In politics it is often said that perception is reality. In street wisdom similarly it is said that there is no smoke without fire.
The last six months of Governor Ayade’s daring steps in effecting what in his mind must be revolutionary changes in approach to governance has left many a citizen in my view including yours sincerely sometimes bemused, sometimes confused and even disappointed.
The reasons must be multi fold. But before I attempt to deconstruct my attempt at making sense of it all, let me ask: in your view is there a willingness on the governor’s part to perform?
Is his zeal to develop the state not showing? In other words no matter your opinion of Governor Ayade and the direction of his government, don’t you think his efforts however you perceive them, are directed at achieving something positive for the state?
There is one of the modern era witticisms that circulate in the electronic media of nowadays that has attracted my sincere interest. It says: “DO NOT HATE ME BECAUSE I SIN DIFFERENTLY FROM YOU.”
For veterans in government like me, it is understandable that Governor Ayade’s approach should totally and completely shock us because this is not HOW WE KNOW THINGS TO BE DONE!
Now think again, what if in his strange approach is the key to moving forward?
What if this is actually the new initiative that can bring that desired change?
In life, whatever is new looks strange. Whatever is strange is not what we are used to. Whatever we are not used to we are skeptical about. Whatever we are skeptical about we criticise, even condemn.
What if at the end it yields results? Let us then not kill him before he grows because his approach is different from everything we are used to.
My theory may sound strange for a critic like me but I have had to ask myself the questions I am posing here so that I trace a more positive line out of the confusion I feel about it all. To paraphrase a great thinker: When the world asks us why? We should learn to ask: why not?
There is no doubt that having little public service experience especially at the Executive level, our Governor must have come into office with a head full of private sector biases and idealism that suggests that’ government can be run like business’!
It cannot! Government is government. Business is business. Make no mistake about that! The motivation of both is diametrically opposed to one another.
Government is service, business is for profit. What you measure as the bottom line in government is how well the people feel served. I deliberately say ‘feel’ because it is that PERCEPTION that is critical to your acceptance and acceptability.
That perception can be managed or mismanaged but as we say in Law, you cannot put something on nothing! That is a topic for another day. What I have said here is not new but putting it into practice is demanding.
While saying we should be a little more patient with Governor Ayade, I want to however advise that it is a critical lesson in contemporary approach to development that change must be managed carefully and should not come too suddenly.
In other words for change to be acceptable it must come gradually. If change, no matter how well -intentioned is not managed properly and graduated, it will not happen because change by its very nature must be resisted.
If it is too much too sudden the resistance will win and the leader will be put in the most uncomfortable position to reverse himself which most leaders hate to do and sooner than later slide into bullies and autocrats unconsciously.
Furthermore, to effect a paradigm shift in development approach requires a stakeholder buy-in.
This may sound like modern day business language but it represents another critical element in modern management that cuts across both private and public sectors.
The people for whom you want to bring development must accept that what you are bringing is good for them; is what they need. They must buy into your vision for them as a leader.
Gone are the days when government decided what was good for the people, when and in what measure!
While it is the responsibility of a leader to envision a better future for his people, he must carry the people along in this vision for him to succeed in their PERCEPTION.
Let me demonstrate with Ayade’s signature project, the Superhighway, Good as it sounds, as things stand now, if by 2018 the road has not finished, as it won’t, nobody will accept that it is a worthwhile venture and that may affect his poll numbers negatively because the opposition will use it against him because the road will not be use able until completion.
On the other hand Donald Duke could easily have won Nigeria’s Presidency riding on the vision of Tinapa. The entire country bought into that vision, a vision of a Dubai next door!
Forget that critical elements of Tinapa were completed during Liyel Imoke’s regime! For a politician therefore, a buy in is critical for his bottom line! Otherwise the crisis of confidence between the Governor and the people of his state will only get worse. That goes for all programmes and projects. I used the Superhighway only as an example.
Let nobody sell me that garbage about not caring as long as you have brought development as Ayade’s media boys may echo their master. The truth is that every politician cares!
We all desire acceptability like a business man craves a green bottom line! It is when we face resistance and lack an appropriate response that “I don’t care what the people say” begins to sound like an appropriate response.
His handlers must step up their game or sooner than later be shipped out. It’s beyond echoing the master. It’s about adding value to him.
What I see is that Governor Ayade is risking everything he has to his name to create what he believes sincerely to be a new vision for Cross River State but lacks the critical combination of patience, humility and an ability to work within the public Administrative set up carefully to drive his vision home to the chagrin of all.
If he must succeed, he must retrace his steps carefully, sooner than later, and apply additional thinking to score both for himself and the State what that vision entails.
He must play critical politics to achieve that vision because he is at this critical point in the wrong party and at the wrong time!
Even in Heaven we are reminded that there is politics. If in doubt ask Lucifer!