Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria, at the UNGA’s seventieth session. September 2015

In my line of work, I have reported to people and had people report to me in the organizational hierarchy. I have also been seen to shirk my responsibility or be negligent in my duties, by my superiors, client group or major stakeholder, because someone reporting to me did not do their job well. What did I do? I took the fall and went back to review where the internal process failed us.  That is what leaders do. A cross they must carry for system failure. I am sure this is no new concept to most.

I did not throw the “responsible” employee under the bus to be crushed by my boss or client groups. In their eyes, it was I who  failed. If it was system failure, we would fix it, working with the affected employees and relevant resources. If it was down to human error, simple negligence or wilful sabotage, we would handle that too…internally. All systems have laid down rules for treating such things. Definitely, the civil service does.

It was very unprofessional for President Buhari’s handlers to have (even tacitly) exposed a civil servant to the public as the one responsible for mishandling the president’s itinerary leading to him missing important meetings at the UN. This subjected the lady in question to the kind of public  stigmatization that should only be reserved for political leaders. Die-hards are already calling for her head for embarrassing the infallible one. If you are interested in building strong institutions, this is exactly how not to do so.

Once again, the president’s media handlers are showing that they have opportunities for improvement. Also, this is another example of why a political leader needs others directly working for/with him and charged with the supervision of civil servants and other bureaucratic structures. Call them special assistants, ministers or noise makers. Just appoint them and free yourself. You are not superman.


Image source – UN Photo/Amanda Voisard