Between the Chief and the President
The last ASUU strike lasted for eight months, between February 2022 to October 2022. But for the intervention of the National Assembly (NASS), specifically the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, it could have lasted much longer. His intervention played a pivotal role in resolving the issue. It was the first time the National Assembly was involved in the negotiations between the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) and the Federal Government. Gbajabiamila’s intervention proved to be significant, leading to the eventual end of the strike.
More recently, the Speaker helped to negotiate a truce between the FG and organized Labour, particularly the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC). Unlike the ASUU strike, Gbajabiamila’s intervention in this situation helped to avert a strike action by the NLC. His calm demeanour and excellent negotiating skills were instrumental in preventing further disruptions to the country’s labour sector. This came on the back of President Bola Tinubu getting the Joint Health Sector Union (JOHESU) to get back to work after their strike which had lasted a week.
These efforts demonstrate Gbajabiamila’s ability to handle complex negotiations and resolve conflict, not to mention the fact as the Speaker of the House of Representatives, he is required to entertain varied interests not just as a need to get the job done but also to ensure he enjoys the trust and respect of his colleagues in the House. He excelled at this till the end of his valedictory session in the House on Wednesday, 7th June. These skills and values are valuable assets for when he assumes the role of the President’s Chief of Staff in five days.
A consistently missing element when it comes to governance in Nigeria is most governments across the three tiers not showing enough care for the day-to-day challenges of ordinary citizens. Any parent would be concerned if their children stayed home for a full academic session when they ought to be in school. There is the general belief that public servants would do more to prevent such strikes if they had their own children in public schools. However, true leadership requires a devotion to service that goes beyond personal interests. Leaders must focus on delivering solutions and addressing the needs of the people they serve.
Our institutions are still evolving, as evidenced by the conflict between the officials of the Department of State Services (DSS) and the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) just a night after the new administration was inaugurated. That action looked like a flash test for the new administration to demonstrate its mettle. It immediately intervened in the matter. The ideal would be that such issues never arise in the first place, the next best thing to that would be to see them nipped in the bud immediately. The government’s intervention stands in stark contrast to past situations as controversies like that have dragged as though the country was a village without a head.
It is early days at this point, so one cannot say these levels of effectiveness would be the norm but seeing as, if they had failed to act or act promptly, they would have been handed knocks for missing the ball early, it is only fair to at least recognize the reverse.
My secondary school principal used to ring it in our then small heads, ‘morning makes the day just as childhood makes manhood,’ as his way of letting us know it was not too early in life to get our act together. It was also his way of letting us know that our actions at the time would have effects on our lives as adults. In a race, whether a sprint or marathon, a great start is a telling advantage for finishing well. A great start does not guarantee a great finish, but every athlete would choose to start great if you handed them a choice. Because starting great has a positive effect on the rest of the race.
Unlike an athletic race, leading a country consists of many moving parts. It is a complex problem that presents itself as a myriad of complex problems. Success depends largely on delegating responsibilities and prioritizing resources. Irrespective of how limited such resources or how many such moving parts, success depends on how much the leader cares for the people they are leading. Mind that these are not just a collection of people cheering you on, often, they are a mix of people with varied intentions. This ranges from steadfast support to unwarranted criticism and the middle grounders, those who will react only according to what they perceive to be good or bad, wrong or right. Leadership consists in delivering the goods of governance to all parties.
Many Nigerians have lost faith in the idea of Nigeria. This is reflected by the japa — escape from Nigeria — syndrome and the fact more Nigerians who can vote are refusing to vote. There is a lot of work to be done and it really must start with seeing the challenge for what it is; an unprecedented one. If everything or most things worked, Nigerians would rather live in Nigeria. Matter of fact, just by guaranteeing the safety of lives and properties and making power available, you would attract a lot of our citizens back home. A lot of those who left Nigeria did so more to enjoy the basic things of life that even the fact they were earning enough money here could not guarantee them; the need to be alive for starters.
This is the Nigeria that was inherited by President Bola Tinubu. In his choice of Chief of Staff, the president picked a man who always made sure to stay plugged to the voice of the street and the yearnings of the people. That unhindered access to what the people want and are saying will prove more than useful against the negative moderating effects of Aso Rock and its sound-proof walls.