Attahiru Jega and the Power of One
It was in the winter of 1995, in Hackensack, New Jersey, a short distance from Manhattan in New York, New York State and in a car wash center, where I was working then. I was only four months old in United States of America and things were different from the frame of mind I had when I left Lagos International Airport for U.S.A., so I was a bit disappointed. I needed to work, but there was a lot of hurdle I had to cross before I could qualify to work in my new host country. Things were not as tight as they are today, the stiff immigration hurdles and a wobbling economy of today, a combination that makes it unwelcoming to live and work in America as I write. By a stroke of luck and determination, I found a job in a car wash, a time that was not conducive to work, a time that many Americans would not step out to clean a car in dead atmosphere of a freezing point, but I was willing to do anything to earn a dollar, the Naija in me.
In one of those days, when my hands were stiff, almost dead, my ears denied of any flow of blood and the only area left to the mercy of the wicked weather was only my two eye balls, because I had to see, to vacuum and wipe a car to cleanliness; a black limo pulled up from the machine wash area and it was my turn to take charge. As I was doing justice to the car, a tall white male figure pulled to me and said 'how are you doing'? I had to pay critical attention to hear the slippery American accent and in my thick Igbotic accent, I replied all right. I managed to exchange some words with the guy and he came close to ask which country I came from. I told him Nigeria and he said educated people and rich. Educated, I gazed, I was but richness, I had not and that was why I left Nigerian in the first place, out of frustration, because I could not find a job after graduation from the university. He retorted that I must be a graduate, judging from my level of knowledge in our discussion and I nodded that I had a bachelor's degree in petrochemical engineering. And you could not find a job in an oil rich country like Nigeria, he said and I said yes. I did know whether to like or hate a county that failed me to have happiness.
When he came after two days, he asked me of my particulars, but I was afraid because my visa expired in December of 1994, but I took a risk. He told me that he would register me in an organization called the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), a liberal think tank, I found out later and he left with me a tip of $50. What a good start. He paid my dues for two years and I was receiving the foundational periodicals called the Freeman, ideas on liberty. Foundation for Economic Education was established in 1946 by a liberal agent called Leonard E. Read, a free-market organization and I have really gained a lot by reading the Freeman publications. One philosophy of Leonard Read that has touched me personally is the power of one. Read said only one can stand up and take decision without the drag witnessed when a group decision is about to take place. Only one can take action without the impediment that occurs in consultation with other stakeholders.
In the philosophy of leadership imperatives in various organizations, one of the most critical imperatives in leadership is the cognitive process or the cognition of the leader. An individual can push up or pull an organization down. A smart individual, with a good expertise in scanning the environment can make a whole lot of difference in an organizational fortune. I know Attahiru Jega will still do with institutional bureaucracy and other stubborn stakeholders, but he can make a difference if he desires. Prof. Jega may be the only force that can change Nigeria for the better. I don't know him personally, but I know when I was an undergraduate at Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, he was the ASUU president and he stood with the evil genius, IBB head to head and toe to toe. He is positively stubborn and he can get the job done, so I have implicit confidence in him that he will give us free and fair election.
Many people don't know that all Nigeria needs to catapult herself to high heaven is free and fair election. We need to choose who will rule us and when this takes place, the twin products will be responsible leadership and accountability. The present arrangement does not confer power to the people, the electorate does not matter, because selection is the order of the day, so whether we like it or not the people we did not vote for will still rule us and they will do whatever they like, in the sense that we do not exist in their warped thinking modes.
In the present arrangement, a governor works hard to steal money to appease the king makers in Abuja, Katsina, Kaduna, Kano, Lagos, Port Harcourt, Enugu, Abeokuta, Sokoto and Oron. He will dole out may be N100 million each to the traditional rulers in his state and other whooping amount to his partners in crime and these voices will submerge the true hurting voices of the masses. These governors will promise all kinds of projects that will uplift the lives of the poor electorates and when they win, they will say damn to the foolish masses. They operate and rule their conquered people from Abuja and Dubai. They mobilize the state information apparatuses to sing praises for them and every now and then, they gather the rogues that call themselves traditional rulers and party stalwarts, who share the monthly allocations with them, to sing their praises. The appropriate all kind of titles and plaques through their corruptive manners.
They don't care to provide infrastructures for the people, they don't care to initiate projects that will employ the teeming youths, and all they care is to steal money to prepare for the next election, the hackneyed power of incumbents. They appoint people of questionable characters as their advisers, commissioners and aids, because they don't care in the sense that their powers were not derived from the people. All these will change when Jega conducts a free and fair election, these idiots from federal to states will be thrown out of the seats of government.
Can one check what is going on in the South East of Nigeria? In a serious country, Peter Obi, Chime Sullivan, Ikedi Ohakim, Martin Elechi and Theodore Orji will never smell the government houses for locking all the universities in their domain for more than five months now. The undergraduates, parents and the whole staff will make it difficult for these governors from coming back to be governors again after they have failed the youths, parents and other stakeholders. The irony of it all is that these governors have no credible substitutes in the whole of Igbo land, which means that Ndi Igbo are in trouble.
The test of leadership is not routine job; anybody can be a leader in this sense. Leadership is very different from management and a true leader is tested in non-routine activities. In non-routine activities, a leader has to be involved in strategic management, looking ahead, sensing dangers, crafting ideas, planning strategically, scanning the environment, checkmating a potential competitor through innovations, surviving in a difficult environment, visioning and arresting emergencies, so as to avoid subsidence and earthquake type of occurrences. There has to be a creative mode for these governors to keep our youths in school and implement the ASUU agreed wages. There are thousands of ways to garner money to pay these lecturers and demand equal work outputs from them. A dull leader just like CEO of an organization does not succeed if all wings of cognition are not deployed for problem solving in difficult and challenging times.
Prof. Attahiru Jega, Nigerians are depending on you, remember the power of one, no matter the difficulties, all generations unborn will be grateful to you if you can mobilize all the branches of security, Police, Navy, SSS, Air force and the Army to give us a free and fair election, and I thank President Jonathan for appointing you. I also root for Jonathan, for this is a new Nigeria; and the days of Adamu Ciroma and his co-travelers are gone forever. We need a Nigerian consensus candidate and not Northern consensus candidate. After all, Atiku is a man deep in corruption and he has a case in USA. We either get it right this time around or perish forever. We can do better after all. Chukwuma Iwuanyanwu is a doctoral student in Organizational Leadership at Argosy University, Los Angeles.