For Stability And Confidence In Our Future
What Nigeria Needs Is The Mandela Model And Vision Of Leadership
The date June 12th does have a special significance for our Nation than May 29, 1999 that our current President and those who fabricated and engineered his return back to power, on that day, would have us believe. June 12th to them was a nightmare that forcefully brings to mind the failure and futility of their sincerity as true patriots and leaders in our country.
If that is all that June 12th means to you as a Nigerian, I am letting you know it means a lot more to me and other Nigerians born on the same date with me. June 12 for us is an important watershed which should normally have represented the next important date to October 1st, 1960, the day of our Independence from Britain. It was the first day in on our complex history and very fragile union, that our country first pulled together as one nation indivisible, to put sentiments and sheer nepotism aside, and to vote our hopes and not our fears and to conduct, in all fairness and truth, an election the whole world and our own have now come to accept as the fairest and the closest to perfection, as we would ever get in our history. It was a day that marked the triumph of Democracy as practiced elsewhere in much of the civilized world. Obasanjo pushing for May 29 and refusing to listen to wiser counsel is again swimming against the tide of history like he has often done, as one of the luckiest Nigerians and certainly the luckiest southerner out of a country of more than 120 million to be given a chance to rule the country longer than any Nigerian dead or alive in all of our history. If Obasanjo cannot change Nigeria, and leave his footprints on the sand of time, for all the years he has been blessed to lead our nation, history and posterity would consider him a failure and so should the rest of us.
My central thesis in this June 12 edition of my frequent articles on the Internet would therefore focus on why I think that stability and confidence in our nation’s future would need the Nelson Mandela vision and model of leadership which I now have cause to believe that Obasanjo does not have. It was General Yakubu Gowon who once coined the statement “to keep Nigeria one is a task that must be done”. That statement is as appropriate today like it was, when it was first uttered, but mere sloganeering may have worked during the Nigerian/Biafran War from 1967 to 1970, we sure need more commitment and inspiring leadership from our leaders today than merely parroting the bumper sticker statements our young charismatic Gowon had made in the mid 60s. With all the potentials our country is uniquely blessed with in natural and manpower resources and endowments, our country needs to be far more prosperous, advanced and united than we are today, as a nation, if all our post-independence leaders had truthfully served our nation. Nigeria should be one of the economic tigers of the Atlantic zone, if our resources are not being squandered on sheer frivolities, and if our nation’s wealth is not being diverted to private pockets, with no system in place to check the nauseating Corruption and excesses of our leaders.
I cannot help but laugh when I hear Obasanjo and some of our leaders complain that our system of Justice is rather slow, and there is nothing they can do about it. Can you imagine President Bush giving Americans such excuses as his reasons not to immediately declare war on Al Qaeda, following the traumatic event of 9/11? If our system of Justice is slow, it is because our leaders want it so. Period. Can you imagine any American President telling Americans or invoking immunity from prosecution as one of the reasons why a pro bono publico lawyer like Gani Fawehinmi cannot file a successful suit against him in any Nigerian Court for a breach of public trust and confidence? Nigerian University Education has taken a nose-dive under this President. Our Public Library system is virtually nonexistent in a country of more than 120 million and the best our sitting President, who came to office, virtually penniless in 1999, and whose election campaign to office was bankrolled by filthy-rich party members and old colleagues in the Military, could do, is establish his own private University and his own private Library among other capital intensive industries all over Nigeria, for most of his children and limitless number of wives and in-laws. How, for goodness sake, is this President different from IBB, or Sunny Abacha or even from Tafa Balogun or even from Arthur Nzeribe or Chuba Okadigbo who had assigned 62 official vehicles to his office, as Senate President? How is he different from Governor Dariye or from some of our State Governors who are far more richer today than all of their State and Local Governments combined? It is a legitimate question to ask unless we are all idiots.
