The deliberate quest to remain popular, especially with choices, remains, in my humble yet expansive thinking, the thin line between great and bad leaders.
I believe we are where we are as a country and as a people because we remain afraid of the reaction of the people to choices which we know, in our deepest of hearts, are good, but unpopular.
It is an ingrained disease in the minds of Nigerian politicians in particular, especially in this age of social media. Nobody wants to be “dragged” for doing what is generally unacceptable by uninformed members of the general public, so they do what will please me and you, and in the end, we, the people, bear the harsh grunt of those choices.
Do not get me wrong.
I am not saying that whenever you take a step that a large percentage of the people agree with makes it a bad decision. It is just that there are some moves that must be made for a nation to move forward. Unpopular yet best for the greater good. Undesirable yet effective in the long run.
Unfortunately, the people have remained the greatest adversary to this move. They continually insult and goad you, the Nigerian political leader, into making choices that they are comfortable with. They will do anything to make things remain the same. They will insult and drag, malign and even go as far as protesting moves that are unpopular to them.
This is a vicious cycle that has been sustained for a long time, which is why we keep moving in circles without making any significant progress. However, we must get out of our comfort zone mentally if Nigeria is to make a drastic turn on the positive scale. If we are to do better than the leaders that have disappointed us over the years, we must do things differently, accept unpopular yet profitable rhetorics whilst spending more time reasoning rather than jumping into conclusions.
Let me clarify.
Good leaders, at least by Nigerian standard, pay monthly salaries on time. If you intend to go under the radar during your time in government, just pay salaries, do one or two projects and make sure you do not do anything out of the norm and you might just be fine. For many, the sort of drive they possessed before getting into government becomes extinguished once they see just how difficult it is to change things, and how easy it is to thrive when you do the bare minimum. It is easy to break down structures and erect new buildings, however, revamping the minds of the people, especially Nigerians, offers a different ball game altogether.
There are idiosyncrasies within the Nigerian people, especially the youth, that have dug deep, bearing fruits on a daily basis to the benefit of the progenitors of evil, and since it has tormented the people for so long, it became the norm.
Clarity? I’ll provide it.
The Nigerian Police should not be checking your car particulars, neither should the VIO, yet they do. We should not, at this stage of our development, be without 24-hour electricity, yet we do. A drizzle should not make us go without electricity for days in the name of “drying cables”, yet we suffer from this regularly. It should not take Nigerian Universities a couple of years for graduates to get their certificates, yet it happens. A four year course should not last for eight years, killing the enthusiasm and drive of the Nigerian youth in the process, yet it happens all around.
I could go on and on, but I am sure you get my point.
As wrong as these things are, I can assure you that if a Nigerian politician were to come along with promises to stop these anomalies, and then actually attempt to go ahead with it, the gates of hell will rise and the people who have benefitted from that evil will sponsor “protests”, pay influencers to coin smart phrases and send “intellectual” men and women to TV stations to defend that stance. Within a short while, even you will start to doubt if your intention for Nigerians to have steady electricity was for the greater good. A disease.
Thankfully, this disease has a cure.
Its cure is in the change in mindset of the people towards leadership. We need to stop getting excited by “Popularjingos” and focus on what they have to offer us. We must do away with superficial, performative politics and demand for real impact, after all, a Nigerian Governor once spent 8 years in power publicly eating roasted corn, haggling market prices with traders and marshalling traffic – all whilst looting away the state’s resources. He kept them excited enough to lose sight of what was important.
A Nigerian nightmare.
The 2023 election is lurking, and as far away as it looks, it is closer than many of us think. 2023 offers us all a chance at redemption, as all indices point towards a dissolution of our dear country Nigeria IF certain methods are sustained. For the first time in our democratic history, the three major tribes are calling for secession. No regular Nigerian politician should be at the helm of affairs if things are to take a positive turn, which is why I have written this piece.
