Friday, March 3, 2017

Yemi Osinbajo As Argument

By Dan Amor
Against the backdrop of palpable apprehension in high places over public appreciation of the enduring leadership qualities of the Acting President Professor Yemi Osinbajo, it is necessary to pontificate on some critical underpinnings in the relationship between leadership and followership as a philosophic construct. The fact that President Muhammadu Buhari officially handed over the reins of governance to his deputy, as required by law, before proceeding to the United Kingdom on medical vacation on January 19, 2017, need not delay us here. It is obvious that the All Progressives Congress (APC) won the presidential election on a joint ticket of Buhari/Osinbajo, from campaign to inauguration. 
This, also, need not delay us here.  But what has generated more heat than light in recent times is the concept of delivery and appreciation. Whereas Nigerians overwhelmingly believe that a messenger who delivers neatly and squarely must be roundly appreciated or commended for a job well done, a cabal which is jittery over the messenger's looming popularity and sturdy bulwark does not. That is the crux of the matter. Yet governance is a contract between the government and the governed. We give you our mandate to deliver our needs and security. If you deliver, we applaud you; if you don't, we murmur. 

So far, since he mounted the podium of leadership of Nigeria as Acting President, Prof. Osinbajo appears to be performing. From his body language, his utterances and his actions, the Ogun State-born professor of law is not prepared to hoodwink anybody. His rapprochement with the Niger Delta, the goose that lays the golden egg, is legendary. The oil-bearing region had experienced leaders or rulers who wielded the big stick thereby amplifying their restiveness. Abacha militarized the Niger Delta and murdered their agitators. Obasanjo spent over N200million daily for eight years to maintain the Joint Task Force in the region and ordered the extermination of Odi and Odioma communities in broad daylight pogroms. 

Yar'Adua it was who brandished the carrots because he recognized their anxieties. Buhari had mobilized troops to the region and talked tough with unpretentious swagger before the current intervention by Osinbajo. Whether or not he ordered the latter to do what he is doing, or whether Osinbajo's shuttle diplomacy in the Niger Delta is part of their party's manifesto, the truth is that the messenger deserves applause. It is not only that we should complain when our leaders are not leading welł; we must also show some appreciation when they are doing well enough.

Osinbajo's intervention in the politics of the forex market is beginning to firm the stable rise of the Naira against the American Dollar. His statement that "Nigeria has no business with China if Aba is developed", is being applauded all over the place. The incessant communal wars between Cross River and Ebonyi States, between Ebonyi and Benue States and between Cross River and Akwa Ibom States are beginning to engage his attention. He has also summoned the Inspector General of Police over the lingering and blood-spilling Southern Kaduna crisis knowing full well that without peace development is often seen in the dividing line between savagery and barbarism. 

In fact, the totality of Osinbajo's approach to governance inspires excitement and hope in majority of Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion. Any journalist who has written about the Nigerian condition as well as the characters who have shaped the temper of the age must recognize a terrible monotony in our national crises. But the passage of time, the knowledge of consequences, the illumination of hindsight, the tide of new preoccupations and the appreciation of current experiences-all give problems of the past new forms and perplexity. While there would be little point, for example, in caring about where the leader comes from, there would appear considerable point in assessing the character traits, the qualities and weaknesses that must illuminate the personality of the president of a country this big and heterogeneous. 

The leader Nigeria needs must be a direct and candid man or woman, often courteous in manner and opinion, who must hate bigotry and fanaticism, and distrust high-fallutin or self serving statements. His or her instinct has to cloak idealism in throw-way phrases and laconic jokes. This will guide him or her from sliding so easily into neurotic pastimes and value judgement. It would be recalled that the decade of Bill Clinton's Presidency in the United States was one of the joys of the average American's life. It is not only that the President we really need must possess a deep understanding of Nigeria, of its problems and possibilities, but he must also command the occasion of such good and happy times. No one could be more fun than a People's president; no one more appealing, with impulses of irony, bravado, gentleness and vulnerability so curiously intermingled in his vivid personality; no one could hold out more promise for the future as symbol of the national emblem than a people's president. 

Without necessarily being hard, he may be a man of valour as well as having his personal frailties; but his weaknesses must be an essential part of his strength. We are no longer enamoured of an Alexander De Great or a Julius Caesar with unaccountable power, as president. These men, though praised for courage and vigorous leadership, were condemned finally for becoming tyrants who deluged the world in blood. But Fabius Maximus, Cicero, Mandela, Julius Nyerere were builders of the commonweal who were held up as model leaders.

Given the present circumstances of Nigerians in which looking direct into their faces, one will only see sorrow, bewilderment, fury and fright, we need a leader who will comfort as well as encourage the people. Indeed, the ideal president we really need must be the figure about whom must cluster the yearnings, the ideals and the aspirations Nigerians have for themselves and their country. With such a leader, we can get the record of our national history straight, but the meaning of that straightened record will be inextricably involved in the meaning we also try each day to discern in the confusion of the living present. Such a leader must rekindle in members of the young generation that ineffable sense which will make it possible for the youths once again to believe in politics and ideas whose objective should be a better nation. It is not only what the leader will accomplish but what he will represent to the Nigerian imagination, that will matter ultimately. 

He must lead a political party of men and women who by their various actions, activities and crucial moments in Nigerian political history, must display courage, the strength to resist political or partisan pressure, and take a lonely stand on their own sense of what is right no matter whose ox is gored irrespective of party affiliation. In this moment of prolonged national despair and disillusionment, when every Nigerian appears reconciled to the abiding permanence of hopelessness, Osinbajo's steps appear inspiring. Yes, we are all praying for divine intervention and quick recovery of President Buhari to come back to his desk as first among equals. While we await the President's return, let us all applaud Osinbajo for doing well. He needs our support and encouragement. That is the thrust of the argument.
* Dan Amor, a commentator on public issues writes from Abuja

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