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For leadership lessons, the East may have to go West

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‘’A faculty driven hero is bound to outgeneral, all neighborhood potentates. Umu uwa Ronu.’’

By Jimanze Ego-Alowes

TUE, JULY 14 2020-theG&BJournal– The problems with the Nigerian thinking class must include their insistent rough purchase of fine ideas. Too often they magisterially pounce on issues without possessing much conceptual and contextual backgrounds. For them virtually everything is njakiri. Njakiri, my Igbo friends tell, is spoofy talk or chatter.

Just the other day, an Igbo fellow replied to a WhatsApp post. The post was a rogue comment on Senator Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor. According to the WhatsApp respondent apparently rooting for Okorocha:

”Yet they paint him[Tinubu] as a saint for 2023, and destroy great Ibo leaders ahead of 2023.”

First of all, what qualifies one to be a leader? There are two threads to it. The first is the formal coming to power by votes or thuggery, including coups. However, there is the second leg. And that is that the leader earns legitimacy, or as the Chinese term it, the Mandate of Heaven. Of course there is only one way to earn legitimacy. It is via leadership excellence and conduct. No leader can be legitimate via official investitures. Legitimacy is an exclusive possession of the peoples. It is theirs to freely confer or withhold.

Therefore, the leader who fails to earn legitimacy while in power, stops being a leader immediately his tenure, built solely on officialdom, expires. Nobody seeks him out and he remains a past leader, an archaeological antique. Thus, leaders have relevance into the future not because they were past leaders, but because they earned legitimacy playing office and politics.

Now, Tinubu was a governor of Lagos State. The verdict is out. His performance was above board. But that is to abridge the Tinubu narrative. Prior to this popular persona, Tinubu was part of a body of Nigerians on exile in London. One of the finest brains of this generation, Dr. Ike Okonta, himself one of the exiles, reports that Tinubu was a host and magnet to the best and brightest in exile. Tinubu simply loved to have the sharpest kids around, churning and bouncing ideas. And he kept them in good humor. If our other intel is true, Tinubu also extended same good humors to the others – the non-faculty types who also fled to London. But Tinubu’s real soul was with the faculty.

It was not that he was so rich, though rich he perhaps was. It was more of Tinubu’s grasp that the world is nothing but ideas made flesh, that development is merely the clash and bounce of ideas dialecticized into material forms. Either he knew these things studiedly or instinctively, but know them, he does.

Tinubu may not have been on tape saying it, but by practice it is clear he believes that the best leader is like King Arthur. King Arthur’s genius we may recall is to gather the best and brightest by roundtables, repeat, by roundtables, and manufacture a moment, the Camelot.

What was of greater interest is that Tinubu brought this Camelot template to the management of Lagos State. Let us put it squarely: No other Nigerian leader has gathered the quantum of independent minded stars that Tinubu carpentered together to run Lagos. No other Nigerian comes a close second.

Repeatedly, many point at the Fashola and Ambode as the Tinubu totems. But that is to mistake the tip for the iceberg. Beneath these totems, and radiating all pervasively through the Tinubu machinery, was a manpower nexus that for exaggeration neared that that built The Manhattan Project at Los Alamos. Yes, there were Einstein, von Neumann, etc. the big cats. But beneath them were other mathematicians, chemists, etc. implausibly talented too, who made what were dreams in the air to be reality on earth. And that helped end the World War 11. Perhaps, our home front equivalent would be the Old Rangers. From all corners of the Igbo constituency and beyond, stars literally did wonders barehanded, barefooted. There were Chairman Chukwu/Enugu, Quick Silver Okpala/Anambra, Coach Anyiam/Imo, Caterpillar Emeteole/Abia, Okosieme/Delta, Chief Justice Adokie/Rivers etc.

Now, there is a marker to the excellence of the best brains a faculty can retain. The first and insistent sign is that it must be a pan-constituency spread. Like in The Manhattan Project, Enugu Rangers etc. particularity of provenance is a negative proof there is no excellence on board.

Tinubu as a ranger for excellence understands and practices this. For instance, The Faculty that helped him drive Lagos was constituted from a pan-Yoruba jurisdiction, and even beyond. Their census counts sharpies from Kogi through Kwara to Lagos and even Anambra. You may not like their persons now or then, but can you discount the gravitas of Dele Alake, Lai Mohammed and Ben Akabueze, etc.?

In other words, Tinubu’s ingenuity is in the principle of doing The Manhattan Project translated to a state house, to politics, to development. Now, it will be well to point at one Igbo leader who has exhibited that attitude in recent times. That is, taken the best brains out of the entire Igbo nation to help build his state. Is there such as one?

Take Senator Rochas Okorocha for instance. He is given to mouthing canards of conspiracies against Igbo leaders come 2023. Of Okorocha’s eight years as governor, can any of his admirers point at any two heads of ”export quality” in his Imo State team? And to build his leadership coffin literally, he plotted to trade-in his son in-law as replacement governor. It is not only that the kid shared the same ancestral neighborhood with him, it is that he would have served Imo State better, as an urban, say, Owerri, tightrope walker or lovable fool, as Americans say.

Now, the question is how can an Okorocha be an Igbo leader, when leadership for him is in being provincial, is in acquiring public power for familial distributions? Nope. The fine point is that Okorocha is a prominent Igbo trader who stumbled on political power. Okorocha is not Igbo leader. He was once an elected governor, but that is history. Today, without legitimacy while in office, Okorocha is just another common citizen, or even worse, a political black hole.

This Okorocha’s provinciality applies to many other Igbo, not excluding His Excellency, Peter Obi. An Obi moral serves right if only to give another example and perhaps help guide him right. There is little doubt Obi is a great Anambra leader. During office, it is clear he achieved, even if unstructured, levels of legitimacy. But a pan-Igbo leader? Babu. His faculty and retinue have always been Anambra, pre and post his governorship, checks reveal. Which is no fault of his, as it is also no fault of others. It is only that it is his burden, his cross. Peter Obi is thus contented to be an Ogbuefi, not Ochioha, Oru na Igbo, if we may borrow those epithets.

To tie it all up, the legitimacy of Tinubu was achieved by a mechanism. It is the mechanism of a 1000 and one points of lights cascading to shine through one man; of the best and brightest brains outpouring their gifts via a King Arthur, via a Tinubu.

That is something prominent Igbo who dream to be leaders have to learn, rather than be decrying nonexistent conspiracy theories.

In other words, prominent Igbo men who drool to be leaders must come to knowledge that leadership is a representative game. You represent peoples. Therefore your faculty or team must be representative of the given region. It is not enough to want to be Buhari – to want to work with your exclusive team and develop the whole nation. That is indigenous colonialism via the feint of votes. There is a hidden warning and thus lesson in this Buhari style insularity. It is a lesson we believe for emergent Igbo and other leaders to learn. We shall stop at this now.

Freely put, Tinubu governs with a faculty. The others, it appears, govern with neighborhood toughs. Faculties, that is great faculties, by lore are provenances-free. Neighborhood choices are a closeted count. A faculty driven hero, a Tinubu say, is bound to outclass, outgeneral, all neighborhood potentates. Umu uwa Ronu.

To reemphasize, you don’t need to balance your team. Just set out to search for excellence and you will get a balanced team. ”Global excellence” is by logic a pan-jurisdiction census. Whether it is the Old Rangers, The Manhattan Project, the Tinubu Team, the best source themselves from everywhere.

To get your procedures right, you may perhaps trump Soyinka, and set forth even before the dawn. All else is humor.

Jimanze Ego-Alowes (PhD) is Author and public commentator

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