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During a session with a man who mentored me and whose life has had so much influence on me, he was asked the greatest virtue a leader should possess.  His reply was simple ‘The virtuous of all virtues is tolerance and the ability to lead people and assert authority without being seen as tyrannical’.  He was taking us on a topic he captioned ‘Moral dimension of leadership in service delivery’. He did not belittle the powers that rest on leaders to chastise, discipline, punish and evil destroy the elements that oppose them.  He knew leadership is something challenging and he made reference to creation and The Created.  In his language ‘Of all things created, man has remained God’s greatest opposition’.  That was in faraway Istanbul in 2006

God as a creator of humankind has not found it easy to call man to order.  Little wonder he gave him choices to make either to live or self-destruct or self-annihilate himself by his own choices.  It does not reduce God’s omniscience.  That singular session was a great eye opener to the qualities that can enable a leader swim in the rough waters of leadership and sail to safe shores where the ‘led’ see him as their Messiah, as incorruptible or as their Hero.  Tolerance may mean different things to different people, but the greatest attributes of is that it helps a leader create more friends than many foes, see the safe shore from troubled waters; tolerance creates for him a more relaxed atmosphere where he could concentrate and face the most complex side of leadership.  A leader should not be seen as Machiavellian nor should his power be so limitless that he is seen to be more tyrannical than humane.

President Muhammadu Buhari was seen as that Messiah who came to uproot the huge oak of restiveness and dry the very root of corruption in leadership that have engulfed Nigeria.  He was seen as incorruptible and as someone who had phobia for corruption.  It was generally believed {Real or imagined} that the last administration headed by President Goodluck Jonathan was everything corruptible. Corruption was alleged to be the very root of their existence, right from the former President, his Ministers to his personal aids. Nigerians, though through the help of the then opposition was made to believe that the Seat of Power and activities therein was rooted in deep corruption and frivolity such that it cost Thousands of Dollars to access the former president and cost millions in Naira to have audience with the then First Lady. We were told that the former President woke up everyday drunk. The then opposition seemed to have succeeded in bringing all blames to the doorstep of the former President.

Like a robber being chased but who screams and wails as the robbed and point to someone else as the robber, governors were branding themselves as saintly, those that were not patronised by the former regime saw a glaring opportunity to cash in and vent their anger.  Others notorious for corruption hid under the ‘shield’ of playing opposition to shout wolf.

Give and take, President Jonathan whether seen as a saint or sinner had an attribute that earned him acceptance within certain circles.  He was so far the most insulted leader in the history of Nigerian presidency.  Politicians, their praise-singers, their supporters, all and sundry seemed to have been pointed to Jonathan as an object of ridicule.  Jonathan was so tolerant.   He was super diplomatic that many attributed it to weakness and cluelessness.  He knew issues that could heat up the polity and he either subtly avoided them or tactically worked around them. He knew the abuses and he rarely responded to them.  He seemed so fired up by those abuses and insults that he dared to do more to pacify the teaming Nigerians who legitimized his power in 2011 through their votes.

Unfortunately, the more he tried, the more the people seemed so far off and detached.  All thanks to the massive media propaganda, the role of the religious, traditional and political actors like Rev. Father Mbaka who became the political mouth piece of God, the former CBN governor {currently the Emir of Kano} who stirred the dust of alleged embezzlements from the treasury and the former President Olusegun Obasanjo who seemed to have seen the brightest opportunity to punish the sins of his once anointed son. You will not of course forget the roles of the likes of Mallam El Rufai and Oby Ezekwsili with their ‘Bring Back Our Girls’ anti-Jonathan campaign that become more ceremonious than serious. President Goodluck was hated and demonized in the heart of an average Nigerian.  He was branded a demon that came and ripped off the very soul of Nigeria through allegedly untamed corruption.  Virtually all those that served under him were seen to be super-corrupt.  Everyone in the opposition feigned righteous and incorruptible and Nigerians fell for it.

Again, going by the definition of Good Governance, former President Jonathan fared well.  So far, in Nigeria in particular and Africa in general, he was about the only President who handed over power to the opposition willingly.  Although the incumbent government led by President Buhari has posited that it was a compulsive hand-over.  Whether former President Jonathan handed over under gun point or not, his virtues of tolerance and good governance are taking him to places currently.  Did I say good governance?  Many Nigerians will dispute it.  Can we go to another definition of good governance? It could be described as a government’s willingness to hand over power to opposition when election is won by the opposition.

Political adepts say that when an incumbent hands over power to an opposition party, ‘It shows that the government that lost to opposition has nothing to hide and does not fear to be probed’.  Jonathan scored the point.  He congratulated Mr. Buhari on his victorious outing in 2015 election.  A virtue that has become a model propagated by world leaders especially as it affects African leaders who love power and stake their lives for it even when their ‘Led’ are impoverished by them.

While the incumbent Buhari-led government continued to haul all blames on the last administration and ‘dragging’ vulnerable Nigerians along, the West continue to celebrate the outstanding virtues of the former Nigerian leader.  Some claim that President Buhari beyond partisanship holds former President Jonathan at high esteem.  He would however NEVER display such respect and regard openly.  It is forbidden in a country like Nigeria politically.  It may mean empowering the opposition subtly.  In Nigeria, ignorance is celebrated, mediocrity is a common feast, fanaticism is a way of life and leadership without globally accepted norms is allowed.  Nigerian political class only understand ‘Machiavellian concept of holding on to power’.  The morals of the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mahatman Ghandi who led through personal examples are least celebrated in this part of the world.

Today, the man most people believed came to rescue the dwindling fortunes of Nigeria such as insecurity,  falling economy, corruption and lack of patriotism is being accused of either consciously abating same vices that have perennially sucked our fortunes dry or unconsciously aiding them by flagrant abuse of office and usurping the powers of the Judiciary.  Mr. Buhari has shown his disdain for the law of the land in his raging desire to either fix a dwindling system or to ‘hit’ at old foes who stepped on his toes.  He does not seem to be ready to tolerate anything opposition.  He seems too intolerant to allow dissenting voices in a democratic setting.  His last media chat many believed sold him out as he was seen too emotional on issues bordering on the prolonged detention of former NSA, Col. Dasuki and a self-styled promoter of Indigenous People of Biafra – Mazi Nnamdi Kanu despite court orders to grant them bail.  His body spoke it all and his ascent hyped the burning trait of intolerance.

Mr. Buhari from the said media chat branded his ministers ‘saintly’. He sees his praise singers as comrades without realizing that same people that look like his lamb today could turn lions that will rip off his very political heart when the road hits a bend.  After all, in politics, it is said ‘No permanent Enemy, no permanent friend.  It’s all about permanent interest’. He looks like someone who has just realized the role of the media and how to apply same to dwarf every dissenting voice, play down oppositions and flay the fears of the people. By the way, many believe that his victory in 2015 General Election so much benefited from that mafia-like side of media.

The art of tolerance seems the greatest art that the President needs to perfect himself in.  He needs it as much as the living needs oxygen.  It is indispensable whatever his goal is – be it to unite the country as one people with one vision or to divine it along ethnic and religious lines. He needs the virtue of tolerance to do so.  He should learn how to turn foes to friends more than he turns friends to foes.