By Muyiwa Adetiba
I often think of Nelson Mandela and Robert Mugabe when thinking of leadership and how a leader’s action or inaction can make or mar a country. Mugabe and Mandela had a similar background; they were pillars in the struggle to liberate their people and suffered untold hardships in the process.
After apartheid, which they fought to a stand still, they were both chosen by the people to lead their countries into self discovery and an economically buoyant future. But they both chose different routes to achieve their goals and the results became tragically different.
While one had a large heart and was pragmatic, the other was haughty and vengeful. While one stooped to conquer and was lifted up, the other stood to fight and was flattened. Thus, two men with the same opportunities but different temperaments have ended up so differently.
One became an icon, the other a villain. Needless to say, one stayed for five years, the other for 30 years—and counting. The difference in the fortunes of South Africa and Southern Rhodesia (one changed its name and the other didn’t ) is the difference between night and day. The verdict of history is already out for both leaders.
In the week that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela died, General Obasanjo of Nigeria celebrated his birthday. On the surface, there is a very little similarity between Chavez and Obasanjo. After all, one was 58 while the other is, well, 76. But there is more than first meets the eye. They both ruled over countries with vast oil reserves. They both had long tenures and ruled with iron grips.
They both came in with so much expectation and had opportunities to really transform their countries. They both fell below expectation. It is instructive that, despite huge petro dollars, Chavez had to go to Cuba to have his cancer operations. In the nearly two decades of his rule, he could not build one hospital that was good enough to operate on him in the same way that no hospital was good enough in Nigeria to operate on Obasanjo’s wife.
She died of a mysterious ailment in a foreign hospital. Chavez used the petrol dollars to chase imaginary enemies and feed his ego. Obasanjo, also a man with a huge ego, used the petro dollars to feather a few nests and entrench corruption. The verdict of history is out for both of them.
It is too early to talk about the verdict of history for President Jonathan, the man with the transformational agenda, except to say that his recent action is anything but transformational.
To transform is to change form; to say things can not continue the way they were and to make fundamental changes. You can not change form by entrenching the very things that gave that form.
To give a very recent example of transformation; Stephen Keshi changed the form of the Super Eagles when he brought in new faces with new attitudes and ‘can do’ spirit. The boys were not necessarily better than the old faces in technical skills, but they came with a commitment and a new way of doing things. The result is the Nation’s Cup.
The return of Anthony Anenih sends a very wrong message to an unbiased public that has been fed with a transformational agenda. His reputation, as they say, precedes him. On the positive side, he is said to be a focused, shrewd and astute schemer. He is also a good listener with a capacity to play host to different people over a long period of time. A man who will do everything — some will say anything— to meet his set objectives. He is certainly not squeamish and his definition of right and wrong can sometimes be questioned.
What ever his virtues, his age and antecedents certainly don’t portray him as a man for a transformational era. A man who could not transform the Shagamu-Ore road that leads to his neck of the wood when he was the Minister for Works, can not be transformational. A man who could shield a non starter like Lucky Igbinedion (a governor of his State) and say his position was not vacant, has a different motive for being in politics than the transformation of his people.
So why would a President, who, by virtue of his age, belongs to the modern era bring in an anachronistic gladiator? Why would he go back to an analogue age when the rest of the world is going digital? Why would he bring relevance to a man whose activities and antecedents have made him irrelevant?
Governor Adams Oshiomhole did his State a favour by burying him. Why unearth him and unleash him on the rest of us first as Chairman of the lucrative Ports Authority? And then Chairman of the powerful Board of Trustees?
I can think of two reasons, but one will suffice for now. Mr President wants to come out in 2015 and he is frightened by the discordant noises in the PDP. The disunity and rank indiscipline which are largely self-inflicted, are some of the things standing between him and 2015. So instead of taking his case to the public which he has let down again and again, he is waking a Mr ‘Fix It’ from the dead. After all, as the Americans say, ‘if it ain’t broke, you don’t fix it’.
Unfortunately, this Mr ‘Fix It’ is an albatross and Mr President has to be aware of the verdict of history.