t was Nikolai Gogol in his book ‘diary of a madman and other stories’ who said that ‘sharing thoughts, feelings and experiences with another person is one of the greatest blessings of this life’. This statement was made by a dog in a letter it sent to another dog. The madman found this letter, when he heard the dog speaking to another dog. What this dog said is the reason why I use most of my spare time these days writing what one person described as useless articles on Nigeria. I am sorry, I cannot stop, this is the only thing I can do for Nigeria at this time.
My now 11 year old son once asked me how people know what is right and wrong. I told him that the Bible tells us what is right and wrong. He then asked me who tells the Bible what is right and wrong and I said God, he then asked, who tells God, I looked at him and he said Oh, and God knows everything. This was many years ago, when God provided all the explanation for my ignorance, inability to think for myself and failure to explore and understand the world he created and the way to use the reason he gave me.
Today, we know that certain things are wrong only because of the context in which they occur and others are intrinsically wrong, no matter where or when they occur or manifest themselves. However, even when things are intrinsically wrong like stealing, abusing people and murder (killing another person), the context in which they occur can provide a mitigating circumstance which influence how individuals involved in them are treated by the society. Therefore, it is very difficult for enlightened people to find the dichotomous way some religious and traditional minds approach life useful, hence, the expression that ‘it is complicated’ and that ‘it is difficult to look at it in black and white’. What these expressions are saying is that one has to know a little bit of the circumstance surrounding any behaviour to offer a fair appraisal and that simply relying on the nature of the act, can be deceitful and unhelpful. This is why the scientific study of behaviour is very important and why it is stupid to ignore them and rely only on the scriptures in reaching decisions that affect all. After all, the scripture prophesied that knowledge shall increase and I suppose, God expects us to make use of knowledge.
In addition, things that are wrong only in the context in which they occur, are very divisive, hardens attitude and often fractures societies because people often see it from different and fixed positions from which they are not prepared to move. Take sex for instance, very important for the survival of the human race, is deemed wrong only in the context in which it occurs. It is a legitimate natural human instinct, which can only be wrong in the way and manner it is gratified or expressed. It is like hunger. I cannot imagine any rational human being who would form the impression that it can be wrong to feel hungry, even though it would be unacceptable to steal to satisfy one’s hunger. For these natural instincts to be satisfied in ways that do not put others at risk, the society make rules about how they should be satisfied and it is in the breaking of these rules that the badness, and sinfulness of sex and hunger reside. The society for the same, reason makes rules on how people should be appointed into positions of authority and how they should behave, while in office.
For things that are intrinsically wrong, human attitude is often also similar. No one wants something to be stolen from them and no man ever wants his mother, sister or daughter to be sexually involved with a man she is not married to or has consented to have a relationship with. These are the inconvenient truths. However, when people steal to satisfy urges like hunger out of poverty, most people often understand as long as it is not their lunch. Such understanding helps people to put such behaviour in perspective, but would not make them to believe that stealing in itself, is anything but bad irrespective of the context in which it occurs. So like sex, which there can be right and wrong, or acceptable and unacceptable ways of satisfying, there can right and wrong ways of appointing people into positions of authority and right and wrong ways of behaving while in office. .
It is the understanding of the context in which human behaviours are expressed that enable people adopt different attitude to the same behaviour and enable them make wise, and right decisions about the behaviour. This is why the attitude of the west is different from the attitude of majority Africans towards sex and hunger for instance. This is also why Europe abolished the death penalty, have welfare obligation to her citizens and decriminalised homosexuality, while still upholding the advantages of marriage, which derives from fundamental Christian morality.
For a leader, it is a very important attribute to be able to have a deep understand of life and the context in which people express their natural instincts and not to allow one’s religious beliefs and convictions to be the only driving forces of our attitude to others.
This ability to be dissociated in one's beliefs is called tolerance, the ability to accept those who behave in a way one would not, as long as they harm no one, but themselves. A leader who is not able to demonstrate that he understands the role of context in characterisation, defining and appraising human behaviours is unlikely to act justly to create a peaceful and equal society, where people are free to pursue happiness, and their dreams and seek to achieve their potentials. It is this deep understanding and tolerance of human nature, behaviour, conduct and attitude that seem to be lacking in most Nigerian and African leaders.
Take nepotism and corruption for instance. They are two evils which are intrinsically wrong like stealing and murder. They have no inherent redeeming features and the context in which they occur do not alter their evilness, even when there are mitigating circumstances for their existence. These two evils are at the heart of the Nigerian problem. Another feature of the Nigerian quagmire, which plays no small part in the current rot is the instance of incumbents of political offices to decide who succeeds them. This is also another difference between Nigeria and many western democracies. It is this evil that has ensured that Nigerian has been unable to elect people into political offices on the basis of merit and competence. Even the appointment of ministers is rarely done on merit and competence in Nigeria.