I am doing my bit, do yours.
In my time as a political researcher, I have come across many politicians who use a popularity contest to deprive the people of the true meaning of democracy. Some use religion, others use tribe and the less imaginative ones just use thugs. Many would gladly destroy age-old institutions for their personal gain, dividing and conquering through the chaos just to remain afloat. I have seen many of them come and go, as you also have, but we have also seen some good ones desperate to create something new amidst the ruckus.
I know of such a man, bestowed with the sort of “coconut head” doggedness that we need in Nigeria. I will speak of his deeds before I speak of him.
During the Covid-19 pandemic which basically crushed economies across the world, including Nigeria’s, he carefully assessed the situation and made an unpopular stand. He advised the Federal Government not to toe the line of the more established countries by shutting everything down and giving her people “palliatives”, a move which he said will result in a lose-lose situation. He rather expected of them to use methods that will work for the average Nigerian, such as observing laid down protocols and true, rigorous sensitization.
He was lambasted for saying such, and painted as a true enemy of the state. When the NCDC visited his state and tried to overrun their own protocols, he refused, and instead of receiving praise for that, he was simply insulted some more. He protected his people from the economic ramifications of the pandemic at all costs, and till date, remains the only Governor with the lowest death toll attributed to Covid-19, whilst pulling in the highest influx of foreign investment during the same period.
Within that time frame, this man has initiated a thorough revamp of the healthcare sector, reveling in the belief that a strong healthcare remains far more important than performative, highly insensitive moves that has only seen more than 10 Million Nigerians fall further down the poverty line. He is currently building the largest, Three Hundred (300) Bed space Reference Hospital in Northern Nigeria, alongside Nine (9) more, fully equipped General Hospitals in the Nine Federal Constituencies of Kogi State.
Unpopular move, but you cannot deny its effectiveness. What have the other leaders done about health sector after the pandemic? How many hospitals have they built?
Nigeria is going through one of her hardest periods in history. Almost all her tribes are crying out for division, but beneath the entire façade lies an obvious disgruntlement as a result of perceived marginalization. Managing a massive country like Nigeria requires a certain level of tribal/religious understanding and empathy, and a lack of these will only spell doom and destruction. Going forward, we must block this loophole.
What Nigeria is currently dealing with is something that was a mainstay in the Confluence State before the arrival of this man, and he tackled it with an experience that marvelled seasoned politicians. A state rife with religious and tribal conflict, complaints of marginalization and sidetracking, nepotism and class divide has now been transformed into an arena where these vices are outlawed. He did not make empty promises, he walked the talk.
A Muslim Governor taking the unpopular move of building a church in the Government House for the first time in its 28-year existence, donating buildings and buses to Christian organizations, sharing state appointments in an equitable manner through the three major tribes (Including Igbo, Benue, Yoruba and other tribes resident in their numbers in the state), sanctioning the execution of infrastructural projects equally in the three senatorial districts and ensuring a 49% representation of women in his government has certainly, by all standards, surpassed the benchmark for peace and tranquility within the society.
Many leaders preach of unity, how many practice it? What has your Governor done about this?
It is no surprise to see Nigerian students spending seven to eight years studying a course that should normally take four years to complete. The criminality of associations who are meant to serve as a conduit for the fight against injustice for educational institutions, and her most important assets, the students, has since become a story worthy of a Netflix blockbuster in Nigeria. No one, except the leadership of these associations, benefit from an extensive stay at home when students should be carrying out their normal educational activities.
We have complained, protested and trended hashtags on social media, yet, hardly a year goes by without a period – short or long – where some monetary disagreement between the Federal Government and ASUU does not prompt a stay-at-home order. Billions are requested for, Billions are released. The evidence of all these funds are sorely lacking in our institutions, yet the students bear the major pain of these disagreements. Wonders.