I can understand Pastor Oyedepo. Or Pastor Adeboye or Pastor Olukoya, Alhaji Dangote or Mike Adenuga or Bill Gates, or the Alhaji Folawiyos and Okoya Thomas or Eleganza of this world owning multiple private planes and living like the Paul Getty of this world. What I cannot understand is how a President leading the War on Corruption and wanting to send other pen robbers to jail for the rest of their life, can explain building a private University of his own and floating a public Library to be named after himself, while still in office and holding the stick and the carrot at the same time. Some of us have reached a crazy point, in our faith, that Pastors Oyedepo, Adeboye, Oyakhilome, Olukoya and Guru Maharaji to mention a few, no longer need to ask us to give offerings at the Holy Ghost Crusades or Guru Gatherings they now hold all over Nigeria. We generously give, even if it means giving all our widow’s mite, because all we always want to do is please Jesus. We scramble and fall over one another to do so in a congregation of more than a million, because, we have all accepted, in faith, that the more we give, the more we receive from Jesus who is richer than the World Bank and International Monetary Fund and the world Central Banks of all nations combined. So if all the preachers and pastors are filthy rich, we understand. What is not so easy to understand, is how public officials, ministers and politicians now amass their wealth to build all those capital intensive projects like building a University or a private Library in a society that hardly values reading. It is a misplacement of the nation’s priority. There are many more infrastructures the nation needs than a private library which will be looted within a few years, trust me.
Before I end this piece, I have a moral obl
igation to explain, in some detail what the Mandela vision and model of leadership truly means to South Africa. I can then leave you to judge for yourself, if you think our current President fits the bill. When Nelson Mandela voted for the first time in South Africa in 1990, he made a statement for the History books when he said and I quote, “We are, today, starting a new era of hope for our country.” Mandela was much more concerned about laying a sound foundation for South Africa than creating a personal legacy for himself, but he had succeeded in doing both in the fullness of time, if you ask me. He simply broke out of the mold of all African leaders when he voluntarily opted to run for only one term, and he immediately started grooming a successor in Thabo Mbeki he could hand over to. He understood what Obasanjo does not appear to fully comprehend that national cohesion, stability and continuity requires that you groom a successor by picking a Vice, that can conveniently take over from you in the natural order of events.
What we have all suspected all along that Obasanjo already had “a quid pro quo” pact to return power back to IBB, even before picking Atiku Abubakar as a running mate. In order words Obasanjo had two Vice Presidents all along, one V.P. de jure in Atiku and another V.P, de facto in IBB who had single-handedly spearheaded the move to return him back to power by all means in the hope his maradonic manipulations of Abiola’s election can be, once and for all, swept under the carpet, with Obasanjo as an accomplice. The truth is now out, but the fallout from such perfidy, hardly fits the Mandela vision and model of true leadership. That I am saying this must not be misconstrued as any sympathy for Atiku’s candidature for the Presidency like I once canvassed in my article titled “Atiku may well be our best bet to succeed Obasanjo,” written more than a year ago. Between then and now, if any of you has gone back to read that article again, you would have observed that a lot of dynamics have occurred to alter some of my basic assumptions in that article.
I more civilized countries like I argued in that article the Vice President is always a heartbeat from the Presidency. That Obasanjo no longer believes that precept to be self-evident in our country has reduced Obasanjo’s leadership at best, to that of a deal maker per excellence who is more interested in his own survival than the nation’s survival, regardless of anything he may be saying to the contrary.
Why is Mandela so highly regarded today in the whole world? It is so because he is a man of steel and principle. He has truly proved himself not as the father of a cross section of South Africa, but the true father of both Black and White South Africa. It is true that Obasanjo is today referred to as “Baba”, “Father” everywhere he goes, but not with the same connotation with Nelson Mandela. Mandela has made himself the most credible enforcer of the South African Constitution which he took an oath to uphold as President. In that context, he has set an example in leadership that has become the gold standard for any future President of South Africa. Very few Nigerians can say the same thing of Obasanjo today.
If future Nigerian Presidents from now on, are going to strictly copy the current Obasanjo model and mode of operations, we all have cause to be concerned. The supreme Law in our country ought to be the Constitution. Obasanjo only observes the Constitution when it serves his purpose. He ignores or sidetracks it, when it does not. That is not a legacy to pass on to any of his successors.
It is frightening when a President who claims he has a zero tolerance level for corruption would tolerate a provision in our Constitution which grants immunity against prosecution to any President or Governor who enriches himself or corruptly abuses his office at the expense of the public while still in office. I thought that provision should have been the first to be expunged if the President wants the nation to take him seriously. He should have sponsored a bill to tackle the problem in a way to discourage frivolous prosecutions from going forward just like the current Bush Administration had now found some ways, to outlaw or minimize filibuster as a weapon to prevent an up or down vote on Presidential nominees in a Parliament or Congress dominated by his Party. Our country is going to, forever, remain lethargic and unstable, if future Presidents decide to emulate the Obasanjo model as the ideal. Certainly, this President can do better, if he truly means business. He simply does not, and there lies the problem.
I rest my case.