Leaders throughout history evoke some kind of passion in their followers. A leader who is as inspirational as a wilted spinach leaf will not last long in the saddle. The manner of passion a leader evokes, largely, determines how his contemporaries view him, and indeed, may influence history’s view. Virtually all effective leaders evoke a respect or a mix of fear and hatred. Despots “inspire” naked fear and breed sycophancy. From successful CEOs to acclaimed heads of countries, a common theme underlies their time in power. Straight out of university I had the privilege of working with Tony Elumelu when Standard Trust Bank was still small; he wasn’t the most likeable of characters in my freshman eyes back then because he made us work overnight on so many occasions – but it is difficult not to respect him. Fola Adeola perhaps has the most caustic wit when displeased, but I would wager many GTB alumni would still be diffident to speak ill of him. My former colleagues in PricewaterhouseCoopers would regale any listener of the respect, fear and in a few cases, hatred that is the legend of Nsa Harrison. On another level, why speak in glowing terms of Ronald Reagan or Bill Clinton, in spite of their personal weaknesses, foibles and failings?
In this first of a series of essays I plan to write about the forthcoming elections, the question I will seek to address is “what manner of passion does Goodluck Jonathan educe amongst his team”? This is important in my opinion, to understand the man as a leader and to help determine if he is the kind of leader we need to reward with our collective national trust for another four years.
For me, the first deep insight into the nature of the man Goodluck Jonathan was his televised remark – “I don’t give a damn”, when asked about his declaration of assets. The signal sent out in that moment of unrestrained emotion speaks volumes about him and what to expect of his team. If the late General Sani Abacha had made this kind of remark, I would neither have blinked in surprise nor lost a night’s sleep. That remark was firmly in character and under a military dispensation, let’s face it, our opinions are not meant to matter. However under a democracy where your tenure in office is based on the numerical strength of goodwill as measured in votes, it would be political suicide to make that kind of slip. Gordon Brown referred to one voter, just one voter, as “that bigoted woman” and his goose, or whatever was left of it, was cooked. Except, perhaps, in the case of Goodluck Jonathan, it was not a slip. Maybe truly the man does not give a damn. A man who does not give a damn is a dangerous man. Scratch that, he is a highly dangerous man. It connotes a man who believes he has a grip on power that is not legitimised by democratic acceptance.
Having made that theme clear, his immediate team went to work – not giving a damn. I dare say from that moment on, the passion stoked amongst his immediate followers in his team was one of insensitivity. On more than one occasion, his advisers have acted in a way that reinforces the notion that under this ruler, there is ample amplitude to be reckless. Abba Moro is the minister saddled with the internal security of Nigeria. In August 2013, quite in the face of the regular bomb attacks carried out by Boko Haram, he told the BBC that Boko Haram is no threat. Barely six months later, 59 boys were killed in a Federal Government College in Yobe. A year later he vicariously supervised the murder of 16 Nigerians whilst carrying out an incompetent recruitment exercise. For the records, to date he has not resigned. He was not prosecuted for his failings. He was not relieved of his duties. He does not give a damn. All under Goodluck Jonathan’s watch.
Over the course of 2013 and 2014, various allegations were made against the NNPC and the Petroleum ministry regarding defalcation of public funds and discrepancies between the revenues expected and revenues accounted. The most strident of these was made by the erstwhile CBN governor. In a rare display of speed from an otherwise lethargic president, the CBN governor was removed and Mrs. Allison-Madueke who supervises the petroleum ministry has been ring-fenced by a presidential shield against summons by the National Assembly. Never mind prosecution. The fact that a minister can be brazen enough to publicly state the House of Representatives cannot summon her without the president’s consent again resonates of that first theme – I don’t give a damn. I will not speak much on this as there is a case pending in court.
In the aftermath of the allegations by the former CBN governor, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the supervising minister for the economy promised a forensic audit report. None has been produced almost a year after Sanusi was “suspended” from office. The need to even inform the citizenry of the progress, or even commencement, of the forensic audit is hardly necessary – after all, I don’t give a damn.
Late last year, someone actually had the barefaced guts to announce a ceasefire with Boko Haram, knowing fully well that none existed. The country was the laughing stock of the international news community – see the BBC link here, the Wall Street Journal and another from The Guardian. That “someone” who announced the ceasefire is still the Chief of Defence Staff. A curious addendum to the announcement of the ceasefire was a directive to “to immediately comply with the agreement”. Being fully aware that there is no ceasefire, a commander directs his men to stand down; this has dire implication on soldiers who could have been killed believing indeed that there was an agreed respite. But then, the man in the fedora does not give a damn.
The utterances and deeds of the people that form the executive team resonate with two clear themes – reckless callousness or opportunistic lethargy. These are two traits exuded in abundance by the president himself. At one point or another, the utterances of folks like Nyesom Wike, Doyin Okupe, Reno Omokri, Reuben Abati have all been emblematic of the executive apathy towards the opinions of the citizens. I can safely say the fact that they did not lose their offices, nor suffer any public reprimand means they are doing the bidding of their team leader or he is too indolent to be bothered.
Perhaps the most damning indictment of President Jonathan’s reckless disdain for Nigerians is best encapsulated by his denial of the Chibok abduction for over two weeks and his refusal, or inability, to even pay a visit to Maiduguri until a week before this round of presidential elections campaign. The last Nigerian ruler I can recall who avoided going to a certain part of the country was Sani Abacha who stayed away from Lagos right from the time M.K.O Abiola was arrested till he died. I digress, but the theme is the same – here is a president who does not give a damn. Not only does he not give a damn, the passion he evokes in his team members is the same – do not give a damn!
To entrust another four years of our collective well-being into the hands of such a man is suicidal.