By Michael Ovienmhada
Muhammadu Buhari. Photo credit: Reuters
Not since the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo and the Action UPN has Nigeria witnessed the level of enthusiasm that we see these days when Buhari shows up for a campaign rally. I was at the Lagos rally of the APC at the Teslim Balogun Stadium.
What I saw and experienced was nothing short of euphoria and a revolution in the making. How do a people turn around full-cycle from a man they embraced in 2011, when he told the nation ——I had no shoes——to a man who up until now had been tagged unelectable? Let me attempt to explain it
In 2011, Nigeria was looking for a breath of fresh air. We had just emerged from the dark days and intrigues of the cabal surrounding late President Umaru Yar’ Adua.
The nation was disgusted that a small group of people could attempt to hold the nation to ransom and they took a good look at his deputy. The man had his bag packed ready to go home if things did not work out in his favour. He did not lift a finger to attempt to grab power. It was his constitutional right but he was not going to go to war over that. His self effacing attitude and humility endeared him to the nation. The National Assembly eventually rose up to the challenge of those dark days and declared the doctrine of Necessity.
Goodluck Jonathan became our President. Thus, the 2011 election was a foregone conclusion. Goodluck Jonathan, a minority from the tiny village of Otuoke won in a very impressive election adjudged by local and international observers as free and fair.
Until he did it, it was an inconceivable idea. Nigeria had been the playground of the Hausa-Fulani, the Ibos and the Yorubas, the three major tribes. The rest of us, minorities across the country had been condemned to collecting crumbs from the masters’ table. Jonathan’s victory could only be compared to Obama’s. African Americans constitute only 12% of the American population.
How could a black man ever think of becoming President of the United States of America? President Bush had run America to economic ruin. A recession had set in; unemployment had risen to 15% in some communities across the United States. The nation was involved in two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The result was young men and women coming back in body bags, severed limbs, and PTSD—Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
The American people were tired. Enters Obama——There is no Red America, there is no Blue America, there is the United States of America. Who is talking, the people asked?——He is a skinny African American fellow from Chicago. Who does he think he is to want to change America? The Tsunami was long gone.
The train had left the station. The horse had left the stable. Hillary Clinton was left gasping for air. For Hillary, she thought, the 2008 election was hers to be had. She underestimated the opposition. That was her undoing. Super Tuesday came and she had run out of steam. Young people across America of all colours had joined the Obama train—The mantra—Yes we Can rent the air not only in America but across the globe.
Ordinary folks and minority people across the world began to believe that their minoritiness was no longer a handicap. Joko Widodo came from the slums of Indonesia and upset the establishment. In India, Modi did the same. The gates became wide open for anyone who would dare.
It is from this prism that I want to look at what is happening in Nigeria. How did we get here? How did a man who had so much goodwill manage to use up all his capital?
Jonathan had so much emotional capital going for him. His account on emotional capital was full and overflowing. The people embraced him. The people loved him. The people were hopeful that a man who was just like them would understand and make life better for them. According to Daniel Goleman, (2002), emotional capital is the sum total of positive feeling that a leader has built up over time.
You can draw against it when you really need it. You build it through resonant leadership styles. Without emotional capital, you will find that when there is a crisis or an emergency, no one is standing behind the leader. People desert you when the chips are down but if you have built the capital by making deposits in it they will stand by you and go the extra mile.
How did he blow a hole in his emotional bank account?
Stella Oduah was an issue. When the scandal blew open about the BMW purchases, the President had a chance to act swiftly. He lingered. I understand why he lingered because I understand where he comes from and the basic characteristics of his people. The Ijaws are fishermen by culture and orientation. They are patient people.
A fisherman goes out to sea and must wait and wait and wait. If you watch the President in interviews, you will find that he listens and listens and waits for the interviewer to talk. Even when they overdo it like Mo Abudu did in her chat with the President, he rarely gets angry.
If I were one of his handlers, I would have advised him to defuse the Stella Oduah situation immediately by advising her to resign to save the Presidency. I would have gone on to spin it as a victory for the FOI bill. If the President had not signed that Bill, what Stella did would never have become public knowledge.
In my opinion, many may disagree, Stella was one of the stars of the administration. She had done a phenomenal job. I can understand why Mr. President was reluctant to let her go.
At 73, Buhari is the least likely candidate that Nigerians need in 2015 but a nation in search of a moral compass it would appear, can look no further. Will Goodluck Jonathan use the next six weeks to build up his emotional bank account or will the APC blow the momentum? It is on this pinhead that the 2015 elections will turn.