By Edbert Abebe
“Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians.”
“I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody”
I am sure a good number of Nigerians can recall the above words from the lips of President Muhammadu Buhari at his inauguration in 2015, more than three years ago. It was the first time in our democracy and transition process, that an opposition party would defeat an incumbent in office. Nigerians, it would seem had gotten tired of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) led government of former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The failings were myriad – the inability to deal with the security situation posed by the Boko Haram sect in the North East and to stem the ugly tide of corruption which had assumed an alarming proportion. The insensitivity and reckless indifference of PDP as a party to the yearnings of Nigerians, only made matters worse. An alternative had to be sought, which in any case is the beauty of our democracy, as enshrined in Chapter 2, Section 14(2)(a) of our constitution which provides that “Sovereignty belongs to the people of Nigeria from whom government through the constitution derives all its power and authority”. The power to choose those who occupy positions of authority resides with the people.
As in any crisis situation, where there exists disequilibrium, there will be the urgent need for an authority figure to step in to provide some form of direction and order. So majority of Nigerians through the ballot authorized PMB, to come in to restore equilibrium in a chaotic situation. He was branded as a democrat, a strong leader who will fix the security situation swiftly, being a former Head of State under the Military era, and also will deal decisively with the issue of corruption. Attempts to remind Nigerians of his antecedence, did not stick, as many Nigerians were willing to take the chance, notwithstanding a risky one.
PMB assumed office with tremendous goodwill and political capital in the bank. His party – APC, had campaigned and made several promises to Nigerians hinged on the “Change” slogan. Some considered him to be the messiah the country had been waiting for, so expectations were not just high, but quick results were expected.
Unfortunately, what most Nigerians fail to realize is that the change and progress desired in the nation will not be achieved by authority alone or the authoritative expertise of any group of persons. That would be treating it as a technical challenge, which can easily be fixed by replacing a faulty gadget with a new one. Our challenges in this nation are far from being only technical; they are mostly adaptive. Progress on adaptive challenges will require more than having authority, but the practice of leadership to mobilize the various factions to tackle tough issues. They are about values, loyalties, beliefs and progress on these sort of challenges requires the people with the problem to do the work, because the work involves a change of behavior.
A critical question to ask is; are Nigerians ready to do the work necessary for change and progress? Or in the continued fashion of work avoidance, are we prepared to keep passing the bulk to the authority figures in the nation.
Unfortunately, those we have authorized to occupy certain positions, in this country hardly realize that the real work of leadership will involve mobilizing the various factions to make progress on tough issues. An understanding of this would have helped to avoid the misstep of the 97% and 5% response of PMB, at an international gathering outside the country soon after he became president and several more in the last three years. The practice of leadership gains the most relevance in the midst of tough problems, but our authority figures appear armed with very little leadership capacity, if any to make progress on the daunting challenges affecting us as a nation.
The emergence of H.E Atiku Abubakar and his running mate former governor Peter Obi as the flag bearers of the PDP in the 2019 general election has gotten Nigerians fired up, across the spectrum. Their emergence will expectedly make the contest fierce, providing a formidable challenge to the incumbent. For some, they have found a messiah to come rescue the nation from the strangle hold of the current administration. You can trust Nigerians to be innovative and witty, as some “are now Articulating and Obedient”. But whichever direction the pendulum swings come 2019, Nigerians must realize that for real progress to be achieved, it won’t come by a quick fix or by any individual as President waving a magic wand. It will involve our collective skin in the game to begin to find solutions to the challenges confronting us all.
My candid advice during this campaign season is for Nigerians to objectively inquire of those seeking our authorization to be or remain as President, how they plan to practice adaptive leadership to find solutions to the myriad of challenges facing us as a nation.