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A VP on toilet-inspection duties and you call this "leadership"?

Yemi Osinbajo and crap leadership

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, who is currently holding the reins of state during absentee President Muhammadu Buhari’s extended sick leave, has been on the charm offensive lately, and a beneficiary of image-laundering on the mainstream and social media.

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and their supporters generally recognise that Buhari’s administration has been an unmitigated disaster. However, the president’s illness has provided some of them with a window of opportunity to recast Osinbajo as a “so not Buhari” and an effective, efficient, and technocratic leader.

While there may be some truth in the perception that Osinbajo is an upgrade on Buhari (who wouldn’t in the light of the fumbling and mumbling of the past 20 months?), the suggestion that things are about to get better with Osinbajo in charge is the sort of mindless and thoughtless folly that drove Buhari to power in the first place.

For starters, Osinbajo was meant to be the head of the regime’s economic team, long before Buhari absconded to London. Under their watch, Osinbajo and co delivered Nigeria’s first recession in decades. That economic team, despite endless summits, a lot of wind and plans, has only succeeded in reheating and repackaging the same tried and failed policies of previous administrations.

But the current cacophony of praise-singing around Osinbajo, who is also a pastor, has seen even members of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) singing from the same hymn sheet as the APC apologists. Senator Ben Murray-Bruce, representing Bayelsa East, led the way with this tweet referencing the small rise this week in the value of the naira against the dollar.

Nigerians are fond of personalising the problems the country faces, with ideas that they could be solved by a messiah with a magic wand.

A former media aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri, also took to Twitter to sing the praises of the VP.

He later tweeted: “Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo visited Murtala Muhammed International Airport and did not like the state of the toilets he saw. The next day ALL Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority directors were FIRED. That is a leader!”

Actually, both Osinbajo and Omokri, with the visit to the toilet, demonstrated inadvertently how Nigeria has suffered from decades of crappy leadership.

The tradition of surprise visits at work places by rulers and followed by summary dismissal dates back to the era of Murtala Mohammed’s military rule. It has been used many times since to deceive Nigerians that the ruler is a man of “action”. But such action is conduct unbecoming of real leadership.

A real leader does not have to personally visit toilets to establish the state they are in. In fact, such a leader has no business as a toilet inspector. What leadership entails is putting structures and institutions in place to ensure that from the top of the food chain down to the bottom, there are procedures and processes in place to ensure everyone delivers and there is a process for making sure people are accountable for failure without personal visits from the “Oga at the Top”. How many toilets could he possibly visit?

Osinbajo and his administration have been in power since May 2015. They have a Transport Minister, the airports have the NCAA management in place. If for two years, none of these people have figured out a system for something as simple as ensuring the toilets are clean, it is an indictment of poor leadership from the president to his minister, to the NCAA, and the drama queen intervention of a photo-op at the toilets was just for the benefit of gullible.

The firing of the directors at the NCAA, assuming it was in relation to the state of the airport, is dictatorial without following due process and playing to the gallery. Without holding brief for the fired directors, surely their terms of service should have conditions for terminating their service and include provisions that they deserve a proper hearing before being sacked. Additionally, sacking and replacing the directors with another set of officials without addressing the systemic failures through the chain of command, putting in place standard operating procedures for ensuring that things work at airports, mean that the problems will continue under new directors. That is not leadership and nothing but silly gimmickry.

This systemic failure of leadership was also evident in the closure of Abuja airport due to the poor condition of the runway. Those conditions were known for years and regular maintenance work was not done. Nobody was sacked for this and the VP must have used that airport several times in the past months.

Osinbajo’s lavatory joke demonstrates that Nigerian leadership is in the pits. He may be presentationally better than Buhari, but it doesn’t make the mess any less bearable.

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