• Thursday, July 25, 2024
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BusinessDay

Buhari is the boss I’d kill to have

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Four years on as Nigeria’s chief executive, Buhari provides a study in how not to manage subordinates writes ISAAC ANYAOGU.

It takes a certain kind of grit to be the chief executive of Nigeria. First, you are dealing with over 200 million people and half of them believe you are a nincompoop. It doesn’t matter that they may never meet you in their lifetime, but you have a hand in all their maladies.

To govern successfully, you need the ruthlessness of a mob boss, the wile of a serpent and the delicacy with which a shrink tells a patient that he’s losing his mind. You’re not allowed to show emotions but you will be called unfeeling for not showing any.  Lose your cool in public, the media will come for you. Laugh too loudly and that’s fodder for a comedian whose material has become stale. Buhari is the reason the AY Show still fill up the Eko Convention Centre

A Nigerian president should never tell a joke in public. Nigerians are trained sycophants and have gotten down the part of laughing at your failed attempts at humour. That’s why most of us – hangers on – linger around you. Ask Jonathan how many people can still find Otuoke on a map.  So don’t overdo trying to be funny.

Buhari learnt this the hard way. Two years into ruining – I mean running – Nigeria; he had to go make that whopper about ‘da oza room’ – in Germany, standing beside Angela Merkel, first of her name, leader of European Kingdoms and German lands, slayer of Brexit.

Through all these however, Buhari has remained ramrod firm, his skin calloused by criticisms, taking all the mud and looking fresher, each action helping Kola Ologbondiyan, spokesman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), justify his pay while poor Tolu Ogunlesi scrambles on Twitter to deodorise a pile of shit to sell to long-suffering Nigerians.

Buhari is my ideal boss. His uncommon restraint in the face of provocations, though sometimes he is not even aware enough to be outraged, is non pareil. Following the death over 70 people in clashes between farmers and herdsmen in Benue state, Buhari ordered Ibrahim Idris, his Police boss to relocate to the state. As a former general and military tactician, Buhari believes that wars are won when generals hang around battlefields even if shooting the breeze. In any case, two months later, the president visited Benue and learnt that Idris didn’t spend up to 24 hours in the state.

“I’m not aware that the IG did not spend 24 hours in the state as directed by me, I am getting to know in this meeting,” he told the gathering consisting of government officials, herdsmen, and local people.

 

Yet Buhari, ever loyal, told everyone that the meeting was not the best place to expose the inefficiency of his appointees. The president was fully aware of the inefficiency of his appointees; but like a great boss, he didn’t want it discussed in public. Dirty linens belong in the closet, the president does not chew up incompetent people, because, let’s face it, it takes a certain degree of competence to recognise an incompetent person.

A great leader has the patience of a sage, believes in the redemptive value of a second chance and is long-suffering. Buhari has all these and some change. It takes uncommon restraint to tolerate the pack of ministers that comprised his cabinet in the first term. That red-bereted Dalung was allowed to spend a full four years as the mascot of Nigeria’s shambolic sports system is the greatest proof of Buhari’s tolerance.

Buhari shows empathy even with those who fail. Nigeria’s education minister, Adamu Adamu gave a valedictory press conference in Abuja on May 22 and apologised to Nigerians for failing to reduce the number of out-of-school children. Nigeria has over 13 million children roaming the streets instead of schooling.

“The status of Nigeria having the highest number of out-of-school children globally was a big mark of shame to me as a person and to the entire nation,” Adamu said.

Since Nigeria’s education system was already in the gutters with schools nurturing ignorance and even cooks of politicians now sending their kids abroad, Adamu had only one job – keep the millions of children in school long enough to know how to spell their names. He failed spectacularly. Under him, Nigeria had the world’s highest number of out-of-school children. But being a compassionate, understanding boss – with integrity to boot – Buhari sent his name to the national assembly to confirm him for a second stint. Failure cannot get in the way of rewarding those who show up.

Where I work, I risk losing my job if I fail a performance appraisal which is carried out monthly Absenteeism is unrewarded and no matter how much I fawn over the chief executive and sing his praise, it won’t make a difference. As a matter of fact, human resources may fire me for spending company time writing eulogies for my boss. Evil people!

Were I to work in Buhari’s cabinet I would be shielded from such outcomes. It wouldn’t matter if I showed up or delivered on my targets, I would be safe. Merit is measured by your ability to be invisible and flow with the unhurried tide of indolence. Kachikwu came to stir the waters and stimulate change in Nigeria’s slumbering oil and gas sector, and spent the better part of three years as minister of state of Petroleum Resources with attendance at international meetings saving him from complete redundancy. Ogbonnaya Onu, Chris Ngige, and a few others who have mastered the art of looking busy while really doing nothing got their second terms.

Despite loud calls for cabinet review, Buhari kept faith with his people and ignored their excesses. In fairness, it’s unlikely he heard a whimper of those protests. He spent half the time campaigning calling his vice president Osibade instead of Osinbajo. So to avoid firing the wrong person it is understandable he decided to let everyone be. To be fair, it’s difficult to know all 38 of your ministers when familiar strangers chose them for you.

Critics kept making wild accusations that the president was setting the bar low for his ministers but few discerned that the president was merely allowing every minister to retrogress at their own pace. Unlike Shylock capitalists who masquerade as my bosses, Buhari did not set targets for anyone, didn’t push anyone – he doesn’t even have the strength – so everyone on his watch was allowed to freestyle. People like Fashola who greyed more than was necessary were only striving to live up to previous hype.