Leading through crisis: The Nigerian debacle

The times we are in are indeed worrisome and troubling in a numbing way. From the North to the South, from the East to the West of the Nigerian landscape, nowhere is safe. Kidnapping, brazen banditry, herders’ assault on farms suggestive of a deliberately orchestrated attempt to cripple the agricultural economy of the communities and section of the country affected, have become the norm. No matter how much the government of the day plays the ostrich, we are indeed in dire times and the crisis that pervades the land is palpable.

The situation can almost be likened to what obtained in Bible times in Israel.

“In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath,  in the days of Jael,    the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through by ways. The inhabitants of the villages ceased, they ceased in Israel, …They chose new gods; then was war in the gates: was there a shield or spear seen among forty thousand in Israel? Judges 5:6-8

The tragic story continued until the emergence of godly leadership typified by a woman called Deborah. Although Nigeria has an elected leadership in place at this time, the abdication of responsibility on the part of that leadership has caused the situation to fester and to almost begin to spiral out of control.

This very grim situation, if left unchecked, can only see the nation cascading into a vortex that portends no good to anyone. President Buhari must rise up at this time and actually LEAD.

Crisis is a great opportunity for true leaders to prove their mettle and earn their stake to the position of leadership.

What do great leaders do in a crisis? The first thing is that they take responsibility. For the past six years, in almost every outing or speech of the President, he had blamed the administration of Goodluck Jonathan which he was voted overwhelmingly to replace, for all the socio-economic and even political woes of the nation. I cut this administration some slack then, especially in the first three years. However, when it became a ritualistic rhetoric that seemed to justify and amplify ineptitude in a way that absolves this regime of any responsibility for fixing what was broken, the very legitimacy of its emergence, it all began to sound like a broken gramophone record. Playing the blame game is nothing but a copout that shies away from the essentials on ground in the misguided belief that if we blame someone long enough for our woes, they would go away or we would not have to confront and deal with them! Nothing could be farther from the truth. When confronted with a crisis, great leaders simply roll up their sleeves, confront the issues head-on and do the needful. Nobody votes for a leader so that he can complain. We vote for leaders so that they can perform. For a man who sought office four times before he got it, the President has not shown the grit required to take frontal responsibility for the state of the nation.

In challenging times, leaders don’t stay in the closet and issue instructions that may not be carried out. They lead from the front. Body language is not just enough. The leader must show that he means business and his followers must see that. Visibility is key! People are inspired by a leader that they can see. They may be mystified by a recluse leader but they are only inspired by a visible one!

The recently deceased President of Chad Republic, Idris Debby was martyred in the theatre of war where he had gone to take charge of troops confronting insurgency in his nation. At 78, POTUS Joe Biden is the oldest person to have been elected President in America. He has been in the face of Americans in recent times, addressing various gatherings about his plans to solve the problems confronting the American people. Our President on the other hand, seems conveniently nestled in the Rock until he has to travel out of the country or visit his country home in Daura.

This leads us to the next quality a leader needs to demonstrate in navigating crisis. In a collective dilemma, a leader should not only have a clear vision and goal, he must be able to communicate same to his followers. Communication is the channel by which great leaders transmit their vision and their passion to their followers. When a leader carries the people along with the words that he speaks, he inspires confidence in them that all things will be alright. Even when the patches are rough, they endure because they know that their leader is taking them somewhere. Blanking out on followers as is the case with the Nigerian President in a time of crisis is the worst form of insensitivity available anywhere.

 

Any leader that will successfully lead people through a crisis must first demonstrate that he walks where they walk. The consciousness that a leader can identify with them in hard times is a reason for them to trust his judgment. Empathy is a virtue of leadership that makes followers repose trust in the leader. A leader who demonstrates the level of apathy that the Nigerian government has demonstrated in recent times, even when it is obvious that a lot of people that supported it are already speaking against it, is simply telling the citizens that their well-being is not of paramount importance. It is akin to Nero fiddling while Rome was burning!

In responding to crisis, great leaders are firm, decisive and prompt. They may step on toes but their followers trust them enough to know that they mean well. In taking decisions, leaders are more concerned they are not after popularity. In fact, popularity is the last thing on their minds. The concern is not about doing things right as much as it about doing the right thing, no matter whose ox is gored. In the siege of diverse forms of criminality being experienced in Nigeria, our leaders need to show greater commitment to the process of tackling insecurity and guaranteeing the safety of life and property of the citizenry.

Without a strong team to work with him in the arduous job of navigating the stormy waters of a crisis, the leader will be like a masquerade dancing naked on the streets. Members of the “rescue” team must be people selected on merit and not according to some ethnic biases. The team should be assembled after nationwide consultations and should be reflective of the collective identity of the people they will be providing leadership for. The members of the team have their job already cut out for them. They will have the mandate to exercise the creative spirit through innovation, ideation, strategies and execution.

If we are to continue to remain one entity as a nation, the President and his team must step up to the plate and give Nigeria the leadership it requires and deserves at this time. Anything short of this is a reflection of their nonchalance about the precipice towards which Nigeria is currently headed.

Remember, the sky is not your limit, God is!

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