Those Letters…and Our Enlightened Self Interest By Funke Aboyade
Leadership, naturally, was a theme that resonated around the world last week, with the funeral activities for President Nelson Mandela – one of the, if not THE, most inspirational leaders of the 20th Century.
In a manner of speaking, and ironically, it was also a theme that played out throughout last week in Nigeria – that is to say, the failure of leadership. In no particular order, there was that bombshell President Obasanjo dropped on President Jonathan. Then there was CBN Governor, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi’s letter to President Jonathan expressing grave concern over NNPC’s non-repatriation of $49.8bn (or N8trn) of crude oil shipments to the federation account. And there was Speaker Tambuwal’s damning allusion to the body language of the President on his stance on corruption.
And then there was the Access Leadership Conference in Lagos which had the likes of President George W. Bush, President John Kufour, President Jose-Maria Figueres, Mr. Fola Adeola, Mallam Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, Lord Sebastian Coe, Mrs. Magette Wade and many others. At the end of the one-day conference the leadership deficit in our nation’s political space was, depressingly, all too glaring.
True, the contents of President Obasanjo’s letter are a bit rich coming as it were from the apostle of do-or-die politics and someone who whilst in office, seemed rather disconnected and estranged from such concepts as ‘trust’, ‘honour’, ‘accountability’ and ‘statesmanship’.
It may be tempting too by disenchanted citizens (and many have, perhaps understandably, succumbed to that temptation) to say of the former President, he has sown the wind, now he should reap the whirlwind.
However, President Jonathan would do well to focus on the message, rather than the messenger who brought the bad news. He does otherwise at his own peril. The allegations by the former president (a two-time Head of State and retired army General, let’s not forget) are simply too grave and too disturbing to be ignored or glossed over or worse, to form a basis for unintelligently maligning or attacking him.
With the release of the letter into public domain, the President owes it to the Nigerian people to address each allegation, and to do so convincingly. And the Nigerian people owe it to themselves to demand answers from their leaders and hold them to account.
The contents of Mallam Sanusi’s letter to the president are quite simply alarming and disquieting. Writing my column on this occasion has been one of the hardest efforts I have ever had to make, I was simply too distressed by the revelations – and implications – of Sanusi’s letter. It’s even more distressing that public outrage seems to be rather muted presently. Asking hard questions and demanding answers of our leaders (in other words, insisting on holding our leaders to account) are civic responsibilities which we are yet to imbibe it seems. I came across my opening quote by Sir Winston Churchill whilst conducting a Google search (which led me to the Forbes site) on one of the panellists at the Access Leadership Conference, Magatte Wade, who had made quite an impression on me. ‘This is no time for ease and comfort. It is the time to dare and endure’. How apt for a time like this!
Added to all, the starkly partisan role of the Nigeria Police in the Rivers State House of Assembly crisis firing live bullets and tear gas at law makers and members of the public last week, as well as the ASUU crisis and the way the federal government mishandled it until the FG finally got off its high horse last week, it is clear that our nation is in the midst of possibly the worst leadership crises ever to beset it.
Mr. Adeola made what I considered a deep remark at the Access Conference, ‘Once you have people around you who don’t question you, you’re in a dangerous place’.
It would be in President Jonathan’s enlightened self interest to acknowledge that he’s in a dangerous place right now and to leave it post haste.
It would also be in our own enlightened self interest to assist the President to leave that dangerous place – by asking questions and demanding credible answers about the contents of the two letters. To quote the retired army General, ‘Before it is too late’…
I end on a note of what serious nations on the other hand, occupy themselves with. In last Monday’s (December 9) GULF NEWS, the following headlines caught my attention. The first, ‘Academic streams to be merged’ on page 1, because of our own educational sector crises. The 2nd, which was a follow up story to the 1st headline and on pg 14, ‘Development starts with ideas’
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