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Governor Zulum as a spring of hope


‘Management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things’ (Peter Drucker).

“If you put good people in bad systems, you get bad results. You have to water the flowers you want to grow.”
(Steven Covey)

In this our topsy-turvy country where Stephen Covey would have noted how we confuse efficiency with effectiveness, expediency with priority, imitation with innovation, cosmetics with character, pretence with competence, it is a time to reflect too on how to stop what Benjamin Franklin too calls ‘great talkers, little doers’ syndrome in this country.

Similarly, it is a time to break away from the sophistry of the enemies of state who continue to confuse integrity with competence, oratory with oracle… I mean it is a time to identify most of our good people who work in our bad systems, which continue to produce bad results for Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria, our Nigeria.

As I was saying as an ‘Apostle of Hope’ for this great country, I continue to see hope in a few significant people who may not be prominent at this time. I have quoted Rick Warren, several times here. According to the famous ‘Prophet of Purpose’, as TIME tags him, some people are prominent but not significant, while some are significant but not prominent. He posits in his classic, The purpose driven life that God the almighty is more interested in significant people (to prepare to be part of His kingdom). And so, the US-based cleric and author says people should seek to live a life of significance, rather than a life of prominence.


Behold, it is a time to appeal to all our good people to freeze partisan politics, swallow our pride and vanity and begin to identify emerging young and good leaders in different sectors who can be tapped tomorrow to rebuild this country. It is not enough to make so much noise across platforms in the name of the power that citizen journalism has given. There are so many social media platforms where we just tell so many tales every hour, like the ones told by idiots, as Shakespeare put it, which are ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’.

Let’s reflect on this: It is not true that we do not have enough young leaders from all the six-geo-political zones who can run the country and the 36 federating states. The trouble is simply and squarely with the political recruitment system, which enables only unscrupulous dealers to emerge as leaders at most levels. The electoral system and the appointing authorities have become so perverted that it appears to us every day that dealing with electoral impurities in the country is as difficult as forcing a stream to flow uphill. It is not. We need to reject this notion by freezing our fault lines – religion and ethnicity. We need to gather and organise political burials for all those who are using their positions to keep Nigeria down. Don’t be deceived by your perception of the many faces of bigotry. The criminal gangs in Nigeria have no religion and they have no ethnic genre. They are a cabal too. They are everywhere we go. The perverted power elite, the thieves of state are in all the six geo-political zones in the country. They are in our families. They are in all the political parties. They are all criminals – who don’t want Africa to be great. If Nigeria can’t make it, Africa and indeed the black race are doomed as the iconic Madiba himself once noted. Let me repeat how Nelson Mandela warned about the danger of keeping Nigeria down by some principalities and do-nothing powers: ‘The world will not respect Africa until Nigeria earns that respect. The black people of the world need Nigeria to be great as a source of pride and confidence…’

Let’s not be deceived, the political class we have been looking up to, since 1999 can’t develop Nigeria to the extent of making Africa to earn global respect. The black people of the world will be ‘Waiting for Godot’ if they are dreaming of Nigeria’s greatness as a source of pride and confidence. The current leaders in Nigeria at all levels have failed us. They are cankerworms. They are locusts. They are termites. They can’t rebuild what they have destroyed – since 1966 through 1999 till date. And so we should begin to look for our Cyrus, our Nehemiah, our Ezra, the classical leaders who taught the world about restoration, reconstruction and pulling down of strongholds to develop countries that desperately wicked enemies have ruined. It is a serious business as I was saying, beyond social media laments.

It is a time to appeal to our turn-by-turn leadership activists that we need an urgent cognitive restructuring. Yes, we need to renew our minds about the so-called ‘rotational mediocrity’ that has kept us down. Here is the thing, if we continue to fight for rotational leadership without retiring the criminal gangs of the federation with tentacles in all the 36 states and 774 local governments, we will continue to make the mistakes Covey warned us about: putting good people in bad systems, and getting bad results. We should therefore begin to water the flowers we want to grow everywhere in Nigeria.

