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Willie Obiano and the Price of Foresight By James Eze

‘Foresight’ is a pregnancy; only time reveals it. Foresight is a most ignored attribute of leadership. But a leader without foresight is blind in one eye.

Throughout history, great leaders have often complained about the likely injuries which a lack of foresight might bring. Angered by the slippery nature of foresight, the great French revolutionary and statesman, Napoleone Buonaparte once observed that, “forethought, we may have, undoubtedly. But not foresight.”  Not many people understand the elusive nature of foresight as Napoleone Buonaparte.

 Indeed, foresight is a crucial gift of a great leader. The founding fathers; the great Zik, Awo and Bello all demonstrated remarkable foresight which can be seen in the legacies they left behind. The landscape of the old Eastern Region bears the indelible marks of Dr Michael Iheonukara Okpara. These men were farsighted leaders who could see beyond their noses. The decline in our society today is partly because we have fewer leaders who are gifted with foresight.

Yet, Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State has been in the eye of the storm in recent times for showing impressive foresight. In fact, some people would like to see him hanged for doing exactly what many historic leaders have done – stand aside from the sea of misguided emotion and predict the future!

Even as I write this, some of Obiano’s Igbo brothers cannot understand why he choose to tread the less emotive path in the last presidential election. It is easy to understand why this is so though. In a land that has suffered for so long from a biting scarcity of bold and perceptive leadership, it is not common to see a leader who has enough courage to point his people towards an unpopular direction. It is in fact hard to see a leader who has enough conviction to damn the consequences and swim against the current towards a hostile direction that he alone has seen as the only realistic choice left.

Now, let’s call things by their names. Governor Obiano knew that it was impossible to beat President Muhammadu Buhari in the last election. That is foresight. He made it clear to his close friends and allies that the opposition did not stand a chance against the president. He discreetly advised against any excessively emotive opposition that would rub Ndigbo the wrong way for the umpteenth time. He argued that in a federation that has developed a thick skin for fairness, equity and justice, it is wiser to be subtle than confrontational. He warned that Ndigbo must not stumble twice over the same stone. But nobody understood him, for though most of them have been in politics long before him, foresight is a gift that is not available to everyone.

And now that the chickens have come home to roost, it has become clear to Governor Obiano that foresight comes at a price. Foresight is a lonely path to tread. It breeds unexpected resentment and hate. Having foresight could turn you into a sudden object of anger and unwise attacks. But on the long run, it never leaves you without the enduring sheen of grace and glory. And that happens only when the people finally wake up to smell the coffee. Sadly, in the case of many farsighted leaders, this happens after they are out of office or after they are gone!

And so, for those who still deride and mock governor Obiano for his foresight in the last presidential election, those who wilfully seek cheap opportunities to laugh at him, it might be worthwhile to always remember; that even the Scriptures warned us in First Corinthians chapter one verse twenty seven, that sometimes, “God uses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise.”

Umu nne, egbe belu, ugo belu nu o!

Ka Chineke mezie okwu!

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