Opinion: A rejoinder to Femi Fani-Kayode’s article, ‘A President without gumption’

by Chijioke Nwaozuzu


Does the likes of Mr. Kayode disregard and disrespect humble and temperate leaders, in favour of the rash, brash, coarse, and arrogant rulers? If that is the case, then we have identified in Mr. Kayode one of the modern day students of “The Prince”, by Niccollo Machiavelli.

I read with dismay and utter disgust an article by Mr. Fani Kayode Friday October 4, 2013, p. 72 with the caption, “A President Without Gumption”. I suspect the article may have been intended as a ‘Happy Independence Day Gift’ to the President and Commander-In-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and by extension the Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria since both ran for elections on a joint ticket.

Fani is quite a learned and erudite scholar and as a distinguished colleague he has my utmost respect. However, let us examine critically, but positively, the issues raised by Fani in the article he contributed. In the essay, Mr. Kayode quoted a statement made by Mr. President sometime ago at the National   Christian Centre in Abuja, as follows: “I am not David……….. I am not a General …………. I am not a lion………. I will defeat the Goliaths in our land”.  He went ahead to pillory Mr. President for sounding so weak and cowardly. Mr. Kayode’s vitriolic remarks raised a few questions in my mind. First, could this statement made at a ‘Christian Centre’ not have been made by Mr. President in the Christian spirit of humility and temperance? Does the likes of Mr. Kayode disregard and disrespect humble and temperate leaders, in favour of the rash, brash, coarse, and arrogant rulers? If that is the case, then we have identified in Mr. Kayode one of the modern day students of “The Prince”, by Niccollo Machiavelli. Second, do you need to be a military general to be an effective Commander-In-Chief? Is Fani trying to infer that Nigerian Presidents much either be serving or retired Generals?

Mr. Kayode served this country honorably as one of the advisers to the former President Olusegun Obasanjo, but does it imply that because he admired his boss’s leadership style, then all future Presidents of this country must have a dictatorial style. I won’t be surprised if Mr. Kayode was one of the individuals that advised our former President to make a play for a third- term in office. Of the world’s greatest leaders, only a handful of them were military generals or operated the autocratic style of leadership. The likes of Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Theodore  and Franklin Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Jnr, Nelson Mandela, J.F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blaire, Barack Obama, etc were not military rulers or dictators. To the contrary, history is replete with the destructive tendencies of autocratic rulers. Rulers likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Emperor Hiro Hitto, Mussolini, Henry the Eight, etc still evoke memories of terror, suffering, destruction and sorrow.

Nevertheless, the common factor between these leaders and rulers lies in the power of their convictions about their cause (rational or irrational), and the courage with which they acted on these convictions. Hence in human terms, the word ‘lion’ has come to symbolise (in a figurative sense) these qualities in leaders although most rulers regard the term literally (in the animalistic or Machiavellian sense).

The 21st century is not an era for ‘lion kings’, but ‘philosopher kings’ as exemplified in leaders like Barrack Obama (who in any case drew inspiration from Abrahim Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King Jnr, etc). These are the characters worthy of emulation at this stage of human evolution, and not autocratic and dictatorial rulers.

Fani should realise the huge difference between rulership and leadership. In the case of the former, governance is usually personalised in line with the whims and caprices of the ruler. For example, we have witnessed several instances in many countries where the sons of a dictator become more powerful than the most highly placed public officer in the land. The emphasis in this case is on ‘expression of raw power and authority’ and not constructive service and loyalty to the citizens of the country. Rule of law is equated to ‘individual power’, individual liberties and rights are squashed, and popular dissents are brutally repressed. We have also experienced this phase in our nation’s history and have witnessed the destruction of our national values attendant to it. One then wonders why Mr. Kayode would rather we relapse into our recent appalling history of military dictatorships or a new civilian dictatorship for that matter? What does Fani mean by a ‘lamb president’ occupying a seat prepared for a ‘lion king’?

To the contrary, leadership is about charting a positive course or agenda and obtaining buy-in of major political actors and the cooperation of the governed. Respect for the rule of law and individual rights and opinions of citizens are the hallmarks of effective leadership. The leader realises that he derives the legitimacy of his authority and power from the popular goodwill of the governed. The ruler rather imposes his will on his subjects, and the failure of such regimes is usually as a result of this forced obedience. I agree with Fani that courage is an essential quality in all leaders and rulers, but not reckless courage!

We elected President Goodluck Jonathan and Arc Nnamadi Sambo to ‘lead’ us to stable political, economic and social outcomes, and not to ‘rule’ us like animals. Why did Fani equate the citizens of this great country to animals in a ‘jungle’ only meant to be devoured by a ‘ravaging lion king? Nigeria is not a jungle, and the era of ‘lion kings’ ended in 1999. The ‘lion kings’ are dead in a figurative sense! “A living dog is better than a dead lion”, as stated in the Scriptures. Even if Fani thinks that there are ‘lion kings’ still left in the field, I can assure him that twelve mangy dogs can kill that lion in a democratic dispensation.




Read this article in the Leadership Newspapers


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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