We should stop blaming President Buhari for failing to give us what he doesn’t have (we didn’t know all that). We should stop blaming ourselves too. We should keep hope alive and thank God for allowing us to know in time that we can be naïve too and overrate candidates’ integrity and follow false prophets, after all.
So, let’s get cracking before the criminal gangs of the federation outsmart us again. They are already strategising for 2023 – 2027, even when they are still clueless about what to do with 2019-2023.

We should begin to trail our leaders from Calabar to Sokoto. We have identified Governor Seyi Makinde in Oyo state, in South West, as a leader to watch. It is not about his wonder party’ platform. It is about his deeds. He has within six months become a symbol of disciplined leadership, a surprise package. He is being watched. It is not a time to praise him. ‘May his road be rough’, as the iconic Tai Solaarin would have prayed for him to succeed.

Doubtless, this is a tipping point, where we have to appreciate the significance of Peter Drucker’s master class on management and leadership. He says, ‘management is doing things right, leadership is doing the right things’. The warning about poverty of leadership in Nigeria was handed to us in 1983 when Chinua Achebe, the legend, noted point blank in a classic that, ‘The trouble with Nigeria is simply and squarely a failure of leadership’. We have never addressed this reproach 37 years on.

That is why I would like to draw our attention to another young leader to watch, as a model beyond our convoluted bigotry and fault lines that our parochial leaders have continued to weaponise. Her we go: the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, a Professor of Agricultural Economics is demonstrating in the north-east zone that it is possible to do the right thing even in the face of daunting challenges. The setting: In a manner we have not seen in this clime lately, the governor came down hard on soldiers manning Damaturu-Maiduguri road in the state for extorting his people on Monday last week (January 6, 2020). According to reports across platforms, Hurricane Zulum’s convoy ran into a long queue of vehicles at one the military checkpoints, on the way to Jakana, a community where Boko Haram insurgents had struck on Saturday January 4, 2020. According to reports, the Governor who had been briefed that security operatives were extorting his people alighted from his vehicle and walked straight to where some of the soldiers were (caught unawares). He said in anger:

“This is unacceptable. How can you subject people to this kind of torture all in the name of National ID card?I am going to report all of you in this unit…Nobody can tolerate this. Boko Haram is attacking people and you are here collecting N500, N1000 from poor travellers who don’t have national ID card.”

But one of the soldiers manning the checkpoint who tried to give a different narrative as to why they stopped the travellers met a brick wall, as the governor was angrier:
“No, this is not right…The government has not created an enabling environment for our people to get their national ID cards and you are here collecting N500 and N1000 as fine for not having what the federal government has not provided for all,”

This is not a sponsored public relations stunt for Professor Zulum who reportedly punctured the army chief’s recent claim the other day that indeed Boko Haram had been technically defeated as no territory in Borno and Yobe axis was in the terrorists’ control again. The governor was not afraid of telling truth to power that there were still three local governments affected, in this regard.

Let’s not get it twisted, I have never met this governor in my professional life. Nor have I met his agents or aides. This is just a moment of truth about our misruled country that we need to rebuild with the power that truth gives us. I think this is how governors and indeed our leaders should courageously work for the people. This is how governors should confront federal principalities and powers that have been exploiting the reactionary and ruinous unitary system to under-develop the beautiful federation the ‘militricians’ violated in 1966. Let’s come to brass tacks of the significance of Zulum’sdoing the right thing: He is a member of the ruling party. He hails from the same state of origin of the Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen, Tukur Yusuf Buratai. He shares the same origin with the National Security Adviser, (NSA) Major General Mohammed BabaganaMonguno (rtd). He was not afraid of consequences of political reprisals from any of these powerful forces around him. He defended his people.

In contrast, how many of the governors of south-west, south-south and south-east states, have ever come out to defend the people from the extortion of police and army checkpoints from Lagos through Shagamu interchange to Calabar? There are more than 60 police, army, customs and FRSC checkpoints along the routes leading to gridlocks every day in the southern states? Where is a Zulum in the South?

**To be continued. Wait for the beauty of the succession strategy Zulum’s predecessor organised. I see hope!


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