“Nelson Mandela was an extraordinary human being. He put a strong “truth and reconciliation” committee together. He was not insulting everyone and anyone. It earned him global respect.
Leadership matters when you want to heal a divided nation. Donald Trump hurls abusive speeches at every perceived opposition in sight and that has greatly damaged America”.
These were very punchy and incisive comments of Ed Luce, Financial Times Chief Commentator, on Fareed Zakaria on GPS on the night of Sunday, June 18, 2017.
The opening topic was on why GOP Congressman and Louisiana Rep, Steve Scalise, was shot by an obviously disgruntled 66-year-old American who had nursed disgust for Trump’s style of racially divisive politics. James T. Hodgkinson was lurking in dark shadows like an untamed reptile. He struck before anyone could cage him and dealt a great blow not through the injury caused Scalise but actually to the ideals of diversity America once proudly represented.
I have written against Trump before, published in Premium Times, describing him as a “bad dream for a fragile world”.
But nonetheless, I love Trump because he is down to earth, sometimes recklessly though, but again, you cannot fault his unconventional radicalised Republican brand of politics. Hate him all you like, he has millions of followers who look up to his “rascally” tweets. In a democracy with all its faults, it is figures that still count. Trump will seem to have the figures albeit within a nation now beleaguered by naked hate and prejudice.
Having said this, there are learnings to pick in Fareed’s GPS guests stance that a nation is full of divergent political interests, social alignments and cultural leanings; and therefore, you cannot be insensitive to the feelings of the led as a leader.
Nigeria: I have no doubt the Acting President, Yemi Osinbajo, is probably genuine with his efforts aimed at harmonising various positions in this nation and bridge the divides. The same Sunday on Channels TV, I saw his rapprochement with the South-East leaders. He has been to Cross River State, a few days ago; he hosted the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, to a very private meeting at the Villa.
Osinbajo is writing some plausibly good history as a strong believer in a compact Nigeria. Awesome.
But let me give the Acting President a piece of advice. David Blankenhorn, activist and president of “Better Angels”, does something for America that Osinbajo needs to do in Nigeria. His organisation brings grassroots people together despite political differences. His organisation believes people can get angry at one another, debate emotionally against one another, but they must all be heard with a sole focus on nation building and genuine healing. He strongly recommends a public square engagement.
Another guest on Fareed’s GPS warned against “dehumanising” Scalise’s shooter, Hodgkinson, and painting him totally evil. He describes the shooter as a symbolic representation of certain hurt, frustrated and shattered feelings after Trump shaped America’s political narrative with racial colorations. He wants this hush-tone section of the nation to be heard, understood and brought back to the mainstream.
The Acting President at this stage cannot engage with the elites and leaders alone while assuming that the real agitators are committing heresy. The anger and agitation are down here, Mr. Acting President. Those “leaders”, I doubt, have the ears of the crowd you are trying to rein in. If they did, IPOB would not arise, OPC will not flourish and Arewa youths would not issue the ultimatum.
The Acting President must necessarily open up strategic and far-reaching processes of honest and robust engagements where every tribe is allowed to openly express where and how they have been hurt. Where no tribe feels superior to the other. Where citizens will now believe and trust the government. Where leadership is handed to competence and not federal character but also done and well-managed within the delicate thresholds of our interests and diversities. Where the Federal Government vacancies are not presumably filled up “already by their children” despite paid advertorials. The government must identify with genuine youths who want to discuss without angling or positioning themselves for pecuniary gains. Many “youth leaders” seize the microphone and utter gibberish once they have access to the media. The job of identifying the truly aggrieved and the honestly prepared in national discourse must be factored into our engagement template.
The executive, I dare say, must confront our fears and maybe revisit the 2014 national confab report which is about to evolve into a nuisance-value booby trap ex-President Goodluck Jonathan inadvertently put in place for this administration.
Osinbajo must manage carefully how he serves into the hands of the National Assembly who are now demanding it without falling naively for a populist goal about to be scored against the Presidency. The Presidency has lost many recently.
I am still in doubt what the underlying motive of our senators are. If it is positive, great for Nigeria. Not a few though will be pleasantly surprised. On Channels TV a few days ago, even the then confab chairman, Senator Femi Okunrounmu, expressed reservations about the National Assembly’s sudden interest in the report so soon after Senate President Bukola Saraki was let off the hook in a no-case submission and acquittal which Prof Itse Sagay has been losing sleep over. For the National Assembly to now open the books of the confab report will be a masterstroke move to “buy-the-public” applause in a political chess game. But hey, who would not like us to discuss the issues tearing us apart for which we have been living in denial? In-here lies why the National Assembly may trounce the executive once again and silly too. If Saraki organises national grassroots forum today for these discussions, he would have a huge crowd. The Presidency must act fast, either play this game or glide painfully into public irrelevance.
Overall, we must all mean well for this nation no matter which desk we occupy. Corruption is still a damning monster and it is actually getting brazenly bold. Leaders should visit social media occasionally and find out to their utter shock how many people have lost faith in the government’s anti-corruption fight. We must go back to the drawing board and re-strategise. The Acting President should read the Chatham House report where a holistic approach involving grassroots behavioural change is recommended as a great tool for tackling corruption.
We must patriotically work towards building a nation where no one sees anyone as inferior. Where the Yoruba don’t feel the Hausa are “hungry for power” and where the Igbo don’t feel the “Yoruba can’t be trusted”. I have met fantastic northerners, civilised Igbo and golden-hearted Yoruba. Those dividing us don’t mean well for us. Their intentions are not beyond their ambitions.
This country is beautiful and holds a promise: But the frank realities confronting us cannot be skirted over. Doing so may damage us irredeemably.
Shall I say, God bless Nigeria? For those who believe there’s some God somewhere, an amen may mean a lot at this critical moment in our nation’s history.