Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Leadership Failure - Gordon Brown & Umar Yar'Adua

As part of my daily travel routine, I turned on my mobile phone to listen to the podcast of BBC ‘Breakfast’ programme.

The topic of discussion was on British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The radio host, Nicky Campbell asked members of the public if the Prime Minister has ‘lost the plot’. But as I listened to barrage of public criticisms of Mr Brown's personality and leadership, I began to put the current leadership failure in Nigeria into perspective.

Similar to President Yar’Adua, Gordon Brown assumed office in June 2007. Yar’Adua was hand picked and rigged into government by his predecessor; however Gordon Brown became Prime Minister following the resignation of Tony Blair. But in the eyes of the average British and Nigerian public, both leaders do not really have a mandate to rule - albeit the parliamentary system allows the party with the majority to form a government. While one is ruling on the mandate of his predecessor, the other is ruling with a ‘stolen’ mandate. It was therefore not surprising to hear radio callers demanding that an election be called as soon as possible in the United Kingdom, as a test of Mr Brown’s popularity. In Nigeria, opposition parties have also been making similar demands for the past two years but to no avail. The Supreme Court also failed to restore voters’ confidence in an electoral process that was described as the most fraudulent in the nation’s history - all in the name of political expediency!

Gordon Brown has been criticised by the British media for his lackadaisical attitude and failure to provide leadership on key issues. One of such issues was the MP expenses row and issue of Gurkhas equal right of residence. And like his Nigerian counterpart, his popularity is now at all time low that he his now portrayed as a political equivalent to Susan Boyle!

Nigerians face the same problems with President Yar’Adua. His government is bereft of good leadership and clear vision. We sometimes wonder if we do at all have a leader. President Yar’Adua at best can be described as aloof. In fact there are rumours that he his not actually in charge of the country’s leadership. His government has failed to take key decisions on major economic policies, except reversals! Two years into government, there is still no clear economic strategy (oh sorry there is vision 2020!). His seven-point agenda is nothing but a waste of time. Whilst the British see their Prime Minister as a ‘Susan Boyle’, we have several names for ours, such as ba ko mi’ President, ‘President do-nothing’, ‘Baba go slow’, ‘Yara’slow’ and so on.

But as the dynamics of British politics continues to gather pace, what I find most intriguing, is that a state-owned media could encourage such an ‘open discussion’ on the future of sitting Prime Minister. I therefore asked myself if our democratic system can ever mature to this level in my lifetime. For example, the NTA or FRCN conducting similar type of open debate on President Yar’Adua. Can you imagine NTA/FRCN asking the public if President Yar’Adua should resign due to the failure of his government?

We have also seen resignations of top cabinet ministers in protest against Gordon Brown leadership style. But I don’t think any politician has ever resigned in protest against government action or inaction in Nigeria. Even when their position is seriously undermined, they hold on power in desperation.

As a Nigerian, I hope that our democratic system mature to a point when opposing views will be welcome without been seen as ‘plot to destabilise’ the government. I look forward to the day when issues such as the President’s health situation can be laid bare for discussion and not seen as ‘threat to national security’.

As General Colin Powell said "We cannot have a democracy that does not have opposing point of view; the people must be allowed to organise political organisations that argue, that shout and fight with each other. If that was not encouraged, then you are on your way out of democracy. It is a clash of ideas, clash of views that our founding father believed was essential to democracy”.

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