Jonathan and the Burden of Transformational Leadership By Niran Adedokun
On assumption of office, President Goodluck Jonathan committed himself to the delivery of transformational leadership to the people of Nigeria. Well, it is true to say that he did not use these words exactly, but when a man describes his plan for the country as a “transformation agenda”, I think it would be pretty safe to conclude that such a man intends to provide some measure of transformational leadership.
The idea of transformational leadership was first pronounced by American political scientist and leadership expert, James Macgregor Burns. According to him, transformational leadership is when “leaders and followers make each other to advance to a higher level of moral and motivation.” He goes further to say that such leaders possess the strength to inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations and work towards common goals. Very importantly, transformational leaders are trustworthy, role models who lead by example. I truly believe that our current President is capable of living up to these expectations in spite of the public opprobrium against his administration.
The reasons for my optimism are manifold. The first is that my faith—Christianity—teaches me to be positive, to hope for the best and believe the best of people at all times. My faith goes further to insist that I confess positive things about everyone and everything which means anything to me, my country inclusive. And so even if just for the enormous power of positive confession, I want to trust that Jonathan is able to provide this kind of leadership for Nigeria although Christianity also speaks about the place of capacity and effort even as faith works
Apart from the above, I also do not think that this federal administration is as unproductive as a lot of Nigerians say. I think that a lot of the contempt and distrust which Nigerians have for the Jonathan administration stem from two main factors, which are not necessarily indicative of how much of transformational leadership the government could provide. One of the reasons why many Nigerians cannot stand the President, in my opinion, is his uncharismatic, almost colourless nature. Every now and then, I hear many of our compatriots lament on how a country with so much articulate and competent people came up with a President like Jonathan. Some of our people get so upset that you feel like they would break down in tears the next minute, especially when they compare Jonathan with the Obamas and Camerons of this world. But experience has shown me that oratory or the lack of it has nothing to do with effectiveness. In actual fact, taciturnity could foster effectiveness if properly channelled. Speaking about Theodore Roosevelt and Harry Truman, two former American Presidents, Biographer David McCullough wrote: “Perhaps, the greatest difference is that TR is a showman. He really loved the theatre of politics. Harry Truman was never that; he never had a shred of glamour or, to use the overrated word ‘charisma’” Yet, Truman remains one of the most impactful American presidents in history; so, the lack of charisma is no hinderance to effective governance.
The very effective propaganda machinery of the opposition is another reason why it seems that this government is not performing and does not have the ability to perform. Honest observers of the polity would however agree that the opposition has itself not shown any sparkling example at transformational leadership in the states and local governments that they govern. At best, the glitter of performance that we have seen is like that of a one-eyed man becoming king in the community of the blind.
Just as well, it would be dishonest to suggest that the Jonathan administration has not shown some signs of purposeful leadership in the past two years. We at least see some progress in the attempt to reform the power sector; we see concerted effort in the drive towards improving agricultural practices (I pray every day that the statistics we hear on this front are correct). One is happy that the Federal Road Maintenance Agency is coming back to life and that the Nigeria Railway Corporation is putting trains back on the tracks. Then the massive rehabilitation and expansion work going on in the aviation sector cannot pass unnoticed. This, apparently, has been followed up with investments in infrastructure as the current performance of the Accident Investigation Bureau has shown in the aftermath of the recent crash of the Associated Airlines plane in Lagos
However, the Federal Government must realise that transformation can never just be about bricks and mortar. As a matter of fact, the transformation of a nation lies more in the transformation of the minds of those who inhabit the country, than in the building that they live or in the roads that they drive on. And when we make the mistake of investing more in infrastructure than we do on building a responsible citizenry, we risk the destruction of the entire infrastructure that we build in no time at all. Would that not be the reason why our entire infrastructure is so dilapidated in the first place?
Now, the building of a responsible citizenry must start from the leader who is serious about transformation. As Albert Einstein said, “Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” This is where I am worried about leadership in Nigeria. Let us agree that President Jonathan is indeed interested in moving Nigeria forward, does he realise the need to place emphasis on the moral rejuvenation of the national soul and that he, alongside all his cabinet members, must lead the nation by example?
Just before the break of the scandal on the outrageous purchase of two bulletproof BMW cars for the aviation minister, Stella Oduah, President Jonathan had told the whole world that corruption was not Nigeria’s worst problem. Although I suspected that the President, like most of those in the political class, would get defensive when the issue of corruption is raised (apparently assuming that complaints about corruption only referred to political corruption), I wonder why anyone would say what the President said in a country where it is possible to obtain a driving licence for a suckling babe.
Just some days before the President waved away the devastating and pervasive effect of corruption on Nigeria, there was the plane crash that killed about 15 people in Lagos. Immediately after the crash, nearly every authority in the country’s aviation industry rushed to town to tell us that the aircraft was airworthy since a certificate said so. My instant reaction was to wonder how anyone, who lives in Nigeria, could so confidently pass such judgment when almost every Nigerian is ready to compromise at anything for pecuniary gains. How could we so trust a certificate? Preliminary reports from the AIB has since revealed that all was not well with that aircraft and that the crash would never have happened if certain laid down procedures were followed , yet the President says corruption is not our worst problem!
How then would he understand the current outrage on the purchase of those cars by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority? One thing must be clear to President Jonathan however. Unless he starts to take bold steps to address every official infraction, financial or otherwise, it would be impossible for him or any government coming after him to sustain any infrastructure achievement he may have been able to make at the end of his tenure. As Roosevelt said: “…if this world of ours is ever to become what we hope someday it may become, it must be by the general recognition that the man’s heart and soul, the man’s worth and actions, determine his standing.” Moving Nigeria forward is a transformation that must come from us inside out and I daresay that transformation should start with the President and his men and women!
•You can follow him on twitter @niranadedokun
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