“With your support, my team and I will improve the economy, secure the peace, promote the industry, grow more food and create more and better jobs for the average person. Given the opportunity, we shall reform the power sector such that light is brought into every home and productive work afforded every pair of willing hands. My administration will improve the education system for all our children, including those who seem to have been rejected and forgotten nationwide. Those who till the soil and grow our food will be helped to produce more and earn more. You farmers who feed this nation, your dignity and your pride will be restored”.
This is an excerpt from the speech delivered by the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at his party’s presidential campaign in Kaduna this week. As is characteristic of him, the pronoun, ‘I’, hardly features in his campaign speeches and addresses. Tinubu has consistently demonstrated that he sees governance as a collective enterprise and a collaborative teamwork although the leader has the responsibility of assembling a sterling competent team as well as giving the team inspiration and direction.
Having done so, however, the wise leader will not claim a monopoly of wisdom, stifle discourse among the team or instill the fear of their confidently and boldly expressing different views or opposing ideas from his. Rather, he must create the right atmosphere for a thousand flowers of ideas to bloom so that the talents and abilities of each member of his team can blossom and add value to governance as well as enable maximal actualization of set goals for the benefit of the citizenry. This was the most critical factor responsible for the widely recognized phenomenal success of the Tinubu administration in Lagos State between 1999 and 2007, a period during which the foundation for the continuing accelerated progress of the state under successive governments after Tinubu was laid.
The APC candidate does not pretend to be a Messiah and superman with encyclopedic knowledge and magical prowess to solely solve all the country’s problems. Those who make such farcical pretensions routinely dishing out crammed, sometimes misleading, statistics from diverse countries across the globe are often shallow, superficial and fake. If leaders could be all knowing and omnicompetent, there would be no need for teams of ministers, special advisers and special assistants among others to assist with governance. It can be empirically demonstrated that leaders who assemble competent teams and give them the liberal and conducive environment for their potentials to flourish perform better in governance than closet tyrants masquerading as democrats who pretend that they are the sole repositories of knowledge and wisdom.
During his recent outing at the Chatham House lecture in London, Asiwaju Tinubu once again demonstrated his faith in collegial leadership and teamwork. Of course those who inveterately hate and will never see anything good in him have sought to discredit an event that has been widely applauded across the world in every conceivable way. Some have queried, ridiculously, why he delivered a written speech rather than speak extempore. For them the leader must pretend to know everything under the sun from mathematics to quantum Physics to rocket science. But leaders have delivered written speeches across time and space even as there are also talented orators capable of speaking off the cuff.
William Safire’s 1005-page tome of collected memorial and patriotic speeches, war and revolution speeches, media speeches or political speeches among others is a veritable documentation of the ubiquity of the written speech across time and space especially for politicians, leaders and statesmen even if a number of the speeches in the book were delivered extempore. Some of our great leaders like Dr. Nnamdi Azikwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Mallam Abubakar Tafawa Balewa or Mallam Aminu Kano among several others volumes of published collected speeches most of them written.
Rare is the leader in today’s world who does not have speech writers. Indeed, beyond the written word, leaders like former President Barak Obama or Vice President Yemi Osinbajo are masters in the use of the teleprompter to aid smoother delivery of their written speeches. Thankfully, there are many others who have interrogated Asiwaju’s Chatham House speech and alluded to its policy depth, developmental insights and fresh perspectives in the areas of security, the economy and foreign policy. There are others who have criticized Tinubu’s decision to assign some members of his delegation to respond to some of the questions during the Question and Answer session. The presidential candidate was asked about ten questions. He answered six and delegated four.
This was collegial leadership in action. All those who spoke demonstrated thorough acquaintance with the party’s ‘Renewed Hope’ manifesto. It shows that the document is the product of a collective effort and it has been taken ownership of by party leaders beyond the candidate. In assigning some of the questions to knowledgeable members of his team, of his team, Tinubu demonstrated that he would not affect an all knowing posture if elected; he would recognize talents, constantly consult and delegate responsibilities. It is remarkable in itself that he did not mind sharing the limelight with members of his team, a mark of humility.
It would appear that the habitual posturing of some presidential candidates as all knowing geniuses who have mastery of all subjects under the sun have led many gullible people to believe that the successful leader must necessarily be a polyvalent scholar. He must be an eloquent orator with the gift of the gab who can reel out statistics effortlessly even if he has demonstrated no stellar performance in his preceding public life and governance trajectory. They forget that proficiency in oratory is not necessarily demonstrative of a capacity for productive and impactful leadership. Eloquence is not equivalent to brilliance or leadership capacity. It is possible to cram statistics and facts to mesmerize audiences without necessarily being original in thought or superlative in governance ability.
