This January, 73 lives were lost in Benue State to an herdsmen attack. The president asked Ibrahim Idris, the inspector-general of police to relocate to Benue with the aim of restoring law and order at the scene of conflict. The inspector-general ignored the president’s order. After so much pressure and discontent from the public, the president finally paid a visit to the State. While in Benue, he made a startling admission: “I’m not aware that the I-G did not spend 24 hours in the State as directed by me, I am getting to know in this meeting.” That admission confirmed our fears that the president is not in charge of his own administration. Awareness dictates choice. A man who is aware of something, will definitely have a choice to take action or not. We all have weaknesses and so do those who lead us. Mild weaknesses do not usually impact a person’s overall effectiveness and they sure do not hurt like fatal flaws. President Buhari has consistently shown a significant gap in perception, which suggests a deficit of self-awareness. That is a fatal flaw.
President Buhari has always been dissonant, and there are many pointers to his dissonance since he became president. There is a certain aloofness about him that is exaggerated by a seeming lack of empathy. His much touted integrity has forced him into a tunnel of delusion, where the cure for all that ails is integrity. Unfortunately, integrity is not enough to govern effectively. Self-awareness is an important leadership trait, for which a leader often pays a high price, when he is perceived to score poorly on it. A leader does not need to be very good at everything and he does not have to rank high on all leadership traits but a leader cannot be totally void in one area and still expect to succeed. With a vast scope of responsibility, he does not have to be privy to all the minutiae of governance. The little details is the job of operators, but not knowing is never a good excuse to be unaware. With Buhari, his fatal flaws are so extreme that they are having dramatic negative effects on our perception of him. His supporters and detractors alike are seeing his mounting negatives; but Buhari himself is blind to it. He prefers to revel in the crowd he sees among his core constituency. Unfortunately, he will find out that such blindness has a steep cost.
As a leader, no one expects him to know all the facts, but good leaders figure out how to be aware enough, to discover the facts that they need to know. We know leaders are often the last to know when something is wrong but our man has shown no inclination to be a modern leader. Most of the defining mistakes of his presidency and the crises within the All Progressives Congress (APC), are results of inaction. Buhari’s sins are sins of omission. His refusal to take charge, to act, to do something. In the last two years, we have seen an administration without a strategic roadmap; an administration whose drivers are not taking responsibility for outcomes; and are not building strong relationships, even among themselves. With 2019 on the horizon, it is all smoke and mirrors. The nation is as insecure as ever. There are no convictions on the anti-corruption front. The federal school feeding programme is a sham, other signature programmes never took off or are poorly implemented. It has been a season of switch and bait. What we see are deals that were never executed and projects that do not exist. Buhari is simply not making things happen.
Awareness is power! Against our interests, Buhari is unaware, held captive and bound by his choices. By choice, he has become a figure head who is just there, allowing surrogates to play Russian roulette with our lives. He has created a shady circuit of loyalists who he can neither force nor motivate. Among his trusted aides, there is no devotion to the national cause. The president was caught napping by the rampage of herdsmen and the Dapchi abductions. A leader who is unaware of what others are feeling will most likely be unaware of so many other things. A man who is blind to his own flaws will most likely blind to the effect of his flaws on others.
The president needs to ask himself some probing questions and seek truthful answers. He should ask himsef: What should I be doing that I’m not doing? What are people saying that I’m not hearing? What am I missing? What do people see that I am not seeing? Who on my team is keeping from me what they really think and feel?
In a rapidly globalising world, we have a president who cannot dream into the future. A man content with the status quo. A man who prefers not to know there was a problem, than that there is one. A leader who is not learning anything new, relying on same old ways and assumes everyone supports and loves him. The president needs to ask himself some probing questions and seek truthful answers. He should ask himsef: What should I be doing that I’m not doing? What are people saying that I’m not hearing? What am I missing? What do people see that I am not seeing? Who on my team is keeping from me what they really think and feel? What am I feeling? Why am I feeling it? Is this feeling helping or hindering me?
Obviously, there is an enormous gap between the way President Buhari perceives himself and how those of us, who invested our hopes and aspirations in him, perceive him. We want a president who knows the issues and is open to continuous exploration and discovery. Everyone knows there are two types of people will give honest feedback: those who love you, and those who hate you. We need a president who listens to both. An honest feedback will not come from opportunists. While no one must accept and normalised hate, haters must not be ignored. Hopefully, some good will come out of the recent visits to state ravaged by the herdsmen. Nigeria needs an empathic and aware president, given the many countervailing forces facing the country and the people.
Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú a farmer, youth advocate and political analyst writes this weekly column, “Bamidele Upfront” for PREMIUM TIMES.