By Muyiwa Adetiba
It’s not easy to spot a talent. In my recruiting days as Editor or Publisher, I often asked young writers to write about their partners. My aim was to see how well they could make their intimacy breathe on a blank piece of paper. I would want to see a turn of phrase, a play on words and a general ease with language that would show promise.
When I see the array of people I picked as promising writers who have moved on to become famous Columnists and Editors—a couple have become publishers as well—I know I haven’t done too badly. But then again, many of those I thought would soar have under achieved. So I didn’t always get it right.
It’s even harder to pick a leader. There are too many intangibles. There are the silent, strong men. There are the voluble ones. But whether active or passive, it is generally agreed that a leader gets things done —preferably in a timely, decent manner. A good leader inspires.
A good leader has a core of competent but fiercely loyal people who watch his back all the time. But the most difficult ability is the ability to select a successor. The stakes are often high; so are the variables. More often than not, ego gets in the way and we look to clone ourselves.
Or we go the other extreme and pick someone who is totally different from us; someone whose strengths are our weaknesses or vice versa. I know I have not fared well in this respect. And judging from the way businesses nose dive soon after the owners pull out through illness, death or just retirement, many elders and even contemporaries haven’t fared that well also.
Many have tried to place their children or relatives as successors and the result has been as tragic. But the most tragic result has to be that of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo who has had many opportunities to right his wrongs and has failed every single time. He has failed in his choice of able successors in the two times he had handed over the reins of power and in the many times he had influenced the choice of successors to the country’s highest office.
That cannot be said of Bola Tinubu. His choice of commissioners in his first coming as Governor of Lagos State showed he could spot talents irrespective of religion or state of origin. The way he positioned himself to become the de facto “Asiwaju” of Yoruba politics also showed his leadership qualities.
That Lagos is doing so well 12 years after he left office shows he chose his successor well. So he spotted talents, showed leadership and picked a good successor. Kudos to him. He was adamant in his choice of Fashola as his successor and against daunting opposition, fought his way through. Fashola turned out to become a revelation.
He followed the template of his predecessor faithfully and added a few of his own. Lagos blossomed. So did Fashola. I felt proud to call him my Governor and I don’t say that often. His eloquence and superb grasp of issues put him a cut above his contemporaries. Somehow, he has managed to brand himself more as a technocrat in government than as a politician.
I mean that as a compliment. The same should be said about Fayemi, the ex-Governor of Ekiti State who is seen as a quiet but decent intellectual. They were both protégées of Tinubu. Their national and international strides should make Tinubu happy and proud. But is he?
It would be considered a deep flaw in Tinubu’s character if he still tried to control and contain those he has nurtured into plumage. A talent is spotted, nurtured and released into the world. That is how it should be. Otherwise, how do you see and admire the many colours of a butterfly if it never leaves its cocoon even after maturing?
On a personal level, the man who discovered me as a young writer also made me his Editor eventually. He acknowledged my growth along the way and allowed dissent, sometimes vehement ones, on professional issues. Today, he is my mentor, boss and friend. Our relationship might have been different if he hadn’t allowed me to ‘grow up.’
I was so disturbed by Tinubu’s initial refusal to endorse Fashola’s second term that I spoke to two of his close aides who shall remain nameless in this article since they are both still very visible. The feeler I got was that Tinubu was uncomfortable with Fashola’s ‘sudden independence and swagger.’ The soured relationship which hasn’t improved much blew into the open after the 2015 elections and has remained frosty since then.
Tinubu has his work as a peace maker cut out. The problems in Kogi, Oyo, Kano, Imo and indeed, many states in the country will require all his guile and skills to resolve. The one in Kaduna State has already gotten out of hand and will need a miracle to resolve. El-Rufai is a small man in many ways.
His heart and mind are certainly small and unaccommodating. His notion of governance is to crush dissent whether it is religious, ideological or political. Having a building you had used before destroyed under your watch because your authority was challenged is vindictive and small minded. His label as the demolition man is apt since he seems to enjoy demolishing more than building.
And it’s not property alone—norms, ethos, relationships and institutions are inclusive. This man seems to enjoy inflicting pain. Tinubu’s task as the chief peacemaker has been made more onerous by this man. But before Tinubu ventures too far out, it would help if he could reconcile himself to his lieutenants and his lieutenants to themselves.
His relationship with those who were with him in ACN needs improvement. The relationship between those who should be watching his back and making sure his ideals and credentials outlive him is not at its best. Also, this notion that the enemy of my boss is my enemy is childish and a poor way to show loyalty.
Many of the people—and things—that worked for Fashola have been cast out with ignominy by Ambode. Lagos and its indigenes are the loser for it. Information filtering in at the moment is that all is also not well with the Lagos APC. This is a pity but hardly surprising given the way Ambode is reportedly running the show. Lagos is the home base of the chief peacemaker.
Again, I wish Asiwaju Bola Tinubu the best in his assignment. But he must remember; charity begins at home. “ile ni ati ngbe eso r’ode.”