By Dele Sobowale

“Leadership is always somewhat mysterious. Leadership can be summed up in two words: intelligence and integrity” ……John Brademas c1984

Just a little over two years ago, My Fellow Nigerians went to the poles to elect a candidate called Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan as our president – by a wide margin. He won in all the six zones of Nigeria; in what, in my opinion, was the second free and fair presidential election since 1979 when we started experimenting with the presidential system. Given the position and the strangle-hold a president has over our lives, one would have supposed that we considered the matter carefully before casting our votes.

Thousands of people including members of the PDP, as well as ACN, canvassed for votes for Jonathan. Presumably, they did so in the belief, based on God-knows-what, that the man could provide the leadership which this country needs at the present time. But, today, the coalition which brought Jonathan to office apparently had disintegrated. Like sleep-walkers, many of those who, only two years and two months ago, were urging Nigerians to usher in the “breath of fresh air” now talk as if the air they breathe is putrid.

The question which must bother all of us, especially those who voted for GEJ and who now regret is: what went wrong? The question is important because the president will, and should, present himself for the second term in 2015 and this time around, nobody will vote without some idea of the sort of leadership the man can offer Nigeria.

However, before trying to answer the question, permit one observation. Jonathan stands generally exonerated from whatever had gone wrong. First, the man became president by virtue of being Vice-President when the former President died as stipulated by the 1999 constitution. Having found himself in that position, he decided that he could handle the job if elected on his own. Let us forget for now the issue of zoning. He offered himself for election and the majority of voters agreed that he could indeed do the job.


As they said in the WILD WILD WEST of America, during the frontier days, “It is not the seller’s fault if the buyer does not notice that the horse is blind”. In politics, as it is in commerce, the golden rule remains caveat emptor – buyer beware. Whether voting with our money or ballot papers, it is our duty to examine what is on offer carefully. We have nobody, but ourselves, to blame if we buy the wrong product or vote the wrong candidate. So blame not GEJ; let us accept our collective responsibility for this situation in which we find ourselves.

Having said that, the most urgent matter now is, why is our leader finding difficulty in getting most of the people, especially within his own party, or, what should be his natural constituency, to follow where he leads? The National Assembly treats his bills the way a pride of lions will deal with a young calf which wanders into its midst. Despite the obvious fact that an amendment to the 2013 Appropriation Act is urgently needed to avert Nigeria’s own fiscal cliff or shutting down the federal government by September, the leaders of NASS would rather go on recess. Yet, his party has over sixty per cent majority – more than enough to pass the amendment. Still, no deal.

The Nigerian Governors Forum, NGF, which had come to his rescue in the past, is also standing aloof and some are even hostile to any initiative by the President – however meritorious. And, few measures by Jonathan had deserved so much attention and support as the amendment to the 2013 Appropriation Bill which was flawed in many respects. NASS and the NGF are clearly demonstrating hostility to the President, and getting away with it, for reasons not too difficult to imagine. Jonathan certainly has my sympathies; he appears to have been deserted by the very people who pushed him on the stage of our history.

Just last week, the Northern Elders Forum announced, well in advance of 2015 elections, that “the North will not support him(Jonathan). The South owes us a moral debt and they should pay”. That was according to Professor Ango Abdullahi. Given the perceived marginalisation of Yoruba people by the Federal Government, it is unlikely that Jonathan will sweep the zone as he did in 2011. At any rate, the opposition is now thoroughly enjoying the humiliation of the President by his own party members.

Neither the Board of Trustees, nor the National Working Committee Chairmen seem to have the sort of pervasive influence on members to whip dissenters or rebels into line on anything. Even the dissolution of the NWC, which the president ordered, is meeting with resistance virtually everywhere. The Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Nigeria, C-I-C, appears increasingly like a General or Field Marshall, without troops. Why, then, are they getting away with it?

The answer is leadership, or more precisely the stuff of leadership which forms the bedrock of the president’s power base. Almost invariably, it involves a tiny minority of followers, who are devoted to the point of fanaticism, to the leader and the principles or ideals for which he stands. Given the extensive literature on the subject of leadership and the constraint of space, this is not an attempt to cover the subject.

Rather, the aim is to narrow it down to some of the aspects which concern us and our president – Goodluck Jonathan. Even the most casual look into history, recent or past, will help to illustrate the predicament in which Jonathan, and by extension Nigerians, find themselves. As much as possible, I will draw my examples from Africa.

Ahmadu Bello, Awolowo and Azikiwe died several years ago. Yet, there are people who, till today, will drop everything to attend memorial lectures organized for those three – especially the first two. No three leaders could have presented three such contrasting styles, at the same time, in a nation. Ahmadu Bello, as Premier of Northern Region, had to integrate the interests of over 170 ethnic groups and create a powerful political organization which compensated for the North’s relative educational backwardness.

He spoke few words; but they were weighty in effect. Azikiwe, was not only the most good looking, he was the most spell-binding speaker; a gifted orator. My father, a Yoruba, was so fanatical about Zik, he would probably have sacrificed any of us his three sons if Zik had asked him. Awolowo was the ideas man and a painstaking executor of any programme he undertook. In the 1950s Nigerians were “worshipping” three “gods” – each with one strong characteristic which made him a leader of millions who followed willingly….

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