“Is this one a student? You there? It’s a pity…” – Governor Abiola Ajimobi
If we can scan the Nigerian political horizon, it is difficulty to spot anyone that might be described as an unambiguously great leader. Our great leaders are long gone – dead. This accounts for the short supply of effective leadership. Tragically, political leadership in Nigeria has become a byword for dysfunction and an inability to resolve pressing economic and social crises.
Effective collective leadership in our country is very difficult and one that is currently conspicuously absent. The situation becomes more hopeless when you realize that even when we lower the bar of expectation from our political leaders, they still fall short of the lofty standards of our long gone leaders.
The challenge with political leadership comes with moral high ground and that makes it a lonely place. As Governor Abiola Ajimobi of Oyo State found out last week, defining his legacy by this yardstick is making him more isolated and repugnant by the day. Last week, the governor found himself at the center of a vitriolic storm on the social media once the video of his encounter with the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH) went viral.
LAUTECH, jointly owned by Oyo and Osun State governments, was shut down indefinitely since June last year due to non-payment of accumulated salaries of staff. This past week, about 200 students of the school stormed the streets of Ibadan, Oyo State capital, protesting the continued closure of their school. The students called for the immediate reopening of their school after eight months.
Watching the performance of the governor in the video while addressing the aggrieved students, one safely conclude that never has there been a time in our history requiring a governor or any political leader as the case may be, be equipped with critical thinking skills and crisis solving skills more than now. Lack of ability to think critically as well as lack of crisis solving capability are mental symptoms that affect all Nigerians regardless of their level of education, economic status, age, ethnicity, sex, or political party.
The governor, in a rare display of morbid mental disability, engaged the students in verbal blows of insults and profanities laced with threats and assaults. Here is the governor in his own words:
“You complain your school was shut since eight months. Am I the person who closed your school? … This is not the first time schools are getting shut. So what? … If this is how you want to talk to me, then go and do your worst. If you want to be troublesome, I dare you. I’m ready for you. Let’s see what happens then. If you come here and you shout at me, I’m not going to talk to you…”
“This government will not tolerate any nonsense from anybody… Is this one a student? You there? It’s a pity. What we’re saying, some of you should have little respect for constituted authority, no matter what. What I want now is, … you should plead “boss, they’ve shut our school. Dear, Governor… You know something, with your behavior I’m not going to talk to you again. This is the constituted authority of Oyo State. Even if I don’t pay salary, I don’t pay this… The fact is I’m the constituted authority. It does not remove that authority.” What a belligerent, bellicose, bully governor! Is this one a governor? It’s a pity.
Very few Nigerian political leaders possess leadership qualities and very few live up to the leadership ideals. In fact all the governors and other political office holders in Nigeria severely lack some of the most important leadership qualities such as integrity and accountability. Ajimobi as a governor should serve as an example of integrity and loyalty to the students and the people of Oyo State that he represents both to the public and to other political leaders.
Ajimobi as the chief executive of Oyo State should be someone with good communication and interpersonal skills, who can work with range of people – students, parents, labor unions, regardless of political party or opinion to achieve the greatest good for the greater number of people of Oyo State. A governor should be someone who can resist the various temptations and lures of power from becoming a bully, a tyrant, an emperor, and of course a dictator.
As a governor, he should have strong character, with both conscience and charisma. He should be willing to listen to the needs of those students who have been shut out of classes for almost a year due to no fault of theirs. His position demands the courage to empathize and sympathize with the students rather than demanding blind obedience from them. He should be humble enough to apologize for the problem that was caused directly or indirectly by him.
Ajimobi lacks the leadership style that focuses on coalition building as opposed to a governor who uses manipulation to get what he wants, instead of inspiration and motivation. He failed to realize that though negotiation and even coercion are sometimes necessary, he should be ready to always try to use persuasion first. He also lacks the ability to take responsibility. Instead of intimidating and harassing the students, he should take responsibility for the closure of the school for eight months by admitting his mistakes, his leadership failure, and acknowledge his own contribution to the problem because the buck stops at his desk.
A good governor focuses on a long term good of the state, above and ahead of any personal gains. Ajimobi’s position as a governor requires statesmanship not just being a politician. Being a statesman means having the integrity to stand up for what’s right no matter what. He’s expected to have the ability to assess a situation and make a decision based on what would be best for the students.
It’s a shame that Ajimobi with a degree in Business Administration and Finance from State University of New York, Buffalo, NY, and MBA degree in operations research and marketing with concentration in Finance from the Governor’s State University, Park Forest, Illinois, cannot manage the resources and finances of a state. He cannot manage crisis either. Of what use are his degrees if he cannot apply his education to solving real life problems? It’s even annoyingly shameful that two governors with combined resources and federal allocations cannot successfully fund a state university. What happened to the money for higher education in the two states?
Ajimobi, has convincingly portrayed himself in the video that he has no practical common sense politics. He’s not consensus-minded, congenitally civil, and temperamentally fit for the office of a governor. Amateurish governance has no place in the 21st century. Sadly, the political leadership at all levels in Nigeria is made up of people who are not properly trained and ill prepared for leadership positions and who do not understand the importance of their roles. They are not fit for the rigors of modern and complex political leadership.