Guest Columnist

Political Leadership in Nigeria: Between Intelligence and Power Wielding Ability

By Roman Oseghale.

‘Franklin Roosevelt was a great leader. He saw how to use the levers of power to affect change’ -Pete du Pont

What sets a leader apart is not the power he has but rather the will, wisdom and maturity to use the power. But that he has the will, wisdom and maturity to use the power wisely. It is always a challenge to choose between an intelligent person who cannot wield power and a person who can wield power though with average level of intelligence.

In most corporate and political institutions, this has played up as a major challenge in decision making – sometimes leading to the collapse of an organization or institution. You cannot separate leadership from the ability to identify and appropriate the use of power. The followers must trust the use of such power, the followers must be able to identify and see clearly that it is not just enough for the leaders to exercise such powers, they must see the power as being used to protect freedom and give all people hope for the opportunity to see the fruit of their own labour.

When such powers are eventually used to protect the people, it develops into trust and such trust builds the general output of any organization or country. Trust is a critical factor between the leader and the followers, “it is a form of chemistry that cannot be explained in lay terms”, it is only explained in the submission of total will of the followers to the direction of the leader knowing and believing without doubt that his instructions represent the general interest of all.

The intelligent has almost in all cases risen to the height of an organisation or government through their ability to fashion out theoretical solutions to problems. They are quick in following some of the best models of solving challenges and problems theoretically.

They are seen as fashioning out ways to combat problems with formulas not minding the human psychology of resistance, ego, indifference and personal interest. The question has always been on the forefront, how do we pick the next leader or who do we give the leadership role within an organization or more importantly in government.

So between two people who have risen in ranks and are contending for the top job of any organization, between the very brilliant who knows the theoretical solutions but cannot wield power and the averagely intelligent who can wield power, who should the organization or country hand over the mantle of leadership. Most people recognise power as the ultimate control that the leaders at the top of the organizations or government exert from their positions as being the overall boss down the hierarchy.

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To think power starts and stops at the formal authority is the biggest mistake most organizations and governments make in picking their leaders. The leadership born from formal authority is just a title attached to an office. Without knowing the principles of power itself and how to combine it with the office and title often leads to failure with the consequences as losses borne be on the organization or government which in most times results in billions of dollars before the damage is realised.

A leader who cannot wield power can be likened to a soldier going to war without his rifle and hoping to stand before the enemy and order them to surrender. The greatest of leaders are those who with their intelligence can also wield power or those in spite of their intelligence are able to
wield power. After all, the reason some of the Fortune 500 companies and governments that have gone bankrupt or near bankrupt was not because the CEOs or government leaders were not Ivy League graduates but because they lack “the style of leadership on how to use power. The leaders and CEOs who had taken over the mantle of leadership to revive the situations” were in most cases graduates from the average universities who have trained themselves on the use of power.

There is power at every level of leadership which leaders can access but most fail to recognise them and are often underutilized. A leader might have more power within an organization or government than his subordinate, but if the subordinate wields it more effectively he might exercise more influence within that organization or government, that is the reason some junior staff are more loyal to the managers or general managers than to their CEO’s or heads of parastatals are more loyal to ministers and governors than to the presidency.

When the top job is given to the intelligent man that cannot wield power Psychology has it that people are mostly attracted to people who exhibit the traits which Roman Oseghale Political Leadership in Nigeria: Between Intelligence and Power Wielding Ability ‘Franklin Roosevelt as a great leader. He saw how to use the levers of power to affect change’ -Pete du Pont Jonathan Buhari they lack.

The danger of bestowing the top job whether in an organization or government to an intelligent man who cannot wield power is as dangerous as losing the whole treasury. With time what happens is the leader gathers around himself powerful individuals to help him exert the power which he so desires to run the organization. The intelligent in most cases is power derived from expertise, who has been elevated to power of position which often results from rising in ranks of the organization and government.

GBThey are often seen as an individual who should not be denied the position because he has worked so hard. The bitter truth is there are different levels of power and the ultimate power of any organization or government lies with the man at the very top. Very soon what starts to happen is those individuals that help him exert the power he craves for start to use it to their own advantages. Then he soon finds it difficult to confront them on any wrong doing since he needs them and their support to achieve his results – for men will always find the opportunity to better their own cause unless they find themselves under a strong leadership.

What eventually happens is the gradual breakdown of law and order as each person he relies on
building their own loyalist within the organization or government. The leader who originally lacks the power of punishment, power of charisma, and power of relationship slowly loses grip on the power of information as people shift their loyalty to the new power block within the organization or government who now exerts more influence through the maximum use of power gained from their new positions.

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To gain favor or buy back loyalty most leaders resort to the power of rewards, this is where the organization or government starts to lose money. Undue rewards is given to gain favor, and those who are paid for favor  soon become sycophants who will never tell the truth but only what the boss wants to hear and still owes their loyalty to those who still hold the influence within the organization or government.

Could this be a classic example in the case of former president Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan – a PhD holder (though allegedly not out rightly intelligent), but could not wield power?

When the top job is given to the man who can wield power though averagely intelligent. The averagely intelligent leader who has the capacity to wield power is seen as a no nonsense leader. This leader is dreaded by those who lack integrity and honesty. The leader though not the smartest person around, knows that the only way to accomplish his goals is to enlist the services of intellectuals to work with him. He knows he has full control, he knows the bulk of the work stops at his table and he will take the blame for any failure which he is always ready to own up
to. He knows his integrity is at stake and he is not ready to compromise it. He would rather push himself and his team to the limit in order to achieve their aims.

He delegates responsibilities and hold everyone accountable. He is not the mean spirited leader, he must exhibit emotional intelligence to a high degree but also make everyone understand that the results expected is the reason they are occupying their positions. Through his power of position he passes down a message that he is in charge and he is not ready to compromise that position. Those he has chosen to help lead are called to high standards because he has control over the power of punishment.

So each leader within the organization knows that there are consequences for wrong doings and are always on their toes to do what is right and to call others to the same standards. The leader exhibits such power of charisma which ultimately pulls people to him and this helps him in building an amazing influence and this influence develops into the power of relationship-people want to associate with him, not just because he is the leader but because there is a connection between them, which he has developed into a bond of loyalty.

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This bond of loyalty is the ultimate step to the power of information. Those loyal to you will always furnish you with the right information and will never withhold anything from a leader they see as representing their interest.

They know whatever they withhold will definitely affect them too in the long run. With the trust the performance becomes unconditional and both the leader and the followers give their best. There must be trust within power to get maximum performance, and with a common vision, attention is focused and it will be a natural process which will boost output and of course this allows the leader the ability to use the power of reward.

The ability to wield power by a leader ultimately affects the performance of the people within the organization or government. That is why a person can be so successful through performance under one leader and is a failure under another leader while performing the same task. Could this be the case of Dr. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala under former president Olusegun Obasanjo and under former president Goodluck Jonathan?

Roman Oseghale, Architect/CEO,
Canadian Trans-Atlantic Company, Ontario,

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