June 29, 2012 by Brother Isa
FROM THE FRONT LINE – Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, El-Rufai on FaceBook
“Even a bird is up in the sky, its mind is always on the ground.”
A Ugandan Proverb
I am writing this on the sixth day of the near-total lockdown of Kaduna State where I live. Since two bombs went off in two churches in my hometown, Zaria, and another in Kaduna, my fellow citizens have been back to familiar trenches or behind closed doors counting losses and licking wounds. We have been let out a total of ten hours in these six days, and we have been told we will be allowed out for another four hours on Sunday so that church services can hold. But we are also leaving in fear over the possibility that churches will be bombed again, and some members of the Christian community will embark on another reprisal mission against Muslims, and then Muslims will embark on their own counter- reprisals.
Behind closed doors, and even as rampaging mobs fought and killed each other, we heard that President Jonathan had jetted out to Brazil; that the US government has imposed its own sanctions on three leaders of Boko Haram insurgency; that the Legislature has summoned the President on security; and on return, Jonathan promptly fired the Minister of Defence and the NSA. All cold comfort to people like us on the frontline, who are living every Nigerian’s worst nightmare, which is that this insurgency will succeed in pitching citizens in a war against each other. Right now families here have no food, no water, no power, no money, and no peace. The people who planted those bombs in Zaria and Kaduna could not have chosen a weaker link in the Nigerian chain. Does our leadership have an answer to this spiral into apocalyps?
I found an old commentary I had written on President Jonathan’s leadership I thought I could share with you. It was written way back in September, 2011. Happy reading, and pray for us:
At a Church Service held on Sunday, 25th of September to commemorate Nigeria’s 51st Independence Anniversary, President Goodluck gave a generous insight into his own assessment of his performance, the challenges he faces, and the nature of the forces he has to deal with. As befitted the surrounding and the event, the President chose historical and biblical characters and events to draw parallels with his own situation, and defined his own personal style of leadership using symbols and parables which should register deep into the psyche of Nigerians still struggling with how to define their President. President Jonathan noted that Nigeria is being praised by some world leaders while at home his fellow politicians are casting doubts over his ability to lead, and his capacity to govern. He insisted that he is the product of prayers and will survive and transform Nigeria on the strength of prayers; but he will not behave like a lion, or an army general, or a Pharaoh to achieve his goal of transforming Nigeria.
Coming back immediately from a UN General Assembly where, among other activities, President Jonathan assured the world that manifest instances of terrorism in Nigeria will not intimidate him, the President’s comments at the National Christian Worship Centre provide a useful glimpse into the mind of a leader who is facing quite possibly the most difficult beginning of any administration in the history of our nation. For a man who has generally chosen to allow others to speak for him, the President’s comments at the special church service appear to have come from the heart. This is why the comments are important, and should be accorded the detailed attention they deserve, because they hold a clue into how Jonathan will steer the ship of State.
The most important aspect of the rather long and detailed lamentations of President Jonathan at the church service is that he holds a few politicians responsible for what he sees as a negative posture and hostile attitude to his administration. If President Jonathan expects sympathy from Nigerians for the opposition’s stand on the record of his administration to date, he is not likely to get much. It is the business of the opposition to punch holes in the claims of those who take decisions and make policies; and it is the cross which leaders have to bear. Invoking God’s wrath against his detractors will not help President Jonathan much, because opposition politicians will also claim that they are doing God’s work. Then there is the fact that the President’s balance sheet so far does make him vulnerable to attacks from politicians and sundry opposition. Naming them as terrible goliaths whose foreheads are exposed will not win him the tiniest of relief from a whole army of critics who had hoped that he would have by now shown a strength and resolve to make a difference in the life of Nigerians.
President Jonathan told the congregation that part of his problem is that some people want him to be a lion or an army general, or behave like them; and he would not do that. He said he will not behave like the kings of Syria, Egypt, the Pharaoh or King of Babylon, powerful people whose deeds and follies have been mentioned in the Bible. He said he will continue to rely on prayers, so that God will continue to use him to transform Nigeria. Nigerians who watched or heard about the intended posture of Mr President will have mixed feelings over his philosophy of governance. The parallel with Biblical leaders is good for the pulpit, but hardly relevant in today’s context, when elected leaders have to operate within the limitation imposed by the constitution. President Jonathan cannot be a Nebuchadnezzar or a Pharaoh, even if he wants to be one. Those leaders had no constitutional limits to their powers. Nigerians expect their President to be a firm and fair leader, to operate within the law, and to be ready to meet challenges with courage and vision. They do not expect him to operate like an army general, even though army generals themselves have to operate within the laws of the land and the principles of their profession. But Nigerians do want him, as Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, to use army generals to protect the security and dignity of Nigerians and the Nigerian nation. This is why the Constitution places all security apparatus under his command; and this is the reason why Nigerians will hold him responsible for any deficits in their security, as they presently do.
A more worrying insight into the mind of Mr. President is one which suggests that foreigners commend him while Nigerians castigate him. The President had told the congregation that the US and South African Presidents had commended Nigeria at the margins of the UN, but Nigerians at home are not commending him. It is worrying that a Nigerian President will value the diplomatic posturing of a few foreign leaders over the hard opinions of his fellow citizens. In plain terms, President Jonathan was not elected by President Obama, Jacob Zuma or the President of Gabon. Their views on his performance therefore should not be a yardstick for his self-assessment. If Nigerians are not applauding the President the way foreign leaders do, he needs to ask why. He may find answers in the absence of any serious evidence that his administration is moving Nigeria into new areas of achievement and consolidation. He may find answers in the obvious lack of evidence that he is breaking away from a past characterized by rampant corruption and gross incompetence. He may find answers in the spreading of violence and insecurity which makes every citizen, high and low, from Sokoto to Bayelsa to scamper for safety at the slightest hint or rumour of an impending bomb attack. He may find answers in the alarming assault on the integrity of vital institutions such as the judiciary; or in the questionable capacity of the electoral process to produce genuine leaders; or in the daily killings in many parts of the country and the apparent failure of security agencies to put a stop to them.
President Jonathan does not need to be a Pharaoh or a lion or a General, to be a good and effective leader. Since the analogy with leaders and lions interests him, he could read an ancient Greek philosopher called Machiavelli who advised leaders to be both lions and foxes. He said a leader has to be a lion in order to survive, because unlike a fox, a lion is defenceless against traps. A leader should also be a fox who can avoid traps, but is defenceless against lions. For President Jonathan, the lesson has to be that he needs to be both firm and wise. He will always have political detractors, so lamenting their assaults on him will be little comfort to Nigerians. He will have to work hard to achieve real results in improving security for citizens, plugging corruption and waste, and reversing the appearance of his administration being run by a clique with a very narrow agenda in an ocean of incompetence. He will be wise to listen to criticisms, and work on them to turn them into commendations. Not all Nigerians who complain over the style of leadership of President Jonathan, or his record in office are necessarily his enemies. Most Nigerians just want him to lead with some decisiveness, with fairness and some vision. This is not too much to ask from a President who staked so much to achieve the position.
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