Monday 18 May 2020

Nigeria: Ibrahim Gambari caught in the arrogance of indispensability

A distinguished ambassador
The appointment of Ambassador Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as the Chief of Staff to the President of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari is one of particular interest. On the matter of the appointment, he is eminently qualified and that is by the way. [Wikipedia]
I probably got a bit more acquainted with the man as a friend of mine who I met in the early 1990s was a classmate of his at the London School of Economics in the 1960s. Interestingly, this was also during the time when my father was in the UK reading accountancy.
Of my parents’ generation
My parents who are within a 5-year age range of the ambassador have had interesting and commendable careers in their different professions, my father in rose to various C-suite positions before shipping out to retirement. My mother went into education and was appointed a pioneering principal to a school that is now over 40 years in existence.
The old students’ body returns to the school to contribute to buildings, facilities and equipment, every time inviting their old principal who has been a pillar in her school community since she first took that position, in retirement, she is by no means forgotten, she is the constant guest of honour at those events and recently one class arranged a fully paid pilgrimage to Israel as thanks for her service and leadership.
My mother went on to head other schools, but the affinity the old students have towards her is unstinting and full of gratitude. I usually say to her, she has many children and for those relationships we, her blood children, are exceedingly proud.
On the side of my father, the people he has supported, mentored, tutored, advised, promoted, and recommended are innumerable, he is a community person to his bones. Many have gone one to forge enviably successful careers, he did his bit and moved on. They can still call on him for advice and guidance, but he has left the stage for the generally active life of an octogenarian in his village.
An abject failure of leadership
Now, at 75, Ambassador Gambari does have utility and usefulness, that is why he has been called upon to serve Nigeria again. However, he could have gone one better, he has had a reputable academic career and a distinguished diplomatic career, along the way he has taught and mentored people, he was recommended and brought into the diplomatic corps by others who recognised his potential, this of all times might have been one to pay it forward. [This Day – Another Testimonial on Gambari]
From his network of proteges, when the President made that phone call, it could not have been beyond the capability of the ambassador to thank the president quite gracefully, decline the opportunity and actively recommend probably two or three proteges for the role, vouching for their bona fides, qualifications, and expertise whilst giving assurances that for whatever difficulties they might encounter, he would be available to help.
Again, this is not to pull up the ambassador, but we need to address the matter of Nigerians who have been in positions of influence and in the corridors of power for up the four decades and somehow cannot find ways to call time on their service to allow others succeed them in generational capacity building that a country like Nigeria with a majority youthful population needs to launch into the future.
A gerontocracy, I observe
One could be forgiven for thinking Nigeria is hardly a democracy and closer to a gerontocracy, there are times I have wondered it is not caught in the grip of an unconscionable kakistocracy. Leaders of a certain generation marooned in the time warp of an era of bad history, fossilised somewhere in a distant past reluctant, unwilling, and impervious to considerations of the 21st Century.
Fundamentally, they are disconnected from their electorate and have failed in the basic test of leadership, which is the ability to raise other leaders to carry on their legacy. In countries around Africa, many leaders have overstayed their welcome, they have arrogated to themselves omnipotence and omniscience to the point of delusion believing no one else of their fellow countrymen can do those jobs or even do better. They think themselves indispensable and irreplaceable by anyone else.
The arrogance of indispensability is an affliction and an addiction, I hate to think the ambassador has succumbed to this unfortunate ailment.

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