This man of which I speak saw through the aimless, unprofitable and money-driven propaganda by these associations and made an unpopular move. He announced an immediate proscription. Since 2017, the State-owned Kogi State University has been operating on auto cruise. There have been no strikes, no needless breaks and the State’s educational sector, alongside her students, has benefitted massively from this.
Many Governors bemoan the actions of these organizations, how many of them have come out to stop their harmful activities? Why complain when you can do something about it, yet you do not?
Three days ago, Nigeria stood still as the #June12Protests rocked many states across the nation, bearing the marks of the displeasure of many Nigerians. Majority of the people protesting earmarked Insecurity as one of the major reasons why they felt the need to make their voices heard. A justified notion, if the numbers are to be believed. Apparently, in the last 6 Months, over 1000 children have been kidnapped by armed Terrorists, over 3000 people kidnapped by bandits for ransom and over 4,000 people killed due to either communal, cult or extra judicial killings.
Security is our personal business, and the young don has made this his watchword. Apart from hiring over 6,000 vigilantes to assist in information gathering, all the security outfits within the state have commended him for his attentiveness, pro-activeness and determination to provide solution to whatever they ask for in fishing out criminals. Kogi, once ranked as the kidnap capital of Nigeria, now ranks as the second safest state in the country; this accolade made even more spectacular when it becomes evident that Kogi is bordered by Ten (10) states on every side including the FCT.
Major General MG. Ali, the Commander of Special Forces Battalion of the Nigerian Army, whilst commending the Governor, appreciated his contributions for “rendering a helping hand to nip crime not only in his state, but across the country at large.”
Speaking further, he dramatically communicated his appreciation for his efforts by “doffing” an imaginary hat for his steady support, whilst declaring openly that “if all Governors could emulate him in terms of providing strategic information, the peace we have been yearning for will soon be close to us.” Take note of his statement; “All Governors.”
We must focus on what is important, which is the security of the lives and properties of Nigerians. That is why we lined up in the sun and rain to elect our leaders, not to join us in echoing our displeasure during protests.
One Governor has dedicated his life towards the security of his people, what do the others do? They join protests and excite the people, whilst others blame the Federal Government for every single thing. They complain, deflect, moan and do everything else, except their jobs.
If the Chief Security Officer of a State comes out to protest against insecurity instead of doing his job of securing the state, what should the masses do? What sort of leaders are these, as I have accurately described throughout this piece?
I have had enough of them.
This is why I am thrilled with the manner of governance in Kogi State, and of her leader and Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello. It is not perfect, but it is highly effective, and with her marksman eyeing a run at the Presidential seat, every Nigerian should be excited at what is to come if he eventually becomes the Number one citizen.
This is a man focused on doing his job, creating magic out of the rubble he inherited. Anyone who used to reside in Kogi State pre-2016 AND is willing to tell the truth will attest to this claim. Nigeria has suffered too much at the hands of those who are intent at showing the world that they are working instead of actually putting in the work. It is like the story of a student who spends hours copying his notes onto his lap or into a paper, instead of actually reading the said notes.
Nigeria is ripe for purposeful leadership, and 2023 remains the best bet for we, the youth, to take our rightful place. Any focused, young person should shun anybody older than 60 aspiring to rule this country. They have had their chance, what have we benefitted?
People will bring the argument that age doesn’t define competence, but what happens when we have young people who are competent, agile and ready to serve who also understand the needs of their generation? When shall they be given the chance to rule?
Not tomorrow, I say now.
Would you rather have a President that protests or one that protects? Would you rather a President that is intent on unifying his people, or one that sells a dream? Would you rather a politician who takes care to say the opposite of what he did, and do the opposite of what he said, or one who has proven time and time again that his words and promises are set in stone?
I know who I prefer. In your deepest of hearts, I know you do too.
Popularjingos have had their time, let purposeful leadership take the reign.
I rest my case.
Follow Samuel Aina on twitter @ainoorh and facebook @Sam Aina.