Friday Discourse (120)
2003: The President to choose
Actually our discourse today is eased by our elder academician Dr. Mahmud Tukur, the celebrated author of the masterpiece Leadership and Governance in Nigeria: The relevance of Values. The book is a must read for every student of politics and administration in Nigeria. Without exaggeration, I can say that it is the most important indigenous book on its subject that I have ever come across. All quotations in this article were made from the magnum opus.
Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) through the declaration of Bafarawa has effectively launched itself, albeit reluctantly, into the center of Nigerian Politics. It has declared its intention to work, as one of its preoccupations, towards reaching a consensus on who will represent the region in the next presidential elections. The declaration has been made. There is no going back. What is required is how each of us will contribute to the evolution of that consensus. Theirs is the politicking and consultations; while ours, herein presented, is a discourse that would focus on the characteristics of a leader who will earn our respect and support. I strongly feel that our politicians, elders and influential youths should spare some time to glance through Leadership and Governance. If they are too occupied, please let them make do with a summary of a fraction of its contents which we have endeavored to present to noble our readers here.
The discussion is based on the leader-ship values expounded by the triumvirate of scholars of the Sokoto Caliphate, namely, Shehu Usman Danfodio him-self, his brother Shehu Abdullahi and his son Muhammadu Bello. The values have been comprehensively reviewed in Dr. Tukur’s book. It may be difficult to find among the region’s political class a per-son who would fulfill all the conditions. However, the list could serve as a score-board on which the strengths and weaknesses of potential candidates could be weighed dispassionately.
Dr. Tukur has reduced the values of governance enunciated by the triumvirate into twelve. We will leave the three process values and the three community values out of our discussion. We will concentrate on the six leadership values he has enumerated. These are justice; ease and kindness; abstinence, moderation and asceticism; integrity and hon-esty; and service to the community.
The foremost quality of a leader, Muslim or non-Muslim, is his commitment to justice. As Dr. Tukur rightly deduced from the writings of the three scholars, “justice is instrumental to the endurance of the state, for the security of the state and for the welfare of man-kind… The composite argument being put forward here is that the perpetuation of the state, its victory when engaged in conflict and its internal safety are ultimately determined by the extent of the fairness of its leadership in managing the affairs of the community.”
We have repeatedly mentioned in this column that our political instability and particularly the preponderance of ethnic and religious conflicts in our society are manifestations of injustice meted on our people either economically or politically. If we once more need to prove to Nigerians that we deserve their votes, we must not base it only on the democratic principle of majority, but also on our commitment to justice.
The demand for justice is more acute in a society like ours that is made of several ethnic and religious groups. There is also an unimaginable gap between the rich and poor. The constitution has made sufficient provisions for the leadership to institutionalize justice in the distribution of resources such that every part is carried along. No section should be developed at the expense of another.
This is one of the major political crimes of Obasanjo today and it is the major premise of Bafarawa’s argument. It is difficult to remember such blatant bias against any section of the country or an astonishing favor for the leader’s tribesmen in the regimes of Balewa or Shagari, as we are witnessing today under Obasanjo. Obasanjo has repeatedly justified his action on vendetta. One would like to know whether he solicited the support of the North when he joined others in planning a coup against Abacha.
The ACF therefore must choose a leader who transcends the pittance of personal vendetta. He must have a total commitment to the welfare and security of every Nigerian citizen irrespective of his origin or profession. He must be able to practice justice through rule of law and designing public policies that will bridge the gap between the rich and the poor.
Ease and kindness
The second leadership value is ease and kindness. Dr. Tukur has interpreted this to mean limiting the inconvenience which the exercise of power and authority is bound to cause the common people. The relevance of this value is not restricted to a theocratic state but also to present constitutional governments where legislation and interpretation of statutes should be guided by the willing-ness of all arms of government to do away with any unnecessary inconvenience the law or its enforcement could cause the citizens. Our constitution has dwelled on matters relating to the freedom of the individual and his rights in the society.
