Opinion: Jonathan, to succeed, beware of the Abatis and Okupes of this world

by Bayo Oluwasanmi


On coming to office, President Jonathan was expected to trim the bloated federal bureaucracy, clean house, put the right people on the right job, prioritize, and tackle the basic needs of ordinary Nigerians that would transform their lives.

The PDP insurgents dealt a lethal blow to President Jonathan’s political ego and his 2015 presidential ambition. Literally, Mr. Jonathan has been badly deflated and for now he’s trapped in an oasis of anonymity.

As Mr. Jonathan trudges through his ruined party, he smells destruction everywhere. He knows the invading rebels would soon overrun him if nothing was done to stop the invasion. In the midst of the confusion and calamity, Mr. Jonathan responds with rash impulse and juvenile reflex act by firing nine cabinet ministers last week.

Though the firing of the nine served as a temporary welcome distraction for him from the on-going PDP mutually destructive warfare, however his prescription is a wrong medicine for the right ailment.

Two reasons have been given for letting the ministers go. First, they were fired for poor performance. Second and most importantly, “the President was apparently angered by the refusal of the ‘rebel’ governors to shift grounds on their unreasonable demands and had to weed his cabinet of some of their ministerial candidates.”

Candidates of dissenting governors and their sympathizers who insisted that Mr. Jonathan shelves his 2015 ambition include: Ruqquayatu Rufai (Education), a candidate and loyalist of Jigawa governor, Amal Pepple (Lands, Housing and Urban Development), a loyalist to Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, Zainab Kuchi (minister of state for power), a loyalist to Governor Muaza Babangida Aliyu of Niger, Erelu Olusola Obada (Defense) loyalist of former National Secretary of PDP Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, and Olugbenga Ashiru (Foreign Affairs) loyalist of President Obasanjo.

It was also rumored that Reuben Abati the attack clown, would take over the ministry of information from Labran Maku while Doyin Okupe the attack clone would replace his cousin Abati.

The premise of the president’s action is false, faulty, and flawed. If his action was based on non-performance, then the entire Jonathan administration merit wholesale dismissal with ignominy because there is no proof that life has been made bearable and livable for the army of destitute that make up 99.99% of 160 million dumb Nigerians.

Still on performance. One of the good qualities of a leader is being able to apply principles of rewards with wisdom, honesty, courage, and fairness. A good leader must be able to determine what gets rewarded gets done.

Good leaders recognize how to attach both rewards and consequences to team members’ performance. Any system of rewards should prioritize the most important conduct, then reward it publicly. In addition, the system ought to prioritize the non-negotiable negatives because they damage the team. A price should be attached to these as well.

It is no exaggeration to say that the consequences for the Jonathan’s sins of corruption, ineptitude, profligacy, malfeasance, and other disturbing shortcomings exceeded that of any democratic administration in Nigeria since independence.

The cabinet’s non-performance is directly tied to the president’s equally woeful performance. Mr. Jonathan is not a good communicator and does not know how to communicate rewards to people. For example, to what does he pay attention? Do the cabinet know what is important? What are the desired results Mr. Jonathan expects from his team?

The president is the greatest hindrance to performance-driven administration. Here is why: Members of his team are not sure what to do. They don’t know what to do first. They don’t know how to do it. The reward system does not align with group goals. And most importantly, Mr. Jonathan failed to lead by example and presents unnecessary obstacles.

I’m therefore persuaded that the president applied politics of retaliation to get rid of the nine victims from his lackluster administration.

A watchman provides an outstanding metaphor for a leader. The leader is a watchman who guards and guides his people. A watchman guards and guides those he supervise. He guides anything that would endanger the vision. He guides those he oversee, encouraging them to continue on the path toward that vision.

He looks out for danger and maintain quality control. He warns those who drift from the vision. A watchman must possess strong moral fiber and must remain committed to a strong sense of right and wrong. In President Jonathan’s case, where does he draw the line between doing what is right and doing what will retain followers? Leadership means speaking all the truth – sometimes unpleasant and painful truth.

Mr. Jonathan assumed the presidency at a time of moral, political, and economic decline in Nigeria. We expect him to provide bridge over troubled waters. Nothing has changed for the better. His administration has been and still is, a haphazard mess.

