Cost of leadership insensibilities

by Gbenga Kayode

Deception under any guise, no doubt, has far-reaching consequences. When discussing the concept of strategic deception and its impact on the ethical values of corporate and political leaders, the book Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, published by The Arbinger Institute, states that though “now more than ever, people everywhere are seeking direction and guidance from effective leaders at every level of society.”

According to the publication, many of today’s so-called leaders seem to be trapped: that they can’t lead no matter how hard they try to, and no matter what skills and techniques they employ. But why is this so? It states further: “….as we have all seen, these leaders are constantly self-justifying their actions, even tricking themselves into thinking that they’re doing the right things for the right reasons. In this way, those who are trapped “in the box” always seem to defeat their own efforts. It never occurs to them that maybe the key to leadership isn’t in what they do, but who they are.”

No wonder then that “insensitive”, “callous”, “wicked”, “inhuman and deceptive” have become some of the widespread caustic adjectives used by countless, evidently angry Nigerians from all walks in describing President Goodluck Jonathan Administration with all sorts of unprintable misnomers, following its decision to yank unceremoniously, the controversial fuel subsidy on petroleum products in Nigeria with effect from Sunday, January 1, 2012.

Thus, very numerous people were angered by the swift announcement of the subsidy removal as were actually caught unawares. Besides the highly disturbing Boko Haram phenomenon and unrelenting destruction of lives and property everywhere by the insurrectionary Islamic sect and sundry other socio-economic and political challenges overwhelming this Administration already, one is indeed, piqued to ask: Why taking this potentially self-destructing path in the troubled and fledgling economy again?

The apparently unilateral, illegitimate and unjustifiable action has been largely described as being dictatorial by varied publics against the backdrop of the fact that implementation of the 2011 Budget has been extended till March 2012, whereas 2012 Appropriation Bill expected to start taking effect in April is still being deliberated upon for possible approval by the Federal legislators in Abuja, the nation’s Federal Capital Territory (FCT), before the Government threw a spanner in the works of the Federal lawmakers.

Sequel to the Federal Government’s express official directive on the sale of a litre of Petrol between N139 and N141 respectively, transport fares, prices of consumer goods, products and services, effortlessly, have shot up astronomically, in some cases as high as 300 per cent increment in fares and commodity prices.

It would be recalled that during the moderately heated sessions organised by the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), late December 2011, at Muson Centre, in Lagos, some of the Jonathan Administration’s Executive Cabinet Ministers, Managing Director, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Governor, Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), State Governors and other top Government functionaries in their different presentations at the forum had give an impression that robust debate and meaningful discussions on the subsidy issue would still continue well into the New Year.

Perhaps, masking their intentions while talking with their tongues in their cheeks, Federal Government’s officials at the forum insisted that the probable consideration of any subsidy removal is not now! Nonetheless, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Minister for Finance, on a Radio Nigeria programme, “Radio Link”, days ago, absolutely denied suggesting or categorically so at the Town hall meeting in Lagos.

Indeed, during the re-run of the highlights of the Town Hall meeting on Africa Independent Television (AIT) on January 4, 2012, one cannot but agree with some well-informed and cynical public affairs analysts’ tenacious insistence, that most of the advocates of no-subsidy and incidentally, core managers of the nation’s economy are surrogates of the Breton Woods’ (World Bank/IMF) institutions in Government and imperialists, out to hoodwink Nigerians to subscribe to subsidy removal, particularly when juxtaposed with the recent visit, on the eve of the subsidy removal debates, of Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund (IMF) to Abuja.

In all of this, does the Government really mean well for Nigerians through the subsidy removal in which it intends to make well over N1trillion yearly to finance its Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE)? Not in actuality, as the general public believes.

As it is customary in taking spontaneous, face-saving measures by leaderships over unpopular policies across the globe, appointing well-respected “Mr. Integrity”, Dr. Christopher Kolade, Nigeria’s former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom (UK) and boardroom technocrat, to head the SURE Implementation Committee to douse the rising tension in the land may not appease the generality of the people after all.

This step is basically a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Which fund does the Government intend to allocate to the Kolade-led Committee to actualise its mandate? Or will the Committee remain hopelessly idle until the Federal Government squeezes the over N1trillion “anticipated” subsidy discontinuation proceeds from the mainly pauperised masses, majority of who could barely feed well and transport themselves to and from workplaces now?

Consequently, the powers that be should put the promised cushioning measures following the subsidy removal in place first; then, any tightening economic measures could follow. One believes instantaneous reversal to the status quo of N65 per litre of petrol, rehabilitation of existing oil refineries, and sack of the oil cabal feeding fat on the nation’s oil wealth will bring a huge relief to Nigeria’s distressed economy from eventual collapse soon.

All these impromptu, frantic and belated measures made in the emotion-laden presidential broadcast, as usual, of a 25% slash in salaries and allowances of Government’s functionaries and their aides as well as the hitherto unplanned inauguration of 1,600-unit mass transit bus programme, and 370,000 jobs for the unemployed may not herald the much desired reprieve for the people in the shortest possible time.

The Government must realise before it is too late, that leadership is about listening to the yearnings of the citizens, ensuring the happiness of the greater majority, matching its words with actions, and preventing Nigeria from the edge of the precipice where it currently stands. Strategic deception by leaders only results in unbecoming, unethical values and administrative ineptitude in the end.

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