Dr. Tukur has quoted the Bello as saying in his Usul al-Siyasa that “the amir or the imam or the governor should be gentle, moved to forgiveness and refraining from anger, inclined to generosity and tolerance. Among the finest qualities will be patience in the sense of courage and openhandedness. But if he be not gentle nor moved to forgiveness, nor refrains from anger, nor be inclined to generosity or tolerance, then it is to be feared that they will become weary of him and desert him.”
In another place, Dr. Tukur quoted Bello saying, “the ruler ‘should be gentle in dealing with his people… he must not burden them with what is unnecessary…, he should deal with the subjects according to their circumstance…” Also, “a ruler ‘should not be harsh’ but should act towards the people ‘with grace and a guiding hand’. When differences occur on matters which are ‘mere legislation by man’, the governors should ‘pardon the people.”
On characteristic of humility/modesty which a leader must possess, Dr. Tukur made the following summary: “(Shehu Usman) is quite specific both in his op-position to ‘giving authority … to one who seeks it’ and in his view that ‘power is not given to those who hanker after it.’ Bello, for his part, holds that ‘ seeking leadership would create discord’ and therefore advises that a potential ruler ‘should be far from liking leadership (for its want sake), yet who still is enthusiastic to rule’. Bello’s problem with ‘a per-son whom we see striving hard for it (leadership)’ is that ‘if he loves (the power of) leadership and is keen to rule it is to be feared that he will be tempted inside himself and not deal justly with the people.”
Nigerians know very well the ill of having a leader interested in power. The ill is that he will do whatever is possible under the sun to acquire it, through coups, rigging elections, stupendous wealth and intrigue. Once he acquires it, his basic preoccupation, as we have seen more clearly under Babangida, Abacha and Obasanjo, will be to employ all means possible to retain it, against the will of his people. This lack of humility is another source of our political instability.
Some people believe that leadership should not be given to reluctant people, in contrast to what the Jihad scholars are saying. Here lies our problem, the difference in values has caused the politicians of the Southwest to do all they could, through sabotage and blackmail, to win over leadership. Now that Obasanjo has got it, they have fallen into the same pit as Babangida and Abacha. The problem is therefore generic. ACF must not over-look the importance of this principle. They should find among people suitable for leadership one who is most reluctant to rule, in addition to having a good measure of other characteristics herein discussed.
As noted by Dr. Tukur, “Shehu Us-man clearly castigates the pre-Jihad leadership for their overindulgence in eating, luxurious living and bodily pleasures, just as he praises moderation in personal conduct and daily life. Shehu Abdullahi clearly insists that government should avoid purchases and expenses ‘that cause damage to the treasury.”
There is a strong relationship between the penchant of a leader for wealth and the state of corruption in his administration and poverty under which his people live. A leader with high taste will be-come preoccupied with undertakings that are expensive to the treasury. The money that should have been used to offer services to the common man are spent on things that are grossly irrelevant.
Few Nigerian leaders for example have shown moderation in their taste. They want government offices and residences to be the finest monuments in the world. Flamboyance is manifested in the houses they live in, the offices they occupy, the planes they fly, the cars they ride, the dresses they wear, the gifts they give or take, the games they play, and the girls they accompany. Today, the condition is worse than ever. Aso Rock and National Assembly are manifestations of waste, amidst the poverty that has ravaged over 70% of the population. A contract for the extension of the National Assembly complex was recently awarded at the cost of N25.7billion, including a discount (la’ada a waje) of N300million! The saddening thing is that the same Julius Berger Plc that was awarded the job without any call for tender had earlier agreed to do the same job as ‘turnkey’ under Okadigbo’s leader-ship for only N4billion.
