THE rising profile of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan certainly went up another notch, at least on a high moral ground, when he boldly dropped hints on how the Muhammadu Buhari administration can solve the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, protracted strike.
At the 70th birthday anniversary of one of the voices of conscience of the nation, Bishop Hassan Kukah, he told a distinguished audience, including the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Ahmed Tinubu and his team, that he was once able to end a four-month-long ASUU strike by leading the government team to dialogue with ASUU all night to achieve results.
Our reference to the former president’s anecdote has nothing to do with the portrayal of his government as the perfect example. It was not. After all, the contentious 2009 Memorandum of Understanding, MoU, which the Federal Government failed to implement took place while Jonathan was Vice President to the late President Umaru Yar’ Adua. When Jonathan assumed office which he held for about five years, he failed to implement the MoU, which made ASUU’s periodic strikes linger till date.
The lesson of that anecdote, however, is that effective leadership requires the leader to be in front. President Buhari, in his inaugural speech on May 29, 2015, pledged to “lead from the front” in tackling the problems he inherited as Nigeria’s president.
But, since he took over, Buhari has tended to abdicate or outsource his leadership to his appointees. He is not hands-on on the job. Officials are left to use their initiatives, and teamwork is very weak under his watch. The situation over the ASUU strike is an example of where the lack of presidential leadership encouraged irresponsible behaviour among officials.
Buhari left the ASUU strike to the Minister of Education, Adamu Adamu, and Minister of Labour and Employment, Chris Ngige. Adamu left it for Ngige on the ground that he said that International Labour Organisation, ILO, statute puts the duty to conduct the negotiation on his desk. Buhari later withdrew Ngige from that task and gave Adamu two weeks to solve the problem. When the deadline passed, Adamu claimed Buhari did not give him any ultimatum, and asked the students to sue their lecturers!
If the president had taken on the responsibility of leading this effort, Adamu would not have had the temerity to display his arrogant incompetence in handling such a hot-coal issue. In spite of almost ruining our security, economic, educational and other critical sectors, majority of Buhari’s ministers are enjoying eight unjustifiable years, whereby they can easily produce N100 million to buy presidential forms.
The 2023 elections provide Nigerians with an opportunity to get it right or pay a heavier price.