It ‘s often said that a sign of a good leader is an innate ability to recognise when something is not working, and the courage to correct it immediately – even if it means him or her administering a complete u-turn. Such is the magnitude of the Buhari administration’s about-face during the past six weeks or so.
First of all we witnessed the truly pragmatic and wise decision to put an end to fuel subsidy – a total anathema to the administration’s commendable commitment to help and provide for those at the bottom of the financial ladder. It was an act of true courage – allowing common sense to prevail over deep rooted ideologies. The simple fact of the matter is the government / nation cannot afford the subsidy bill; leading to the proverbial question – ‘where’s the money going to come from??’
Then a few days ago the CBN Governor informed us the FX market is to be liberalised – thereby allowing the markets to determine the value of the naira. On hearing the news, aside from wanting to leap for joy, I promised myself I would write an article of thanks and congratulations to the present administration.
Okay so rather than taking immediate and decisive action at the start of the year when it was blatantly obvious the economy was heading in a bleaker than bleak direction, the government nonetheless decided to lead us on a merry dance (oops! Did I say ‘merry’? Pardon me I meant ‘galling’) through the long and utterly grim valley of the shadow of economic death. But as they say, ‘better late than never!’
The above two monumental decisions speak volumes of the tenacity and humility of President Buhari and his Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo. Indeed the more I watch and listen to the Vice President the more I believe he’s a man that sincerely and diligently listens to people’s views and advice – be they pro or against.
To further buttress my point about pragmatic management / leadership, allow me to recall a Chelsea match I watched several years ago. Before proceeding I should point out that as a passionate Arsenal fan, saying complimentary things about Chelsea’s then manager Jose Mourinho is not only painful but sends the most devastating chills down my spine. So after taking a very deep breath I’ll say this as quickly as possible.
The Chelsea team of those days were known for their affinity to ensure goals were not conceded. Playing anything resembling creative or attacking football was more or less an after-thought. But despite this painfully sterile approach to the game they had an uncanny knack of scoring timely goals – usually either very early on in the game or with just seconds remaining. Such was the effectiveness of their steely defence they usually only needed one goal to win games.
During the first twenty minutes of a game against Sam Allardyce’s Bolton Wanderers (I think it was Bolton but can’t be completely sure) it was fairly obvious that Mourinho had got his tactics a little off. Not only was the Bolton team running riot down both flanks but the Chelsea team looked even more staid than usual when going forward. So what did Mourinho do? He made a double substitution in the first twenty minutes of the first half – The First Half!!! Ten minutes later Chelsea were three nil up. I had never really liked Mourinho up to that point. Actually I still don’t like him. But it was from that very moment that I started to have the utmost respect for his abilities as a superb tactician and manager; and as a result till this day I always listen to everything he has to say.
Because his actions that day sent two very clear messages.
1. A very public and fearless admission that he had fluffed his tactics
2. He had the courage, and humility I might add, to correct his mistakes immediately
The above two points are key attributes of good leadership. A good leader should never be too arrogant or proud to admit when he or she has made a mistake. Neither should he or she be too afraid to make the necessary changes.
So once again I doff my hat to both the President and Vice President. During the past six weeks they’ve shown that the government manning the oars of this potentially great nation is one that listens.
Now the FX market is liberalised we’ll see a greater inflow of foreign investments during the next few months – leading to more availability of dollars to pay for the necessary imports. Yes we want and will become a self sustained nation that imports very little, but that time is a long long way away – at least ten to fifteen years. Our agriculture, mineral, manufacturing, alternative energy, and education sectors need to develop and grow first. It will take immense planning, focus, sustained commitment, and perseverance, but we will get there. Until then we must be practical and accept that we need to import certain goods and services in order to sustain ourselves.
The other major present concern is the high level of unemployment. But in time this too will reduce. Industries, sectors / companies will start employing again once they have more confidence in the direction the economy and nation at large is going. Yes, the economic indicators may not look too encouraging, and yes they are important pointers of the nation’s health, but they too will improve as confidence grows.