By Taoheed Ajao
Ever since man embraced representative government after spells of mob rule and despotism, one of the nagging questions has been how to correctly decipher the correlation, assuming there is any at all, between prior preparation for leadership positions and observable performance in political office. By prior preparation is meant, the grooming in terms of intellectual fortification, the acquisition of cognate experience and the political know-how imperative for the simultaneous juggling of a plurality of interests for the betterment of society.
In major electoral contests, the big question begging for answer has always been: how does one know without being clairvoyant, the particular candidate that will perform best amongst the multitude that are canvassing for votes? Does one judge by the train load of degrees trailing the names on complimentary cards? Are the on-the-job tutelages acquired in deputy positions enough cognate experiences for success at substantive positions? Is it possible to short-circuit the acquisition of exposure to national politics through the fortuitous conspiracy of circumstances? Then, lastly, is it wise to make a mathematical reduction of good performance in office only to functions of single positive character traits like honesty, integrity, prayerfulness, generosity etc;? Or does wealth – however acquired – predispose to good knowledge of governance?
Rephrased in another way, will an honest person who is incorruptible make a good leader? Probably yes, but governance know-how over people, transcends being corrupt or not. One can be as transparent as glass and as incorruptible as a Tibetan monk and still be bereft of the processes and ingredients of the right kind of governance to usher in an increase in the material well-being of the people. By the way, very few people can be more honest and more incorruptible than the late Pakistani dictator, Gen. Zia Ul-Haq who, for sheer brutality and the vengeful spirit, must rank among the worst of twenty first century leaders!
Again, rich or poor antecedents and general circumstances of birth have very little empirical bearings on corruptive inclinations of leaders in office: there have been those who were born and nurtured in unbelievable affluence and yet, were still found to have looted mind-boggling amounts during their tenures in office. Some of our past state governors, now being harassed by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC, were millionaires even before they assumed offices but they could not simply resist the looter’s temptation for the embezzlement-overkill!
In 1969, after three years of military rule, Ghanaians thought an intellectual fortification in the social sciences might be one of the requisite qualifications to run a post-Nkrumah regime. Dr. Kofi Busia, Ph. D, of the Progress Party became the Prime Minister only to find out that there was no further abatement in the economic and social woes that had been bedeviling the country that once brimmed with pan-African fervor and relative political sophistication. It took a young Air Force Flight Lieutenant, Jerry Rawlings, to bring economic sanity and orderliness to the country. So much then, for the recommendation of advanced degrees as requirements for superlative performance!
Again, despite being groomed all their lives for the assumption of leadership roles and state responsibilities, Jean-Paul Duvalier (Baby Doc) of Haiti, Bashar al-Assad of Syria and so many other eaglet-presidents failed to metamorphose into better alternatives than their predecessor-fathers. While Berlusconi of Italy failed to make a direct correlation between wealth and good public service record, Donald Trump of the United States is currently delegitimizing affluence and rebranding wealth not as a means of spreading comfort but, as status-symbol for the smart, the uncaring and those lacking in human empathy!
What can we then deduce from the above examples? The conclusion is thus irresistible that there must be that ‘something’ in human nature exclusive of circumstances of birth, educational attainment and avowed spirituality that conduces to good leadership. In other words, in addition to having the passion for public service, acquiring the required cognate experience and possessing the mental capacity to envision goals and strategies, the key requirement for success and good performance, without which all other inherited or acquired attributes become mere accessories, must be the solidity of one’s character – famously referred to as the Character Quotient.
This Character Quotient is the measure of the personality make-up of individuals, expressible in terms of charisma and appeal; more qualitatively assessed in the profoundness of empathy with fellow human beings and always manifesting in the sound moral fibre that helps to differentiate between competing notions of good and bad. A high Character Quotient will let the leader be able to surmount the pressures and temptations of office and to subsume personal interests under public concerns. It will make him have the level-headedness to view issues from the broad perspectives demanded by the multiplicity of public interests and not through the narrow prism of parochialism. Only a leader with a high character quotient will empathize with the poor while carefully avoiding a class war with the rich. Such a leader is what we need at every tier of government in Nigeria
For example, some see Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim as a one-dimensional product of success: the type of entrepreneurial success devoid of the humanizing qualities of affability, personal charm and charisma; the kind of material success unregulated by conscience and refined mores of the Yoruba, his ethnic stock. One may get as many different impressions of the billionaire businessman as the number of people interviewed but, the near unanimity of opinion is about a brash, irreverent and mercurial person who sees the rest of humanity through the prism of money! It is then a thing of persistent wonder that this same man would dabble in politics where the currencies of participation stubbornly remain: voter-appeal, history of masses concern, empathy for the poor and fidelity to an identifying political ideology.
Since 2003 at the age of 35, Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim has been in and out of the gubernatorial politics of Ondo State. He has not demonstrated the capability for a complete and thorough electioneering but rather, he has persistently harassed gubernatorial candidates through threatening to deploy his arsenal of war chest of which nobody really knows the value! Attempting this time to use everything under the sun to procure a judicial ambush of executive power in the state, Jimoh Ibrahim, for good measure, has sent a letter to President Buhari indicting the Ondo State governor, Dr. Olusegun Mimiko of virtually all crimes – ranging from kidnapping to murder! He has also accused the INEC Head of Legal Department of asking for a bribe of $1 million!!
While nobody is averring that all these may not be true nevertheless, doesn’t this style of behavior and political conduct force the impression of an unbridled personality unrestrained in emotions and temperament? If indeed he interfaced with INEC during the submission of his nomination form as gubernatorial candidate of a faction of PDP in Ondo State and he was asked for a bribe, shouldn’t he as a lawyer, have gone to court with his evidence? How did he find out that it was Mimiko that arranged for the kidnap of his mother? Even if one discounts the litany of accusations of unpaid salaries and emoluments by many of Ibrahim’s workers and the moribund state of Energy Oil Stations all over the country, it is left to all to guess whether these predispositions of Barrister Jimoh Ibrahim will conduce to a good understanding of the plight of Ondo State people; whether his administration will be able to sustain the bond of friendship and trust currently existing between government and the governed.
It is therefore to be borne in mind that it is not good enough for politicians to be touted as the most honest, or most educated, or most disciplined, or most prayerful or the richest and, on the basis of that single qualification, expect to be voted for. Rather, our votes should go to that politician who, apart from demonstrating the readiness for public service by acquiring the cognate experience, displays a mental capacity for the understanding of, and the solutions to, our problems; our votes most importantly, should go to who is possessed of a high character quotient that will inure him against most, if not all, the base motives that are usually responsible for the circumvention of procedures and the abuse of executive privileges.
It is such a person that we need to seek out to be our leader in Ondo State at this time of urgent socio-economic development and in this critical season of national political reconstruction.