Leadership Peculiarities: Glimpses From Kenya And Nigeria

by Segun Akinyode

There is something curiously common to leadership irrespective of its environment and orientation. In Europe and parts of the Americas where the rhythm of democratic principles has been established and well grounded, the people have formed and practiced a system of succession agreeable to them. The political modus operandi is entrenched and competitive in such a way that once an emerging rulership misses the mark in a general election the possibility of that group rising to national political prominence is negligible. However, this does not preclude such leadership from contributing to overall national growth conscientiously.

In Asia, the amazing success of the Asian Tigers in the area of economy has clearly informed the steady and stable succession pattern and governance obtained in that region, thereby giving credence to the long established truism that each segment of society is interrelated and interdependent. It is not as if there are no instances of deviation from the norms in these areas, but the degree, quality and intensity of the deviations are submerged by the strength of the norms. At least, the cases of the Halliburton palm-greasing is still making the rounds and the American Vice-President is still in office. The Iraq contract award without bidding is now an open secret. Some think that Halliburton has been long in existence enough to attract some investigations in Washington. We may hear something about them in due course, who knows? In there lies the peculiarity of the nature of leadership in that part of the planet earth. The most recent, typical instance of the seeming transparency of politics and political office holders in the West is the resignation of David Blunkett, until Wednesday 15th December 2004, Britain’s Home Secretary, number three in terms of seniority in Tony Blair’s Administration, on account of his three-year romance with a married woman, Kimberly Quinn. He had to resign when it “became clear that he had abused his powers by speeding up the processing of a visa for his former lover’s nanny”, reported Alex Chamwada from Liverpool. A parallel to David Blunkett’s travail was the case of Senator Gary Hart of the USA. He was riding the crest of political popularity and acceptance in the USA prior to the election that brought Clinton to power. Just as it seemed everything was working for him, a photograph he had taken with a woman, Dona Rice, sitting on his laps, started making the rounds. His presidential ambition went up in flames and the Governor of Arkansas seized the opportunity to rekindle his presidential thrust. The rest of that political saga is well known to us all.

As experience has shown, African rulers have a way of building with their right hand and destroying with their left hand. Two instances, one in Nigeria and the other in Kenya, should suffice. Prior to Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo’s coming to power as Nigerian’s ruler in 1999, the political economic, social and thus mental climate of an average Nigerian were sagging. The situation was so debilitating that Nigerians were living in palpable fear of tomorrow because, each passing day witnessed a serious decimation of those things that make life worth living for a human being without a guarantee of the sources of replenishing these essentials. So, when Mr. Obasanjo came with his achievable promises every Nigerian brimmed with hope. He became accepted by all and sundry when he promised to step on toes however big in his path to stop corruption and its allied social ills in Nigeria.

As if to test the quality of Mr. Obasanjo’s resolve, the speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Buhari, was reported, first, by a national newspaper, Abuja Mirror, and then, by a national magazine that the number four citizen ‘had fabricated most of his academic background and lied about his age in order to qualify for a seat in the legislative body”. The reaction of the speaker was a vehement denial. The caption of one of the dailies was “Buhari sues media House, claims 500 million Naira”. At a well attended press conference, he told the world that he would “never step aside or resign” in spite of the destructive media attack. While attracting public sympathy, the legislator concluded that, the charges against him were “false and malicious and a calculated attempt to destroy my political career”. However, the pressure continued to mount on Alhaji Salisu Buhari to match words with action by presenting in public his academic certificates of Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Toronto in 1990, and a diploma in accounting from Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, Nigeria, in 1988.

As was later discovered, Alhaji Salisu Ibrahim was forced to withdraw from Ahmadn Bello University after it was discovered that he did not posses the basic requirements for entry. The records office of University of Toronto said: “We have searched our records and are unable to verify the attendance or graduation for Mr. Buhari; we have tried several variations of his name, but still came up with no record”. The school that acknowledged his attendance was Kings College, Lagos. The records there showed that he was born in 1970 which made the speaker 29 years old at the time of the crime.

On Tuesday, August 3, 1999 the former Nigerian number four man was on a two count charge of forgery and false declaration sentenced to two years imprisonment with an option of 1,000 Naira. The ridiculously light sentence is not the focus of this argument. What is central is that the government allowed the normal process of judicial dispensation take its course thus giving punch to Mr. Obasanjo’s avowed fight against corruption in high places. Nigerian’s hope in the political structure and transparency in governance surged with tremendous candor, and the sense of sincere patriotism to motherland gushed. The international community must have also perceived the government, its programs, and the avenues for implementing the programs in a different light, as a result of the conviction.

Then, about a year after what had been dubbed Buharigate by the media was resolved in a court of law, a newspaper’s headlines read, “Obasanjo, Na Abba wrangle over pardon for Buhari”. The newspaper explained the lead thus; “A planned state pardon for the former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Salisu Ibrahim Buhari, was the cause of a fresh disagreement between President Olusegun Obasanjo and the incumbent Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba”

True to the media report, the Council of States meeting announced that the former speaker had been granted state pardon. That was in 1990. Little did I know that the streak of build-destroy syndrome as endowed African leaders could have a confirmation in far away Kenya, an East African country.

A Kenyan influential newspaper, The Sunday Standard of December 19th 2004, had, in a write up by Mutuma Mathiu, crafted a heart-rendering piece, depicting the callousness, insensitivity, roguish and money-crazy tendencies of some appointed leaders. What is of total-disturbance that smacks of despondence is that the Kenyan President allowed the negative side of the principles of permissiveness override his sense of judgment.

