Iyinoluwa Aboyeji: Obasanjo, Jonathan and the failings of Nigerian mentors (YNaija FrontPage)

Iyinoluwa-Aboyeji

The mentor likely believes that by posturing as a perfect human being and avoiding honest conversation about his flaws, he maintains the mentee’s confidence in him as a guide.

My big brother was B.I.G.’s brother

So here’s a few words from ya kid brother

If you admire somebody you should go ‘head tell ‘em

People never get the flowers while they can still smell ‘em

- Kanye West (Big Brother)

 

The mentor likely believes that by posturing as a perfect human being and avoiding honest conversation about his flaws, he maintains the mentee’s confidence in him as a guide.

The latest rift between Goodluck Jonathan and former President Obasanjo is an interesting one to watch. As one might expect, the juiciest bits won’t play out in the paid media and the duo would sooner bury whatever hatchet it is they carry as 2015 rolls along. However I think the turn of events in this case and in several others like it, (see; Cosmas Maduka v Ifeanyi Ubah or Reno Omokri v. Nasir El-Rufai, Don Jazzy v. Dbanj) where promising mentoring relationships break down, highlight a problem with leadership development in this country – especially as it concerns our politics. The tragedy here is that the inability of leaders and aspiring leaders to sustain long term mentoring relationships often means that the benefits of experience are lost. No wonder, we seem to keep making the same mistakes.

Now, I will admit that although I have a network of older Nigerians that I regularly go to for support and advice, I have not yet had the privilege of a one-on-one mentoring relationship with a high profile Nigerian personality so do well to take my observations with the grain of salt they deserve. However, just from observing several other relationships at an acceptable distance and comparing them to a other close one on one mentoring relationships I have observed with people from other parts of the world, I am developing a theory as to why most Nigerian mentoring relationships fall apart so easily.

It might be a cultural thing but in my experience, a lot Nigerian mentors are so concerned with preserving a perfect image of themselves in their mentees eyes that they miss opportunities to communicate honestly with them about their flaws, challenges, insecurities and mistakes. You see, while many Nigerian mentors are very generous in giving to mentees, their time, resources and opportunities, one thing that is always missing in these relationships is this element of vulnerability that engenders honest two way communication between a mentor and a mentee and helps to deepen a mentoring relationship.

The mentor likely believes that by posturing as a perfect human being and avoiding honest conversation about his flaws, he maintains the mentee’s confidence in him as a guide. Yet, at the end of the day, what really ends up happening is that, as these mentees grow closer to their mentor, these flaws become more apparent to them. Over time, they begin to see through the mentors veneer of perfection and begin to interprete some of their actions as hypocrisy. As attempts to initiate honest communication with their mentor about this “hypocrisy” are rebuffed or rebuked, both parties begin to develop a growing animosity towards each other and before you know it, they are warring on Channels and on the pages of newspapers. The painful part is that no new lessons are learned. In fact, more often than not, the mentee has now inherited the flaws of the mentor too.

What Nigerian mentors need to understand about mentoring is that great mentoring relationships are like breathing. You give and you take just as you exhale and inhale. Unfortunately too many Nigerian mentors just remain on the giving side, they never take. This frustrates mentees who care about their mentors and are looking for ways to return some value back to them. It also ensures that sycophants who will fail to give honest feedback to our leaders on their character flaws forever surround them.

I wonder if President Jonathan ever had an honest conversation with General Obasanjo about Odi. I wonder if Nasir ever disclosed his ambition to be President to his mentee Reno. I wonder if Don Jazzy ever opened up to Dbanj about how Dbanj’s new found success in America was affecting his feelings about their partnership. Perhaps if they had more honest conversations with each other some of these high profile breakups could have been averted.

Dear Nigerian mentors, you invest a lot in your mentees. Admitted, your mentees have nothing to give you at the moment – except honest, measured feedback of who you are and how you can improve as a person and as a mentor. Let them prove they value your mentoring relationship by providing this feedback to you in private and in person as opposed to the general public on national television and newspapers.

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Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.


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Comments

  • I never knew there was a mentoring relationship between el-Rufai and Reno. This is news to me

    @amasonic December 4, 2012 7:18 pm
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