As the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole probably has the most difficult job in the country. On his hand is the task of stilling the fractious, boisterous governing party. But make no mistake, Oshiomhole is a thoroughly smart and competent guy. Yet, more than anytime, he have the need to turn to someone’s texts and works as intellectual guideposts in order to succeed. The immortal Marcus Tullius Cicero fit that bill.
Cicero was a First Century influential Roman statesman and admired orator. He was a prolific author who wrote many essays, treatises and letters dealing with how to run a government. Cicero’s political writings are an invaluable and timeless insights on leadership. His acute observations about leadership, and how to govern are are still relevant today.
Here are three quick lessons on leadership Oshiomhole can tap from this immortal philosopher:
Lesson one: Authority
Cicero offered some exhortations on the importance of authority in leadership in his book, “On Duty”, a compilation of letters he wrote to his son. “Authoritas” (or authority) is not so much the literal “authority” as we know it, but about morality and respect. He argues that it is being morally upright and being fair that ultimately makes people to follow a statesman/leader. He believes a “leader must be truly great, he must have a philosophical spirit [and] the moral goodness to which Nature most aspires. Anthony Everitt, a biographer of Cicero, pointed out that Cicero dedicated his life to restoring virtue to the various institutions he governed.
One of the sad things that have corroded our political culture is the general lack of ethics and morality. As compellingly argued by Douglas Anele in a Vanguard piece, “Most of Nigeria’s problems have root in moral decadence” (emphasis added). This point is bolstered by the eminent Chinua Achebe in his pamphlet, “The Problem With Nigeria”. The moral decay extends from government houses to religious houses to boardrooms to political parties. To arrest this moral decline in his party, Oshiomhole must lead with high morals and ethical conduct. He must be the moral captain of the party — ethical and trustworthy.
Lesson two: Wisdom
When Cicero was appointed Consul in Rome, the Republic was at the brink of collapse. Historians widely refers to the period as the “most tumultuous era in Western civilisation”. It took the intervention of Cicero to halt the decent. Through courage, deft and wisdom, he helped stop a violent revolution. “The wisdom of Cicero helped secured Rome,” wrote the Victorian era novelist, Anthony Trollope in his book, “The Life of Cicero”.
Cicero believes the leader must have wisdom. He equated wisdom to understanding the laws and applying them justly. He argues in his book, “The Republic,” the need for the leader to understand the laws and use them “for the good of his constituency”.
Oshiomhole is apparently in a position in which nothing less than his best can suffice. The APC Oshiomhole is elected to lead is in shreds. On Wednesday, a group pulled out to form a factional executive called Reformed APC. Several top members of the party are rumoured to leave the part in the coming weeks or months.
Like Cicero, he must employ wisdom, and impartiality to guide his decisions. His willingness to treat everyone equally without prejudice will help rebuild the party.
Cicero believes without wisdom, everything else is unattainable. “You cannot safeguard the state without wisdom,” he warned. The survival and growth of the party now depends on how shrewd Oshiomhole manages the relationship between the leadership and the various interest groups within the party, including estranged members. The key lesson is to place the good of the party above personal gains.
Lesson three: Prudence
“To lead,” Cicero wrote to his friend, Aticus, “you must be just and prudent and pursue the common good”. Prudent, for Cicero is foresight. It’s the ability to see the bigger picture and consequence of various course of action. Among other things, it also means the ability to identify threats to the state (here party) and common good early on.
Managing a large political party can be hard, and one inflicted with internal conflicts can be more tasking. Oshiomhole must be the kind of leader that is dedicated to reformation and strategic principles. He must stand firm for what is right. Though, Cicero was not against negotiations and compromise per se, but he was for compromises that were for the common good.
He vehemently condemned the powerful Mark Anthony, arguing in a speech: “The people of Rome are not bound at all by these laws which Mark Antony is said to have passed, because they were all put through by violent means”. Oshiomhole can, of course, look some in the face and say, “f**k you.” The charge is to always have the understanding and courage to take the right step for the good of the party.
Incidentally, Oshiomhole and Cicero have some things in common: both are smart politicians; both are bombast; both are from humble backgrounds; and importantly, both came into office during periods of tumult.
But beyond their comparable eccentrics and destinies, the texts and works of Cicero are reliable guides for Oshiomhole. “The leader must have the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice and wisdom,” admonished the immutable Cicero.
Rommel Miebara writes from Kaduna