BY Dele Sobawale

“Leadership is always somewhat mysterious. Leadership can be summed up in two words: intelligence and integrity…” US Congressman John Brademas. 
National leadership was never easy at any time in history. In the Age of Internet, aspiring to leadership amounts to undressing yourself and family in public.
There is virtually no secret that publicly self-exposed persons and celebrities can now regard as safe. Internet and social media reveal everything from head to the soles of the feet.
Few leaders, who enter top offices with high ratings for honesty and integrity, leave with their reputations intact. They would have been running a perilous race even if they are saints and social media publishes only established facts about people.
The risk is higher when, being human, they actually falter; leave incontrovertible evidence of their lack of honesty or integrity.  
Today, we summarise the Rise and Fall of ‘Mr Integrity’ in Nigeria.
“Hypocrisy is the homage vice pays to virtue.”
De La Rouchefoucauld, 1613-1680VANGUARD BOOK OF QUOTATIONS,VBQ p 96. 
No nation can be great if it never produced a great leader. South Africa has produced the only great African and global leader ever. Nigeria has produced various degrees of failures. Invariably, the reasons for these tragedies can be reduced to the four words listed above.
As we enter the last phase of another chapter in our history, we can quickly summarise why we are in a terrible mess now. Like all the other tragedies that have befallen us, it all started with hypocrisy; somebody saying something while out of office and doing something else when finally elected to office.
Let me serve a few examples. A presidential candidate, PC, of three political parties, in 2007, 2010 and 2014, carpeted Presidents Obasanjo, Yar’Adua and Jonathan for what he regarded as bad examples of leadership.
First, they all maintained a Presidential fleet of planes larger than those of most domestic airlines. To PC, this was insensitive and a colossal waste of funds in a poor country. They should get rid of them.  I agreed with him; because I checked and discovered that the Presidents and Prime Ministers of twelve of the largest economies in the world operate no more than three crafts – one long range, one short range and one helicopter.
What was the Nigerian Head of State doing with ten? I was not the only one.
Millions of Nigerians must have thought that, at last, we have someone who can truly lead us by cutting extravagant waste from the top. 
On May 29, 2015, the former candidate became President. I waited for the first Presidential order – “Get rid of those planes” or “Reduce the size of the Presidential fleet”. It never came.
An honest man is the noblest work of God.” Alexander Pope, 1688-1744 
The real test of honesty, in my view, is money. How someone handles large sums of money placed in his care, beyond his wildest dreams, is what defines him as an honest man. The first element, in that regard, is transparency. 
PC never hid his contempt, which again I shared, for leaders who left their health sector in shambles and went abroad for their own treatment with their families.
Three examples furnished him with the opportunities to tell Nigerians what he will do – if given a chance to lead.
Mrs Stella Obasanjo passed on in a foreign hospital; Ex-President Yar’Adua went to Germany first; and then to Saudi before the curtain call and Mrs Jonathan disappeared and re-appeared after spending about six months in a foreign hospital.
In each case, undisclosed sums of public money were spent by “public servants” taking liberties with their bosses’ money.
PC had an answer for Nigerians. As the PC of another party in 2014, he ran his campaign on a promise “to increase the quality of all Federal Government owned hospitals to world class standard within five years.
Invest in cutting edge technology such as tele-medicine…” That was his promise to Nigerians. Implied in that promise was another one: with world class FG-owned hospitals, all over Nigeria, nobody in government, or Nigeria, would need to go abroad for treatment. 
We are all witnesses to what has been happening since 2015. At least three disclosed trips abroad for treatment by the man who railed against such things have been taken so far. Nobody is telling Nigerians how much of our money had gone to enrich foreign doctors and hospitals. As for the FG’s world class hospitals, which exist only on paper, they should remind all of us that “You cannot adopt politics as a profession and be honest.”(Louis Howe, 1871-1936). 
INTEGRITY AND LEADERSHIP “Don’t say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.” Ralph W Emerson, 1803-1882.
Character is the perfect synonym for integrity. Out of power, PC was regarded as Mr Integrity. Subscribing to that brand image made it possible for me to forgive a multitude of disturbing attributes; and to go on the campaign trail. His denunciation of people flaunting wealth of unknown origin struck a strong cord in my brain; as millions of Fellow Nigerians.
With him in office, we will at least have a leader who would not rub our faces in cow manure. One wedding finally lifted whatever remained of the veil from our eyes. Internet and social media despite their negative aspects have told us all we need to know about the man.
What might arguably be called The Wedding of the Year rubbished two attributes hitherto associated with Mr Integrity. He was presented as a frugal person; not given to extravagant spending. The report, not refuted, of GSM sets costing N500,000 being doled out to invitees, many of who already have gold-plated sets, buried the claim to Spartan life. 
The newly-weds met, not in a Nigeria university, but in far away Surrey, United Kingdom. Now, we know why he doesn’t give a dam about doctors’ and ASUU’s strikes.
He and his family have nothing to lose if they last for ever. In fact, all Nigerian schools can be closed and they will still not be affected in any way. And multiple employment opportunities are waiting for them on graduation.
Why should the parents worry if there are youths still unemployed six or seven years after graduation? To summarise, we now know that it is easy to criticise. It is easy to be courageous when danger is far away; to be generous when there is nothing to give; to be honest when you are not entrusted with trillions of other peoples’ funds; and to be frugal when you are poor.
A man’s true character is revealed when he is tested with great wealth and he has absolute power to indulge himself in extravagance or not. All the criticisms of predecessors were made, not based on principle, but, on envy. We know that now. No great nation can emerge under such leadership.
“Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calumny.” William Shakespeare, 1564-1616, VBQ p 25.
I read Chief Clarke’s advertorial in VANGUARD of September 6, 2021 – disclaiming any association with a company which allegedly collected N3 billion for an abandoned project. Tears came to my eyes. Who on earth wants to defame a 94-years old patriot? I knew the authors were lying. ON September 8,  the owners of the company advertised in VANGUARD to exonerate Pa Clarke. 
Dear Pa Clarke, please forgive them – even though they knew what they were doing. They should pray to reach old age; so younger people will rubbish them.
P.S. Those of us who have been against the Federal Government’s attempt to curtail social media are distressed when confronted with this sort of example. People like these give social media a bad name. They need to be fished out. Today, it is Chief Clarke; tomorrow, it could be you or me.
The author, Dele Sobowale


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