The antagonist, Dr. Margaret Gachara, a Kenyan, according to Mutuma, “defrauded the National Aids Control Council of Kenya of Ksh. 27 million shillings. The NACC was established to oversee, control and plan the care of people living with the dreaded Aids virus. The Council is also expected to ensure the protection of the uninfected. This means that NACC is a powerful stage in the process of protecting the future of Kenya and ensuring that the process of social engineering and re-engineering of the pride of East Africa is ensured and sustained. For, if Aids is allowed to fester uncontrolled, not only will it endanger the continuing production and existence of young, healthy crop of Kenyans capable of taking over the reigns of leadership, it will also ensure a complete derailment of meaningful implementation of any policy arrangements and programs. In fact the NACC is to ensure that human beings, Kenyans, in this regard, remain the focus of all government projections.

It is the money that is available to ensure the oiling of the machinery of this all-important body that an individual stole Ksh. 27 million from. The callousness is tangible, its almost an affront to humanity itself, prompting Mutuma to describe the doctor, whom he had early tagged “a white- collar thug” as “a symbol of the evil of corruption in Kenya; she is well educated, smart and connected”.

Margaret Gachara never cared two hoots about the enormity of her criminality as she enjoyed the garb of invincibility: “the police” Mutuma reported “had to break in her house in order to arrest her”. Thankfully, the Kenyan judiciary, just like her Nigerian counterpart jailed the shameful doctor (regrettably, the two antagonists, reflecting the thinking of their godfathers, Obasanjo and Kibaki, got very light jail sentences) whose stock in trade is a mixture of unbridled debauchery and stark-faced thievery.

Then, like his Nigerian opposite who, in exercising his constitutional prerogative, sat reasoning on its head, President Kibaki’ “in his address to the nation” on the occasion of the 41st independence anniversary of Kenya announced the release of 6,946 prisoners jailed for “petty” offences. One of the prisoners released for “petty” offences was Dr. Margaret Gachara, the woman who stole Ksh 27 million shillings meant for caring for Aids virus carriers in Kenya!

The flow of discussion from what is available so far is not questioning the powers of our rulers to exercise their constitutional responsibilities. It is not even a case of portraying Africa and her rulership in bad light to the outside world. It is a social responsibility aimed at examining the rational for certain actions by these rulers towards inculcating in their syllabi of interactions sound, incontrovertible and universally accepted code of behavior and governance.

In the quest to articulate this formula, one may be compared to fathom the reasons for such inconsistent behaviors by these rulers. It is, in addition, relevant to affirm that the two instances cited are indicative of the many such practices in the corridors of power; and that the tendency to be inconsistent in bringing the forces of governance to bear on the ruled is not limited to the two rulers under focus.

So, what could have made an Obasanjo who swore before the whole world to fight corruption with “the last drop of my blood” to renege in less than two years? Or what aura does a Margaret Gachara posses to make a President Kibaki loathe her being behind bars after she had been found guilty of abuse of office by the court of law.

The integrity of the crop of lieutenants and assistants surrounding our presidents is suspect. It is not out of tune to have political paupers, moral whores and financial bankrupts being appointed presidential aides. And what do you expect in the quality of assistance and aid from somebody whose political antecedent is fraught with carpet-crossing at the slightest provocation, and turn-coating at will. Whatever level we want to view it, Mr. President may not be in position to verify the falsity or truthfulness of every data, information and idea brought to him. So he has to rely on the integrity of his assistants in taking some of his decisions. In there lies the relevance of the quality of the morality of these aides.

African leaders should be mindful of the process that ensure their enthronement. Many of them are so carried away by the thrills and frills, the trappings and clamors of office that they tend to compromise their quality of governance, and make them bow to undue pressures in course of actualizing their political responsibilities. A political calculation and arrangement that do not lay premium on the collective good should, be viewed with suspicion and treated as such. When leaders become selective in the application of the powers of rulership, the ruled become aware that the leaders are acting under some influence not far removed from the evil equations that brought them to power, thus making them political rags in practice. This is where zoning becomes an instrument of ensuring the enthronement of every moron in circulation thereby undermining the quality of leadership even before the elected ruler or leader is sworn in.

It is a universal truism that politics is all about obtaining political power, governance is the dispensation and adjudication of political power. However, every aspect of the lives of a people should not be seen from political point of view. A competent leader should not be brow beaten or hood winked into politicizing issues that are moral, institutional, people or educational in dimension. The two issues cited and their allied instances are relevant here. These are moral instances which any progressive leader should not have tampered with because they represent reference points, landmark developments in the course of sanitizing a corruption-riddled environment. By getting themselves involved in the petty subterfuges surrounding the course of the instances, both Obasanjo and Kibaki, had told their citizens: “go ahead and be corrupt; I will pardon you in due course”. It is incumbent on our leaders to have schooled themselves in the art of identifying the nature of issues they have to deal with and the have the effrontery to put their foot down.

It has been shown that corruption is almost becoming a national delicacy in every nation of the African continent. The leaders should make up their minds in rendering the malignant powerless. Achieving this end is not speaking from both sides of the mouth; it is not in half-hearted approach as demonstrated in the actions and reactions of Obasanjo and Kibaki. Actualizing the decimation of corruption is allowing the course of “due process” run its normal course according to universally accepted reasoning and not in selective application of the term. To be selective is promoting mediocrity, abuse of office and other shades of corruption; disparity in the take home of a leader’s assistants is surely asking some assistants to steal the difference.

Every normal human being appreciates beauty. We are all endowed with the in-built ability to discriminate between what is inimical to progress and what promotes human well being. To reason otherwise is to call to question the sanity of the crop of African leadership. So, if all that have been discussed here and their derivates are considered and applied we may soon be experiencing a new lease of life in the brand of African rulership.

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1 comment

Samuel May 2, 2005 - 7:14 pm

this article is the voice of more than 55% nigerians, If we want a change, we really have to do something other than getting ruled like dawgz


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