President Goodluck Jonathan - Time To Use Your Slingshot
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As I reflect upon the hostile, horrendous, and uncertain times in which we live, I remain deeply convinced that the greatest need of our time is finding and developing godly leaders - authentic, wise, compassionate, and courageous leaders. I have no doubt
that lack of courageous and compassionate leaders is the root cause of most societal problems and the primary cause for poverty and the travails of our society.
Since the beginning of this century, we have seen the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and Jihadist terrorism. The world was astonished by the dastardly terrorist attacks in New York City on September 11, 2001, that brought down the twin towers and killed more than three thousand innocent people. Since the past decade, we have seen ethnic, religious, economic and political motivated wars and killings that decimated thousands of lives in Senegal, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq; the US insurgency against terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, Talibans, and other terrorist groups from Iran and Syria, and against the Somali Hornets Nest, the so-called Talibans of Africa, and the threat of nuclear weapons by Iran and North Korea.
In the other nations - like the U.S., we have seen political violence and killings motivated by hateful political rhetoric by conservative radio talk shows like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Shawn Hannity, the conservative religious right and so-called Tea party movement, civil disobedience in Greece, Italy, Britain, France, Germany, etc., the so-called Arab Spring or Middle-east revolution, which is simply a call for change and a quest for freedom, and off-course the 'Occupy Wall Street' in New York City, which has spread to many cities and has become a global movement, which began following the political deadlock in Washington White House and the Republican political muddle.
In Africa - the story is not different either. In Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Kenya and other places in Africa, we have seen abuse of power and tyranny where majority of the citizens are ravaged by poverty, crime, corruption, lawlessness, injustice, religious intolerance and ignorance, ethnic hatred and tribal killings, spiritual blindness, political instability, poor infrastructure and disease epidemics. We have seen religious, economic, and political motivated killings, massacres and wars that have decimated thousands of lives in Senegal, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia, Nigeria, Philippines, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Middle East, Israel, United States, and many other places around the world.
In Nigeria, since 2010, we have witnessed series of violent Islamist insurgency by Boko-Haram in Northern Nigeria - including the 50th Independence Day anniversary bomb blasts at the Eagle Square, Abuja on October 1, 2010. Since then, we have witnessed the rampant and senseless killings of lawful citizens in the Northern region of Nigeria - especially in the rural communities and villages in the Borno, Plateau, Niger and Yobe states, where common folks are defenseless - including the massive bomb blasts of the U.N. headquarters, Abuja, last August and the deadly suicide bomb massacres at St. Theresa's Catholic Church, Madalla, Niger State on Christmas Day. These spate of bomb blasts and killings of innocent citizens are without doubt motivated by ethnic hatred, religious intolerance and political thuggery. The lecherous destruction of human lives, their businesses and means of livelihood of innocent citizens are not just abhorrent but a total disrespect of the Rule of Law and disregard of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The issue of insecurity must be addressed quickly by President Jonathan - otherwise Nigeria risks total disorder, chaos and anarchy, which is the desire of a few greedy and power intoxicated politicians in the North. The radical Islamic fanaticism must be stopped now. These are ominous signs of anarchy and chaos. These are uncertain times that require strong and courageous leadership - and that's why President Jonathan must use his powers as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Commander of the Armed Forces now. President Jonathan must use the powers of his incumbency now, because so far, the Federal Government has acted weakly towards Boko-Haram mayhem and the imperceptible political corruption going on abated in the country.
There is incontrovertible evidence that a number Northern politicians are behind Boko Haram terrorist sect. Since October 2010, despite the series of bomb blasts, no one has been arrested and charged with these acts of impunity, peevish and wanton destruction of human lives and means of livelihood of hard working innocent citizens. So far, the Federal Government has not nipped the bud at the head. Recently, the Boko Haram spokesperson, Ali Sauda Umar Konduga, also known as Usman al Zawahiri, named Senator Mohammed Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South in the Senate, for allegedly sponsoring the Boko Haram. Even though, Senator Ndume is still being detained, he has not been properly interrogated or charged with any crimes. In fact the Boko-Haram spokesperson who was sentenced to three years was granted bail and now he is a free man. What a travesty! This is a total failure on the part of the judiciary and Federal Government. President Jonathan must exercise the authority and power that was invested upon him by the people of Nigeria as the Chief of the Armed Forces and President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. It is time for the president to use his slingshots.
