Obidients have quickly risen following Governor Ifeanyi Okowa’s challenge of the credentials of Mr. Peter Obi for governing at the highest levels. Some threw broadsides, and others went down the Rehash Lane of an assumed clean break with conventional politics.
The fact of the matter is that Okowa’s challenge deserves interrogation to enrich our politics.
What did Okowa say that has ignited conversations and reflection? The former senator and governor of Delta State, one of Nigeria’s Big Four, stated that Obi lacks the depth of experience necessary to understand and manage the complexity of Nigeria today.
Okowa cautioned against a false change, pursuit of a chimera and inadequate experience and exposure for the demands of the Presidency after the Buhari damage.
Okowa’s words: “I did not say he won’t have any votes; he will have. But what I’m saying is that he’s not a new candidate. It has not been long since he left PDP. You know he was in APGA before, from APGA he came to PDP. It hasn’t been long since he left (PDP) so he cannot say anything about PDP because that’s where he was before.
“Some of us are still here. At every party, there are good people and bad people. But today’s Nigeria is very troubled, and we need the right person. That is why I am appealing to our youths to be wise and vote well, they should not be blinded by the concept of a false change because that is how they raved on Jonathan in 2015.
“His (Obi) previous experience is not enough for this one (presidency). It will be hard. His experience is not deep enough. Even as a current governor ruling in a time of crisis, I know how hard it is. I even want to learn under Atiku because he has experience with the federal government.
The thing is not easy. For them to have handled the economy at that time and made it something better, offering hope, creating jobs, and filtering the society, was not easy because it’s a bigger thing. So, someone is supposed to learn through that. If you look at Obi’s experience, you’ll know it’s small.”
Of note is the civility in the statement by Ifeanyi Okowa that is like the approach of Peter Obi. It is crucial to remark on civility by the contestants in the disputations ahead. They should raise issues and tackle each other like good sportsmen.
The gravamen of Okowa’s submission is the limitations of experience and charismatic leadership in the task ahead of whoever emerges leader of Nigeria post-Buhari. Such leaders must be made of sterner stuff.
The required attributes include vision, street smartness, thorough understanding of the systems and processes that run and undermine, knowledge of where all the bodies are buried and who buried them. He must have literacy and numeracy in the by-ways and highways of Nigeria.
Peter Obi has excited the popular imagination. He has the attributes of charismatic leadership. Charismatic leaders deploy their communication skills, persuasiveness, and charm as primary tools of engagement. They win hearts. They are good for mobilisation. Then they fall short in execution and sustenance because other skill sets are required.
Often the charismatic leader excites the emotions so much that followers stay fixated in dream land. They create a positive impact through channeling the emotional energy of the people.
Charismatic leadership creates a shared identity such as “Obidients”.
Unfortunately, the many downsides of charismatic leadership are reasons it is not the standard fare. For one, it relies mainly on the energy levels of the leader. Such leaders fail to build systems and procedures that go beyond their energy. Passion is great but often not sustainable long-term. It must give way to systems.
What systems and processes did Peter Obi leave in Anambra State Government? Did they survive him? They were inorganic and did not embed in the system even after eight years.
Are they such that we can transfer to managing the affairs of the 36 states of Nigeria plus one?
Political and management literature often mentions as a downside of charismatic leadership the example of Adolf Hitler. He excited the passions of the Germans, got into power, and then caused the Second World War and the extermination of millions. Charismatic leadership can thus deploy for selfish ambition.
People are the pillars of leadership and successful governance. A mass movement is good, but when it comes down to brass tacks governing is about having a team of capable persons, leaders in their right, as followers of the leader. Where are the followers of Peter Obi across the country? It is a mark of his lack of following that opponents mock his lack of structures.
Their cynical retort to this is to speak about the flaws of the Nigerian electoral system, but structures also entail persons tall like the oak tree who can stand for the count. Where are the 36 men of iroko who can stand for Obi in each state of Nigeria?