Likewise we are having a president who insists on riding a plane of over N5billion. Governors have rejected the Peugeot as their official car. They are riding imported posh Mercedes and jeeps; building luxurious guest houses; and so on. The national stadium, according to the estimate of a member of the national assembly, will cost nothing less than N100billion, something the World bank said could go for only N9billion. How can we tolerate this syndicate any longer than 2003?
In search for an alternative, it is there-fore important that a choice is made among people who, in their past role as leaders, or in their personal lives as individuals, have been most moderate regarding wealth. This characteristic is what will reflect in their philosophy of expenditure such that the billions that should have been used to alleviate the suffering of the people will not be used in a wasteful manner. I wish we can come up with a candidate that is so moderate to reject even his night allowance on any foreign trip. Obasanjo so far is a billionaire I suppose because he has spent over 387 days overseas, and on each he has an allowance of N3million per night!
Integrity and Honesty
On this characteristic of good leader, Tukur wrote: “Looking at the values from the viewpoint of state institutions, Shehu Usman declared that ‘success in government can be achieved by enjoining the truth in as much as the crown of a ‘king is his integrity’. At the level of the conduct of personnel he stipulates that ‘for an official with a fixed stipend to receive anything … other than that is fraud’, while Abdullahi forbids ‘a ruler … to touch property acquired unjustly’. Rulers are also obliged ‘to endeavor to establish truth in all (their) affairs and to see it as their ‘first duty to maintain purity of (their) spirit by sincerity of intention.
“Aside from these postulations, where truth is a means to obtaining either ‘success’ in government or dis-charging a duty, these twin values (integrity and honest) and their synonyms, like probity, sincerity and honesty, have their own intrinsic worth when merely to strive always to distinguish truth from falsehood is understood to be an attribute of ‘the good and wise.”
For decades now, Nigeria has become a victim of a leadership that is bereft of sincerity to the extent that very few people, if any, believe anything government would say anymore. People identify government with deceit, cheating and falsehood. Today, more than ever before, the country is in need of a leader who has sufficient integrity and honesty who will restore our confidence in government. People need a leader who will not sacrifice our interest for his, or his class, or foreign groups.
Service to Community
Shehu Abdullahi has clearly outlined the relationship between a leader and his people. He is to serve them such that every action he undertakes is solely done for their benefit. On the dynamics of the relationship between the two, Dr. Tukur quoted Diya al-Hukkam where Abdullahi categorically made this assertion: “No person is made a ruler over the people to become their master; he is to serve their religious and temporal interests. The governor must not think that he is the owner of the province over which he is made to rule, whereby the land be-comes his personal property which he can give to whom he likes and deny it to whom he wishes.”
I wish this country would one day be blessed with leaders who regard them-selves as servants to the people. They will consult them whenever they will decide on their affairs and they will respond to their complaints with the urgency that a mother responds to the cry of her baby.
So far, what we have had are Presidents, ministers, governors and legislators who consider themselves as our masters, and their lives more precious than ours. They approve for themselves stupendous salaries and allowances while they exacerbate the sufferings of their people. They would prefer to use our resources to ingratiate members of their class than commit them to our service.
I wish we could have leaders who will put our interests before that of multinational organizations like the Paris and London clubs, World Bank and the IMF. We have suffered enough in the hands of these leaches, from the austerity measures of the early eighties to the structural adjustment programs that started from the mid-eighties. Clearly, the ongoing privatization program is not done in our interest; it is designed to auction whatever we have to the foreign investors and their local agents.
These are the qualities that the ACF and indeed Nigerians generally should look for when it comes to election. As I said earlier, it is difficult to find a single person that could meet these requirements 100%. However, if he can rely on honest advisers, sincere ministers and hardworking civil servants, he can use their strength to circumvent for his weaknesses.
If, on the other hand, the ACF leader-ship will dismiss these values and allow their choice to be dictated by the powers of wealth and intrigue, they should better recall what the foremost historian of the Roman Empire – Edward Gibbon – once said: whoever forfeits esteem, forfeits obedience.