One of the primary obligations of government is to provide security and enabling condition for peaceful co-existence of its citizens. The ultimate responsibility of any government is to protect its citizens and provide a peaceful environment for citizens to pursue their God-given dreams and desires, which is the pursuit of life, liberty, happiness and prosperity. Government has the divine duty to provide the welfare of every of its citizen and protect innocent people from reappraisal attacks and violence. In a nutshell, Government must ensure peaceful order, co-existence, and tranquility and provide safety for all of its citizens. Security is tantamount to pure and genuine leadership - and no form of government should shirk from such responsibility.
President Jonathan must understand that conflict and challenges are inevitable in the affairs of a leader. In times of crisis and adversity, a leader must seek for godly courage and divine strength from God. He must also seek advice from wise and trusted confidants. No leader can succeed in times of conflict and challenges without godly courage, divine strength and wise advice in order to make the tough calls and difficult decisions. Such decisions must be made with fairness and absolute integrity. A wise and courageous leader must also handle conflict with care, caution, courage, and compassion. Great leaders do not compromise during times of conflicts and challenges - rather a courageous leader confronts challenges, crises and conflicts with courage and compassion. Adversity is a great test of courage. Any leader with little courage will fail in the face of adversity while a leader with great courage find his or her courage magnified when confronted with tough situations. Anyone can lead in good times, but it tackles courage to lead in difficult times.
Godly Courage is one of the sterling ingredients of great leadership. No one can truly lead without godly character and strong courage. One of the great examples of biblical leaders with godly courage and divine strength is the biblical account of Israel's leader, Joshua and how he faced a daunting task of taking the nomadic troops of Israelites into battle against the fortified cities of Canaan. After the death of the great Jewish leader Moses, Joshua, his protÃ©gÃ© was overwhelmed with the enormity of the task of taking more than 3 million Israelites into the fortified cities of Canaan, a land flowing with milk and honey. God commanded Joshua to be strong and courageous because he will lead the children of Israel into the land of Canaan (Joshua 1: 6-8). God promised to give the Israelites victory despite the overwhelming odds against them.
David, the rugged shepherd boy, who was no-body in his family, was made a king after he used his slingshot to kill Goliath, the giant and revered military leader of the Philistines. David's victory and triumph over Goliath came as a result of his faith and deep courage in God. David could no longer endure the seemingly defiance and insurmountable challenges of the Israelites faced because of Goliath, the giant.
Throughout our modern history, leaders who have made impact are those who have led with strength and great courage. Since the past decade, we have been encouraged by the U.S. courageous insurgency against the tyranny of Jihadist terrorism. New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani during the World Trade Center disaster, unfazed by public opinion, still recovering from prostate cancer and his extra material affairs and divorce - operated from the heat of the action in New York City to command his key leaders and commissioners - including police officers and firefighters to protect New York City residents and search for survivors in the dusty rubbles of the World Trade Center. He did not run for his life but stayed in the thick of the action.
President George Bush also showed enormous courage, standing firm during the World Trade Center attack. He ceaselessly trumpeted his resolve to resist the enemy and protect the people and infrastructure of the United States. He flew back to Washington from Florida, where he was attending important meetings so that he could orchestrate the U.S. response to terrorism and to show the United States citizens and the world that he is able to face this crisis with godly courage and divine strength.
Speaking just a few days after the incident, he said:
'And you know, through the tears and the sadness, I see an opportunity. And make no mistake about it, the nation is sad. But we're also tough and resolute, and now's an opportunity to do generations a favor by whipping terrorism, hunting it down, binding it and holding them accountable. This country will not relent until we have saved ourselves and others from the terrible tragedy that came upon America.' - The New York Times, September 14, 2001.
President Bush's statement is reminiscent of Ezekiel 2:6, which says: 'And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people.'
His courage inspired all those around him - his immediate staff, the entire country, and the foreign leaders whose help he enlisted in repulsing the 'briers, thorns, and scorpions.'
President Obama, since he took office in January 2009, has taken out most of the key al-Qaeda leaders - including Osama bin Laden and Anwar Salaki. Presidents Bush and Obama have made significant impact and contributed immensely to a peaceful and less terrorized world because of their courageous leadership. They epitomized the true essence of courageous leadership.
President Jonathan must understand that courage is not an absence of fear but the willingness to act despite feeling of fear or being fearful. Former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani, after voting down the third-term imbroglio of former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, said, 'Courage is not absence of fear but to act.' Dr. Myles Munroe, an international leadership guru, who empowers people to discover their personal purpose and develop their potential once wrote, 'Courage is resistance to and mastery of fear, not the absence of fear." Leaders without this virtue will fail to make fair and right tough decisions.'
If conflict is not confronted, it will lead to chaos and anarchy. I believe that conflict sometimes is a confirmation that God is at work.
