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PMB:When Leaders Leave, They Leave Behind a Legacy

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By Bala Ibrahim.

My article today was triggered by three trending videos on the social media, the expected errands contained in them, and the rejoinder they received from some people, including yours truly. One of the videos featured Mr. Femi Adesina, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Media Adviser, emphasizing the emotional enigma that would ensue or emerge, after the departure of his principal, whom he once described in his article as, a ‘kind bully’ who is ready to knock sense into stubborn heads and whip everyone into line.

The other two videos came from Kano, with one being a vox pop, or informal comments from some disgruntled members of the public, casting aspersion on President Muhammadu Buhari, and the second, featuring a popular member of the defunct CPC and former Senator from the State, corroborating the vilification on the same President Muhammadu Buhari.

Instead of me going into a rapid and irrational riposte, I chose to go philosophical, by remembering John Maxwell, the expert author and speaker in the field of leadership, and his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership. Maxwell asked, “What do you want people to say at your funeral when you died?” And he answered with the concept of the Law of Legacy. The law of LEGACY says: “a leader’s lasting value is measured by succession.” Viz: As much as we try to avoid thinking about it, our time on earth is limited. When you’re gone, how will people remember you? At your funeral, people shouldn’t have to guess about the kind of life you lead or the legacy you left behind—what you stood for should be obvious from your actions in life.

With President Muhammadu Buhari, a dictator turned democrat, a soldier that had risen from one star officer to a two star General, having refused to follow the convention of automatically elevating himself to four star General on becming the Head of state, a former Governor of combined four states, former minister of petroleum, former Head of state, former chairman of the PTF, the richest parastatal ever in Nigeria, and currently a second term democratically elected President, he has virtually done everything that is the ambition of everyone in Nigeria. What remains for him is how to respond to Maxwell’s concept of the Law of Legacy. What would people say on his departure, about what he stood for?

Virtually everyone, including the respected “retired” Senator from Kano, couldn’t point an accusing finger on the reputation or integrity of Buhari as a person or a President. He is adjudged clinically clean here. The convergence of consensus against Buhari is his refusal to play, or go in line with the usual business as usual template. His critics want him to change in their selfish favour, despite the ongoing or unchanging state of affairs, that is inflicting injury and difficulties on a country that was nearly brought to it’s knees by nepotism and corruption.

But that is their opinion, which democracy permits and upholds. At variance with their views, is the view of some, including Nigeria’s Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, who recently opined that, President Muhammadu Buhari is easily the most popular and most credible politician in Nigeria, as he pulls more crowd than notable politicians such as Nnamdi Azikiwe, Obafemi Awolowo and Aminu Kano put together.

This again underscores the imperative of PMB thinking more about the legacy he would leave behind, and not the censure of his critics. A friend, a retired Air force General, sent to me the eulogy of late General Colin Powell, written by former US President Barack Obama. I see some similarities in Buhari and Powell, particularly when it comes to the issue of solving national problems, and I felt obliged to share the eulogy with you:

“Years ago, when he was asked to reflect on his own life, General Colin Powell described himself as “first and foremost a problem-solver.” It was true, of course. But he was far more than that.

General Powell was an exemplary soldier and an exemplary patriot. He was at the center of some of the most consequential events of our lifetimes – serving two decorated tours in Vietnam; guiding U.S. strategy in the Gulf War; serving as National Security Advisor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of State; offering counsel to four presidents; and helping shape American foreign policy for decades. Everyone who worked with General Powell appreciated his clarity of thought, insistence on seeing all sides, and ability to execute. And although he’d be the first to acknowledge that he didn’t get every call right, his actions reflected what he believed was best for America and the people he served.

Along the way, General Powell helped a generation of young people set their sights higher. He never denied the role that race played in his own life and in our society more broadly. But he also refused to accept that race would limit his dreams, and through his steady and principled leadership, helped pave the way for so many who would follow. It was the way Colin Powell saw the world – not as a starry-eyed idealist, but as someone with deep and abiding faith in this country and what it stands for – that made him such a central figure.

On a personal level, I was deeply appreciative that someone like General Powell, who had been associated with Republican administrations in the past, was willing to endorse me in 2008. But what impressed me even more was how he did it. At a time when conspiracy theories were swirling, with some questioning my faith, General Powell took the opportunity to get to the heart of the matter in a way only he could.

“The correct answer is, he is not a Muslim; he’s a Christian,” General Powell said. “But the really right answer is, ‘What if he is?’ Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president?”

That’s who Colin Powell was. He understood what was best in this country, and tried to bring his own life, career, and public statements in line with that ideal. It’s why, for all the battles he fought and problems he solved, Michelle and I will always look to General Powell as an example of what America – and Americans – can and should be if we wish to remain the last, best hope of earth.

Our family sends our thoughts to Alma, their three children and grandchildren, and everyone mourning his loss today”-Barack Obama October 18th, 2021.

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