Identifying Exemplary Leadership

By BENJAMIN TOLULOPE

 At the end of the recent governorship election in Ekiti State, the winner, Ayodele Fayose of the PDP, described Kayode Fayemi of the APC as a Nigerian politician with a difference. Fayose had been pleasantly surprised that Fayemi did not hesitate to concede defeat and congratulate him after the result of the election was announced. Anyone who appreciated where Fayose was coming from would have equally appreciated the significance of his gesture, especially in Nigeria’s famished politics where the players hardly play with open mind and so when they lose they refuse to believe their ears and their eyes.

Therefore Fayemi’s action had marked a laudable paradigm shift which deserved grateful acknowledgement as demonstrated by Fayose – the same acknowledgement or honour which I believe would have been extended to Iyiola Omisore in the subsequent exercise in Osun State had he accordingly displayed the Fayemi spirit by conceding defeat gallantly to the winner, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of the APC.

But since Omisore has refused to adopt the example and take the reciprocal honour, are there not in such electoral exercises other indirect players deserving of a similar pat on the back? I have in mind Prof. Jega and his team, as well as the security team and, above all, President Goodluck Jonathan who, contrary to the fears of the opposition under such circumstances, has consistently adhered to the dictates of justice, fair play and his oath of office. Put bluntly, one is asking whether in all fairness, and politics apart, we don’t believe that this man has all along displayed exemplary statesmanship that deserved some acknowledgement, for it was Bennett Carf who, believing in the value of gratitude, said that “a pat on the back, though a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, is miles ahead in results.” Jonathan may not give a dime to any idea of honouring him for he believes he is doing his job, but I believe that it would be germane to give honour to whom it is due, because naturally one good turn deserves another.

Jonathan as a gentleman has discharged the dual roles of his office quite admirably in the last few years. Except perhaps his implacable foes, as well as cynics, who mistake his quiet, genial disposition for a sign of weakness or incompetence, in fact nobody has accused him of favouritism or partiality in the discharge of his duties both as a head of state and leader of his political party. If such accusation ever came his way, it can only be traced to his own party where some members hankering after selfish or parochial collective pursuits may have found it convenient to brood and fume that he has bluntly refused to help them out, no matter how unholy their cause may be. It is noteworthy that Jonathan has publicly warned that “no one should rig election” for him and that “no one should kill” for his sake because his political ambition was not worth the life of any Nigerian.

Given this principled stand, under his watch in the last five years or so his party has steadily lost elections to the opposition platform without Jonathan raising an eyebrow, as long as such contests have the INEC’s stamp. The list of such instances includes two governorship polls in Anambra and a number of parliamentary bye-elections across the country, where his party men accused him of aiding the opposition platform. It is on record too that the winners of the Edo and Ondo governorship elections, Adams Oshiomhole and Segun Mimiko, apparently overwhelmed with joy and pleasantly surprised at what happened, did not hesitate to travel to Abuja to thank President Jonathan – the same man whose laissez-faire political attitude under similar circumstances had encouraged the Justice Ayo Salami’s Court of Appeal to return Ekiti and Osun states to former ACN four years ago to the displeasure of the PDP hierarchy. Not only has Jonathan displayed such exemplary neutrality on electoral issues involving his party and the opposition platform, in order to instil the desired paradigm shift in Nigerian politics, Jonathan has perceptibly tried to temper his obvious progressive leaning with tolerable dose of conservatism in the true sense of a typical Burkean statesman; for it was Edmund Burke who posited that “the disposition to preserve and the ability to improve taken together is the ideal standard of a model statesman.”

So we should let Jonathan be. Obviously the Osun State chapter of the PDP may not understand why the President and head of their political party who has the power of life and death cannot come to their help by deploying INEC and all to their advantage during such crucial contests with the opposition. But looking at the Osun result, the PDP, in future, may not need any presidential preferential treatment to defeat their opponents because they can easily wipe out Aregbesola’s victory margin given hard work.

Compared with Ekiti where Fayose won convincingly in all the local government areas, Aregbesola won in 22 local government areas out of 30. What the Ekiti and Osun results tend to show therefore is that while it may be possible for the PDP to reclaim Osun in the nearest future, the APC can only do so in Ekiti with a completely new manifesto, not the present one which lacks real vote-catching potency as a duplicate of the PDP’s moribund manifesto. A new and self-professed party of change out on national redemption mission needs a better blueprint to displace the PDP from leadership at various levels. Omisore should therefore stop brooding over his loss because while he has no control over the past, he can spend today to plan and capture the future.

Let him concede defeat to Governor Aregbesola and return to the drawing board for nothing indicates that the APC’s victory margin of about 100,000 votes cannot be erased in any subsequent exercise in which all the noticeable loopholes would have been plugged not only by clearing any image problem which the party may have in a place like Ijesa land, for example, but also more importantly, by helping to actualise President Jonathan’s Transformation Agenda. Critics of the APC have a major point. Beyond the party’s orchestrated emergence on the political scene, they argue that its leadership has not been able to match its promises with the right manifesto for the anticipated paradigm shift which it intends to bring to the polity – a manifesto imbued with originality and novelty capable of going beyond bread and butter to effectively address the perennial sorry state of the nation as bequeathed by a self-serving military.

A party with the right manifesto, founded strictly to move Nigeria forward on the right ideology, will have little or no need to canvass for either membership or votes. Not only its avowals but also its aura, rectitude, as well as the selflessness and charisma of its leadership will ensure the requisite alchemy and binding force that will weld almost all the people into a mass movement to change the course of Nigeria’s history for all time.

This was what happened in Lenin’s Russia, in Sukamo’s Indonesia, in Mao’s China, and in the 18th century northern Nigeria with the inimitable scholar, teacher and quintessential thinker and strategist, Uthman Dan Fodio, as the arrowhead. Dan Fodio achieved that remarkable success because his cause bordered first and foremost on social revolution to erase the prevailing decadent, oppressive, brutalising, dehumanising and nihilistic culture of the ruling elite. In our quest for paradigm shift, in the race to redeem the nation, let us identify and recognise milestones of exemplary leadership.

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