Buhari: The manager who cannot manage, by Ken Ugbechie
The fabled Saint Teresa of Calcutta popularly called Mother Teresa remains one of the best models to benchmark humanity’s claim to being agents of change. In her active years, she was reputed for making a profound statement that indexed her works and became the grease that oiled the busy wheels of her many activities. She once said: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples”. She never promised to change the world but she did cast a stone that has continued to create ripples across the waters of the earth.
Mind you, she took the responsibility of casting the stone that created the ripples. She did not abdicate that duty to her followers and admirers. She showed the way, led by example and caused a stir in the subconscious of humanity. Today, we remember her as the Queen of Hearts, as the one who lived for others, as the Matriarch of Compassion. She was a leader who was never afraid to show the way. That is the stuff of leaders. A leader is one who knows the way and must have the good spirit to herd his followers through that way.
Leaders are agents of change. They are leaders, first and foremost, because they have the capacity to cause a change by being the change they desire. A leader does not grope for the way. Never! Great leaders are not great talkers but great doers. A good leader does not dwell in rhetoric or the sweet lines of a salesman; a great leader trades in action. He must actuate his rhetoric. It is the action of the leader that propels followership. If the leader is not acting right, followership will stutter in the wrong direction. A leader must at all times have the courage to cast a stone that would create ripples for the followers to see and to follow.
This is why I find the recent action, speech and body language of President Muhammadu Buhari strange and clearly unbecoming of a leader worthy of his badge. While launching a national re-orientation campaign tagged, ‘Change Begins With Me’ in Abuja, Mr. Buhari said change is in terms of citizens’ personal behaviour.
He told Nigerians: “Our citizens must realise that the change they want to see begins with them, and that personal and social reforms are not a theoretic exercise. If you have not seen the change in you, you cannot see it in others or even the larger society.
“In other words, before you ask ‘Where is the change they promised us?’, you must first ask, ‘How far have I changed my ways? What have I done to be part of the change for the greater good of society?’
“The campaign we are about to launch today is all about the need for us to see change, not merely in terms of our economic, social progress but in terms of our personal behaviour on how we conduct ourselves, engage our neighbours, friends and generally how we relate with the larger society in a positive and definitive way and manner that promotes our common good and common destiny, change at home, change in work place, change at traffic junction, change at traffic lights, etc.”
I concur with Mr. President that change is “in terms of citizens’ behaviour” but I strongly disagree that the onus of change rests with the citizenry as he claimed in his speech. No! It must begin with the leadership. A leader must first become what the people will copy. If you want the people to obey traffic lights, you must first be the leader who has not only provided the traffic lights but one who obeys them. Nigerian leaders see themselves as persons above the law. They evade tax but they tax other lesser mortals; they beat traffic lights and they expect the followership to obey same. Arrant hypocrisy!
To change in the context of the new re-orientation movement is to morph from bad to good, to transmute from negativity to nobility. In this case, it means there is a model, an exemplum, to copy. That model must be good, shorn of filth and miasma, precious to behold and something of value. It is the unimpeachable values in the model that people see and copy and mend their devious ways and attitudes to mirror the model. Therefore, change, the type being bandied by the Buhari government, is for Nigerians to port from evil path to the good path.
No doubt, this is a brilliant idea. The tragedy though is that Nigerians have no model to copy. Nobody in authority including Mr. Buhari has been able to “cast a stone across the water to create many ripples”. If Mr. President wants Nigerians to change, he and his cabinet must first become the persons they want Nigerians to become. Yes, Nigerians are liars, looters, patently partisan, lawless and unabashedly disobedient to rules and regulations but they only mirror their leaders.
Nigerians want to change but they are yet to see that role model to copy. I am sorry to say that Mr. President has not provided the people a superior and better option. The Nigerians I know love good things, they desire the ideal and they are quick to copy any character, good or bad, within sight. Nigerians are driven by legacy. The President wants Nigerians to be frugal, austere and to tighten their belt but the people are yet to see him do the same. He is yet to drastically prune the aircraft in the Presidential fleet to suit the pangs of the moment. If the previous government was wasteful and rapacious then Mr. Buhari has no business using all the aircraft he inherited from a profligate government.
Recently, in his Daura home, the President said the PDP government built no roads, no infrastructure and left no savings in 16 years. This is not true and he knows it. Nigerians also know that this does not reflect the true picture of the PDP years which even with all their alleged and proven stealing built roads, revived rail transport and built other infrastructure. It is the same sing-song of Buhari’s inept lieutenants. They are quick to dismiss the PDP years as wasted years but they fail to come to the reality that under Buhari Nigerians are experiencing the worst living condition ever; that in the 15 odd months of his government he cannot point to any infrastructure his government has built that does not have its beginning in the past governments. They fail to realize that Buhari’s leadership has worsened the nation’s socio-economic status. And all they do is to blame Jonathan government. This is a legacy of deceit and lies. This is not what Nigerians want to copy.
Mr. Buhari is akin to a manager who was hired to revive a dying organisation. And a good 15 months after he was hired he kept making excuses with how the past manager mismanaged the organisation. He does not inspire hope. He is a dealer in disillusionment. Yet, the President wants Nigerians to change. Change to what? And become like whom? To a hungry man, food is God (apologies to Ghandi). You do not tell a hungry man to change, you feed him first.
Mr. Buhari must change his rhetoric. He should stop asking the people to change and become the change they desire when he himself has not changed from the old, wily path of the typical Nigerian political leader: the path of deceit, lies; the path of ‘do as I say and not as l do’. Change must begin with you Mr. President and your cabinet and then the people will follow. It is that simple!
First published in Sunday Sun, September 18, 2016