Search for Reps Leadership: the Reality and the Myth By Abubakar Ainu

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According to historian Hugh White’s, only “weak politicians allow their policies to be dictated by public opinion,” while strong “political leadership changes public opinion to support good policy.”

By my understanding of this definition, political leadership must form a balance between opportunity and obligation; an opportunity to make a difference to people’s lives and an obligation to ensure that difference is for the benefit of the entire society.

Accordingly, when I tried to evaluate the possible candidates for the leadership of the 9th National Assembly, in particular the House of Representatives, the key ingredients I concentrated on are personal integrity, ability, vision and engagement.

And presumably, the key consideration that informed the ruling All Progressives Congress’ preference for Mr Femi Gbajabiamila for the post of the House Speaker must have been whether the brand of leadership that may emerge therefrom can gain public confidence for government generally and get more voters gravitating towards the party in particular.

For the APC this time around to have taken a decision on the selection process is quite realistic, and it is equally ideal and politically expedient for the party leadership to stick to that decision if it must block the loopholes through which the outgoing leadership of the NASS that hinged on downright scandals, embarrassment and irritating controversies sneaked in.

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If the type of unnecessarily unfriendly and controversial NASS leadership which denied Nigerians the benefit of most of President Muhammadu Buhari’s insightful proposals throughout the last four years is to be avoided, the APC leadership must not waver an inch from its decision on Gbajabiamila.

This is particularly because being a political leader in a democracy is an inherently tenuous role – elections are won or lost, mandates secured or whittled away by the non-realization that it’s not enough for something to be simply legal or politically correct: it must also be judged as moral and fair.

Of equal importance is that for any leader, no matter how competent and capable to succeed, he needs credible and competent leautenants to support him, particularly a strong and popular deputy which is what Gbajabiamila would need.

As keen observers of Nigerian politics, my colleagues and I have been doing a lot of work around what makes a good leader, both in terms of politics and business by using available yardstick for measuring what we call ‘Executive Presence’ which we applied to analyse the unfolding situation in the House of Representatives.

By independent analogy, we are convinced that if paired with the likes of Alhaji Musa Sarkin Adar from Goronyo/Gada federal constituency of Sokoto state in the North West, Mr Gbajabiamila would certainly make an idea Speaker who can set the stage for the required departure from the mess that and noise that characterized the counterproductive four years of the outgoing leadership.

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For Sarkin Adar to been elected for four consecutive times to represent his constituency in the House, means he must have performed creditably and must have undoubtedly represented the entire northern interest in such critical areas as rural development, youth and women empowerment, employment and agricultural improvement.

We also discovered that, as part of his political credentials, Sarkin Adar, like President Buhari, possess and has mastered the application of that rare make or break skill that takes leaders from having their policies or directives dictated by public opinion, to actually dictating public opinion.

We see more and more global needs for such political leaders in the mold of Buhari who can make a difference in an environment where there is tremendous transparency, greater accountability, independent stakeholders, less freedom to manoeuvre, and an inner will to perform.

Gbajabiamila and Sarkin Adar fall in this classification as each has a brilliant mind, and a brilliant vision that they could articulate in words with the courage to execute on that vision.

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They both understand that a leader’s words must be precise and totally committed; words are the connection between leaders and the public. They must be credible and clear and reflect a vision, not just a position.

They understand implicitly that you cannot tell people to follow, they must want to follow you on the path that you have laid out with a total commitment to your cause.

All over the world today, politicians are expected to guarantee that the public and stakeholders understand their vision and believe they have the ability, personal integrity, vision, communication and engagement to deliver on promises.

Both Gbajabiamila and Sarkin Adar have proved to be successful political leaders who connect with voters’ values by proving that their policies have a clear definition that enables the electorate to easily understand their vision and showing that they have ability, personal integrity, vision, communication and engagement to execute on these ideas.

The reality therefore is that as expectations of good leadership behaviour from the APC increases and the demand for transparency intensifies, the need to champion a values-based agenda by the executive as well as the legislature also becomes more paramount.

Ainu, an independent political analyst, writes from Sokoto

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