Friday, July 13, 2018 7:22 am
By Olawale Olaleye
Away from the recent show of shame in Ekiti State, the opportunity to pass a vital leadership lesson was lost in that inauspicious occasion. It is therefore important that Governor Ayodele Fayose’s attention is drawn to this leadership hara-kiri, in a language he most definitely understands.
In 2008, when the late Madiba, Nelson Mandela turned 90 years, a former Managing Director of Time Magazine, Richard Stengel, a close but younger friend of Mandela, did a piece in commemoration of that milestone, where he articulated some eight leadership lessons of Mandela. I find the first lesson: “Courage is not the absence of fear – it’s inspiring others to move beyond it” profound and instructive.
He recalled that in 1994, he had gone with Mandela to campaign in the killing field of Natal, preparatory to his election as President of South Africa. Some 20 minutes from landing, one of the engines of their plane, a tiny propeller jet, failed. Some of those on the plane naturally began to fret, but the only thing that calmed them was Mandela’s demeanor. He was unfazed as he quietly read his newspaper.
Notified ahead, the airport had prepared for an emergency landing, and the pilot managed to land the plane safely. When Mandela and Stengel got in the backseat of his bulletproof BMW, which took them to the rally, Madiba turned to Stengel and said, “Man, I was terrified up there!”
Truth is Mandela was human and often afraid too, when confronted with difficult situations. During his time underground, the Rivonia trial that led to his imprisonment and his time on Robben Island, he worried as much as those who were concerned about him.
“Of course, I was afraid. I can’t pretend that I’m brave and that I can beat the whole world. But as a leader, you cannot let people know. You must put up a front,” he told a stunned Stengel.
I posted a video of Collin Powel, a retired four-star general and former US Secretary of State a few days ago, where he spoke about essential leadership and one of the things he identified was putting up front particularly as a military officer, who must never let his battalion down. If he was hungry or afraid, he could not show it, because many looked up to him, more so out of curiosity, he said.
A few months ago, I was stuck in an elevator with the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi at a prominent Lagos hotel. The malfunctioning elevator had taken us to the basement, where network was zero – no signal at all. After about 13 minutes in that ‘dungeon’ surrounded by concrete bricks only, the elevator became stifling with about 10 of us in there and I started to panic.
Of course, we later found help. But all through, Amaechi was calm and was rather pondering options. Days after, someone tried to make jest of me and quickly, Amaechi shut him up and explained that he too was worried but had to offer leadership at that time, because had help not come when it did (and thanks to me for finding service through which we reached out), we could die of suffocation. We were already sweating bad.
Fayose failed many of his supporters and admirers. It would be difficult for anyone to still stick out their neck for him any longer. If a whole governor, an Irumole (a deity), who admonishes his people to dare oppression and go all out to confront their fears, could weep shamelessly on national television, then, it would be OYO for whoever takes heed of his prodding.
In a second thought, however, you may pardon him because his trajectory in life does not show he has any history of profound struggle. It is not the same as being a deviant or taking liberty at constituting nuisance at every stop.
For me, that’s not how to lead. Fayose has left the courage of many completely debilitated and may be unable to recover from this infantile display of cowardice. I’m ashamed of him. Sad!