“The composure of a leader is reflected in their attitude, body language and overall presence. In today’s evolving business environment, it is clear that leadership is not only about elevating the performance, aptitude and development of people – but more so about the ability to make people feel safe and secure.” – Glenn Llopis
It is such a bad time for this present government, everywhere you turn there are criticisms for one thing or another; the sad thing about most of the criticisms is that most of them are based on a factual error committed by a member of the ruling team.
The row over the missing twenty billion dollars from the coffers of the Central Bank of Nigeria is not yet over and the fuel scarcity started (mostly read to be an attempt to distract the populace from the afore-mentioned money), then the issue of the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment process that saw to the loss of as much as eighteen souls when almost five hundred thousand people gathered across the federation. You have of course the seemingly perennial threat of Boko Haram in the North-East.
Without taking any shine off the obviously more important issues listed above, I want to dissect a less threatening but quite important matter that surfaced on the same day as the NIS disasters.
The Punch of Saturday 15th of March 2014 had a front page picture showing the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria kneeling down while greeting the mother of the late President Yar’Adua. The Punch gave the picture the tag: The Kneeling President.
The picture was just wrong on so many levels. The picture showed the mother sitting on a couch with another unnamed adult while two other people were sitting by her feet. President Jonathan was the only one on his knees adjacent to the mother of late president Yar’Adua. I am sure even kids can reason out the errors in the picture.
It is protocol for the President to have an advance party when going to a place to prepare the hosts for the President’s visit. It happens all the time. This courtesy is extended to Governors as well as senior members of the Legislature. So my question will then be why nobody seemed to have prepared the hosts for the President’s visit (no matter how unplanned it maybe) which is explained by why the President may have needed to kneel. While I am not holding forth for Mr President, I do not see any arrangement for him to sit during the visit. Either, he chose to kneel or he was ‘forced’ to in the absence of a seat for him so as not to tower over the mother. The only other seat was already taken by the unnamed adult who could have (should have) vacated it for the President.
Even if the President chose to kneel down beside the mother of former boss, why was everybody else seated? Or there’s no longer any need for a show of respect for a President that they all sat gleefully watching their President ‘humble’ (or humiliate if you like) himself?
We know how much flak President Obama got for his ‘wow’ bow to the Japanese Emperor Akihito; this happening just a few years after Vice President Dick Cheney stood upright to greet the same Emperor with a firm handshake. The US State Department has a policy of not bowing to any monarchy and this has been upheld for sometime before Mr Obama, as presidential as we know him to be, bowed to the emperor and even the Saudi Arabian King Abdullah.
As much I know that we have such an uncharacteristic president, I would not lay all the blame at his feet (but we all know the buck stops at his table, don’t we? But really, does it?) because this photo gaffe is a telltale sign of the kind of protocol officers he surrounds himself with. This afterall would not be the first time our President would kneel down in front of a citizen of his country, two other ones quickly come to mind. He knelt down in front of the General Overseer of a popular Pentecostal church in the full glare of other worshippers and flashing camera lights. Last year, during his
excursion/pilgrimage to Jerusalem, he was seen kneeling down with hands being laid on him by the head of the Christian body in Nigeria and other Nigerians and foreigners alike, also in the full glare of the camera lights. In fact one foreigner actually thought Pastor Oritsejafor was the Nigerian President in his tweet afterwards!
I have learnt that when an unfortunate event happens once, it’s an accident; if twice, a coincidence but when it happens thrice, it is either a targeted enemy action or habitual misbehaviour. A chronic kneeling posture is a telltale sign of an inner subconscious frailty. That even with all the possible power, pomp and pageantry associated with an exalted office, one cannot rise above the inner workings of one’s being.
Even if the occupant of the office does not know how to compose himself in public, is that not the reason for a Chief of Staff whose sole purpose is to ensure all protocols concerning the President are duly observed in a most dignifying way? The Nigerian President deserves better, afterall he presides over one-fifth of all black people.
Maybe we should give this National Conference delegates an assignment of drafting a policy that ensures that all senior members of an elected government be allowed to go through finishing school before assuming the position for which they were elected. A Finishing School teaches social skills and cultural norms as a preparation for societal roles with most of the classes being about etiquette. Etiquette itself is defined (according to Wikipedia) as a code of behavior that delineates expectations for social behavior according to contemporary conventional norms within a society, social class, or group. We cannot keep having kneeling Presidents, prostrating Governors and nose-picking officials who cannot hold their own in front of local news editors talk less of International news correspondents.
Firm handshakes, eye contacts, mild smiles, extreme decorum, well-positioned hands during conversations, ‘mannered-talk’ are necessary courses that our public officials must be taught. If you kneel down in front of a woman of your country, what do you expect the traditional rulers to expect of you when you come visiting?
The Office of The POTFRON (or POFRON as Tolu Ogunlesi would like to call it) must not be brought into disrepute by either its occupants or the citizenry. We must have policies that prevent laying bad precedence that will haunt the future generations and or compromise negotiation abilities or power positions in world politics. We can do better, really, we can.
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