whom you are likely to disagree with.
A leader must choose what is best for others, not what appeals to his own taste. A leader must constantly ask himself who will benefit most from his decision, me or others?
History offers a countless examples of leaders who failed because they refused to heed warnings. Just before the outbreak of World War II, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain failed to heed warnings from several parties concerning the threat posed by Adolf Hitler. Instead, Chamberlain pursued a policy of “appeasement” and confidently announced “peace in our time.” He died a year after the Nazi invasion of Poland.
A good leader knows when to heed warnings and advice. Mr. Jonathan has demonstrated over and over again that he is not receptive to advice and he is tone deaf to warnings. The handling of Boko Haram terrorists, the petroleum subsidy saga, the Governor Amaechi affair, and lately the ASUU strike bear witnesses to the grotesque leadership style of Mr. Jonathan.
The president’s counselors and cabinet members have run out of arguments – but not of praises. Given the extent and extreme hypocrisy and ineptitude of Jonathan’s administration being exposed on daily basis, the advisers and the coterie of cabinet liars have less and less to say. Guilty consciences want to flee justice, but the people’s fury of revenge would find them out!