A presidential character – Businessday NG

To be wise means to be thoughtful and balanced. To be sagacious means penetrating, as in able to see deeply into the heart of things. Having lived for over half a century by now, personal and vicarious experience has taught me the fundamental importance of integrity and competence in a leader.

In the euphoria leading up to the second world war when many Germans were hailing Adolf Hitler as the saviour of Germany, Dietrich Von Hildebrand foresaw what was coming if Hitler succeeded in capturing power and implementing his Nazi ideology. He set about warning his countrymen about the dangers ahead.

Unfortunately, they were too enthralled with Hitler’s propaganda to pay heed to what they took as the naïve rant of a young Philosophy lecturer.

Hitler marked him down for assassination. Dietrich had to flee to Austria, then to France, and then to Brazil. In the end, he finally settled down in the USA. Germany and the entire world paid the ultimate price for not heeding his warnings.

Character is key because it influences our decisions. Indeed our decisions manifest and at the same time form our character. Experience shows that baring a profound and fundamental change (conversion), our character is virtually set by the age 24 if not earlier.

Hardly any Nigerian is in doubt about BAT’s sagacity. The facts amply demonstrate this.

His ability to fight OBJ to a standstill in the South West, thus preventing PDP from capturing the entire South Western Nigeria.

His feat of turning around and drastically boosting the fortunes of Lagos thus making Lagos State fiscally independent of the federal allocation in contrast to what obtains in other states of the Federation.

Assembling a formidable team of technocrats to design a development master plan for Lagos and indeed inspiring the same for the whole of the South West under the aegis of the Development Agenda for Western Nigeria (DAWN), etc. These and many more are the undeniable achievements of BAT.

But even in the midst of these achievements, certain fundamental and critical questions arise when one scrutinises some key decisions that he has made in the course of his political career. Because they give us a glimpse of what to expect from him as a future President of Nigeria.

Perhaps the most spectacular and apt decision BAT has ever made in his political career was his choice of Babatunde Raji Fashola (BRF) as his successor as governor of Lagos against popular and received opinion. It was a critical choice that transformed Lagos and ensured the survival and eventual rebirth of BAT’s political fortunes. That was BAT at his sagacious best!

But in spite of Fashola’s performance, principled and independent leadership, BAT was against giving him a second term. It took the threat of revolt by the corporate, political and cultural elite of Lagos for Jagaban to agree to a second term for BRF. Fashola had become a threat rather than an ally in delivering the dividends of democracy by eclipsing his achievements. This personalization of power is worrisome trait in a leader.

His choice of Ambode, an ever loyal and faithful friend to succeed Fashola was meant to spare him the hassles that Fashola gave him. But Ambode, though loyal, had well known personal and moral handicaps that made his choice problematic. He ended up serving only one term just like Boris Johnson.

To my mind however, the most tragic decision Tinubu has ever made, which ironically he considers an achievement that he thinks has earned him the singular and sole right to becoming the Presidential flag bearer of his party the APC in the 2023 elections, is his choice of, and collaboration with Muhamadu Buhari to win two terms as the President of Nigeria. It was an abrupt volte-face for someone who in 2011 said that Muhamadu Buhari was an expired leader.

Right from the word go, the signs were clear that PMB our proverbial paragon of expired leadership, would not even attempt to implement the lofty plans outlined in the Manifesto that the APC sold to Nigerians. At every juncture in the long and painful journey from 2015 till date, Jagaban never raised a word of protest against the abuses and obvious errors of the government.

In this he acted as a patient dog waiting for his turn to be in control rather than as a statesman and patriot who watches over the common good and raises alarm when things go wrong like he did while opposing President Goodluck Jonathan. He seemed to have lost all his self-critical faculties now that he was in power! Thus by an ironic twist, the evils that he used to complain about under Jonathan’s administration had suddenly become irrelevant now that it was being perpetuated by his party members! Indeed Adams Oshiomhole encapsulated this mentality in his now famous refrain: Once you join APC, all your sins are forgiven! That refrain betrays a quest for power for power’s sake without regards to the common good.

Seven years down the line, we are all reaping the bitter fruits of this APC mentality. To gain power, APC found it expedient to weaponise the issue of insecurity and got a lot of electoral mileage from criticising the incumbent administration’s response to the security challenges.

Heralded as the security expert, Buhari was touted as the solution to the insecurity in the North given his military background and empathy with his fellow Northeners who were being killed by ruthless Nigerian soldiers. Seven years down the line, the security situation has worsened despite the quantum increase in budgetary allocations for security. In all this, BAT never complained but was constantly pleading with Nigerians to be more understanding and patient with the government.

Perhaps the single most emblematic gesture that betrayed BAT’s approach to power and his understanding of the goal of politics was his recent Émì lokan declaration in Abeokuta. Here is a man who single handedly helped PMB to win the presidency and immediately afterwards decided to keep mum and not break ranks with the administration when they failed to live up to their campaign promises and all the while wanting to portray himself as a later day Awo!

Did he not realise that by failing to speak up while PMB was busy undermining the integrity and esteem of the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, he was destroying APC as a brand? To add insult to the trauma that Nigerians have suffered under Buhari’s APC, Tinubu had the effrontery to present as the basis for his being entitled to be the Presidential candidate of the APC in 2023 elections the singular act of having made it possible for PMB to win the presidency in 2015 and 2019. What infamy!

I don’t need to comment on the promises of the APC to end fuel subsidy, fight Kwaruption, improve the exchange rate of the Naira, reduce youth unemployment, boost education, etc. Neither will I comment on the EndSARS crisis and other weighty personal issues that he has.

What is clear to most Nigerian is that the APC government under Buhari has failed in a most spectacular way in that which it was most needed: security.

By failing to call out the government on this singular topic even at the risk of losing his chance to get a shot at the presidency, he has ended up aiding and abetting the present insecurity we are experiencing which threatens to destroy the very existence of Nigeria as a nation. With all his undeniable flaws, OBJ has never failed in calling the government of the day to order whenever he has deemed it necessary. That is the mark of the statesman and in this, BAT has been found wanting. More than sagacity the president of Nigeria needs wisdom!

Nyambi, a social commentator, writes from Lagos

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