I recall that in the run up to the 1979 presidential election, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, presidential candidate of the Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), had challenged his fierce rival, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, presidential candidate of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), to a televised national debate. Awolowo, who had undertaken a nationwide tour of the country having face to face interactions with the electorate, turned down the challenge and rather asked Zik to first traverse the country campaigning like he had done before he would accede to a debate.
Of course, Azikiwe was a far more eloquent and mesmerizing speaker than Awolowo but the latter was a more profound thinker even though slow of articulation and lacking in the gift of the gab. Not surprisingly, then, Awolowo was far more successful and achieved much more as Premier of Western Nigeria than Azikiwe did as Premier of Eastern Nigeria. It was actually Dr. Michael Okpara who recorded enduring developmental strides late as Premier of the East
Mr. Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP) initially downplayed the necessity for a manifesto giving the impression that he is a miracle worker with solutions to the country’s myriad problems in his head. His party has belatedly released a policy document even though there is no guarantee that the candidate, if elected, will seriously adhere to a document he evidently does not believe in. The electorate must be wary of voting in candidates who see themselves as all knowing superstars into office as president next year. We need a president who has a track record of spotting, assembling and nurturing talents, offering them effective leadership but respecting their views and advice and having the humility to subordinate his views to superior arguments of members of his team if necessary.
Chief Awolowo was easily the most hardworking, cerebral and administratively astute leader this country has ever produced. Yet, he never saw himself as a self-sufficient Island of Knowledge and wisdom. He never claimed sole credit for the paradigm-changing accomplishments of his incomparable administration as Premier of Western Nigeria in the first republic. He was the quintessential team player.
Giving one of the reasons for the success of his government in the West in his autobiography, Awo wrote “Second, my team of Ministers was unexcelled. It was a team of which any head of government anywhere in the world would be proud. It was a well-knit, highly disciplined and fanatically loyal team. Each of them knew his subject well. It may look invidious to single out one or two for special mention where all are deserving of praise…But I cannot help mentioning three of them because of the deep and lasting impression which they made on my mind. There was Mr. S.O. Awokoya: exceedingly competent, scholarly, haughty. He was in charge of education and it was his assignment to ensure the launching of our free primary education scheme by January 1955. There was Mr. E.A. Babalola, the Minister in charge of Works: a rugged, dynamic man with a rigid school master’s mentality. At any given time, he knew what was to be done and how to get it done…And there was His Highness Aholu Jiwa 11, the Oba Akran of Badagry, whom I always fondly referred to as as the Aga Khan of Badagry…a quiet man with an unimpeachable sense of duty. His portfolio in 1952 was Development, and he had an astonishing grasp of its multifarious problems”.
In a collection of essays to commemorate the celebration of the Obafemi Awolowo centennial in 2009, Professor Sam Aluko reiterated Awo’s respect for and strong reliance on outstanding intellectuals. In his words, “It was the need to articulate the four cardinal programmes of the Unity Party of Nigeria that brought the supporters in the universities into closer relationship with Chief Awolowo. He commissioned us to write the platform on each of the four cardinal programmes which were to be implemented at all levels of government to be controlled by the party. I was the chairman of the programmes committee of the University of Ife. The committee met weekly in my house on campus. Once every fortnight, I travelled to Ikenne, the home town of Chief Awolowo, to discuss our treatises with him and to bring back to the committee his input”.
Even more fascinating than the high quality of Tinubu’s appointees into his cabinet as governor, all accomplished technocrats in their fields, was the premium he placed on rigorous debate of policies and the supremacy of superior argument, facts and logic. In a 2016 essay, the Solicitor-General and Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Justice who later became Commissioner of Lands, Mr. Fola Arthur Worrey, wrote, “As an auditor and accountant with vast experience in the corporate world, he understood the need for compliance with due process, but he found a more effective way of making due process work towards defined goals rather than getting in the way. And decision making was always a collective enterprise as a study of Executive Council meetings through the years would show”.
Mr. Arthur-Worrey gave a detailed insight into how Asiwaju’s proposal to invest N4 billion of Lagos State funds as start-up funds for Econet (now Airtel) was intensively debated at the State Executive Council before finally being approved. As he wrote, “The company had procured the valuable license but could not raise the funds for the roll-out. Because we were then of the old school we felt that government should not be taking what we perceived was very high risks with public funds, yet at the end of the day, the government made over N14 billion from that investment because the governor understood that the accumulated and desperate demand for phone services would make such investment a sure bet”. That is the beauty of teamwork.
Source: First published in The Nation Newspaper