On the morning of December 15, 2012, a lone, deranged gunman opened fire and killed 20 innocent children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Hours later, President Obama took to the podium to announce the shooting to a morning nation. In an uncharacteristically quivering voice and with tears rolling down his cheek, the President stated, “The majority of those who died today were children – beautiful, little kids between the ages of 5 and 10 years old. They had their entire lives ahead of them – birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own… So our hearts are broken today for the parents and grandparents, sisters and brothers of these little children, and for the families of the adults who were lost.” The President brought the agony that many Americans felt to the forefront of the nation’s psyche, and by that, elevated the death of 20 innocent children to a national policy on gun control. Regardless on the political spectrum that Americans stood, it was unmistakable that the nation lost her youngest and brightest, and that we all lost a part of us.
What does a leader do when confronted with difficult challenges? At the start of the 2nd World War, Nazi Germany was in alliance with Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Soviet Union, and had overwhelmed the United Kingdom. United States of America was still coy about a war thought to be mainly a European war. The situation was dire for the United Kingdom; Churchill was appointed the Prime Minister, replacing Chamberlain. In his first speech to the English House of Commons, Churchill was reported to have stated, “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” Churchill not only electrified the House of Commons but also inspired the British to war against the invading Germans.
In sending his young and unpolished bunch of followers onto their 1st Missionary campaign, Jesus Christ demonstrated the urgency of the mission to his followers in one of the most controversial verses of his ministry, “I came not to bring peace, but to bring a sword.” Matthew 10. It was clear to the men that their mission was not merely for the faint hearted.
Churchill was an old, out of shape politician at the time of his speech, and no English man expected him to toil and sweat on a battle front against Germany; and the Bible does not tell us if Jesus Christ went on the missionary campaign with his disciples or possessed a machete, either. Equally, Obama understood that his mission against the highly invested gun industry in the United States was almost futile. But, what Obama, Churchill and Jesus Christ showed us was what leaders do when confronted with difficult situations. Leaders motivate by defining the task to his followers—the task may be to fight or to withdraw; it may be to buy additional time or merely to demonstrate the urgency of the moment—leaders elevate the discussion. From Moses, Julius Caesar to King George and Obama, great leaders understood the importance of communication. It is the art of leadership; it is sine qua non of leadership, period!
When Jonathan refused to address Nigerians on the plight of over 270 innocent girls abducted from the chest of their mothers, Jonathan violated the cardinal rule of leadership. Security of Nigerians, both old and young, remains the lowest common denominator of the office Jonathan sought and holds. The how or who employed Jonathan is irrelevant—how he got elected becomes immaterial, what he does with the office is the only remaining factor once he assumed the office. Our children—regardless of where they come from or their parents’ status in life, religion or lack thereof, are too important to compromise.
Jonathan’s lukewarm speech to the nation at the heels of international and domestic campaigns and the statement of John Kerry, the US Foreign Secretary, on Saturday, May 3, 2014 is uncomforting, unfocused and unconscionable. That the President waited for three weeks to speak to the nation after more than 270 young innocent school girls were kidnapped from their mothers and the heart of Nigeria was criminal. And, to use his lukewarm speech to attack the parents of the girls for non-cooperation, when his government had done nothing to rescue these girls is callous. Nigeria deserves better.
Patience Jonathan, the First Lady’s mastery of English Language besides the point—the hypocrisy of her tears and sheer arrogance of her speech, on the other hand, invite scrutiny of the makeup of the presidency. Who were her handlers and advisers, and did the president know she was going to conduct a press conference at the Presidential Villa? Was she exercising any independent executive role as a First Lady? The embarrassment she brought on herself, deserving, most Nigerians will argue, was a further testament of all that is wrong with the current administration. That she expected some of the mothers of the 270 school girls kidnapped from a school in a remote village 700 miles away from Abuja to meet her in the comfort of the Presidential Villa defiled commonsense and empathy. Nigeria deserves better.
Promises of government’s commitment to rescue the school girls lack credibility and are hollow, especially when the Presidency does not know the number or identity of the kidnapped school girls after more than 4 weeks. How the presidency expects to gather actionable intelligence on the identity and number of the school children when it has refused to leave Abuja is simply incomprehensible. Jonathan’s government has repeatedly assured Nigerians that there were efforts to stop Boko Haram after each attack, and yet, Nigerians are still in the dark as to what the presidency is doing or has done to stop this group. You do not solve problems by sticking your head in the sand. There is a currency of credibility that ought to be sacrosanct between a government and the governed—because, it is a measure of government. Jonathan’s government has devalued this currency of credibility and lost all values.