A Leader is meant to lead people not lid them. When you lead people, you show them the way to go, you lead them in the right path. When you lid people, you block their way and act as an obstacle to their aspirations as a people.
Because Nigeria has been led for decades by alpha male personalities who use force rather than persuasive reasoning to get their way, our understanding of what leadership is has been tainted by our experience (or ordeal) under these leaders.
The above epiphany came to me as I read the words of Tokunbo Aromolaran, Managing Director of Hyundai Motors Nigeria, as he presented the first made in Nigeria Hyundai cars fresh off his plant.
He said: “We are glad to inform Nigerians that we have delivered on our promise to make available affordably priced vehicles – thanks to strong-willed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan.”
Truer words have rarely been spoken.
President Jonathan is indeed a strong willed leader. His strength is in his will not in his arms. A strong willed leader will always achieve more than a leader who strong arms people.
The adage says where there is a will there is a way. A strong willed leader can always find a way to achieve what he wants without strong arming people.
Unfortunately, our experience with leaders who use strong arm tactics is that whenever the strong arm is gone, all that the leader thought he had achieved goes with him!
Why? Because you can force a horse to the stream but you cannot force it to drink!
The political class has confused rulers for leaders. They think a ruler is a leader. They think a ruler is powerful. But if I have to make you do the things I want you to do by using brute force or by leveling all opposition, am I really powerful? Am I not just borrowing strength from the office I hold?
Could this be the reason why many dictators world wide lose their influence as soon as they are stripped off power? Because their strength comes from their office and the men with guns they control and not from anything that is intrinsically domiciled in them.
These men are not leaders. They are lidders. Their language is dominated by what you cannot do rather than what you can do.
A true leader is defined by his ability to influence the public without the use or threat of force. Influence is the ability to persuade someone to think or act in the way you want.
Let me give my readers an example of the power of an influential leader.
Nigeria is no stranger to Confabs. We have had them aplenty! But one characteristic which they have hitherto had is that their agenda was set by the strongman in power.
This was predicated on the fear that if you allow Nigerians talk without strong arming them, it will lead to the break up of the country.
But last year, a curious thing happened. President Jonathan was secure enough to listen to the yearnings of Nigerians for a National Conference and he convoked one. But the curious thing about this particular conference is that there was no agenda from the government other than 'come and talk'.
The Conference was given the freedom to set its own agenda. Nigerians were allowed to talk without limitations.
And what was the result?
This Conference has ended without Nigeria breaking up and for the first time, there has been an agreement and concord amongst Nigerians on the way forward shaming those who thought that the National Conference would end in confusion and be an exercise in futility like others before it.
The success of this Conference is a vindication that what Nigeria needs is a Leader not a Lidder. An Omega personality that combined the best of Alpha and Beta characteristics rather than an Alpha male whose ego must be constantly massaged as a personality cult.
And quite frankly, we are seeing a critical mass of people who are seeing the paradigm shift taking place within the leadership of Nigeria and they are voting with their feet.
President Jonathan's personality, his humility, his approachability and his tendency to connect with people rather than always correcting them is drawing more and more of the leading lights of the opposition and depleting their intellectual base as well as their grass roots support.
The question is why is this happening?
A wise man said you can't purchase loyalty. You have to earn it.
The perception in politics is that the higher up the mountain, the more treacherous the path. This has proven to be true amongst those opposed to President Jonathan as the scrambling for positioning has exposed character flaws that shows the true nature of people who have worn a mask before the public hitherto.
They had previously hoodwinked credible people with integrity, such as Malam Nuhu Ribadu. But it did not take too long for the scales to fall from their eyes.
Having been so disappointed, their leading lights are looking again at President Jonathan, the only man who says 'read my lips' and follows through with it.
President Jonathan, from my close observation, is always looking for ways to build new friendships and strengthen the ones that already exist.
This was very evident during the finale of the Celebration of Nigeria's Centenerary at the banquet hall of the Presidential Villa in Abuja on Friday the 28th of February, 2014.
For the first time in my own memory, all former Presidents and heads of government of Nigeria united with President Goodluck Jonathan.
Who could have pulled such a feat but a leader. He gathered leaders and those who toppled them from power and those who toppled the topplers and brought them under the same roof in unity of purpose for the advancement of Nigeria!
President Jonathan was able to do this because it is clear to all Nigerians that this is not a man whose ambition blinds his conscience. He is able to see the big picture because he does not consider himself the big picture. I can authoritatively say that President Goodluck Jonathan sees himself as a pen in the hand of God. That is his situation today and his ambition for.
Ambition is a good thing but over ambition can cloud the mind, yet a man who understands that all power comes from God is in a good place, a place of conscience, a place that clears your mind and your judgment.
At exactly six minutes paston the 25th of November, 2011 President Jonathan gave the following challenge "I was loyal to my leader, the late great President Umaru Yar’adua. I am loyal to Nigeria, I don’t claim to represent North, South or a Committee-I represent Nigeria. I am loyal to Nigeria’s economy, I don’t have accounts or property abroad, ALL my children live and school in Nigeria. I am loyal to my wife and friends. Can those who accuse me say the same?"
Today, three years after he gave this challenge, those who accuse him have yet to take him on.
That again shows the difference between a Leader and a Lidder.
Great leaders don't focus only on the lessons of history. They give it due thought, but their focus is on forging history.
President Jonathan has and is forging history by being the leader who trim tabs a nation and helps the citizens tie themselves not to their history but to their potential.
President Jonathan leads by influencing people not by forcing people.
This is the reason why the whole world is applauding Nigeria's response to the Ebola Virus Disease. Though the disease was brought to us by an American citizen who flew in from Liberia, we have not engaged in a blame game. Rather, Nigeria under President Jonathan has set in motion a National Emergency that has contained the disease.
The President himself went on National Television to show leadership by using a hand sanitizer. Nigeria is now rolling Ebola Virus Disease back such that quarantined people are recovering and being discharged.
Imagine the result if the President had come on National Television and rather than show leadership by demonstrating simple hygiene habits to people he began to make threats to deal with anyone whose actions causes the spread of the Ebola Virus Disease!
If he had done so, this present spirit of cooperation amongst the Federal Government, the state governments and the Nigerian people would not have been there. What we would have had in its place would have been fear. And fear breads ignorance and ignorance breeds hysteria and hysteria would have caused the disease to spread the more.
In big things or little things, we should never under estimate the big difference that a Leader can make.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant to the President on New Media.