WHEN DUTY CALLS

Covid calls for leaders like Lincoln

Yet it is that kind of leadership that is massively wanting.

In Summary
  • A leader needs profound self-confidence, innate greatness, a high calling, refined patriotism, and a forgiving ego to board the Lincoln train.
  • Elected leaders and their 2017 poll rivals, or those eying their seats in the 2022 general election, are operating at cross-purposes.

Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, lived two centuries ahead of his time. Local politicians are still below the lowest point of a man who had an unflattering reception when he won the Republican presidential nomination during the party National Convention in Chicago.

‘The New York Herald’ of May 19, 1860, berated the party for promoting mediocrity. Leo Tolstoy, the acclaimed Russian writer, recognised Lincoln: “The greatness of Napoleon, Caesar or Washington is only moonlight by the sun of  Lincoln.”

It was Lincoln’s magnanimity that inspired President Barack Obama. Obama was the first black swan to invade the American Establishment. He enlisted Hillary Clinton, his rival during the rancorous Democratic party nomination campaigns, as Secretary of State. The rivals made a team modelled on the Lincoln precedent.

 
 

Lincoln needed a cross-pollination of ideas to confront the challenges of his generation. A civil war that could have led to secession of the slave riders of the South, from the urbane North, was looming.

Doris Kearns Goodwins captures the political genius of Lincoln in Team of Rivals, which is described as ‘The book that inspired Barack Obama’. Lincoln’s rivals for the Republican party ticket became key pillars of his administration. America was then fragile, hugely unequal, massively racist, and segregated.

Then New York Senator William H Seward, Ohio Governor Salmon P Chase and Missouri’s elder statesman Edward Bates, among others, were the men of superior intellect and experience Lincoln recruited. Lincoln, who rode on local reputation from Springfield, Illinois, appointed Seward Secretary of State, Chase secretary of the treasury and Bates attorney general. This, in Kenyan political parlance, was the kitchen cabinet.

A leader needs profound self-confidence, innate greatness, a high calling, refined patriotism, and a forgiving ego to board the Lincoln train. This example came two centuries before Robert Greene wrote The 48 Laws of Power, a premier for political shrewdness and strategy.

Incumbents treat the ambitious as saboteurs, muddling their show. They don’t want to build teams to work on practical ways of preventing further coronavirus infections. Incumbents are mistaking health intensive care units for their exclusive intensive corruption units.

Robert’s Law 2, ‘Never Put Too Much Trust in Friends, Learn How To Use Enemies’ is a strategic gem, especially during times of crisis when incestuous counsel of friends – even of the queen to the king – can escalate a crisis.

Quoting philosopher Plutarch, Greene illustrates: “King Hiero chanced upon a time, speaking with one of his enemies, to be told in a reproachful manner that he had stinking breath. Whereupon the good king, being somewhat dismayed in himself, as soon he returned home chided his wife, “How does it happen that you never told me of this problem?” The woman, chaste, and harmless, said, “Sir, I had thought all men’s breath had smelled so.”

Covid-19, the nimble germ that is wreaking economies, raiding palaces and mansions, offers a context for a Lincoln kind of leadership. Yet it is that kind of leadership that is massively wanting. Suspicions, insecurities, greed and ego rank above the national interest.

 
 

The Deputy President is keeping safe, as co-President Uhuru Kenyatta and others rally the country for a cause larger than individual egos, ambitions, fears and hopes.

Elected leaders and their 2017 poll rivals, or those eying their seats in the 2022 general election, are operating at cross-purposes. Incumbents treat the ambitious as saboteurs, muddling their show. They don’t want to build teams to work on practical ways of preventing further coronavirus infections. Incumbents are mistaking health intensive care units for their exclusive intensive corruption units.

Beleaguered Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko’s failed attempt to appoint trumpish Miguna Miguna as his deputy in 2018 was an aborted parody of the Lincoln model. This was bound to fail, what with Sonkosian insecurity, and Migunain snobbery!

But a practical slice of building a team of rivals for a superior cause has been seen in the partnership of Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Suleiman Shahbal, his rival for the seat in 2017.

The handshake between President Uhuru Kenyatta and his 2017 rival, Raila Odinga, echoes the Lincoln model. The two are acquainted with The 48 Laws Power. Their partnership for a national cause has sent the DP sulking and seething with the of a lover spurned.

Team of Rivals­—Lincoln and the Eminent Four, Obama and Clinton, Raila and Uhuru,  Joho and Shahbal—and Covid-19 should teach us to shelve personal fears and ambitions when national duty calls.

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