Custom Search
Special Issues
 

Frisky Larr (MA)
Journalist/Interpreter
Author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.
Bochum, Germany
send email,
more articles by Larr

Nigerian
News
 
Leadership Style: President Jonathan must be Joking!!

 

But here we have a President damning domestic criticisms like an Olusegun Obasanjo and at the same time refusing to be an Olusegun Obasanjo because he is not a retired General. Moreover, he seeks to run an effective government with a qualified Economic Team but doesn't seem to have truly understood the contemporary dynamics of the politician’s psyche in Ministerial power. The abuse of power displayed by Ministers under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua happened because they had much autonomy with a sick President, who could not oversee government in all strictness. Has the system already changed overnight?

In fact, if President Jonathan had sought to launch a Public Relations Offensive with the series of interviews in which he unleashed many of these comments, then the project was a single disaster!


Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

Hearing recent series of comments credited to President Goodluck Jonathan on the heels of Nigeria’s 51st Independence anniversary, consternation has been the least word to describe my spontaneous reaction. For months unending, speculations have been making the round that the President is much too aloof and unassertive for the seriousness required of the office of President.

 

In fact, since the assumption of office by President Jonathan, I have been tempted to believe that the generational transition ushered into the Nigerian political leadership by ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo may be leading the country to a leadership vacuum. A far different development than the founding father of the transition to a younger generation may have bargained for!

In functional western democracies that I know through several decades of my travails in Europe, I have been conversant with a pattern of developmental progression subscribed to by political neophytes aspiring to positions of political prominence. Youth wings of political parties groom young politicians from university days to adulthood. One of the most important and fundamental stages of education that young politicians pass through in functional democracies is lessons in oration and public speeches. Overcoming stage fright and consciousness of the weightiness of utterances are basically the central focus of such teachings.

In Nigeria however, there does not seem to have ever been a tradition of drilling politicians in public communication. A lot seems left to the private talent and coincidental resources of the politician in question. So far, retired General Ibrahim Babangida, has been one outstanding character in the usage of the mass media for political communication. His utterances are usually careful and hardly ever direct. He has foot-soldiers, who seem professionally maintained in a systematic media portfolio, to defend the public relations interest of their principal.

Abubakar Atiku came out fairly unscathed and well managed in his media battle with Olusegun Obasanjo. The former President himself represents everything that an aspiring politician should never emulate in public communication. Olusegun Obasanjo is a man who breaks all the rules of public communication but always manages to survive the deadly consequences each step of the way. Many politicians may not be so lucky. President Obasanjo damns political counseling and acts according to his instincts. Today, he is known for it and it has become a brand and a very peculiar manner of communication that he alone and perhaps, very few people like him have been successful with. No expert in the field will ever recommend this manner of public political communication as a general example to emulate.

In President Jonathan, we now have a tendency that seeks to copy one bit of this very element that is utterly peculiar to the personality of Olusegun Obasanjo. President Goodluck Jonathan lacks the charisma and audacity of Olusegun Obasanjo to try the don’t-give-a damn attitude. Not giving a damn what people think about his leadership style.

From nowhere, President Jonathan seems to have found the occasion of preparation for the 51st Independence anniversary to announce his defiance of mounting public clamoring for more assertiveness on his part. Fair enough.

His statement of facts and reasons explaining his attitude however must stand out as one huge entertaining joke. If anything, it uncovers a very disturbing reality that President Jonathan is either not managed in public communication or he defies the counseling of his Public Relation Minders, again, like Olusegun Obasanjo, who he should never emulate in this respect.

In one veiled reference that can never be lost on anyone, he underscores the fact that he is neither a General nor a military commander. Assertiveness should therefore, never be his stock in trade. That again, is a point that he is perfectly entitled to. But just what was it that went through the President’s mind when he made the following statement?

“I was told that you rarely see people going to work by 8.00 a.m., even though the period of service is between 8.00 a.m. – 4.00p.m. How many directors come to work by 8.00 a.m.? I’m not sure 10 per cent of your directors come to work by 8.00 a.m., not exactly. … I’m not going to chase them by carrying a big stick, going into the ministries and breaking the heads of the people. But I believe that for us to get to where we want to go, as a nation, we have to build strong institutions and when we build strong institutions, these institutions will drive the process,”

Once again, fair enough. But just what message did the President think he was sending making a statement of this nature? That it is alright with him to circumvent the law of official working hours as long as he is building institutions?