Think of Mr. Jonathan as a new CEO called in to turn around a failing organization – to overhaul a broken country not a mere corporation. He was expected to pluck, tear down, and build up again. His mission was similar to Prophet Jeremiah and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. For Prophet Jeremiah: “To root out and to pull down, to destroy and to throw down, to build and to plant.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt America’s 32nd President took office in November 1932 at the time of the Great Depression. By March 1933, 13 million Americans were unemployed and almost every bank was closed.

At his inaugural under the crushing weight of the burden that anxiously awaits him, FDR spoke with candid clarity of his vision to the American people: “This nation asks for action, and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work. I am prepared under my constitutional duty to recommend the measures that a stricken nation in the midst of a stricken world may require,” FDR assured his fellow Americans.

FDR promised Americans prompt progress and vigorous action. More importantly, FDR renewed their hope and re-energized their faith by his now famous one-liner: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” No sooner had FDR taken office than he began to fit actions to his words. FDR’s first act as president was to solve the banking crisis. A fifth of all banks had failed. About 15% of depositors’ life savings had been wiped out.

The second day in office, FDR issued executive order that all banks be closed. A ten-day bank holiday was imposed to save the banks from collapsing. He asked Congress to pass legislation that would guarantee depositors money in future financial crisis.

President Roosevelt called a special session of Congress on March 1933. He told the Congress that the solution to unemployment is “by direct recruiting by the Government itself.” FDR kept the Congress for three months. He flooded Congress with series of proposed bills aimed at solving the unemployment problem.

Congress responded by swiftly passing all the important bills.  It was a revolution in government never witnessed before. FDR got 15 major bills through Congress in his first 100 Days. The special session of Congress became known as the Hundred Days.

This act of Congress formed the foundation of FDR’s New Deal. People were employed in all different areas under the umbrella of projects that read like alphabetical soup: Works Project Administration (WPA), the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the National Youth Administration (NYA), Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Recovery Administration (NRA), and the Public Works Administration (PWA).

The PWA also administered the Federal Writers Project, Federal Theatre Project, and the Federal Art Project. The Federal Emergency Relief Administration provided federal money to assist Americans in dire need. Others included Agric Adjustment Act, National Housing Act, and Federal Securities Act. To cap it all, heavier taxes were imposed on the wealthy.

On coming to office, President Jonathan was expected to trim the bloated federal bureaucracy, clean house, put the right people on the right job, prioritize, and tackle the basic needs of ordinary Nigerians that would transform their lives.

One of the major problems of Mr. Jonathan is his inability to cast vision due to communication handicap. Effective leaders find memorable ways to communicate with their people.

Communication is important to the leader to drive home his message. For example, strong beginning – FDR didn’t waste words as he grabbed the people’s attention – “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

A leader uses simple language. FDR didn’t try to impress anyone with high sounding nonsensical political gibberish: “The nation asks for action and action now. Our greatest primary task is to put people to work…”

FDR closed his communication with an appeal to strike both heart and head:” Happiness lies not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort … These dark days will be worth all they cost us if they teach us that our true destiny is not to be ministered unto but to minister to ourselves and to our fellow men.”

It’s appropriate and useful once a while for a president to inject new blood and fresh air into his administration by moving people around if it is done with clear objective and sense of purpose. But the recent firing of the unlucky ministers by Mr. Jonathan is a Band-Aid not a solution.

What Mr. Jonathan should have done to turn his do-nothing administration around and make it relevant is turning defeat into dividends. The question that Mr. Jonathan should ask himself in his entrapped hole is: “I’m I going to give up or get up? And how can I get up?”

I humbly suggests the following to Mr. Jonathan:

For the remaining few months of your first term, you should rise above self-pity. Remember failure is an attitude, not just an outcome. Success comes by going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm. Mr. President, think positively.

Learn from your experiences because failure isn’t failure unless you learn nothing from it. All successful leaders vary their approaches, so seek alternatives. Bear in mind that laughter is the shortest distance between two people and the fastest way to get perspective – develop a sense of humor!

Be realistic and stop living in illusion. The first job of a leader is to define reality. Establish new goals because failure is an opportunity to begin again, but more intelligently. Seems you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. Develop a passion for your own resolution to succeed, it counts for more than anything else.

Broaden your base of support and separate yourself-worth from your performance and a positive self-image will prepare you for success. Beware of the Abatis and the Okupes.

Leaders who use their power or influence for personal gain offend God. It is dangerous to build their own “kingdom” but fail to exhibit wisdom. They must not preoccupy themselves with their own welfare rather than the people they are supposed to serve.



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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