Many Nigerians at home and in Diaspora have this perception that President Joanthan is a weak, timid, and compromised leader. They see spirit of timidity. Personally, I think that the president is a humble, compassionate, and God-fearing human being. However, the President must understand that leadership is a divine and a sacred duty and the nation is desperately in need of courageous and strong leadership now. Leadership is hard work that requires divine strength, godly wisdom and great courage that can only come from God. Leading involves great sacrifice and selfless service to the people. Jesus Christ, the greatest leader of all time made this powerful statement, 'whoever wants to become great (leader) among must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first (leader) must be your slave (servant) just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to give his life as a ransom' (Matthew 20:26-28).
Jesus profoundly made it clear that if one desires to serve in any position of authority and power that one must be willing to serve, be a slave and ready to pay for the ultimate price. That's what courageous leadership sometimes entails. The President must be willing to listen, fight, and take risks on behalf of the Nigerian people rather than listen and compromise to a few powerful Nigerian cliques and their foreign masters. If the President does not fight for the common folks, the people will not fight for him also. A true and genuine leader must take the heat and stand for the masses - rather than for a few greedy cliques.
A strong and courageous leader must also stand firm in his or her actions and beliefs - because most of leading is about making tough calls and decisions anyway. A courageous leader must stick to his beliefs and does not back down even if it appears to others to be the wrong choice. A courageous leader must also stand against the barrage of press and public opinion that comes at him. Courage often involves speaking one's mind despite strong and powerful opposition - provided it is made in fairness and absolute integrity.
The President must convince the nation that the decision he has made is the best decision and that he is not going to back down or capitulate. A wise and courageous leader must trust God and depend on godly advisers when making tough decisions. Life changing decisions must not be made based on human intellect, feeling or rationalization, but must be made with complete reliance on God.
The Senate has endorsed the President's decision regarding the State of Emergency in 15 local government areas in Borno, Plateau, Niger and Yobe states. That decision must stay, be approved by the National Assembly and be enforced by the security forces.
Regarding fuel subsidy, I believe that the removal on New Year's Day was ill-timed. It was unwise for the presidency to remove fuel subsidy when most Nigerians are returning from their Christmas holidays - their wallets are empty. Moreover, the country is still mourning the Boko-Haram Christmas Day massacres, ethnic communal killings in Ebonyi State, and the on-going debate about fuel subsidy. President Jonathan needed to dialogue more - explain and educate Nigerians more on the subject of fuel subsidy removal. For sure, petroleum resources subsidy is a delicate domestic issue and huge international economic and political matters.
Nigerians don't want IMF and World Banking to be dictating our national economic matters. We have seen in the past how their peevish economic agenda and policies devastated the nation's economy and improvised the Nigerian masses. Oil subsidy is a dicey political matter - because some people are benefitting from it - but also removing the subsidy does not guarantee that others won't benefit from it. Already, we are seeing the hike in prices of petroleum products in the country even with the announcement of fuel subsidy removal. Nigerians need more explanation and education on how the revenues will be used and a guarantee that other forms of taxes will not be imposed on Nigeria through some surreptitious economic policies. The appointment of Dr. Christopher Kolade as the Chairman of the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme Board to oversee and ensure the effective and timely implementation of projects to be funded with the savings accruing to the Federal Government from subsidy removal is a good move. However, Nigerians needed more time, education and guarantee that prices of petroleum resources will not triple as we have seen in most places.
Dr. Goodluck Jonathan and his deputies must rise to the challenges of leadership. Leaders must see in troubling times a testing ground for developing strength, faith and courage. Those in position of power and authority will always be confronted with crisis. Leadership challenge will occur where there is weak character and compromised leadership. Wise and strong leaders do not compromise. Strong leaders know how to face crisis and challenges with courage and wisdom. Conflict and challenges are inevitable in the life of a leader. Wise leaders handle conflict with care, courage and compassion. Great leaders never compromise but rather confront challenges, crisis, and conflicts with courage and strength. If crisis and conflict are not confronted, it will lead to chaos. Conflicts must be dealt with. Any leader who compromises with violence and crisis will succumb to it. Courage is one of the greatest ingredients of pure and great leadership. No one can become a great leader without strong character and godly courage. Godly and courageous leadership is the dire need of leaders of this century. The 21 st century has been characterized as a century of chaos, conflict and challenges. Leading in the 21 st century will require tactful negotiation and conflict resolution skills.
Happy New Year to all!
Dr. Ekeke is a theologian, author, consultant and leadership scholar. He is the president of Leadership Wisdom Institute.