Was a statement like this scripted for him by his communication minders or made on the spur of the moment? In fact, I am aware of political leaders in modern democracies (even dictators) who subject themselves to mock interviews and serious training sessions with communication experts ahead of the transmission of any major message to the nation through the media. The choice of words shaping the overall message transmitted by a leader is often made to transfer wisdom and near infallibility. Has anyone demanded of the President to walk into Ministries and fracture the heads of Ministers with an assailant's club because they come late to work? Has anyone ever asked the President to become a dictator before issuing a warning to a person like Muhammadu Buhari to be cautious not to break the laws of the land in his public utterances? Does the President have to be a dictator or a retired army General to order the Attorney-General of the Federation to investigate the activities of some northern leaders for a possible breach of public order through inciting comments? Even if the Attorney-General concludes such an investigation exonerating such public figures in his final findings, would the President not have ended up asserting his position? Does that require being a retired General?

In fact Olusegun Obasanjo would have gone far beyond all these steps to assert himself. President Jonathan needed to have gone only half that way.

Funnily, President Jonathan seems to believe that the system will run like a well oiled machine without external intervention, when institutions are built.

“So, I normally say that ‘look, when we strengthen our institutions, the system will begin to roll properly. I used to tell people in my office that ministers don’t need to see me, if the system is working well. Even if I am sick for six months, ordinary Nigerians will not know the President is sick because the system is supposed to run. … Ministers have budgets approved by the National Assembly for them to run their ministries, their recurrent and capital projects. So, even if a minister does not see Mr. President for four years, that minister is competent and can run the ministry in a way that Nigerians will know that we are moving,”

If the President truly believes in this theory in present-day Nigeria’s “wild, wild west”, then I am afraid, Nigeria is in serious trouble. If the President believes that every Minister will work with the consciousness and dedication of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nuhu Ribadu, El-Rufai or Dora Akunyili, he'd better consult Shehu Shagari very quickly to find out where excessive autonomy can lead independent-minded Ministers. Ministers who, unfortunately, have spent huge sums of money to lobby and politick to get where they are!

The unfortunate truth is that the discovery of personalities like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who did no lobbying and was virtually begged to do the job, clearly shows that Nigeria has the materials to take her to the destination that President Jonathan has in mind. We are just not there yet. The President has no reason whatsoever in this world to say he will not change his leadership style of not being an assertive President. Not for now at all.

Indeed, the arguments that the President subscribes to simply end up painting the picture of a highly confused mind. Even with a functional control system of checks and balance, a President at whose door the buck stops, cannot just afford to stay aloof of activities at the peripheral ends of his government. On the day of final reckoning, hardly any other person is held accountable for the success or failure of the administration than the President himself. Sometimes, Governors are not even remembered in the scheme of things.

The most bizarre argument adopted by the President was the notion of leaving his leadership in the hands of God. What God did Nigerians elect? This unfortunate appeal to base metaphysical emotions should best be uttered in a campaign trail appealing to a religious constituency. Such an extremely abstract and empty appeal should ordinarily have no business being advanced in a political environment begging for precise policy direction amid bombs and security breaches. Some helplessness of sort?

Worse still, the President seeks to sell himself as the biblical prophet who is not accepted in his own home. But why doesn't he just act to make himself acceptable? When has international acceptance and praises become a yardstick for measuring leadership efficiency? Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was, for so many years in her early days, regarded as more of an international than domestic superstar. A darling of international mediation and compromise diplomacy! When criticisms of the situation grew louder at home however, Angela Merkel never uttered a single word in public but quietly turned back home and reinvented herself until the image changed.

But here we have a President damning domestic criticisms like an Olusegun Obasanjo and at the same time refusing to be an Olusegun Obasanjo because he is not a retired General. Moreover, he seeks to run an effective government with a qualified Economic Team but doesn't seem to have truly understood the contemporary dynamics of the politician’s psyche in Ministerial power. The abuse of power displayed by Ministers under the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua happened because they had much autonomy with a sick President, who could not oversee government in all strictness. Has the system already changed overnight?

In fact, if President Jonathan had sought to launch a Public Relations Offensive with the series of interviews in which he unleashed many of these comments, then the project was a single disaster!

Frisky Larr is author of the book “Nigeria’s Journalistic Militantism” probing into the poor role of Journalism in Nigeria! ISBN: 9781456777906.

  Unique visitors: 418

 
 

Disclaimer
The Views and Opinions expressed herein are those of the individual writers not those of NigerianNews. All facts and their accuracies are the responsibilities of the authors. Please also note that some authors may use pseudo names or generic emails, to which NigerianNews has no way of verifying. Therefore an author's identity should not be inferred on the basis of name, subject matter, or any other characterization presented here. NigerianNews is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

 
 

Privacy Policy