In 1979, Olusegun Obasanjo the then head of state did everything in his power to foist Shehu Shagari on Nigerians. By all account, Shagari was not the most qualified, experienced or motivated to change Nigeria for good. He was not the best candidate and was the least qualified in all aspects of leadership. Sadly, that was the real reason why Obasanjo preferred him to more qualified and competent candidates. Predictably, his tenure was a disaster as the Nigeria Ship began to take more water. I could still remember the arrogance and hubristic attitude of Umaru Dikko and Uba Ahmed. Shagari’s incompetence and shenanigan gave the military the excuse they needed to return and Buhari and Idiagbo struck to the relief of the people who did not understand that military dictatorship,corrupted by absolute power, invariably becomes worse than the civilian it overthrew.
Fast forward to 2011, Obasanjo was once again in a position to hand over power to another person. He simply repeated the same mistake having not learnt anything, from 1979. He chose Musa yar A’dua and Goodluck Jonathan for the same reason he chose Shehu Shagari and Alex Ekwueme. Predictable, Nigeria has ended in a similar situation with incompetent men at the helm of affairs, who gained power by the benevolence of their predecessor.
The content of the recent Obasanjo letter speaks volumes of what he now thinks of his anointed successor. It is difficult to think that he did not know all he said in his letter before he appointed Jonathan to the position that secured the presidency for him, since they were the very reason why he selected him in the first place. Obasanjo’s stooge in 1979 did not deliver and his stooge in 2011 has also not delivered on education, health, security, job creation, pervasive Corruption, housing, infrastructure development, inequality, unity, and social justice.
In Venezuela, the late Hugo Chavez, single headedly selected Nicolas Maduro as his successor. So far he has not delivered and the country continues to deteriorate and is now on the brink of serious internal conflict, just like Nigeria. He does not seem to possess the qualifications, and qualities for the position he occupies and has not performed in spite of his good intentions.
On the 22 of April 2014, the Manchester united football club announced the sacking of their beleaguered manager David moyes. This is after he performed the spectacular feet of dragging a team that won the premiership the year before to the 7th position and away from qualifying for championship football next year. He has the honour of masterminding the club’s worst performance in 30 years.
Once again at the root of the present problem of Manchester united is the way and manner Alex Ferguson appointed his predecessor and Moyes performance is consistent with the performance of most people who are nominated by their predecessor for reason other than their competence and merit. Even though Ferguson was a great coach, he allowed sentiments and personal ego to colour his judgement, while selecting his successor. Another lesson for those who insists on selecting their successor, instead of allowing due process to throw up the most qualified and motivated person.
Ferguson chose David Moyes, not because he was not aware of his limitation as a coach, but because he felt that he was most likely to leave what he built intact and learn from it. He felt that David Moyles, a fellow Scotsman, was most likely to continue to do things in the way and manner he did it for 26 years. Like the punter he is, he gambled on someone he felt shares the same ethnic origin with him and could remotely control. He never envisages that Moyes would like to stamp his authority from day one and begin to dismantle what he build over 26 years. So week after week, he watched from the directors’ box, as Manchester united was humiliated by teams that once judged their success by the margin of their defeat. He did not understand that when a man leaves the stage that he should be a spectator and not try to meddle, albeit remotely with how others would choose to do something he knows very well.
Alex Ferguson got his first shock, when David Moyes refused to take on the back room staff he left behind. He watched helplessly as many of those behind his success were relieved of their jobs. Moyles brought his own back room staff from Everton who turned Manchester united into Everton under Moyles. Everton was finishing around 7th position under Moyles. Moyles has been sacked.
This is a lesson for leaders who insist on selecting their successors. It once again demonstrates that decision based on or coloured by nepotism, is often not in the best interest of the organisation. Chief executives should not select their successors out of sentiments or with hidden objectives. People should be appointed into positions on merit, after competitive interview, if the organisation wants the best person for the job. Presidents and governors should not select their successors. It is wrong and such choices are often not in the best interest of the country. The reason for wanting to do so is often not in the best interest of the country or organisation. In Nigeria, it is often because they want someone who will continue to hide the skeleton in their cupboard. In the cases of Nigeria and Venezuela, the outcomes have been disastrous to say the least. It has also not worked in Manchester united football club.
Now Manchester United board have done what they should have done one year ago, which is advertise the position and conduct interview to select the best qualified candidate for the position.
In 2015, Nigerians will go the polls and I hope like Manchester united, they will sack all the none performing politicians and elect people who are qualified and able to deliver the needed result, in security, education, health, poverty alleviation, war against corruption and terror , modernisation of the criminal justice system and civil service and accountability by all. Nigerians must not elect any ex-governor to the senate or ex convicts. Their intention would not be to make Nigeria better, but to escape prosecution from their corruption or steal more. We should look for someone who will do better than Jonathan, not because he comes from the north, or it is the turn of his region, but because he has the qualities, and temperament to see all Nigeria as his constituency and be just to all. I also hope that there would be opportunity for public debate for aspiring Nigerian leaders to demonstrate their grasp of the problem they would be expected to deal with. After all, the job pays well and there should be no excuse for none performance. As the dog said, it is good to talk.