By; SEGUN OLATUNJI
President Muhammadu Buhari’s allergy to the defining use of the bully pulpit, power of incumbency, is confounding. In some instances, he is hyper-caffeinated in applying the bully pulpit; in others, he is missing in action; in some, he is lukewarm.
The more one peruses his varied deportments to his seldom use of the power of incumbency, the more perplexed one is. Sometimes, one is lost, exasperated, elated or deflated by his actions when he could have used the power of incumbency to make decisive and positive stances beneficial to his party or the country.
All over the globe, the executives avail the power of incumbency to better the lots of their political parties during electioneering periods and deploy the bully pulpit to make strategic difference in motivating citizenry to lofty heights.
President JF Kennedy promised to land Americans on the moon within a decade. This task was consummated in less than a decade.
He stimulated industry, patriotism, and endurance from the Americans when, he said, “think about what you can do for your country, not what your country can do for you.”
The president stirred unbridled spirit of capitalism in Americans that sparked the United States’ industrial domination of the world in the 60’s to 80’s.
After Nelson Mandela’s release from twenty-seven years of imprisonment, he assuaged the burning desire of the blacks for revenge against centuries of dehumanization of the blacks by the whites which had brought the two races to the precipice of civil war, especially during the assassination of Hanini, the leader of the military wing of the ANC.
He continued to avail the bully pulpit to defuse racial hostility during his presidency. The central piece of his message was that if he sacrificed almost 30 years of his life in vassalage for racial equality, he would not apostate his convictions in freedom or in presidency. Nevertheless, Nelson Mandela did not leave any stone unturned in campaigning for ANC, its members and his successor, President Mbeki. Mandela did not proclaim that he would let the people vote for their choice in any election ANC member was a candidate.
Once a president utters that the people should pick their candidates in elections in which his or her party members are candidates, such president has lost the moral compass to lead his or her party, and without a doubt, has bastardized the notion of party supremacy. In short, it is a gross showcasing of party politics benightedness, a brazen exhibition of insensitivity, selfishness and a false sense of security. PMB needs to be aware that you do not bite the fingers that fed you and you do not disrespect people that were there for you on your way up; you may need them on your way down.
Although no leader possesses in superlative degrees all the attributes of a prototypical leader itemized in various textbooks, the pertinence of the presidency to render advice to the president without intimidation, blandishment or dishonesty on timely basis cannot be hyperbolized.
The deficiencies of the president in some of the leadership traits can be compensated by the sound caliber of his advisers, ministers, chief of staff and other members of his inner circle.
Most Nigerians, including this writer, believe that PMB, is patriotic, charismatic, confident, accountable, transparent, resolute and trustworthy while he is wanting in areas of inspiration, communication, and empowerment.
This proves the point that Buhari is underutilizing the bully pulpit to galvanize Nigerians to higher levels, greater dreams and sense of purpose beyond the ordinary. Since PMB is found deficient in these departments of leadership, it behooves his aides to step up to the plate by un-bashfully proffering advice on how to avail the bully pulpit to inspire the citizenry to lofty ideas.
Even the presidency can vicariously pontificate with clarity of purpose on behalf of the president on what his goals for these country are and how we can collectively work towards their accomplishments. It is one thing to advise the president; it is another for him to be receptive to issues that he should employ the bully pulpit to change the mediocre mentality of Nigerians. Such intangible use of the bully pulpit could result in epoch-changing attitude with consequential results.
But the prevailing tepid attitude of PMB towards the visionary use of the bully pulpit is disconcerting to his party and the nation to say the least, especially for someone who should be concerned about his legacy at this point. His reticence on critical issues rocking his party and the nation is deafening.
He should have displayed stern stances that would have been points of reference for future generations just as JF Kennedy used the bully pulpit to frame the aspirations of the United States and Nelson Mandela employed it to edify humanity on racial tolerance.
Apart from depending mostly on military force to end the internecine conflicts between the Fulani headsmen and middle belt dwellers, PMB could have relied on his integrity and authority to blame the headsmen, just like US Presidents JF Kennedy and Johnson did during the school integration in the sixties holding the white Americans responsible for racism. Despite the foreseeable desertion of the Democratic Party in the South, President Johnson used the bully pulpit to convince the democrats to rally round his sweeping civil rights reforms that changed United States for good, and this singular act of courage and principle enabled the emergence of President Obama.
PMB’s failure to be fair and objective on ethnic conflicts that involve the herdsmen has diminished his legacy as someone who cannot purge himself of his ethnic and sectional sentiments. A rare opportunity to rise above tribal sentiments is missing for a president who is supposed to be for all Nigerians.
The golden opportunity of availing the bully pulpit to halt the insane killings is not totally lost because the carnage still continues; more so, PMB does not need to canvass for a third term.
Recently, Senator Lawan was hallucinating about a third term for Buhari. The president was mute on such verbal diarrhea. That should have been an opportunity for the president or the presidency to lecture Nigerians on the sacrosanct of our Constitution, that nobody is more important than our Constitution to deserve a third term; nobody should ever engage in such recklessness: serious or play. Not only is it sacrilegious to even talk of a third term for any president, it should be made a treasonable offence.
Nobody questions the integrity of the president, however, if someone absconds from one party to APC to seek refuge from prosecution for corruption, the president’s silence is not golden.
Again, the reliance on the bully pulpit to paint sameness of prosecution of corrupt public officials irrespective of party affiliations would have been soothing to the citizenry. May I remind the president that his second term has bestowed on him the chance to correct his aloofness that smeared his first term.
Buhari’s assertion that he did not want to campaign for members of his political party because he did not want to give an appearance of interfering with elections belied internal democracy of APC, degraded the basic pillar of democracy—electioneering—and made a mockery of politics.
There is no electoral malpractice committed when a president avails the bully pulpit to canvass votes for members of his political party. In states where the gubernatorial contests were close—Sokoto, Bauchi, Adamawa and Kano—Buhari physical and/or verbal canvassing for votes would have won these close races for his party members.
His aloofness from the aforementioned inconclusive elections adumbrates selfishness, arrogance, shortsightedness and anti-party activity. The abandoned politicians hosted and campaigned for PMB during the presidential electioneering, only to be discarded when his help was needed most.
With the victory of PDP in the three states—Bauchi, Sokoto and Adamawa—he has dimed the chances of his party in these states in 2023. All over the world, a popular president or prime minister always parlays his popularity to elevate his or her party members into electoral victories. What PMB did defies any copula. His anti-party behavior is akin to a general waving a white flag when he was on the verge of victory or leading his troop into a predictable and avoidable ambush.
His bully-pulpit aversion is not only noxious to his party but also detrimental to the running of the country. Becoming bully-pulpit friendly is vital to the birthing of a vibrant kaleidoscope for optimisms, breakthroughs, growths and socio-economic transformation of Nigerians and Nigeria.
Therefore, he has to exorcise himself of the cancerous aversion to the bully pulpit. After all, constructive engagement of the bully pulpit is the essence of great leaders.