By Chris Onuoha
ExcerptS from Soyinka’s forward: Tyranny of courage
In continuation of review of the book “Dynamics of Change-The Amaechi Years’ by Chidi Amuta and Yemi Ogunbiyi, the Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka in his forward painstakingly defines courage in leadership in a more appropriate and understanding way. While he expounds on those hard facts that are often swept under the carpet, he used Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi turbulent political career to draw some points.
“Courage is manifested in various forms, in a vast array of situations that may even appear to be studies in contrast, yet the common element is always uniformly recognisable. Courage in governance may be seized in action – going against popular opinion to effect a measure that a leader believes is salutary and necessary – be it in the short or long term – or else withholding a vociferously canvassed measure, but one that is contrary to one’s absolute conviction, even at the risk of slipping several digits down the index of opinion polls. Such positions, I believe, would be universally considered as normal expectations from a courageous leader. Skill in preventing, or managing the resulting public discontent belongs in another department and is outside the scope of what I am moved to remark in the turbulent career of Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, the subject of this collection of essays.
“In any case, the peculiar enclave known as Nigeria calls for very special extensions of those characteristics that much of the world count as demonstrations of leadership courage – a refusal to wilt even under withering power – a nation whose political life has fluctuated between military and civilian rule under such similarities in the exercise of power that both citizens and outside observers often cannot distinguished where one ended and the other began. Within such a political culture, it should not be surprising that what some applaud as acts of courage would be read as acts of recklessness, arrogance, naivette or obstructionism – “spoiling the game” or not being a “team player” etc. etc. These are all attitudes one encounters as response among integrationist players on the political field. It is a response that complements the development of trivialising pronouncements such as “stomach infrastructure”, the latest coinage to attempt to couch the politics of instant gratification in the garb of political realism. What it does however is open the gates of governance wide to the entry of performing clowns, the sanitisation of those who, in other climes, would be deemed not only political lepers but social pariahs.
“In a nation where the meaning of courage is the very act of daily survival, this is perhaps understandable, but it is necessary also to remind the thinking part of any electorate that there exist others in the ranks of leadership who refuse to pander to the lowest common denominator of public expectations. They lay the foundation for a viable future, even at the risk of earning the hostility,even of the violent nature of others on their, or others rungs, of the shared ladder of power. Those proponents of the live- and- let -share attitude to governance, cynically promote a culture of hand-out dependency among vulnerable sectors of the public.
As he describes stubbornness in the midst of oppression, the cautionary tale of David and Goliath came to mind, and he also moved down to upholding truth as a virtue.
It is sad that we should have to single out individuals who have accepted this burden and who made a choice- which is not to be a “good boy” in the good books of “Oga on top”, but to remind us that it is not civil society that should necessarily speak truth to power, but that power must also speak to power. Mostly, power only whispers to power- which is only a matter of political decorum – for a start! However, since power belongs ultimately to the people, such power only returns to the people what has always remained theirs even when conferred, largely through the electoral process, to any surrogate. Thus, it becomes mandatory, when power remains deaf to whispered truths, that power must not merely speak, but scream truth to Power, and in an accent that alerts us to the moments of betrayal.”
While honestly extolling his virtues, he minced no word in giving him a thumb up for job well done in a turbulent wave of change.
“We must laud those whose governance conduct is marked by a consistency in the promotion of the seeming intangibles that manifest themselves as the pillars of productive self-confidence within society, at the head of which we count Freedom. Volition. Choice. This is where governance courage is most openly displayed and most easily betrayed – in the ability to say “yes, I am part of this, but that is not what I was elected to be part of”. Then leadership courage, within or outside governance, transfers back to, and animates follower, so that when a familiar voice is heard saying, “Let us march, “it finds the followers not merely ready, but miles ahead. Those whose memories are short should take a revision exercise by re-visiting the crucial months of the year 2009 and be instructed by the means by which the current occupant of Aso Rock came to power, despite the wiles and machinations of a desperate cabal of corrupt usurpers that had laid internal siege to the seat of power. How times change! The prime beneficiaries may forget. The people do not.”