In progressive societies, the quality of governance is measured by the conduct of public officials. Leadership by example often gives birth to docile followership. A leader who is worth his onions should be near perfection in words and actions. The recent verbal diarrhea by some public office holders across the country is reckless, needless and scandalous. Perhaps these leaders have forgotten that many years after they have left office, posterity would judge them. This means that whatever is said in public must be thought through and be for the good of all.
Recall that the Executive Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed was in the news for seemingly justifying why herdsmen carry firearms. In a story titled “Herders’ Crisis: Don’t Set Nigeria on Fire,” on February14,2021AriseNews reported that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and some senior members of the bar called on the Bauchi helmsman to withdraw the statement which has the potency of throwing the country into chaos. AlthoughtheGovernorlaterclarifiedhispositiononthematter, it is better to avoid unguarded statements than cry over spilled milk.
In another unfortunate scenario, his Benue State counterpart, Samuel Otorm reacted by identifying Senator Bala Mohhamed with killer-herdsmen. In another report entitled “Herdsmen: Hold gov Bala Mohammed responsible if anything happens to me – Ortom cries out” published on February 23, 2021, DailyPost disclosed that: “Ortom had accused Mohammed of teaming up with killer herdsmen to eliminate people living in some part of the country, including his State.” At a time when these leaders are supposed to be part of finding lasting solutions to the lingering security challenges in their states and the country at large, they are busy washing their dirty linens in public.
In a related development, on February 23, 2021 Saraha Reporters published a story in which Senator Smart Adeyemi representing Kogi West described Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State as a “champagne drinking man.” It further reported that: “According to Adeyemi, while contributing to a motion on Safe School Initiative in Nigeria, Abia is governed by drunkards.” While the efforts of the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan who cautioned Adeyemi against the use of insulting language is commendable, it is uncharitable for leaders to publicly engage in a war of words.
In the same light, there is a 29 seconds video making the rounds on various social media platforms in which the Executive Governor of Gombe State, MuhammaduInuwaYahayaonTuesday 24 February 2021 said in Hausa, “if we block Tunfure, how many will we kill?” while chairing a joint meeting with members of the council of emirs and chiefs, religious leaders and heads of security agencies. The meeting was supposed to be a continuation of his consultations with stakeholders towards finding lasting peace in the wake of the Billiri mayhem. Is the use of “we” in his remarks not circumspect? Is he playing victim and how does he expect those he insinuates as “minorities” in the state to process this?
In the same vein, the reader would recall that in 2012, Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State posted a controversial tweet in which he said “any person or soldier that kills a Fulani person, takes a loan that is repayable in 100 years. While speaking as a guest at a Social Media Week in Lagos in 2017, he maintained that: “It is a statement of fact. It is not a threat. It is not an incitement to violence and there is a context to it.” In a multifaceted society where conspiracy theories are rife, such a statement could ignite ethnic profiling.
This is not the first time that a leader in Nigeria would lose his temper in public. In 2004, during a meeting he convened with leaders in Plateau State, President Olusegun Obasanjoopenly insulted the Plateau State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Yakubu Pam for insinuating that he handled the crisis on the Plateau with bias. “You are talking absolutely nonsense…you are Chairman of CAN; CAN my foot!” President Obasanjo declared. Although historians would say, “You cannot judge history with the eye of the present,” such a comment from the number one man in the country lives much to be desired.
From these few examples, it is clear to the average Nigerian that we are still trapped in the murkey waters of ethnicity and religion. The political class is schooled in using these fault lines for political brigandage. By engaging in hate speech, they set the masses against each other but enjoy champagne in Dubai while the nation burns. The true mark of a leader is one who exercises restrain even in the face of provocation and teaches others same. Unless and until public office holders reflect deeply about the hallowed position they occupy in society, they would be unable to use the appropriate toothpaste for their halitosis. Meantime, if elephants insist on fighting, it is the grass that would suffer. God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria!
Fr. Dyikuk is a Lecturer of Mass Communication, University of Jos, Editor–Caritas Newspaper and Convener, Media Team Network Initiative (MTNI), Nigeria.