Opinion: Connecting with the people, the leadership question

by Victor Olojo

The point I am driving at is that political leaders must have a way getting neatly tied to their people, it mustn’t be jumping on a canoe like Gov Adams did but ensuring that there’s a connect, which most times pays off.

Picture they say ‘speaks a thousand words’. So it is for the picture above.  For those who are unable to identify those captured in it, I shall do I quick clarification; the one on top is Gov. Idris Wada of Kogi State, holding a mic, by his side is probably his security detail, in a hospital to visit victims of the August 6th church attack in his state. The one below is Gov. Adams Oshiomole of Edo state on a canoe in a joint rescue effort with members of the local community that was ravaged by flood.

Several weeks ago attack on religious worshippers left a soar taste on the lips on many. It was indeed another forlorn moment for Nigerians with many asking when an end will come to these impious acts. Gov. Wada immediately swung into action by putting in place every necessary resource needed to assist victims of the attack and to also nip the perpetrators of this repugnant act. However, Nigerians were caught by surprise when Gov. Wada showed up to the hospital in armored (bulletproof) vest. This singular act made headlines, topic of discussion + controversy, while many thought it was inappropriate for the governor to show up publicly putting on an armored vest in a state he claims to be in charge of; others felt even if an attack on him was imminent, putting on an armored vest shouldn’t be glaring/obvious to the public, because it immediately sends a wrong signal.

About a week ago, photos of Gov. Adams on a rescue mission with locals emerged. Those photos were so captivating and seemed too good to be true. It was at this point I thought it to be a good idea to examine how political leaders respond to disaster within their spheres.

Drawing inferences from both cases, there are lessons for both incumbent and aspiring leaders. First, is the fact that both pictures made headlines but on different grounds. True leadership entails sharing pains with those in grief, showing empathy when it is needed. You will agree with me that one can’t exhibit any of these without first putting yourself in the shoes of the victim. I believe this is something Governor Adam understands; sincerely, it requires extra grace to really share in peoples’ pain especially when one isn’t directly affected. It’s typically a common practice for Governors or top government functionaries to visit incident scenes and just take impact analysis and probably address the victims, make promises and pledges that might never be probably fulfilled. Most intriguing about Gov Adams was his willingness to take part in a rescue operation with the locals, it doesn’t end at that, he opted to get on a canoe, what! This was the thrilling point for me; seeing something like that on Nigeria’s political landscape is so rare.

The point I am driving at is that political leaders must have a way getting neatly tied to their people, it mustn’t be jumping on a canoe like Gov Adams did but ensuring that there’s a connect, which most times pays off. I thought through the whole process and I came to a conclusion that Gov. Adam is indeed an ingenious leader. Ingenious because he knew that it wasn’t just about visiting the victims and assessing the impact like an average leader but moving forward to share in their pain, risk, loss and agony. I can tell that’s no adventure, or say a campaign strut -he’s on his second term; he’s got nothing to loose- if he did send his commissioner and aides. The last time I saw something like this was in 2007, when Rochas Okorocha (Now, Gov. of Imo state) fed himself and street beggars with his own spoon on live TV.

On the other hand, it is imperative for leaders to learn to discern, connect and re-adjust to the will of the people. Taking a clue from the picture of Gov. Wada and the recently N5,000 note battle between Nigerians and the CBN governor. It’s clear that there’s need for leaders to understand that things that seem lawful, might necessarily not be expedient. For humanity sakes, what’s the governor doing with a Public address system in a hospital ward. Yes! It’s a good thing the governor is around but noise making wouldn’t revive the lost souls or even heal the wounds of the victims. These little things may look trivial but they count. Conversely, the recent controversy regarding the #5000 note which was laid to rest by the President was also an issue of simply feeling the pulse of the masses. Indeed it was a grandiose and remarkable policy but that wasn’t people-centered.

In conclusion, leadership for me isn’t the ability to churn out great polices and follow through execution of these policies but the ability to know WHEN and HOW to impact your people for good.


Victor Olojo is a member of the Youth Wing of the Action Congress of Nigeria. He tweets from @youthwinger_ACN and blogs at Olojov.blogspot.com


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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